Search This Blog


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What's for Supper? Winter Menu #1

Winter time makes me long for comfort foods. The menu that I am sharing has a variety of meals that are comforting. Some reflect simple, flavorful meals that are perfectly warming on a cold winter day. Some of the meals are a fresh burst of flavor to break up the mundane days that winter sometimes holds. All are delicious! I hope that these simple recipes will become new favorites for your family.

I am adding a new segment to my menu planning posts: Baking. Every week, I plan a few things that I am going to bake or prepare for my family to enjoy. It may be a special treat or something to complement a meal.

Orange-Berry Granola with Pecans (for Breakfast and fruit and yogurt parfaits)
Rustic French Loaves (for Stuffed French Toast and to use on Menu #1)

Menu #1: Quick and Comforting
Quick Cream of Tomato Soup
Italian Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (using the Rustic French Loaves for the bread)

Menu #2: Take-out? At home!
Beef and Spinach Lo Mein
Asian Mandarin Salad
Egg Drop Soup

Menu #3: Home-style Comfort
Country Chicken with Gravy
Red Potatoes
Garlicky Green Beans

Menu #4: Dreaming of Summertime
Soft Fish Tacos
Spanish Rice


Stay Tuned

Well ... I have been cooking up some great dishes ... but not blogging. I am going to post sometime in the near future. I just need to plan this week's menu and then I will be back. Not sure anyone really reads this stuff anyway ... but it is a great way for me to keep track of the meals I make and share them with people when I am asked for a recipe. So, I will continue.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What's for Supper? Fresh Fall Flavors Menu #3

Our family loves this time of year. This time of year brings with it crisp, cool air, beautiful foliage that blushes as Autumn kisses it, football games, apple orchard trips (with apple cider and apple doughnuts!), pumpkin patch visits, hot coffee and warm blankets to enjoy sunrises and sunsets ... and so much more!

This menu, I focused on drawing out some of my favorite foods (soups, hearty meals), but focused on keeping them "lighter". Fresh, vibrant flavors are prevalent in each meal; however, these meals are quick to prepare so you can spend time with your favorite people enjoying your favorite fall activities. Soak it up - Winter is just around the corner ...

Meal #1:
Hungry Chick Chunky Chicken Soup (Courtesy of Hungry Girl 1-2-3)
Spinach Salad with Balsamic
Rustic Loaves

Meal #2:
Chicken Marsala with Mushrooms and Broccoli
Garlicky Green Beans

Meal #3:
Turkey Burgers
Oven Fries
Cottage Cheese and Crudites

Meal #4:
Chicken Paprikash Stew
French Loaf

Meal #5:
Baked Meatballs with Zesty Marinara Sauce and Penne
Margharita Salad
Garlic Bread


Friday, September 10, 2010

Crazy ... Chicken Bread Head?

My youngest son is an aspiring chef. I just know it. At 4 years old, he is my right hand guy in the kitchen. Tonight, while we were preparing our meal, he was right there with me - helping make an ordinary Friday night into a really fun time. I love sharing my passion for cooking with my boy ... I love our time together as we laugh, tell stories, and help each other.

My little helper has dubbed this dish, "The Craaazy Chicken Bread Head" I like it ... What do you think?

The Craaazy Chicken Bread Head (aka Crescent Wrapped Drumsticks) serves 4
8 chicken drumsticks (skin removed and discarded)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup BBQ sauce (tonight we used a honey-barbeque sauce)
8 oz tube of crescent rolls
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a large skillet and add the BBQ sauce, stirring to combine. Add the drumsticks and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes, turning occassionally (or until meat thermometer reads 170 degrees). Remove from pan and let cool slightly. Separate crescent rolls and place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Brush with egg and sprinkle with cheese and Italian seasoning. Wrap dough around the drumstick; place seam side down. Brush with egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake 13-15 minutes, until golden.

DELICIOUS! Thanks to my willing helper!

Cheeseburger Chowder

I have a well-stocked pantry and I know how to use it. This recipe is almost entirely comprised from a pantry-based ingredient list. I love the simplicity of this meal ... and the fact that I can make it in about 20 minutes or so. If you are lucky enough to have leftovers of this chowder, they will be better the next day (like most stews/soups/chowders are).

I always double this recipe - because otherwise there would not be enough to serve our family. In fact, there is no picture of this chowder right now, because there were no leftovers. It fed 4 adults and 5 kids well though.

Cheeseburger Chowder (serves 4)
1/2 pound ground beef
1 can condensed cheddar soup, undiluted
1 3/4 cups milk
1 cup frozen hash browned potatoes, shredded
4 oz can chopped green chilies
1 T. taco seasoning
1 T. dried minced onion
1/2 tsp chili powder

Brown beef and drain. Add seasonings, chilies and onions and heat until you start smelling the spices heating up. Stir in the canned soup, milk, and frozen hash browns. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes (or so) until heated through.

**We garnish this chowder with corn chips, Monterey Jack cheese, green onions, and sour cream.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

So Good ... You May Just Cry

I am still laughing as I write this ... Seriously!

Tonight for supper, I was in the mood for soup. I saw I had a head of broccoli that I needed to use this week - so I decided I would make some Curried Cream of Broccoli Soup for my supper tonight (and still make the planned casserole for my boys to enjoy).
Well, the soup got done before the casserole. So, as I was pulling it out of the oven ... my youngest child walked into the kitchen, looked at the table and saw my bowl of soup and immediately started to wail. Big tears were forming in his eyes and he was crying, "I don't want to eat that supper, Mommy!"

After assuring him that he did not have to eat the icky green soup, I plated up the boys' meals. They were very relieved to find on their plates, one of their absolute favorite meals - Taco Crescent Bake. They cleaned their plates in no time... and I enjoyed my soup (which was only 126 calories).

Savor the flavor - and the time with your families...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What's for Supper? Fall Flavors Menu #2

This week, as I was planning our menu, I was drawn to family favorites ... some of the best recipes that had made it to my treasured burgundy recipe binder. I believe that some foods can create timeless memories, reminding us of days gone by, good friends, loved ones, priceless experiences from our yester-years. These are a few of our favorites ...

Meal #1: My first-born's favorite soup ... and one of my "go-to" freezer friendly meals.
Cheeseburger Chowder
Garden Salad
French loaf

Meal #2: Received rave reviews from my dear husband ... who requested having these weekly.
Crescent-Wrapped Drumsticks
Italian House Fries
Mandarin Oranges

Meal #3: A recipe from Mother - who assured me these were the BEST meatballs in the universe.
Spaghetti & Meatballs
Garlicky Green Beans
Garlic Bread

Meal #4: The first meal I made after having my first-born.
Taco Crescent Bake

Meal #5: Received the ultimate compliment from my father-in-law: "This is even better than KFC!"
Chicken Pot Pie


Monday, August 30, 2010

Simply, Sirloin Stroganoff

I grew up in a Swedish community - and my comfort foods usually include cream, butter, or some other splendidly fattening ingredient. As I am consciously focusing on preparing healthy meals for my family, I am learning to substitute these ingredients for other (flavor FULL) options. Here is a new family favorite. We served it over a platter of brown rice; however, you could easily use egg noodles or any other type of pasta.

