Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spaghetti and Stuffed Meatballs

I’m not a Rachel Ray Fan. I think she’s adorable and vivacious and once in a blue moon has a good idea. I’m not a hater of Rachel Ray either. (My husband loves her). Her recipes though are lacking. They either have too much of a particular spice or are very bland. I haven’t really found a recipe that if followed exactly was exceptional or worthy of making again. I definitely have to majorly tweak her recipes and therefore rarely bother with one.

I don’t mind tweaking to take it up a notch or to suit my style better etc. I don’t want to have to tweak to give it flavor period. I did give one of her recipes a try yesterday though. It sparked an interest. I tweaked before I even began for dietary reasons this time and while a tiny bit bland, I’m not going to blame the recipe. I think it was actually pretty tasty considering how quick/easy it was. If I were a busy mom with younger kids, I could definitely see this being a life saver meal. It has the fun elements I see the kids enjoying and its fast, which I see mom (or Dad) enjoying. It’s definitely affordable and filling. A few more tweaks (like adding some shredded carrots and zucchini for added vegetable nutrition). Me personally, I would also add some onion next time for a boost of flavor.

Spaghetti with Stuffed Meatballs

Ingredients:
¼ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup milk
1 tbs Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic,smashed/chopped fine
3 cans diced tomato
1 small can tomato sauce
1 lb ground turkey
¼ cup fresh grated parmesan
2 eggs
Fresh Mozzerella cut in 1/4 -1/2 inch cubes
1 lb spaghetti noodles
½ cup Gruyere for topping
Salt

Directions:
In a medium bowl whisk eggs and milk together. Stir in Breadcrumbs and one clove of garlic. Add some salt to taste (about 1 tsp) and gently break up ground turkey into bowl. Add Parmesan cheese and gently combine all ingredients. Take about two tablespoons of mixture into hand. Gently flatten it out and place a mozzarella cube in center. Fold Meat up around cube and roll into a ball. Place on greased baking sheet. Repeat until all the meat is used. Set meatballs aside.

In a large sauce pan, heat up the Olive oil and add the rest of the garlic. Cook about 2 minutes or until garlic is golden. Add the tomatoes and sauce. Season with Salt (and pepper if you like) to taste and bring up to a medium low simmer. Carefully place meatballs down into sauce making sure they are submerged. Cook without stirring for about 20 minutes. Stir gently and cook for another 15 minutes.
About half way through the cooking time, heat another pot of boiling salted water. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente (about 10 minutes or so). Toss the cooked noodles with the tomato sauce and meatballs during the last five minutes of cooking. Serve hot topped with a little Gruyere.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Menu Monday

This weekend was a blur. We had a full day Saturday of walking around at the Dachshund Festival with our dogs. Despite the constant rain it was still a lot of fun. We spent way too much money but it benefits a Dachshund Rescue group so totally worth it. (I never thought I would have little dogs, but I love these two munchkins more than I can bear sometimes, despite their horrendous breath).

After the festival, we got a second wind and conquered quite a bit in the garden. The majority of the stakes are driven for the tomatoes and a start on the greenbean stakes. I dusted all the cabbage, broccoli, beans and greens because I’m at wits end with the bugs. The slugs, moths and bugs are mutilating my beautiful plants. Of course it rained after I did it so it did no good. I also got the one bed I had been working on last week de-weeded. It just needs a pass with the tiller and I can replant it with summer crops. Somehow after all of that, we found the energy to play the Wii.

I tell you this because what it meant for Sunday was a day of napping during the thunderstorms. We were exhausted. I don’t think our dogs moved off the sofa all day. When we did, they just stared at us with out the ability to even lift their heads. LOL So I made a quick pass at the grocery shopping without a plan. Never a good idea. So this weeks menu is less than spectacular. We will probably be dependent on a lot of leftovers as the few items I’m making make a TON of stuff. If all else fails I have chicken noodle soup (in the can, GASP) as back up. I broke down and bought deli turkey this week as well for sandwiches so we aren’t dependent solely on leftovers for lunches.

Menu

Multi Bean Soup


Spinach Lasagna

Spaghetti with Stuffed Meatballs

Home made Bread

Red Velvet Cupcakes (co-workers birthday)

MAYBE Strawberry Icecream

Orange Chocolate chip scones (for breakfasts)

Multi Bean Soup

On a trip to the Farmer’s Market several weeks ago (maybe two months at this point), my mom and I found the dried bean bins. So we mixed up our own bean medley in a bag. Since the beans are by the pound we were able to produce our own special bean blend. I can’t honestly tell you what’s in it but I know there are some: butterbeans, fordhooks, pintos, black beans, legumes, etc. I’ve been meaning to make a bean soup for quite awhile but kept putting it off because cooking dried beans takes awhile. This was a rainy/stormy weekend so yesterday was perfect to experiment with soup. This is a hardy soup that is inexpensive, makes a lot and can be on hand for any time of the year.

