Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hearty Vegetable Spaghetti

No, this is NOT a vegetarian dish! I rarely get away with that! This was another one of those "use what you have" meals. I had planned to make spaghetti with meat sauce one evening, but when I started thinking about it more--and looking in my fridge to see what else I had available--I decided to make it a meat and vegetable sauce. I really didn't feel guilty about having a big plate of this since I topped my pasta with all those veggies and protein! This is such an adaptable meal--add in whichever veggies you like to make it suit your tastes. For example, instead of squash and zucchini (leftover from the Italian Stew night), you could add in bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, or sugar snap peas. You could also use whole wheat pasta to add another layer of healthiness to the dish! Let me know what you come up with! Enjoy!

Hearty Vegetable Spaghetti
Source: Me
Serves: 4-6

1 lb spaghetti
1/2 lb ground beef
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 squash, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 4oz can sliced mushrooms
2 tsp each onion powder, oregano, thyme
28 oz can whole tomatoes OR 1 jar marinara sauce (if you're using the marinara sauce, just use 1 teaspoon each of the onion powder, oregano, and thyme)
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, brown beef 3-4 minutes. Add the squash, zucchini, garlic, and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and the onion powder, oregano, and thyme. Cook together until the veggies are tender, about 7-10 minutes. Add in the can of tomatoes (or marinara sauce) and break up the tomatoes into smaller chunks. Simmer together about 5-7 minutes, or until sauce thickens a bit. Toss the sauce with the cooked spaghetti and garnish with the grated Parmesan.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shepherd's Pie with Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

I've really been trying to get better at just using what I have in the fridge and pantry to make dinner instead of spending a lot of money on groceries. While I do have a certain amount of money budgeted for the grocery store, and could just run out quickly to get a few things, I prefer to save that money for my big, once-a-month shopping trip. Therefore, it's imperative that I just use what I have to make dinner some nights. While I do plan out my meals for the entire month, life sometimes gets in the way and I can't make it to the store when I wanted and that kind of leaves me stranded every once in a while. Luckily, I'm getting better at thinking on my feet and whipping something up like my mom is able to do. Man, she's good at that. My sister and I still joke that she can use a toothpick, a cotton ball, and a button to make a prom dress. She's just as good when it comes to gettin' something on the stove quick, and it always turns out delicious. Someday I'll be just as good!

Shepherd's Pie with Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
Source: Me
Serves: 4-6

3-4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 T cream cheese or sour cream
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup chicken broth, heavy cream, or milk
3 T butter
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp dried parsley
1 lb ground beef
2 medium carrots, diced
1 small onion, chopped
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 cup beef broth
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 can peas, drained
1 can corn, drained

Boil potatoes in a large pot until fork tender, about 12-15 minutes. Take one potato chunk and add it to a bowl containing the egg yolk; mix together to temper the egg (makes sure that the egg doesn't scramble when you mix it into the hot potatoes); mix in one more potato and then transfer this egg mixture to the rest of the potatoes. Add the cream cheese (or sour cream), the chicken broth (or cream or milk), the 3 tablespoons of butter, cheddar cheese, and dried parsley. Use a hand mixer to whip the potatoes until they are creamy and contain no chunks.

While the potatoes are boiling, brown the beef for 3-4 minutes. Add in the carrots and onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook together for 7-10 minutes to take some of the crunch out of the carrots.

In a small pot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour together. Whisk in the beef broth and the Worcestershire sauce. Thicken one minute, stirring constantly with the whisk. Add to the meat mixture and  stir in the peas and corn. Cook together for 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a 9x13 glass baking dish. Top with the potatoes and spread evenly over the meat mixture. Turn broiler on high and place dish under the broiler, about 6 inches away from the heat source. Broil for 6-8 minutes, or until potatoes are golden brown. Serve with a simple green salad!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Italian Stew

As the weather continues to cool down, I get the urge to make thick, hearty stews and roasts in the CrockPot. Mario loves stews, so I knew this recipe would be right up his alley. I really enjoyed the ease and simplicity of this recipe. It was thick and rich and the perfect meal to eat while curled up on the couch with a blanket on my lap! I love no-fuss, one-pot meals, and will definitely be coming back to this one time and time again! Enjoy!

Italian Stew
Source: Taste of Home
Serves: 6-8

1 lb bulk Italian sausage (if you're using the links, remove casings)
1 medium yellow squash
1 medium zucchini
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups beef broth
1 cup water
1 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 8oz can tomato sauce
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
pepper to taste
1 9oz package refrigerated cheese tortellini
1/3 cup chopped green pepper (optional)
2 T minced fresh parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese

Before I begin, I'm telling you it's no mistake that there is no salt needed in this recipe. The Italian sausage and the beef broth are salty enough. In fact, the original recipe does not require an extra cup of water, but I added it in because it was too salty for my taste.