Sirloin Stroganoff
1 # Sirloin steak, sliced thinly
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 T. wheat flour
1 T. olive oil
1 head of broccoli florets, broken into approximately 1" pieces
10 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup beef broth
1 cup water
1/4 cup fat free sour cream

Place sliced steak in a bowl and season with paprika, garlic powder, pepper and salt. Toss to combine well. Add the flour and toss to combine.

Heat oil until it is hot. Add the seasoned steak and stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to cook until they start to soften. Add the beef broth, water and broccoli florets and cover to cook until the broccoli is tender. Remove 1 cup of the broth and add the sour cream to it. After combining well, add back to the main pot. Let heat through.

Serve over your favorite starch: brown rice, pasta, potatoes, etc.

It was simply delicious! The boys ate it well - and I am looking forward to enjoying the leftovers.


Tasty & Hot, Hot, Hot!

I love Mexican food. I love tasting the vibrant flavors that you really don't taste in any other type of cuisine. It is my favorite kind of "party food" to make ... as you just kind of kick back and enjoy it. It is simple, yet delicious.

Sunday night, as a reward for my husband finishing a pretty big "honey do" item ... I made him a Mexican feast. It was delicious (and the leftovers today were just as good!)

Chicken Enchiladas 252 calories per enchilada
2 chicken breast halves, sprinkled with 1/2 tsp chili powder and cut into 1" pieces
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
10 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp thyme (fresh)
1 tsp rosemary (fresh)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
10 oz can of enchilada sauce
1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese
8 whole wheat flour tortillas

Saute pepper, onion, garlic, mushrooms, thyme, rosemary, and salt in olive oil until tender. Remove from pan to a bowl and keep warm. Add the seasoned chicken to the pan and cook 5-6 minutes until cooked through. Add the veggies and stir in the ricotta cheese. Remove from heat.

Coat both sides of a warmed tortilla with the enchilada sauce. Fill with the meat/ veggie mixture and top with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. Roll and place into a greased casserole dish. Repeat until all 8 tortillas are filled. Top with any remaining enchilada sauce and any remaining cheese.

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes until cheese is melted and filling is bubbly.

Serve with pico de gallo and guacamole. Followed promptly by either a fiesta or siesta.

A Tribute to my Husband

As I write about my husband ... I find my attempt of characterizing him somewhat challenging; yet, as this is his birthday month - I will attempt to do so.
After 11+ years of marriage, my husband is still very much a mystery ... an enigma to me. He is father to our children, provider for our family, friend and lover of my heart. My husband can be a leader one minute and a little boy (playing with his radio controlled planes) another moment. His enthusiasm and vigor for life is unsurpassed. He is my protector. He challenges me and helps me to see the me that I want to become.

Teddy Roosevelt once said, "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man of the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly ... who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat."

My husband is definitely the guy that is unafraid of a challenge, who is brave, who is supportive and who enthusiastically devotes himself to the causes in which he believes in. I am lucky to have such a man as my husband. To my one and only ... my darlingest, my sweetheart, my knight ... King of our home and my heart. I love you!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My First-Born

My thoughtful one, my forever song, my light, my laughter ... with the kindest heart, the most inquisitive mind, generous spirit, and adventurous soul. My oldest son has brightened our lives for 8 years and I am forever thankful. I am privileged to have been given the gift of being his Mommy and I look forward to seeing his character and personality more fully develop in the years to come.

It never gets any easier ... watching my child growing up and becoming more independent. This last week was his first week of school for the 2010-2011 year. I have a second grader. My heart is filled with joy and excitement as I see him developing and growing more secure in who he is. However, while I can say that, I am also a little sad as I watch my first-born son flying just a little bit farther away from our nest... I am lucky that he still enjoys cuddling on the sofa and watching a movie or reading a book with me. I am fortunate that he loves discussing his days with me (at great length) and relaying his latest adventures with me. I love watching him interact with his brother; he exudes patience and generosity as he plays with my second-born. My oldest demonstrates his love for his brother with every action (although, these boys still enjoy a good fight now and again ... and they love wrestling). We are raising our boys to be "best friends" and most days, I am happy to report that they are.

As August closes, I celebrate my first-born in his birthday month. I am so thankful for his life. I love my little fisherman who loves to go camping with his Daddy and Grandpa (though, I am still waiting to be invited to go on these guy-activities), who will illustrate a comic book just for his Mommy, who will joyfully help me make pancakes on a Saturday morning, who loves to run and ride his bike, who collects bugs and frogs (and usually sets them free), who enjoys helping our 93 year old neighbor (who he calls his friend), and who always has a song to sing. He is one of my treasures ... and I am forever blessed.

What's for Supper: Fresh Flavors Menu #1

So ... I took most of the Summer off of posting my blog. While I did not necessarily post our weekly menus, my family did not miss out on meals that were packed with our favorite flavors of the season.

As the air grows crisp, the leaves start to embrace the vibrant hues of the season, and the days grow shorter - I still like to prepare simple, flavorful meals for my family. This is my favorite time of year. We are starting to plan our annual Autumn events: our Autumn party (complete with Cajun-infused turkey), a trip to our favorite apple orchard in Wisconsin, hiking in Palisades for our family pictures, and trips to the pumpkin patch are a few of our favorite activities that we are looking forward to the most. What is your favorite part of this season?

Before I drift any further away from the topic at hand ... this is what is on our plate for this week.

Meal #1:
Tasty Chicken Enchiladas (with an Italian Twist)
Spanish Rice
Pico de Gallo & Guacamole

Meal #2:
Funky Chicken (Faux-Fried)
Retro-Rotini Pasta Salad
Fresh fruit (peaches, blueberries, and strawberries)

Meal #3:
Summer Shrimp and Corn Chowder
French loaf
Garden salad with herbed vinaigrette

Meal #4:
Meatball Sub Sandwiches
Fruit Salad

Meal #5:
Tender Beef Stroganoff
Garden Salad
Garlicky Green Beans

We are looking forward to re-introducing some of our favorite foods back into our menu. I hope your family enjoys the flavors of fall as much as our family does.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What's for Supper? Summer Meal #4

We love Summer - we love the fresh tastes it brings to the table. However, it is a busy time for our family because we just love to get out and soak up the Vitamin D (on the days that are filled with sunshine).

Here is what is on our plate for this week. Easy, satisfying, and filled with the fresh flavors of Summertime.