Ingredients:
Bag of Mixed dried beans (probably about 1lb)
1 bag Frozen Stew Vegetables (potatoes, carrots, celery and onion)
1 bag Frozen Mixed vegetables (peas, green beans, carrots, corn)
1 can Diced Tomatoes
1 Can Stewed Tomatoes
¼ stick of butter
Salt and pepper to taste (requires quite a bit)

Directions:
Fill crockpot (5 quart) half way up with water, and dump beans in. Cook on high for 4 hours. Beans should take up the majority of the water at this point. Dump EVERYTHING else in and cook on high for another 2 hours. Serve hot.

I am going to experiment using leftovers more as a chili or an accompaniment to Beef roast etc. I think this soup will be very versatile as it has a great natural flavor that can stand alone or go well with other dishes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I love, no, make that LOVE peas. As a child I actually loved mixing peas into the Hamburger Helper Beef stroganauff (I know, it pains me to admit my love for the boxed stuff too). That was one of my favorite meals though. As an adult, I am finding all kinds of new dishes with peas. I put them in EVERYTHING. A frozen bag of peas (about 15 oz) is only 97 cents. Why NOT put them in everything?

A month or so ago I ran across a Pea Salad recipe at www.singforyoursupperblog.com. I had to try it despite the fact I don’t eat bacon. So I bought some low sodium turkey bacon as a substitute. When it came time to make it however, it was late, I had been in the garden all day and I was exhausted. So I nixed the bacon and instead whipped up a handful of tiny pasta shells to add body to the salad.

I admit, I was a little skeptical at the raw simplicity of the salad. I started out with a tiny little bit. I went back for thirds and I brought it for lunch today. I did not share or leave any for my husband (but since its all green I doubt he would have tried it anyway unless I shoved it down his throat). I can not wait till the next potluck or party because this will definitely be on the menu throughout the whole summer. I may even venture the bacon and leave out the noodles for a zippy gluten free version!

Creamy Pea Salad
Ingredients:
15 ounce bag of frozen peas thawed
2 sticks of celery, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 cup tiny pasta shells, boiled in salted water till al dente
½ block of sharp cheddar cheese cut in very small cubes
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
I did not add salt and pepper but you can to taste

Directions:
I had all the ingredients (minus the pasta) in the fridge so everything was cold to begin with. Even adding the hot noodles did not heat it up much so I served as is which was still pretty chilled but you can chill before serving. Just dump everything together and stir. Great for a make ahead meal/dish.

Hummingbird Cupcakes

I made the first Hummingbird Cake years ago when it first made an appearance on the Martha Stewart show. I fell in love with the pineapple flowers she did. Everyone loved it, especially my mom. Fast forward to last year when I found out a new friend’s favorite cake was Hummingbird but she paid 9.75 per SLICE at a local bakery. I made her this cake for her birthday. She loves me now. LOL

For Mother’s Day, I decided to do a little portion control since we are all losing weight (well, and I’ve become a cupcake fiend…I don’t eat them, but I LOVE to make them) and make Hummingbird Cupcakes topped with a single Pineapple flower. They came out SO well. I left out the nuts and coconut because of food allergies in some members of the family, but I took a few of the cupcakes and topped them with nuts and coconut. I’m going to write the recipe down WITH the nuts and coconut but its your choice. The batter works fine without them.

Hummingbird Cupcakes
From Martha Stewarts Cake Recipe


Ingredients:
3 cups Self Rising Flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3 large ripe bananas mashed
1 (8ounces) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup coconut (shredded)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, sift together dry ingredients: flour and cinnamon. In KA Mixer (or bowl with hand mixer), cream oil, vanilla, and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Beat for about 3 minutes until mixture is pale yellow and fluffy.

Add in banana, pineapple (and walnuts and coconut if you choose to use them). Stir until combined. Add flour mixture 1/3 at a time until completely incorporated. Pour ( or use an ice-cream scoop like I do) into lined muffin tins. Bake for 25 minutes or until done. Let cool completely. Makes about 24.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Ingredients:
1 pound (16 ounces) cream cheese
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 cup softened/room temp butter (2 sticks)
2 pounds confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
In KA MIXER, beat the vanilla and cream cheese about 2 minutes. Gradually add in the butter and cream together until fully incorporated. On low speed, slowly add in sugar until a whipped consistency.