In a large pot or Dutch Oven, cook the sauce and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender; drain off any excess grease. Add garlic and cook and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in the beef broth, water, tomatoes, tomato sauce, carrot, basil, oregano, and pepper to taste. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes; taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Gently stir in the tortellini, zucchini, squash, green pepper (optional), and parsley. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 25 minutes. Serve with a grated Parmesan cheese and a slice of Texas toast!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Giveaway Winner!

According to, the winner of the drawing was #6 out of the 6 comments received! Congratulations to one of my nearest and dearest friends from high school, Dana!!! She's getting married on 9/10/11 next year--how cool is that?!?! I hope you enjoy your gift certificate, Dana!! 

Much love,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sweet and Sour Chicken

When I was in high school, I worked at a local Chinese restaurant. I loved working there...except when it was 100 degrees outside and I had to be behind the steam tables or in the back kitchen chopping vegetables. I remember one time my boss asked me to go get something from the back storage room, and to this day I still have no idea how I was supposed to know what she wanted. She had a really thick accent so all I could make out was "Bock da bock." When she got so frustrated that I wasn't understanding, she went to go get it herself. She came with to-go cups for sodas. I don't know how "Bock da bock" was supposed to convey "To-go cups for sodas," but I quickly learned to get to-go cups whenever she asked for them. Aside from the language barrier, working there was a lot of fun. My boss was such a good cook; her Chinese food (although she was Cambodian) was so delicious. I have never been able to find anyone who can make Lemon Chicken, Chow Mein, or Hot and Sour Soup like she could. I used to get to bring home scads of leftover Chinese food, which was a bonus for my family since they all really enjoyed her food, too! Every time I eat at a Chinese restaurant I think of my days working there and my mouth starts to water! When I found this Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe over at BrownEyedBaker I was surely skeptical because I know that homemade Chinese food rarely compares to restaurant food--and nothing compares to the stuff I got to eat in high school. But, I was pleasantly surprised! The Sweet and Sour sauce is really, really good; it's not too sweet nor is it too sour--the flavors all balance really well together. This will definitely be a part of the regular menu rotation. Enjoy!

Sweet and Sour Chicken
Serves: 3-4
Source: Inspired by BrownEyedBaker but changed to suit my cooking style

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs slightly beaten
1/4 cup canola oil

3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced thinly on an angle

1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons ketchup
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups white or brown rice
3 1/2 - 4 cups water

Put the rice and water in a medium sauce pan. Cover and bring to a boil. The rice takes about 25 minutes to cook. Fluff with a fork when the water is dissolved and the rice is tender.

Put the cut-up chicken, the salt and pepper, and the cornstarch in a large, resealable Zip-lock baggie. Making sure the bag is tightly closed, shake the chicken to coat all the pieces with the corn starch. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and transfer the coated chicken pieces to the egg; discard the rest of the corn starch. Toss the chicken in the eggs. Heat the oil in a large skillet or a wok over medium-high heat. Carefully add the chicken to the hot oil. Allow to brown evenly on all sides and cook through entirely (this takes about 15-20 minutes depending on how big your pieces of chicken are). After about 10 minutes of browning the chicken, add the sliced carrots.

While the chicken is cooking, whisk together the sugar, ketchup, white vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic powder in a medium bowl. Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked and there is a nice, golden brown, crispy coating on the chicken, pour the sauce over the top of the cooked chicken and allow to cook together about 5-7 minutes; the sauce will reduce and thicken up. Serve the chicken with the rice and garnish with chopped green onions (optional).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Baked Potato Soup

After our Halloween party, at which we served giant baked potatoes, I had about 100 potatoes left over that I knew I had to start using. This dish was inspired by 2 different Taste of Home recipe cards I had clipped as well as the looming mountain of cooked potatoes sitting in my refrigerator! There are a few changes I will make next time, but I already put those in the recipe instructions below. This was a hearty and delicious soup that really could have stood on its own, but I decided to bake up a few chicken nuggets and served it with a green salad. The only thing that would have made this dish better? The temperature NOT being 90 degrees in November!!! Oh well! Enjoy!