Meal #1:
The "Grill Master's" Marinated Pork Chops
Rosemary-Thyme Potatoes
Sweet Corn
French loaf

Meal #2: Cook-out with friends
Asian Broccoli Slaw 'ala Hungry Girl (

Meal #3:
Green Onion Brats

Meal #4:
Garlic-toasted buns
Oven fries
Green beans

I hope your family is enjoying Summertime as much as our family is. Go soak up some sun!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

July 4th Fare

We were meeting friends on the 4th of July for supper and fireworks. As it was a potluck, I had Matt ask what I should bring. The response was, "Either a side or dessert". I said, "I would like a little bit more direction." The final response was, "Dessert - and surprise us."

So... here is what we brought~

And here is the lonely leftover piece of Patriotic Cheesecake ... just begging to be eaten. My darling husband has requested ... but if he doesn't claim it soon, I may have to intervene. ;o)

Hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Balloon Glow

Our picnic lunch all packed, lawn chairs and a blanket ready to go - we climbed aboard a bus to attend the Balloon Glow. My youngest son was relishing his first bus ride. He would squeel, "Wheee" as the bus would make a turn on a curvy road, and then grin at me, his blue eyes sparkling with utter delight. "This is fun, Mommy," he said as he smiled. I looked down, meeting my son's eyes, "It sure is, honey." I said. He turned to look out the window - taking in all of the beauty that surrounded him with such innocence. I sat back, just enjoying the moment.

The bus let us off at the mansion grounds, and we made our way to a nice, shady spot on the greens. We carefully laid out our heavy Mexican blanket - woven with blue, black, and cream. The boys were excited to sit in the wooden lawn chair that their Daddy had made so many years ago. They would giggle as they took their turns sitting in the chair. The picnic supper was laid out: hot dogs, watermelon, grapes, cheese, chips, blondies, and lemonade. We ate, watching the people mill about us as they made their way to their own spots. A band played music from the 80's and 90's in the back ground. It was the perfect accompaniment to a wonderful evening: the heat had dulled, the bugs were sparse, and the shade proffered from the great pine tree was so inviting. I sat back, soaking it all in. What a life we have been blessed with!

A friend walked by and my husband jumped up to greet him. We packed up our picnic and blankets to move closer to where our friends were sitting. A crooked pine tree half-way up the hill provided much shade, warm smiles and greetings from friends, as well as the perfect spot to watch the hot air balloons as they were inflated and eventually lit. My boys were delighted to find friends to chase around the greens, play ball with, and to laugh with. I sat fully back in my chair, my head resting on its high back as I took my surroundings in. The music was lively, so infectious that our friends started dancing. I watched them dance, song after song - as though they were the only two beings amid a sea of faces. Another friend joined in with his young daughters - dancing with his princesses and delighting them so. I raised my camera to capture these moments. Treasured memories... simple pleasures.

Dusk started embracing the horizon and all five balloons were fully aerated, standing proudly on center stage with the audience captivated by their grandeur. I raised my camera to capture the moment when all five balloons were illuminated. Although one balloon never fully realized its full potential, the sight of the four balloons glowing on the skyline enraptured us all. I stepped back, watching my sons clap their hands and stand amazed at the beauty presented before them. A cadence of flashes from would-be photographers surrounded me, adding even more magic to that very moment as their light sparkled from all directions. These elements all taking part in creating a very enchanted evening.

As we walked back to our car (in lieu of waiting in line to take the shuttle bus back), I reflected on the evening our family had just enjoyed. We are blessed with many gifts - too numerous to list: Joy, in the simple pleasures of life - like chasing your brother, glow-sticks fashioned into frisbees, and the satisfaction of popping a perfectly sweet grape in your mouth; togetherness - enjoying time with each other and with friends, making new friends along the way; laughter - dropped hot dogs, piggy back rides, singing along with the band (maybe a little out-of-tune), and escaped balloons climbing up into the heavens; and richness - knowing that no amount of money could replicate the idyllic evening, our family, or our friendships. As we loaded our packs into the trunk and climbed into the car, I peeked back at my greatest treasures - who had instantly fallen asleep. I watched them for a moment before taking my husband's hand and laying my own head back on the head rest. As I slowly closed my eyes, I said a grateful prayer - praising God for the abundant blessings in my life, too numerous to name them all ... but so very thankful for each one. Yes, I live a blessed life!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What's for Supper? Summer Menu #3

I love the fresh flavors that Summer brings to the table! Really, is there anything more vibrant and delicious? This week's menu features a special request from my very special Father, a special menu to celebrate my husband, and then a few other meals.

Meal #1: For MY Dad
Chicken Rice Soup
French bread loaf
Decadent Brownies

Meal #2: For my Sweetheart
Tequila-Lime Chicken
Spanish Rice
Green Beans with Garlic and Peppers
Cheesecake (his *favorite*)

Meal #3:
Skillet Lasagna
Garden Salad
Fresh Fruit

Meal #4:
BBQ Beef with a savory, sweet home-made sauce
Home-made bread
Fresh Fruit

Meal #5:
Fettuccine Alfredo
Italian Toasts
Garden Salad

Meal #6:
Southwestern Burgers
Parmesan Oven Fries
Garden Salad


Sunday, June 13, 2010

What's For Supper? Summer Menu #2

I love menu planning - and trying lots of new recipes. This week is a mix of old favorites and new recipes.

Meal #1:
Pot Roast with Roasted Vegetables
Home-made French Loaf
Peach Cobbler and Fresh Whipped Cream or Vanilla Ice Cream

Meal #2:
Home-made Tortillas
Perfectly Seasoned Grilled Chicken (for Chicken Tacos (with avocado, Monterrey Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc)

Meal #3:
Garlic Shrimp Penne with Tomato-Basil Cream Sauce
Tomato-Basil-Mozzarella Crostini
Cheesecake (dessert may change based on the amount of time I have)

Meal #4
Chicken Kabobs
Seasoned Rice
Fresh Fruit Salad

Meal #5
Baked Sub Sandwiches (turkey or roast beef, fresh mozzarella, and basil)
Oven Fries
Fresh Fruit Salad


Monday, June 7, 2010

Comfort Food: Mazetti

I grew up on a farm and my Mother relied on hearty, filling recipes. One of the meals that frequently was served at our table, was Mazetti. This flavorful pasta meat dish was found in a (very old) Billie Oakley cookbook that my Mother got when she was first married. [She is very well aware how *badly* I want said cookbook, as so very many of my childhood favorite meals are in it - and I have never been able to find this wonderful cookbook anywhere!] The recipes I have hand-written from this cookbook are in my treasured wooden recipe box - and I honestly think that they are some of the best recipes in the entire world. Yep - there I said it. Billie Oakley knew her stuff when it came to the kitchen!
This is a perfect recipe to finely dice vegetables into to serve to children ... I do this frequently! However, the way I will share it today is in the original, Billie Oakley version. I hope that your family enjoys this as much as our family does.

from The Billie Oakley cookbook

1/4 cup butter (I use two Tablespoons... be wise, reduce the amount of butter!)
3/4 cup celery, diced
3/4 cup onion, diced
1 pound ground beef
3/4 pound ground pork sausage
2 cups tomato soup
1 (small) can mushrooms, undrained (it is important to use canned mushrooms to get that liquid)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups dry spaghetti, cut
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (Mother used the powdered stuff, I use the grated stuff - I detect no difference!)
Cook spaghetti. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter and add the celery and onion and saute until it is tender.
Add meats to the pan and cook until no longer pink. Drain VERY well (or your casserole will be greasy). Stir in soup, mushrooms (and liquid), and seasonings. Add cooked spaghetti and stir until well incorporated.
Pour into a greased 2 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan. . Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

How Does My Garden Grow?