Dried Pineapple Flowers

1 – 2 large pineapples (depending on how many flowers you want. One large did one flower on about 18 cupcakes)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Peel pineapples. Using a small melon baller (I actually find using a small pairing knife works well too for the tougher eyes) remove and discard “eyes”. Slice pineapple VERY thinly. Place rounds on baking sheets. Cook until the tops look dried about 30 minutes. Flip slices and cook an additional 30 minutes until completely dried and ruffled. Cool on wire rack.

TIP: Do the Pineapple First. Even the evening before and store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Turkey Parmesan Burgers (and oven fries)

In my quest for healthier eating I have cut out a lot of red meat. We have red meat maybe once a week if that. I tend to stick to poultry and veggies (and pasta. We all know I’m a carb loader). So anytime I see a recipe for any kind of poultry burger I have to try it! These were tasty. They cooked well and are a nice basic palate to make them your own. You could spice them up with some peppers or send them over the Italian curve with some fresh basil leaves and garlic mixed in. Due to my allergies, I’m pretty careful about spices right now. Go wild with this. I served with simple oven fries made from white potatoes, olive oil and sea salt. (slice and bake in a single layer for 20 minutes on 350, flip and bake for 20 more minutes). This makes a great light summer dinner OR a healthy lunch!


Turkey Parmesan Burgers
Ingredients:
Sliced Whole Grain Bread
Parmesan cheese (about ½ cup)
Small can of Tomato Sauce
1 lb ground turkey
½ tbs olive oil
1 small finely chopped onion
Whole-milk Mozzarella cheese (thinly sliced or shredded)

Directions:
In a food processor, blend the two end pieces of bread and parmesan to form fine crumbs. Place in large plate or pie plate.

In a large bowl combine ground turkey, onion and 2 tbs tomato sauce plus ¼ tsp salt. Mix well. Shape into 5 patties and gently coat with the bread crumb mixture.

In a George Foreman Grill (or a grill pan, frying pan etc), spray with Pam and place burgers on grill. Grill for about 4 minutes or until crusty and dark brown.

Serve on toasted bread with mayonnaise, 1 tbs of tomato sauce and a thin slice or sprinkle of mozzarella.

Spinach Shells: Two Ways

In my garden, I have an abundance of spinach, which is great because I LOVE spinach. Spinach and peas find a way into almost everything I make! LOL I wanted to play with dishes that feature spinach as a main ingredient, like my Spinach Lasagna which is to die for. (Okay I wouldn’t DIE for it but it is really good).

As I was experimenting with a recipe very loosely inspired by Giada De Laurentiis I went even further to try it with two types of shells: tiny shells and large stuffable shells. While both were good, and they both had the exact same ingredients, I have to admit the small shells were better. Something about how the ingredients blended together with the shells. I will definitely be making this again, very soon. (Especially since my spinach needs picking after all this rain we’ve had!)

Spinach Stuffed Shells and Spinach Shell Pasta
Ingredients:
½ box jumbo pasta shells OR
2 cups tiny shells
1 gallon bucket of fresh spinach leaves (I would guess about 2 bags but I pick my spinach in a 1 gallon strawberry bucket)
½ container of whole milk ricotta
1 cup cottage cheese (You can use a whole container of ricotta but I always cut some calories by substituting some cottage. It works well)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup parmesan/gruyere mix
1 small onion
1 garlic clove,minced

Sauce:
½ stick butter
3 tbs flour
1 cup cream
1 cup grated parmesan
½ cup gruyere

Directions:
Boil shells in salted water until al dente. If you are using the large shells definitely do not over cook or they will fall apart when you try to stuff them.

In a food processor, combine garlic and onion. Add washed spinach and chop until spinach is fine and combined. In a bowl, combine ricotta, cottage, gruyere/parm mix, salt and pepper and spinach mixture. Blend well. Set aside.

In a sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Cook for 1 minute. Add cream and cook until smooth and it coats the spoon. Remove from heat and add in cheeses.

For Stuffed shells: Use spinach mixture to gently fill shells and place in a greased casserole dish. Pour Sauce OVER shells. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes until bubbly.

For Spinach and Shells: Mix Sauce into Spinach mixture. Gently add mini cooked shells and stir until well blended. Place in a casserole dish. Sprinkle with ½ cup mozzarella cheese and bake at 350 for about 12-15 minutes until bubbly and cheese topping is turning golden brown. (You could also add some bread crumbs to the top and drizzle with olive oil for a firm crust).