Baked Potato Soup
Source: Me and Taste of Home
Yields: 6 servings

3 large fully cooked baked potatoes, cubed (I just left the skins on, but you can peel them if you have an aversion to potato skins)
2 T butter
salt and pepper to taste
onion powder to taste (or 1 small onion diced)
thyme to taste (I think I used about 1/2 tsp)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups milk (or 1 cup heavy whipping cream)
1 14.5 oz can low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup crispy cooked bacon, crumbled
4 green onions, diced
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
dollop of sour cream for garnish

Melt butter in a large stock pot. Add potatoes and slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and diced onion if you're using an actual onion; if you're using onion powder don't add it in yet. Cook together about 2 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add in salt, pepper, thyme, and onion powder (if you didn't use a regular onion). Let simmer together about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings at this point. Don't add in too much salt because you still have to add in the bacon which adds its own salt. At this point you can add in the milk (or cream) and the shredded cheese. Stir constantly in a figure eight motion until all the cheese is melted being careful to not let the milk burn. Once the soup is thoroughly heated through and the cheese is melted, turn off the heat and mix in the bacon and green onions (I added the bacon in too soon and it didn't retain its crispiness, so wait till the last minute!). Serve immediately with a dollop of sour cream on top for an added creaminess! This would have been delicious in a bread bowl, but I can't afford the carbs! :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Another Giveaway--Just in Time for the Holidays!

This giveaway is now closed. Check back for another one sometime soon!
The holidays are quickly approaching--YAY! I don't really get stressed out like so many shoppers out there do; I don't suffer from the "Holy boogers! I haven't gotten anybody anything!" panic attack like a lot of people I know. I spend so much of my time making goodies and handmade cards that rushing to the mall to "just find something" seems a bit thoughtless; I really like handmade, personalized gifts. However, one of the greatest things Mario and I ever did was order a really great ladder for my dad and had it shipped directly to his house--I think this was for his birthday, not Christmas, but you get the point. Online shopping is so convenient because you don't have to wait in line! That's what I really like about! They've got sooooo many things to choose from that you could get virtually everyone on your list taken care of while your ooey, gooey Christmas goodies bake away in the oven! I've been browsing their website a lot lately and here are some things I found that I love that really give you a taste of what they've got to offer:

We seriously have one of the coolest houses in the world; it's 100 years old and has a beautiful, large dining room where we have a counter height table and 8 chairs, plus a buffet table, a wine tower, a bookshelf, and even a piano! I would LOVE to have a formal dining room one day though so I can have one of these dining tables:
Woodbridge Home Designs 1380 Series Double/Quad Pedestal Table
We just rearranged our living room to make room for our Christmas tree and a chair and ottoman set like one of these that we'll eventually order:

Carolina Cottage Oxford Club Chair and Ottoman Set in Sandstone   OR    Handy Living Westfield Armchair and Ottoman Set - WTK1-CU-EBA47 
                                             (I really like the Sage Paisley)

Finally, something like this one be nice to have in the kitchen so you have both moveable counter space as well as extra storage:
Home Styles Cherry Kitchen Island Cart with Black Granite Top

Here's what's great about they are offering you another chance to win a gift certificate code to use on any of their websites (there are over 200 csnstores) including! This time around, you can enter to win a $35 gift certificate that you can use to buy anything for anyone from their website; you can take care of someone on your list, or use it for yourself! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and you're entered to win. The comment can be totally unrelated to my Christmas rants, my furniture placement, and ooey, gooey, goodies. Just leave a comment and make sure you include your name so I know who you are. You can leave one comment every day until Friday, November 12, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. I'll choose a winner on Saturday the 13th and have my people get in touch with your people to let you know you've won! Good luck to you all and thanks for visiting!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Creamy Not-sagna

I have to give Rachael Ray the credit for the whole "not-sagna" thing. I recently found a new show she has on Cooking Channel called Week in a Day. The premise is that she makes a week's worth of food one day and then has it all on hand to use throughout the week. She'll use the roasted chicken from Monday again in a dish on Thursday night. Obviously, this isn't a novel concept, but I really enjoy watching her so somehow it seems new and fresh. This dish was inspired by one she had made on an episode, but I definitely changed it up to match the ingredients I had and to suit our tastes. Mario really enjoyed this and took for lunch for a few days. I, of course, made enough to feed a small village, but it was so cheap and really delicious on day 2, 3, and 4! Enjoy!

Creamy Not-sagna
Source: Me and Rachael Ray, kinda
Yields: 6 servings


1 lb lasagna noodles broken
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
3 oz cream cheese
1 sm or ½ medium onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
Salt and pepper
1 T Italian seasoning (or ½ T each dried basil and oregano)
1 tsp dried parsely
1 T olive oil
½ lb ground beef or turkey (I used beef, but I wish I would've used turkey)
1-1 ½  cups mozzarella depending on how cheesy you want it
Freshly grated parmigiana cheese 

Preheat oven to 400. Cook broken lasagna noodles according to package directions. Heat olive oil in a skillet with high sides. Add ground beef (or turkey), onion, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook beef until no longer pink. Add can of crushed tomatoes to beef, season with Italian seasoning. Simmer on stove top for 5 minutes. Add the cream cheese and adjust seasonings to taste. Drain pasta and return it to the pasta pot. Pour the meat sauce over the cooked pasta and toss to coat. Transfer to a 9x13 baking dish. Top with shredded cheese and bake until bubbly and lightly browned. Garnish with freshly grated parmigiana cheese. I would have liked to have added a couple of diced carrots and a green bell pepper in with the onion and beef, but I knew that wouldn’t have gone over well with Mario!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Baked Pork Chops & Apples