Pretty pink flowers - and some stuff I pulled out of the ground - it was pretty.

The infamous hosta plants that Jack helped establish.

Lavender and pink flowers in my favorite flower pot.

Impatients and Hydrangea

Basil (I used this in my Margarita Pizza this week - I use LOTS of basil in the Summer).
Also, a tiny bit of Cilantro that somehow survived from LAST Summer (outside ... in the flower pot!)

You can never have enough Thyme...

Flowers after a morning rain fall.

Oregano, Parsley, and Rosemary.

How DOES my garden grow?

No ... really. How does it? I was born with a black thumb (unlike the rest of my family, who can all have beautiful gardens and house plants). Funny story, a few years ago, my (then) 92 year old neighbor gave me some hostas to plant in my garden. I watered them and tended them as instructed (on specific days even). By the end of the year, they were all ... well, let's just say, they did not have a prosperous Summer! The following year, my (then 93 year old) neighbor came over, planted *more* hostas and was very clear in his instructions, "Annette - just leave these alone. I will take care of them. These *will* survive this year!"

So ... Here is my garden this Summer. My herbs are flourishing (and, yes - I planted those. I am convinced they are only doing well because I can cook with them. They know that they are "food" so they thrive under my care and attention) The rest of the garden ... I am still trying to keep healthy. I still do not touch my hostas. See how they have grown?

What's For Supper? Re-start: Summer Menu #1

I am passionate about cooking well-balanced, healthy meals for my family. It is one way that I express my love for them. I love looking at recipes and planning menus that I think will appeal to them.This week, I have planned 5 meals for our menu. I never assign a specific meal for a specific day of the week. I like to decide what sounds good that day, and also some meals take less prep time, and I like to save those for our busiest days.
Meal #1:
Garden Salad
Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits

Meal #2:
Grilled Hamburgers (with avocado, tomatoes, red onions, and cheese on garlic-toasted buns)
Home-style Seasoned Parmesan Fries
Fresh Fruit

Meal #3:
Breakfast for Supper!
Crispy Hashbrowned Potatoes
Turkey Bacon
Omelet Bar (cheeses, onions, mushrooms, bacon, sausage, peppers, fresh herbs, tomatoes, etc)

Meal #4:
Picnic in the back yard!
Lunch-Meat Sandwiches (various toppings)
Frozen Fruit Cups

Meal #5:
Taco Salad (or tacos for the boys)
"Mojitos" or "Margaritas" (non-alcoholic ... we have two young boys!)
Fresh Fruit (sensing a trend? SO glad it is Summertime!)
"Fried" Ice Cream (MMmmMMmmMMmmm!)

Yes - it is another week where my dear husband will miss out on nearly ALL of the wonderful menu plan ... but we will have to make up for his absence and enjoy the tasty foods that Summertime brings. I hope your family enjoys this time of year as much as we do!

Home-made Hamburger Helper

As you may have guessed, I love to cook. I probably own well over one-hundred cook books and I love trying new recipes. However, I have two amazing little boys - with simple tastes and a love for junk food. Thanks, Grandma!

Anyway ... one of the meals that frequents our house as it is my boys' (all THREE of them) favorite is Home-made Hamburger Helper. It is one of my "go-to" meals for busy nights, when I don't have a lot of time to cook ... but I still want to feed my family well.

Home-made Hamburger Helper
(I think this takes about 15 to 20 minutes to prepare and cook - really quick meal!)

1 1/2 to 2 pounds of ground beef
1 1/2 cups of water
2 cups of uncooked pasta (I love using bow tie pasta)
1 can of condensed tomato soup
1 can of condensed cheddar cheese soup
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the beef until cooked well. Add the soups, water, and uncooked pasta to the pan. Cook until the pasta is done and the mixture is bubbly. Serve to your family. In our family - I have to double the recipe, or I will not get supper that night!
I hope your family enjoys this as much as my family!

Wow ... It has been awhile!

I am sorry to say, I have neglected this blog for a long time. Life has been busy. My beautiful sister got married in May, I have had some pretty big projects and customer visits at work, and I have been working on projects around the house. I am sorry that I have been absent. I will do better.

Anyway, this past week, I had a movie night with a dear friend. We enjoyed a menu that radiates Summertime to me:

Margarita Pizza
Fresh Salsa and Tortilla Chips
Sweet Cream and Strawberries

It was delicious! We watched a couple of movies, talked, and just had a wonderful evening. I am looking forward to another movie night in the near future!

In case you are wanting to make your own Margarita Pizza - please find the recipe below:

Margarita Pizza
** This is a pizza that you can GRILL outside - or bake inside. They turn out equally yummy (and if you use the grill, you don't have to heat up your kitchen!)

12-inch pre-baked thin crust pizza shell

14.5 oz can tomatoes with basil, oregano, and garlic

1/3 cup pizza sauce

1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese

3 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat grill to medium and leave lid closed to keep hot.

Drain tomatoes with a strainer, removing as much liquid as possible. Spread pizza sauce over crust and top with the drained tomatoes. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese. Evenly layer the mozzarella over the pizza, sprinkle on the fresh basil and then add some freshly ground black pepper.

Place pizza directly onto the grill. Close lid for 4 minutes (to make sure the crust is not burning). After 4 minutes, turn grill off and keep lid down for an additional 3 minutes, until the toppings are hot and the cheese is melty.

**For those of you who do not grill, this pizza can be baked in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 10 minutes. The pizza can either be done directly on the oven rack, or on a pizza stone.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

What's for Supper? Menu 5

I love planning menus ... but some weeks, we just need comfort food. The way that this winter has been seemingly never-ending, I have enjoyed trying more "new" recipes, just to add a little bit of excitement to our week. This week, I have picked no "new" recipes (which is very unusual ... there are usually at least 2 if not 3 per week). This week, I let each member of my family pick one meal - so, without a doubt, this menu is comprised of some of the favorite meals of our family.