Homemade Vanilla Pudding

I love pudding. I love doing everything homemade. Even though boxes are often easy and quick and are convenient, I want to know exactly what’s in it, how its done etc. Plus I know if I make it homemade it doesn’t have extra preservatives and colorings to increase aesthetics and shelf life. I feel GOOD about serving even the simplest things from scratch. Pudding is one of them. Brownies are another. Really, the homemade version may take one minute longer then the boxed version. It’s insanely easy. So why pay for preservatives? How “convenient” to your body is that?

Homemade Vanilla Pudding
From allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
2 cups milk
½ cup white sugar
3 tbs corn starch
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs butter

Directions:
In a sauce pan, heat milk until bubbling on the edges. In a bowl, combine sugar, corn starch and salt. Pour sugar mixture into sugar 1/3 at a time, whisking until dissolved. Once mixture is smooth and thickens to coat the back of the spoon, remove from heat. (do not boil). Stir in vanilla and butter. Chill before serving (or spooning into cupcakes).

Wellness Topic: Food effects on Seasonal Allergies

This is prime season for allergies. Having recently come into my discovery of how bad allergies can be, I’m very aware of them this year. I have an allergy to mold and mildew which has been compounded by my environment (my job). In this economy, I have to learn to work around my allergy since I can’t leave my job. Jobs are too hard to come by. Some interesting information that came from an NC County Wellness Newsletter is definitely worthy of passing on.

Studies show that a healthy diet rich in certain foods will help keep your respiratory system strong, boost your immunity to allergies and help fight infections. The article quotes an article written in Thorax, a health journal that noted islanders who ate Mediterranean foods had fewer allergies. The foods in this type of diet that aid in protecting against allergies are: nuts, grapes, oranges, apples and fresh tomatoes. These foods have natural anti-inflammatory and are loaded with Vitamins, antioxidants and good fats.

The full list of foods:
Nuts: magnesium (increase lung function) and vitamin E (immune booster).

Apples, oranges and tomatoes: anditoxidants, vitamin C.

Grapes: the skins especially have antioxidants and resveratrol (reduces inflammation and offers protection)

Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation and offer protection

Green, white and black teas: reduce inflammation, boost immunity by increasing proteins. Hot tea with lemon in the morning activates the movement of nasal cilia which helps prevent sneezing with allergies.

Zinc: found in oysters, lean beef, shrimp, crab, legumes, whole grains and tofu. Has antibacterial and antiviral effects and assists with immunity.

Me personally, I eat a LOT of tomatoes in the summer. I always feel better in the summer? Coincidence? I think not. My own tips to add to this, take vitamins. I’ve learned a lot by trying to eat locally and in season. Right now I’m eating a lot of spinach, peas, strawberries, and asparagus. That is what is in season right now and I can get it fresh. These are loaded with good vitamins and iron. In the summer, it is easier to eat fruits and veggies because it’s the season for them (here in the south). I can also not stress enough my new love for Green Tea.

I started taking Green Tea as it is suggested it can aid in fertility but no matter that it is an excellent source of antioxidants. In the few weeks I’ve been on it, my allergic reactions are almost undetectable and I now go DAYS without reactions at all OFF of my medicine! How fabulous is that?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cheesecake Factory's Chicken Costolleta

I found this recipe while roaming around food blogs and sites. I’ve never actually had this dish as the closest Cheesecake Factory is an hour and a half away. The only thing I’ve ever had from there is my wedding cakes. (Yep, we did multiple tiers of cheesecake for our wedding.) So I can not guarantee the authenticity of this recipe. Having said that, it is darn good! I’m definitely adding this to the rotation. I’m In LOVE with the lightly flavored dipping sauce for a hot crispy piece of chicken. You HAVE to try this.

Chicken Costolleta (and I still think that looks/sounds like Cost-a-lotta)
Ingredients:
4 large skinless boneless chicken breasts cut into large strips and pounded to ½ inch thick
3 tbs flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 eggs
Splash of water
Zest of 1 lemon
1 ½ cups plain breadcrumbs
2 tbs grated parmesan
Vegetable oil

Directions:
Heat vegetable oil over medium high (about ¼ inch of it in a deep cast iron pan- I used a dutch oven). In three dishes put the following ingredients:
Dish 1: flour, pepper and salt. Mix.
Dish 2: Eggs and water. Whisk.
Dish 3: Lemon zest, bread crumbs and parmesan.

Place each chicken strip in the flour, then egg, then breadcrumb mixture. Make sure in each stage it is thoroughly coated. Place in heated oil for about 4 minutes per side or until Golden brown and done in the center. Try to only flip once. If your oil is smoking, its too hot. You want it just below smoking point.