This was seriously one of the easiest and satisfying dishes I've ever made. I had had this Taste of Home recipe card for years and never got around to trying it. I finally put it up on my recipe and menu board and vowed to try it. Of course, Mario chose to eat his stuffing and pork chop separate and forego the apples...strange, strange man. Because this dish really only requires 3 ingredients you may not have on hand, it can be thrown together on the fly and serve a family for very little money! I especially loved that this dish sort of kicked off the Fall baking season for me! Enjoy!

Baked Pork Chops & Apples
Source: Taste of Home
Yields: 6 pork chops

6 pork chops (I prefer bone-in, but you can also use boneless)
1 21 oz can apple pie filling
1 6 oz box turkey, chicken, or cornbread stuffing mix
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Brown pork chops on each side; don't worry if they're not totally cooked because they'll finish cooking in the oven. Meanwhile, prepare boxed stuffing mix according to directions. Spread apple pie filling in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Top with browned pork chops. Put a spoonful of prepared stuffing on top of each pork chop, evenly distributing the stuffing. Cover dish with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes; remove foil and bake another 10 more minutes uncovered. Apples will be bubbly and the stuffing will be slightly browned on top. Enjoy with a green salad!

(Note: I baked mine in individual dishes because I only need to make one for myself with the topping and apples. This recipe halves easily and you can use the remaining apple pie filling to make a small apple crisp to enjoy for yourself when no one else is around!)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Halloween Party Faire

I know I'm about a week late, but here's what happened at our house! We teamed up with another couple in our Sunday School class this year to host the annual Halloween party! Computer Man and I really enjoy decorating the house up for October, November, and December. For Halloween, he goes all out with fog machines, strobe lights, and tombstones outside while I like to decorate the inside with blacks, oranges, purples, and greens. We were so excited to have everyone over this year...and then we got sick! We were so bummed, but the show must go on! We rallied all the strength we could and got the last of the decorations up as the first couple arrived. It's tough working when you've got a fever! Oh well, we still managed to enjoy ourselves and everyone said they had a really good time! Here are some shots of the table as well as some food that I made! Enjoy your November decorating--I know I am!

Halloween Party Table: Appetizers and Main Dishes (except for the baked potatoes that were still in the oven; they filled up that giant gaping hole)
Drinks and Desserts (Lemon-Lime Water, Orange Party Punch in the Skull Bowl {1 qt orange sherbet, 2 liter Sprite, 1 tube thingy of frozen orange juice concentrate, 1 cup apple or pineapple juice}, Dragon's Blood Fruit Punch and a table full of calorie-laden treats.)

Mummy Cupcakes (use tip #46...I think...and drag strips across top of cupcake leaving a space for eyes...I should've left a space for the mouth, too; dot two eyes in the empty space.)               

                                                                                                 Spider Web Cupcakes
(pipe 5 rings on top of cupcake and drag a toothpick from center to edge 7 times to create web effect; top with a fake mini spider!)

It's the Great Pumpkin Cupcake (I used the Big Top Cupcake mold, shaped the top to be round, frosted it with orange buttercream, used a circle tip to make the vines, and topped it with an extra square of cake that I spread brown buttercream on...bad grammar..."an extra square of cake ON WHICH I spread brown buttercream." There. Now I can sleep tonight.)
Seven Layer Bean Dip
1 28 oz can refried beans
4 avocados and 2 packets of guacamole mix plus the juice of 1 lime
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
16 oz container sour cream
4 oz can of diced green chiles, drained and a 4 oz can of sliced black olives, drained (I mixed these together to make one layer because otherwise I'd have to call this Eight Layer Bean Dip and that's just wrong because we always call it Seven Layer Bean Dip--that's just how we roll in my family)
1 cup chopped lettuce
2 tomatoes, chopped
(I piped some extra sour cream on top to make a spiderweb)
A bunch of tortilla chips
A big, long spoon so you can dig down deep to get some of everything on your plate; don't use those stupid little appetizer plates, just go for the big one!

Make guacamole at least 30 minutes in advance; squirt the lime juice on it and mix it up so the avocados don't brown. Use a trifle dish or whatever other deep dish you want. Layer in the order given...or in whichever order you'd like...or not at all...or leave some stuff out to make it a 4 layer bean dip...or add stuff in to make at 10 layer bean dip...or, okay I'm done rambling. How about you just enjoy this?!


Related Posts with Thumbnails