Meal #1: Matt
Garlicky Shrimp Scampi served over Angel Haired Pasta
Caesar Salad
Home-made Bread Sticks

Meal #2: Rick (father-in-law)
Winter's Catch - Italian Fish Fry
Rice Pilaf
Garlicky Green Beans
Honey-Wheat Bread

Meal #3: Trevor
Taco Night: Tacos for the boys and Taco Salad for the adults
Fresh Fruit

Meal #4: Nicholas
Cheeseburger Skillet (aka Home-made Hamburger Helper)
Sweet Corn

Meal #5: Annette
Chicken Rice Soup
Home-made Bread

Recent Menu Items

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Italian Parmesan Oven Fries
Savory Chicken & Wild Rice cooked in a white wine sauce served with a garden salad with strawberry chardonnay vinaigrette

Mexican Pizza

Margarita Pizza

Asian Sirloin Noodle Salad

Sensible Snacks

In our home, for my family, I really try to keep healthy and flavorful snacks around for the boys to munch on. The crisper in our refrigerator is filled with juicy apples, sweet seedless grapes, celery, and carrots. The bowl on our kitchen table is overflowing with oranges and clementines (the most requested snack by my boys).

When we have friends over, I love to cook. One of my favorite things to make is, without a doubt, appetizers. There are so many options and your imagination is the only limit that you have to face. Any main dish or dessert can be instantly transformed into an appetizer (just served in smaller quantities). Appetizers can completely transform any gathering, with just a few tasty ingredients.

A new favorite recipe to add to my perfect recipe collection is a savory chickpea hummus dip that is equally delicious with pita bread, fresh cut vegetables, and tortilla chips. I am already dreaming up new variations for hummus: Greek Hummus (adding fresh cucumber, basil, tomato, and a sprinkling of feta), sundried tomato, roasted red pepper, tomato-basil, spinach-artichoke. I think that there is no end to the flavorful variations - especially considering that you can use white beans in place of the chickpeas.

"Yummus" Dip (by Janet & Greta Podleski)
1 can garbanzo beans (which are also called chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 Tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground coriander
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor, process the beans until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and process. Store in refrigerator. Serve with chips, pita bread, vegetables.

Happy snacking!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Layered Enchilada Crockpot Pie

I love potlucks. I love sampling the delicious "bests" that were brought to the potluck. I love gleaning new ideas - seeing new ways to prepare salads, new presentations for desserts, and finding new favorite items to add to our family's menu.

Today, our church had a potluck after our church service in the park. I brought a family favorite recipe - a wonderful, quick, flavorful meal that my family loves... and hopefully, my church family found it good as well as we brought home an empty dish.

Layered Enchilada Crockpot Pie

serves 10-12 (picture may be added at a later date)

5-6 (10 inch) flour tortillas
1 1/2 to 2 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 large green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 pint of grape tomatoes, quartered
2 tsp cumin
1 Tablespoon chili powder
salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup ketchup
2 cups salsa, divided (I used Pace Mild Picante sauce)
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1 bunch green onions

In a large skillet, brown the beef with onion, green pepper, garlic, and jalapeno. Add seasonings and tomatoes and cook for a minute longer. Stir in 1 cup salsa and ketchup.

Spray your crockpot with non-stick spray or line with aluminum foil to avoid stuck on food. Place the first (single) layer of tortillas in the bottom of the crockpot (tearing them to make them fit, if necessary). Pile on 1/2 of the meat, some cheese, and some of the chopped green onions. Layer on another layer of tortillas, the remaining meat, more cheese and more green onions. Layer on the final layer of tortillas, the final 1 cup of salsa, more cheese and green onions.

Cook in a crockpot at low setting for 4 hours or at high setting for 2 hours, until cheese is melted and it is nice and bubbly.

** Note: I love to mix-up the ingredients I use in this versatile dish, depending on the audience I am serving.

Other ingredients I like to use:
Monterrey Jack or Pepper-Jack cheese (any cheese is good)
Sour cream
Red Peppers
Black Beans
Lime Juice (stirred into the meat, just after done cooking, before assembling the pie)
Doritos or tortilla chips, crumbled over the top

I hope your family enjoys this meal as much as our family does.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Brainstorming - Input Appreciated

So, I am planning to make a chocolate fondue this week. I was thinking of what to serve with it ~ my creativity has taken a short vacation.

My thoughts:

What else would be good? What is your favorite food to dip in chocolate fondue?

Another question:
What is your favorite type of fondue? How do you like to serve it?

All comments are appreciated!

What's For Supper? Menu 4

I love planning healthy, delicious menus for my family. This week, while mapping out the schedules, noticed just how busy of a week is ahead of us. This week's menu features simple, but flavorful suppers that minimize my time in the kitchen and maximize my time with my family.

Potluck Sunday in the Park:
Layered Enchilada Crockpot Pie
Peanut Butter-Fudge Decadence Dessert

Meal #1:
Asian Beef-Noodle Salad
Fruit Salad

Meal #2:
Savory Chicken and Rice One Pot Meal
Home-made Bread
Garlicky Green Beans

Meal #3:
Cauliflower Soup [made with chicken, wild rice, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower]
Bread Bowls
Garden Salad

Meal #4:
Mexican Pizza
Margarita Pizza
Garden Salad

Meal #5: Party Food
Hummus with pita and crudites [fresh vegetable platter]
Fondue with fresh fruit, marshmallows, and pretzels

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

May The Force Be With You ...

Boys. Some things can be completely and utterly explained by just that one word.

Boys are fantastic ~ especially my boys... not that I am biased or anything! I love how my boys are unafraid to use their imaginations. They are resourceful while they are at play.

Case in point~
Icicicles hanging from the roof of the house can be any of the below, on any given day:
1) Delicious afternoon treats for 2 little boys (Note from author - YUCK)
2) Easily shattered on concrete stairs
3) Swords used to re-inact scenes from STAR WARS

What could I write that could ever compare to these pictures?

'Nuff said! My boys and their imaginations light up my life and bring laughter to my days. I am, without a doubt, abundantly blessed!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Don't Even Ask ...

Hi. My name is Annette, and I am a complete and utter klutz. I admit it openly ... I display this frequently. It is not everyone that can miss the top stair and flip head-over-heels down a flight of stairs and slap on a few band-aids and still make it to Baccalaureate on time or who can slip and slide down a staircase at church, breaking their tailbone - and still sing in the Praise and Worship team at church, after all ... is it? Yes, I am quite the accomplished klutz.

My latest brush with my hidden talent occurred last week. I had quite a revelation while in the kitchen. I decided that while making rice, that I could saute the onion and garlic in the rice cooker before adding the rice and the chicken broth. It worked splendidly ... and I have the scars to prove it!