Lemon Cream Dipping Sauce:
Ingredients:
1 tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups heavy cream
1 tbs Dijon mustard
The juice from two lemons
Zest from One lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tbs butter, cold

Directions:
Over medium heat in saucepan, heat olive oil. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add cream and boil until reduced and slightly thick. Add mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Simmer about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted.

You can serve the cream sauce OVER the chicken or use it is a dipping sauce which is how I preferred it.

Strawberry Mascarpone Scones

As part of my plot to conquer anything and all things strawberry, I decided a strawberry scone was in order. Not just ANY scone, but one with creamy Mascarpone cheese to make a luscious thick lightly sweet scone. So good. Even my husband who is not a sweets person, has been taking these to work for breakfast. YAY! They are very delicate, crumbly, juicy strawberries bursting in your mouth, a hint of cheese (almost Danish like but just a hint) and not too sweat. Love it.

Strawberry Mascarpone Scones
Ingredients:
2 ½ cups self rising flour
½ cup sugar plus some for sprinkling
1 stick butter, chilled and diced
1 egg
¼ cup milk
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
Zest of one lemon
1 ¾ cups fresh strawberries, sliced

Directions:
In food processor, combine flour and sugar. Add butter, and pulse a few times until butter is incorporated and the size of peas (like you are making a pie crust). In a small bowl, whisk together: egg, milk, mascarpone cheese and lemon zest. Set aside. Transfer flour to KA Mixer and add strawberries. On low speed for just a few seconds, mix with paddle attachment just so the strawberries are covered in flour and sugar but not so they are mashed or broken.

Pour cheese mixture into flour/strawberry mixture and gently on low mix until just incorporated. Turn dough out onto a WELL floured board and kneed for just a minute until its no longer sticky. Form patties, or cut into triangles for your scones. Place on a well greased baking sheet, sprinkle with sugar and bake on 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Let cool completely. ENJOY!

These would also be good with a light powder sugar glaze if you want them a little sweeter.

Goat Cheese Potato Gratin

Recipe from Cooking Light, October 2001

My husband actually really enjoyed this dish. He’s a meat and potatoes kinda guy but my use of goat cheese in some dishes is questionable to him. I should have known I just have to mix it with potatoes! For me personally, it was a little dry for me so I think I would like to add a bit more cream sauce but it was good. Well flavored.

Goat Cheese Potato Gratin
Ingredients:
1 cup half and half
1 tbs flour
1 cup (4 ounces) goat cheese
1 cup 2% milk
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
5 cups thinly sliced Yukon Gold Potatoes (about 2 ½ lbs)

Directions:
Spray 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine 2 tbs of half and half with flour in a large bowl (whisk works best). Slowly whisk in the remaining half and half until smooth. Crumble the goat cheese into the mixture and add in the milk, salt, pepper, and garlic. Stir gently. Spread a single layer of the potatoes in pan and pour 1/3 of the mixture over potatoes, coating them. Add another layer of potatoes and repeat with the mixture. Add the last potatoes (will not be a full layer) and pour the remaining cheese mixture. Bake for 1 hour or until potatoes are golden brown and tender.

Spring Green Rice Casserole

This is one of those recipes that I stumbled across on a blog and took inspiration from. Annie’s Eats is the original source I believe. I’m not sure if this was an original recipe of hers, but I did not use the recipe as she did. It’s a fine recipe but I did not have all the ingredients on hand and wanted to add chicken. It was good. I nice mild spring flavor with just the hint of citrus. (Though I think I’m going to have to steer clear of lemon for a bit as the hubby is making comments about it. I think I’ve done too many lemon dishes, but really, I had a whole bag, I didn’t want them to go bad!) This makes quite a bit too. Fed three people for dinner, two servings for lunch the next day and I sent about two servings home with my sister for my dad’s lunch.

Spring Green Rice Casserole
Ingredients:
One box of chicken Stock (I think that’s about 4 cups, maybe 5, can’t remember)
1 ½ tsps Olive Oil (Plus some for the chicken)
1 ½ tbs butter
3 large skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 shallots minced
3 leeks, white and just part of the green parts, not the whole stems, chopped
2 cups plain white rice
1 bag frozen peas, thawed (about 15 ounces)
Zest of One lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice from One lemon
1/3 cup Mascarpone cheese
½ cup freshly grated parmesan

Directions:
Lightly oil a grill pan and grill chicken breasts over medium heat.