After I got done making supper, I brought a beautifully garnished plate into my husband's office for him to enjoy... and then I asked him for the Silvadine. Silvadine is ointment used to treat burns. Matt was quite puzzled how I had managed to burn the top of my left foot while making supper that evening. I never did quite tell him the entire story. He is still baffled!

What happened? I told my dear husband, "Don't even ask..." But, for you - my friends, I will treat you with the rest of the story ... as a cautionary tale: When you are sauteing onion and garlic in a rice cooker - there is a significant amount of condensation on the lid. Never under any circumstances, lift the lid where that condensation can drip off and hit the top of your foot ~through heavy winter socks, I might add!

I hope that you enjoy a good laugh ... lessons learned!

Monday, February 8, 2010

What's for Supper? Menu 3

I am passionate about cooking well-balanced, healthy meals for my family. It is one way that I express my love for them. I love looking at recipes and planning menus that I think will appeal to them.

This week, I have planned 5 meals for our menu. I never assign a specific meal for a specific day of the week. I like to decide what sounds good that day, and also some meals take less prep time, and I like to save those for our busiest days.

Meal #1:
Black Bean Chicken Chili (leftovers from Super Bowl)
Quesadillas with salsa and guacamole

Meal #2:
Super Sub Sandwiches
Mozzarella and Basil Pasta Salad
Garden Salad

Meal #3:
Lemon-Infused Tilapia
Rice Pilaf
Garlicky Green Beans

Meal #4:
Baked Ziti with Zesty Marinara
Parmesan Sticks
Garden Salad

Meal #5:
Chicken Rice Soup
Honey-Wheat Bread

Enjoy this wintry winter week's forecast ... or at least the savory, warm menu plan that I posted.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Super Bowl Menu

Super. Bowl. Sunday. Three of my husband's favorite words. Why? Interesting question... It could be because my dear husband loves to host parties. He is such a social guy ~ and just loves to have people over to our home and entertain them. Another reason is that he genuinely loves the commercials that accompany the annual Super Bowl game. He sits back and emits the most wonderful chuckles as he soaks in the creative genius that the advertising world has to offer. My final reason that I believe that my husband loves the Super Bowl is the food that accompanies our annual event. We have had Cajun Deep Fried turkeys, "Soup"er Bowl menu themes, and various others. When Matt starts to plan the event, his first question always is, "Honey, what are you making?"

So ... I have known (for the most part) what our menu was going to be for this year's event. We are having just a very small party this year (due to the flooding of our basement ... again). I am focusing on a simple menu that has a lot of flavor.

Super Bowl Menu
1) Black Bean Chicken Chili ~ This chili is good all by itself ... or, you can always top it with Fritos, Monterrey Jack cheese, green onions, sour cream, avocado, fresh tomatoes, (the list could go on ...)
2) Home-made Winter Salsa (courtesy of The Pioneer Woman) with tortilla chips (It is winter salsa because I can use canned tomatoes to make it!)
3) Spinach-Artichoke Dip served with vegetables and crackers.
4) Garlicky French Loaf
5) Best Brownies (in honor of my brother-in-law's birthday ... they are his favorite. I will make a double batch. One for his birthday party tomorrow & one for our party).

Hope you all enjoy the game and have a super safe, Super Bowl!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I've Got the Sweets (and Sours)

This week, based on a previous posting, I was asked for my current favorite recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken.

This recipe is very simple, but has so much flavor. This is the recipe that I found in my very first cookbook that I ever purchased: "Betty Crocker's: Everything You Need To Know To Cook." I first made this meal the first year I was married ... probably the first month! It has been a favorite ever since (but I would not deem this as the perfect Sweet and Sour Chicken).

Sweet and Sour Chicken
Serves 5 (1 cup servings) Calories 240 per serving

15 1/2 oz can of pineapple chunks in juice (reserving 1/3 cup juice)
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (yes, this is a repeat)
1 medium green pepper, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, coarsely shredded (approx. 1 1/4 cups)

Mix 1/3 cup pineapple juice, the cornstarch, vinegar and honey.

Heat wok over high. Add oil and stir-fry chicken until no longer pink. Remove chicken and keep warm. Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of oil to the wok and stir-fry peppers and onion for about 1 minute. Add cornstarch mixture and carrots to wok. Cook and stir for about 1 minute until sauce thickens. (Tip, if you want your veggies softer, cook them all at the same time and cook until tender, then add the sauce mixture)

Stir in pineapple and chicken and heat thru.

*** I like to serve this over brown rice and with some mandarin oranges.


What's for Supper? Menu 2

I am passionate about cooking well-balanced, healthy meals for my family. It is one way that I express my love for them. I love looking at recipes and planning menus that I think will appeal to them.

This week, I have planned 5 meals for our menu. I never assign a specific meal for a specific day of the week. I like to decide what sounds good that day, and also some meals take less prep time, and I like to save those for our busiest days.

Meal #1:
Breakfast for Supper~
French Toast with Sauteed Bananas
Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits

Meal #2:
BBQ Bacon Cheeseburgers
Italian Seasoned Oven Fries
Garden Salad

Meal #3:
Three Meat Jambalaya
Garlicky Baked French Bread
Garden Salad

Meal #4:
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Garlicky Green Beans
Tomato Basil Salad

Meal #5:
Skinny Scampi (Matt's request)
Brown Rice
Oven Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan

Hope you all enjoy! Stay tuned for my Super Bowl Menu later.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Home-made is best.

I came home this week from work and entered the kitchen. My kitchen table had 4 large containers of oats on it. I looked at my husband, seeking an answer for this immense amount of grains that I did not purchase. He smiled and said he thought I should makes "something" with it.

Now, my family are cereal eaters. This may be the wrong term for their cereal eating behavior. My boys come by it honestly. My husband, in his bachelor years, used to consume 1-2 boxes of cereal in a 24 hour window of time. Just yesterday, my dear husband said that he and the boys had a cereal eating contest during breakfast. He proudly stated that Trevor consumed 6 bowls full of cereal. He said, Nicholas (my 4 year old) gave up after about 4 bowls of cereal. On a weekly basis, I can be found at the supermarket with a cart full of cereal.

When I am being sensible, I will make home-made granola for my family. This is just as easily consumed as the other cereals that I purchase for my guys (after all, I store all cereal out of the boxes in Tupperware cereal holders, so no one is the wiser!).

So, I believe that the four large containers of oats on the table may have been my husband trying to give me a subliminal message of "Please fix some granola for our family. We are in dire need of a healthier, more cost-effective breakfast." Do you think that is what he was trying to say?

A friend of mine asked me this week for a good, low-fat granola recipe. Since she specifically requested low-fat, I gave her one I got off of Cooking Light's website about a year ago. It is good ... but I have to say, I enjoy this recipe so much more. It is also the granola of choice of my family.
Goodness-Greatness Granola
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup light brown sugar
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup wheat germ
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup of sliced almonds
1 cup of dried berries (your choice)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Line 2 cookie sheets with aluminum foil. In a large bowl, combine honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt. Add the oats, wheat germ and stir until evenly blended.

Spread the granola out on the prepared sheets and bake about 20 minutes, stirring a few times to avoid burning and to achieve even baking. Remove pans from oven, stirring and then bake and additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Stir in the nuts and berries of your choice.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Simply Soup

Simmering on the stove or served steaming hot in a bowl, I love soup! In the winter time, soup frequently appears on the menu. What I love about soup? I love the versatility of soup: You can take nearly any protein, any vegetable, any seasoning, any broth ... and when combined, results in the most delicious creation.

I am a firm believer in the healing powers of soup. There may be no medical studies supporting my theory ... but I know that whenever I feel like I have a cold or if I feel like I am getting sick, nothing is as good as a bowl of piping hot soup (especially my Mother's Chicken Rice Soup!)

The soup I made this week is my boys' favorite. It is Barley Vegetable Beef Stew (the title tells it all!). The good thing about this soup is that you can either use canned, fresh, or frozen vegetables, most of the ingredients can be found right in your pantry, and it is one of the simplest soups with the best flavor. I love to add corn, green beans, peas, and other vegetables to this recipe - pick your favorites. I have typed up the way I made the recipe this week. I hope you and your family will love it.

Barley Vegetable Beef Stew
Makes 8 servings at 203 calories per serving

1 1/2 to 2 pounds of beef stew meat or leftover beef roast
1 cup chopped celery (use the leaves too, as they really produce a wonderful flavor)
1 small onion, chopped
4-6 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
7 cups of beef broth (can substitute 7 cups of water with 4 beef bouillon cubes)
14 oz can of tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
2/3 cup uncooked pearl barley
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

In a large non-stick skillet, brown the beef with the onion and garlic. When cooked thru, add remaining vegetables and all seasonings and cook and stir until they start to get tender. Add broth, tomato sauce, and barley and simmer over medium heat for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The longer it simmers, the more tender the beef will be. Before serving, add the chopped, fresh parsley to the stew and stir well.

***I like to serve this meal with my Crusty French Bread and a garden salad.


A Little Bit of Spice.

Every week, I try to plan a salad supper into our meal plan. I love salads for supper. There is so much that you can do - so many tasty options.

I love Mexican food. I love going to restaurants and indulging in queso and salsa with those still fresh from the oven tortilla chips (I like to pretend they are fresh from the oven, and not fresh from a vat of oil...) I love squeezing a little fresh lime over a taco. I adore the incredible variety of flavors that attack your taste buds. Deliciousness!

So ... needless to say, this week, I prepared one of my favorite salads: Black Bean Taco Salad.

Here is the line-up of ingredients: Spicy Taco Meat, corn, black beans, green pepper, avocado, green onions, and reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese.

And here is the finished product!

My dressing consisted of one part light sour cream and one part salsa. It was perfect! I have also used a balsamic vinaigrette or just squeezed fresh lime juice over the top as my dressing. Whatever way you go, it is delicious. Another thing that is fun is to take spinach tortillas, slice them in thin strips and then toast them in the oven. They add a nice crunch to the salad, in case you are missing the carbs. The way I fixed it made enough salad for 6 servings at 279 calories per serving. My boys loved eating the meat, beans and corn on the side and I made cheesy quesadillas for them.

Here is the recipe for my Spicy Taco Meat that I used to make this salad:

Spicy Taco Meat
1 to 1 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 pint of grape tomatoes, quartered
2 tsp cumin
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup ketchup

Brown beef with jalapeno, garlic, and onion. Add seasonings. Cook until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute. Stir in ketchup and heat thru. Serve.

*** This meat makes wonderful tacos, enchiladas, or even nachos. The sky is the limit!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chicken Tonight...

I love chicken. I love using chicken in recipes. When I go to a restaurant, I love trying new and different creations with chicken. So, a very popular protein in the menus I create is chicken.

Tonight, I decided that we would have the Zesty Barbecue Chicken Breasts for supper. I made the sauce, poured it over my frozen (yes, FROZEN) chicken breasts and popped the whole mess into the oven in my stoneware casserole dish. Approximately 50 minutes later, supper was served. The boys just magically appeared from wherever they had previously been playing in the house and were very eager to have their supper (and SECONDS).

Zesty Barbecue Chicken Breasts (287 calories per serving)

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I used frozen, because I did not have them thawed)

3/4 cup ketchup

1/2 cup salsa

1/4 cup honey

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

Arrange chicken in a 9x13 casserole dish (sprayed with some non-stick cooking spray). Combine the remaining ingredients to make the sauce. Pour over the chicken, coating every piece. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 50 minutes, or until chicken juices run clear. Serve immediately, with the sauce poured over top of the chicken.

*** We served this with some sweet potato pan fries and corn.

I hope that your family enjoys this meal as much as my family did!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Cuddle Bug...

My youngest. Blue eyes and blond hair. My Spiderman (this is who he compares himself to frequently). My cuddle bug. My slayer of dragons. My helper in the kitchen. My sweet talker... my second born is all of these things, and then some!

On the way home from work today, on the way to pick up big brother from school, my youngest son was definitely sweet talking his Momma. "Mommy, I love you. I love to buy you flowers. I love to cuddle with you. I love to buy you hamsters. (I am thinking, "What? We don't have any hamsters!)

After going on for about 5 minutes citing all of the things he loves to buy for and give to his Mommy, my sweet-talking child had a revelation. "Mommy, I know what you will love to buy for me ... a FERRET!"

Now, I am not sure exactly where he has seen a ferret ... or heard of a ferret ... or if he even knows exactly what a ferret is. However, one thing I am very certain of is that I am not buying him a ferret! I smiled and tactfully changed the subject, He soon forgot about the ferret and was ready to pick up big brother and have some clementines for an afternoon snack.

Simple pleasures .... I am blessed!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lazy Days of Winter ...

So, today the boys and I enjoyed a day together. Matt's plane was delayed and so he will be home this evening (rather than afternoon). After a whole week without Daddy, the boys are looking forward to seeing him tonight ... even though, he will likely get back home after they are in bed.

We spent the afternoon cuddling up on the sofa and watching MacGyver episodes. I love it when my boys enjoy (or at least tolerate) things that I enjoyed as a child. It was a fun afternoon.
They boys were begging all day for Chinese food. I had a new recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken to try out - and my boys were claiming to be willing guinea pigs. I was intrigued by some of the new ingredients that comprised this recipe: Fresh ginger and garlic cooked with the chicken, and ketchup and chili powder in the sauce recipe? Now, I had a pretty good recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken in my recipe file ... but the ever perfect recipe has alluded me. So, I decided to give this recipe a try.