In a large stock pot, heat up olive oil and butter. Lightly toast the rice. Add the leeks and shallots to the rice, and toast/sauté for a bit stirring constantly. Add chicken stock, 2 cups at a time (let the rice absorb for a few minutes and then add the rest of the stock). Cook for about 10 minutes, till stock is absorbed and rice is al dente. Add the peas and stir. Stir in the lemon zest, salt and pepper. Continue cooking till rice is done (though it needs to still have a bit of bite to it). Turn the heat off and add in the lemon juice, mascarpone, parmesan. Stir well. Dice up the chicken and combine or serve strips of the chicken OVER the rice.

*Even when the computer is working again, I will not be adding a picture as I was distracted and forgot to take one! Sorry. But it really is pretty!*

Boston Ho Cupcakes

This is where I talk about the Pioneer Woman disaster. My great plan (that I had been working on for a month) was to travel an hour and a half away with two great girl friends to go to the book signing of Pioneer Woman. We were going to meet several awesome girls (friends and bloggers) there. It was one of my BFF’s birthdays so I was surprising her with the trip. So imagine: Beautiful day, got off work early, had made awesome gluten free cupcakes the night before, chicken salad and a veggie tray. I got the oil changed in the SUV and had it cleaned. I stopped by the grocery store to pick up ice for the cooler. Came out, my car wouldn’t move. It was dead. Engine purred, gas pedal would not engage. After several hours of working with mechanics, the Mitsubishi dealer via phone, arranging towing etc. it was too late to travel to Charlotte and get there in time. My surprise for my BFF was blown. My chance to meet the Pioneer woman and have a girl’s road trip, GONE in the blink of a failed Pedal Pressure Sensor.

I was distraught. My BFF and I tried to salvage the evening with a trip to Outback, a browsing session at our local bookstore, and a rousing game of scrabble. We have our PW cookbooks and each other’s company, and delicious simple desserts. In honor of Sarah’s Birthday, I created an easy gluten Free Cupcake. Simple and sweet decadent with a fancy trashy name. So what’s in a name? Since these little cupcakes came out crossed somewhere between a backwards Boston cream pie and a Ho Ho cake, they are named Boston Ho’s. And well, it makes the 12 yo boy that lives in my brain giggle like a school girl. Deceptively simple, extremely good, funny name, gluten-free.

Boston Ho Cupcakes
1 box Betty Crocker Gluten Free Devils Food Cake Mix
Vanilla Pudding (I used Homemade and will post the recipe soon)
Vanilla Icing (I use a homemade Butter Cream but you can use your favorite store brand).

Directions:
Make batter according to package directions. Fill cupcake tins with liners about ¾ full. Bake per box instructions. Let cool completely. Using a pairing knife, cut a cone out of the center of each cupcake. Cut tip off cone and save the top circle of each.

Gently spoon vanilla pudding into the hole. Cover with cake circle. Pipe with frosting. Serve.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Menu Monday-Yum Edition..LOL

Thanks to some much needed rain making my garden watered and muddy I have no qualms about making an ambitious menu plan this week as I will have several days that I won’t be able to do much outside. My house is even getting cleaned after a few weeks of driving me insane as I’ve been outside!

It’s STRAWBERRY season so I’m trying to do more with strawberries which I buy by the Gallon Bucket at the Farmer’s Market. ($7.00 a gallon for huge beautiful berries). I’ve frozen 2 gallons to use for ice creams, slushies etc, made some rhubarb strawberry jam and a few recipes. I’ve also been using spinach from my own garden and fresh goat cheese. Honey is coming into season too so I’ll be exploring recipes using honey in the weeks to come when I restock my honey stores. (I currently have a jar I bought at the grocery store and its DISGUSTING…more on that later).

So what’s up this week?

Cheesecake Factory Chicken Costellata (anyone else think tat looks like Chicken Cost-a-lotta?)

Goat Cheese Potato Gratin

Spaghetti with STUFFED meatballs

Strawberry Mascarpone Scones

Strawberry Icecream (I bought an icecream maker ya’ll…so excited!)

Spring Green Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken

Creamy Pea Pasta Salad with Turkey bacon

Turkey Parmesan Burgers

Homemade Bread-I’m determined to make this. I lost my recipe I had planned on using and I’m a little timid of using my Brad recipe book with my Bread machine. I’ve only used the machine once and it was for baking not doing it all. I want to use it to do it all darn it!

I’m also looking forward to getting one more batch (2-3 gallons) of strawberries before they go out of season this weekend and making homemade jelly and syrup.

I’m determined to preserve in season fruit this year to use thru winter. I’ve done a few peaches etc in the past but this year I’m doing more with it. I have to preserve in order to keep up with this new eating style and maintain my local eating endeavors through the winter!