Sweet & Sour Chicken
532 calories per serving

1 tsp olive oil
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 tsp grated ginger
1 -2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups green pepper, chopped in larger chunks
1 cup onion, chopped in larger chunks
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
14 oz can pineapple chunks, undrained
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup white vinegar or rice vinegar
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 tsp. chili powder
Hot rice

Heat oil in a wok. Add chicken, garlic and ginger root. Cook until chicken is cooked completely through and then remove from wok and keep warm. Add vegetables to wok and cook for about 5 minutes until tender.

For sauce, whisk together 1/2 cup pineapple juice, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, chili powder and cornstarch. Add sauce, pineapple and chicken to vegetables in wok and heat through until sauce is thickened and pineapple is warmed through. Serve over brown rice.

**I served this meal with steamed brown rice and Mandarin oranges.

My analysis of this recipe is as follows:
Flavor was good. I loved the meat that had the ginger-garlic flavor cooked into it. However, the sauce was lacking in flavor to me. I still prefer my other sauce recipe (although, it definitely has a higher calorie content). This is a good meal, but did not quite satisfy my Chinese craving ... and did not quite pass my boys' test taste. In the future, I will probably do a variation between this recipe and my other recipe... until I find my "perfect" version of Sweet and Sour Chicken.

What's for Supper?

I am passionate about cooking well-balanced, healthy meals for my family. It is one way that I express my love for them. I love looking at recipes and planning menus that I think will appeal to them.

This week, I have planned 6 meals for our menu. I never assign a specific meal for a specific day of the week. I like to decide what sounds good that day, and also some meals take less prep time, and I like to save those for our busiest days. I work a full-time job, have 2 children, and still love to make a home-cooked meal every night for my family.

Meal #1:
Zesty Barbecue Chicken Breasts
Sweet Potato Fries
Sweet Corn

Meal #2:
Unrolled Cabbage Rolls
Honey-Wheat Bread

Meal #3:
Garlic-Ginger Chicken Skewers
Brown Rice
Steamed Broccoli

Meal #4:
Barley Vegetable Beef Stew
Bread sticks
Garden Salad

Meal #5:
Sweet & Sour Chicken
Brown Rice
Mandarin Oranges

Meal #6:
Black Bean Taco Salad

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shrimp Gumbo Stew

There is nothing like a cold winter night to make you want to warm up with a hot supper.

I had some shrimp in my freezer just begging to be used... honestly, I really think that they were calling my name! My husband sees shrimp in the freezer and literally starts begging me to make my Skinny Scampi (a lower-fat version of Shrimp Scampi that I like to make). But I was in the mood for something more substantial ... so, I decided to try a new recipe for Shrimp Gumbo. My rationale was that 1) It is COLD outside; 2) Gumbo is a bit spicy ... so it would warm us up really quickly; and 3) I love Gumbo!

I started reading thru recipes for Gumbo and one of the major components in Gumbo is okra. Now, I know my family - and I don't think that a single one of my guys would ever eat okra. So, I decided that an alteration may be necessary.

Reviewing the recipe, I noted that I did not have all of the required ingredients to make the dish. Not wanting to take the time to travel to the grocery store ... I decided to improvise. Here, you will find my "improvisation" for the Shrimp Gumbo. It was delicious!

Shrimp Gumbo Stew
304 calories per serving

1/4 cup flour
1 Tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 cups chicken broth
14.5 oz Italian-style tomatoes
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and roughly chopped

Brown rice, cooked (serve the gumbo stew over rice)

In a small dish, place the flour and toast in a 400 degree oven for approximately 15 minutes until golden brown. Stir a few times while toasting to avoid flour from scorching. Remove from oven and transfer to another bowl to allow the flour to cool.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onions, celery, garlic and carrots. Cook and stir until veggies begin to soften. Add seasonings to the veggies and stir to combine. Stir in toasted flour and cook for another minute. Add broth and mix well. Add tomatoes (with the juice) and the zucchini. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 20 minutes until vegetables are tender (but not mushy).

Add the shrimp to the pot and simmer for about 5-7 minutes (until the shrimp is cooked through). Serve the gumbo stew over a bowl of brown rice.

**I served the Shrimp Gumbo Stew over brown rice with crusty bread and a garden salad.

Bon Appetit!


Happily Ever Afters

This past weekend, I had the joy and priviledge of witnessing the marriage of my beautiful cousin Meghan. She is now (officially) Mrs. Jeremy Drane.

The wedding was beautiful. It was set in the Masonic Lodge in downtown Des Moines. The architecture was amazing - I found myself admiring the beautiful stained glass windows, the ornate ceilings, and all of the other beautiful elements of the newly remodeled building. I was amazed to hear that my cousin David had a hand in some of the work as he was the lead architect during the remodel (it was his first job).

The ceremony was memorable. Special moments include the ring bearers dropping the rings, my cousin Meghan's radiant smile lighting up the room, my cousin Laura's amazing duet - where she sang Andrea Boccelli's song, "The Prayer". That song, literally brought tears to my eyes (it was that lovely ... ) But then, I would get distracted by my youngest son's commentary on the wedding. "Is that 'sing' almost done yet?", "I really need a drink, Mommy." "Can I just go up there to play with those boys and that girl?" "Is it time to eat?" "My Leapster will quiet if I play it." Needless to say, a complete range of emotions was experienced ... from tears to laughter, from sweetness to embarrasment. And the best emotion was the relief... after the wedding had ended and multiple people said how well behaved my boys were during the wedding.

I loved being able to see family and friends that I have not talked to in years. The evening was much too short - and I did not get to talk to everyone that I wanted to. But, I definitely reflect back on all of the love I experienced that night. My cup overfloweth!

The Trevinator's Big Day

Trevor: My first-born. Nick-name of choice, "The Trevinator" (Seriously... he just told me that this is what I should call him last night at the supper table). Designer of incredible Lego creations. Illustrator of super-heroes.

Trevor had a very exciting Thursday of last week: He lost a tooth at school. When I picked him up from school, Trevor excitedly relayed this information to me. "Mommy, at school today, I did something that no one else has ever done in my class during school. I lost a tooth!" He said that his substitute teacher told him, "Congratulations" and then they went to the school nurse where he was able to pick out a "Tooth Treasure Chest" to put his tooth in for the duration of school that day. We set the tooth in the Tooth Treasure Chest in the special place where the Tooth Fairy looks for teeth that night before bedtime. The next morning, Trevor was excited to find his bounty, in the place where the Tooth Treasure Chest had rested just the night before. I loved watching him as he excitedly showed his brother, before putting his Tooth Fairy money into his safe. What unbridled joy my son has! I am so blessed to have him as my son.

As I reflect on the excitement Trevor had over his lost tooth, I pray that he never loses his innocence and that he will always treasure the simplest pleasures that life has to offer. I need to become better at celebrating these small moments that life offers up. I need to remember to count my blessings - both big and small - every one!