Life Gets in the Way Sometimes

After my miscarriage I threw myself back into this blog and cooking and planning the garden (which I WAY overdid, I will be honest about that-Big Garden-my nemisis). It was the only thing that helped me deal with my grief and sanity.

As the months have gone by, I have thrown myself in so many different directions, joining blog challenges, blog rolls, writing for the examiner, going larger on the garden etc. that I see very little focus and very little accomplishment. I have all these grand ideas and not enough time to execute them.

And I’m growing more exhausted by the day which leaves me less time and energy to work on anything. As you can see from my blog post history this is pretty typical for me at this time of year. Once I take on the outside work of summer (garden, yard, pool) that is where my focus stays and I blog little. I always have the best intentions of blogging garden updates but that never happens. I’m already on phase II of the one garden (ripping out lettuce etc and planting summer crops) and I’ve posted nothing.

Part of this is the fact that my laptop is broke so I’m sharing a computer with DH. It’s a bulky desktop, rather slow with picture downloads and its in the office. The office is DH’s domain now. (used to be mine when I worked from home but now its his since he’s in school and I am back in corporate America). I do not clean it since its his mess and his hateful bird resides in there. Needless to say, its disgusting, dusty and noisy which sends this OCD neat freak into spasms. Plus now the computer is not reading my camera and he hasn’t fixed it. I have little desire to post considering all of that. This situation will be corrected sometime this summer when I budget in the money for computer repairs. (my laptop). Right now pool supplies, garden/yard expenses are top of the list). Until then please be aware that my blog may be rather quiet with the occasional blast of recipes and updates as time permits.
I still have a ton of posts to make (stories in my head, pictures hanging out on my camera, recipes I’ve made). I’m just not sure how it will go over actually posting them. My lunch hour is short so posting daily during that time is not necessarily feasible though I’m definitely going to give it the old college try and definitely keep up with the Menu Monday as that keeps me experimenting and my budget on track.

I will be diligent in my efforts but I didn’t want to disappear for days/weeks at a time and you not have a heads up, so Stay TUNED!

Definitely in the To Blog File:
Hummingbird Cupcakes
Leftover Pot Pie
Boston Ho Cupcakes
Corny Cole Slaw
Spinach Shells-2 ways
And a whole slew of recipes from this weeks menu.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Menu Monday

So I have been very slack this past week. Chalk it up to a string of catastrophe's and a new schedule (so bear with me as this means I have to rearrange my blogging time as well). I do have a few posts to make from last week including:

Boston Ho's (cupcakes)
Cole Slaw (not Ina's)

I haven't even bothered making a menu this week which is going to kill me as my budget is disgustingly low since we bought a riding lawnmower (our's bit the dust awhile back and now our push mower croaked too) with my paycheck this week and hubby had to have computer chips for school on top of that and we had the car worked on. (sorry Cable company, you can suck it, the payment will be late this month) because I refuse to transfer money from savings. Call me crazy, but I don't want to create that habit or next thing you know, your savings will be GONE.

So we shall see what I can magically pull out of the freezer and pantry with maybe some small contributions from the grocery store. I know I have the stuff for:

Bean Soup

Veggie Pot Pie

Hamburgers

Some kind of Pasta (I always have stuff for pasta on hand)

What do you do when life hits you all at once and money is tight? Can you pull two weeks worth of meals out of your pantry/fridge (or ass if the case may be!)?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Baked Spaghetti-the NEW way

I do not normally post every meal I make, repeats or randomness. I also do not cook fancy new recipes EVERY day of EVERY WEEK. Occasionally there will be a whole week where I rely on tried and true rotation recipes and have very few posts. (What, you really thought I cooked gourmet EVERY NIGHT? PAHLEASE..southern farm girl here...with a big garden and a full time corporate america job...I do not have time for all that).

However, every once in awhile, something mundane and boring jumps out at me. A creative use of leftovers (in my effort of not wasting food)for example that made an extremely yummy quick and easy meal. A "new" way of doing Baked Spaghetti and planning out meals that I think is worth sharing. Plus, I'm posting for Mama Bird's Whatcha Cooking Wednesdays (since I cooked absolutely NOTHING of interest last wednesday! LOL


So here goes:

Baked LeftOver Spaghetti
Ingredients:
4 cups (or so) of Leftover Homemade Tomato Soup (which was also used in the pizza so this recipe got a lot of use and none was wasted!)
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh grated Gruyere
1/4 cup Fresh grated American
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 fresh Mozzerella Ball (crumbled)
1 1/2lbs spaghetti noodles
1/2 pound ground turkey browned(leftover from the pizza as well)

Directions:
Boil noodles in salted water till al dente. Spread in a 9 x 13 casserole dish with about 1/4 cup pasta water (to thin out chilled soup). Pour soup (cold) over noodles and mix well. Layer cheeses and turkey over the top. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until cheese is melted and has formed a crust.

Serve.

Surprisingly, I liked this BETTER than making regular spaghetti sauce and baking it up. This had so much more flavor and the noodles absorbed all the soup.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Menu Monday

I am excited this week as I replenished my Farmer's Market Basket. It was looking rather pitiful in the inspiration and fresh goods department.

I'm also excited because I picked my first pickings from my own garden. The spinach is so flavorful and plentiful. The salad greens are ready to pick as well! Exciting!

Spinach, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Pizza

Lemon and Garlic Roasted Chicken

Root Gratin

Butternut Pasta

Grilled Burgers with Goat Cheese

French Country Bread

Baked Spaghetti

Chicken Salad

Spinach and Asparagus Goat Cheese Pizza

This is an important dish. Why? Because it used the first pickings from my garden! This year the first crop picked? Spinach!

So this was a throw together type meal. Let me explain. I've been toying with an idea of putting some of these things together to form a pizza but had not broken down in my head exactly how I was going to do it. Whether I wanted a white sauce or tomato sauce etc. What's a girl to do? Just jump in and try it and make changes later.

This came out VERY Good. The one drawback? Not so great warmed up for lunch the next day. Definately something to serve fresh and hot.

I took pictures, but still having technical difficulties with the camera to computer issue.

Spinach, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Pizza
Ingredients:
1 lb fresh asparagus, remove tough stemmy ends and chop the rest into 1 inch pieces
Handful of fresh spinach leaves
1 vidalia onion (medium)sliced
1/2 stick butter
1/2 pound ground turkey browned in olive oil and drained (optional)
1 Roll out pizza dough
2 ounces of Goat Cheese
1 cup mozzerella
1 cup tomato sauce (or leftover homemade soup like I used)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Roll out pizza dough onto greased cookie sheet or pizza stone. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes. (You don't want it all the way done).

Melt butter on stove, add onions and asparagus. Cover and saute for about 3 minutes. Add spinach leaves. Saute for another 2 minutes until leaves are wilted.

Spread tomato sauce/soup over crust. Sprinkle with cooked ground turkey. Spread aspragus, onions and spinach over pizza. Crumble goat cheese on top. Salt and pepper if needed. Spread mozzerella over entire pizza and then use the butter drippings over the cheese (this forms a golden crust). Bake at 425 for 10 minutes or until crust is browned and cheese is melted and golden).

Serve hot and fresh!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ina Gartens Cole Slaw

We attended a birthday party yesterday for my "nephew". ( I say that in italics because he's not really kinned to me but it's my BFF's boys so I call them nephews). Being a gracious Southern guest I asked if I could bring anything and it was suggested cole slaw to go with the grilled chicken and baked beans. Given that my BFF's family hail originally from the great Upstate New York, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to try out Ina Gartens coleslaw.

It was delicious! (and since I don't have access to my pictures right now, I used the picture on Food network!)

Cole Slaw
Ingredients
1 pound white cabbage (1/2 small head)
3/4 pound red cabbage (1/2 small head)
5 carrots
2 cups good mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Fit a food processor with the thickest slicing blade. Cut the cabbages into small wedges and place horizontally into the feed tube. Process in batches. Next, fit the food processor with the grating blade. Cut the carrots in half and place in the feed tube so they are lying on their sides. Process in batches and mix in a bowl with the grated cabbages.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, celery salt, salt, and pepper. Pour enough of the dressing over the grated vegetables to moisten them (I used all of it-I'm southern, we like things DRENCHED/swimming in sauces and gravy LOL). Serve cold or at room temperature.

Camera to Computer Problems

So all those pictures of my garden and recipes I've been promising? Yea, we are having camera to computer problems. As in the computer will not read the camera.

You would think, being married to a computer nerd guru, this would be fixed immediately. Not so much. He's too busy with classes and studying programming stuff to bother with my pitiful little camera issues. (Kind of like how he's good at electrical stuff but it's been almost four years without a light in my master closet because he never has the time to fix it? Yea, one of those things.)

So until he takes a break (either for himself or a semester break) I'm at a loss to get my pictures to you. So please bare with me. Rather than take a blog hiatus I am going to continue to post the recipes and garden updates sans pictures. When we get this technical issue fixed, I will let you know so if you are interested in going back to look at pictures you can!

Thanks so much!