Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cheesy Hashbrowns

Another meal I can't really take credit for - Cheesy Hashbrowns. This was a Hamburger Helper meal I doctored up:

I added a 15-oz can of diced tomatoes; half a green pepper, diced; one 4.5-oz can of green chiles; chopped scallions and shredded Mexican cheese blend. SP ate one forkful and asked me to buy a hundred boxes of this so we could have it once a week. That's pretty high praise for convenience food!
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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Creamy Pasta with Mushrooms and Warm Spinach Salad

I had planned to make this meal during the week but it actually ended up being our Valentine's Day dinner - Creamy Pasta with Mushrooms:

... and Warm Spinach Salad:

The gorgonzola in the pasta was intense, a little too intense for our liking. This time I actually used a combination of mushrooms (since SP loves them so much) - shitakke, oyster and button mushrooms. This salad is one of our favorites. You really can't go wrong with spinach slightly wilted with bacon dressing, eggs, bacon bits and red onion. There was barely any leftover for lunches the next day.
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Friday, February 26, 2010

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

I'm almost embarrassed to post this, but I made so many additions maybe my readers can overlook the fact that this meal started out in a box. Yup, this is a Chicken Helper meal - chicken alfredo.

Obviously I made a few additions - the broccoli, sliced mushrooms and bacon. It was a surprisingly good meal, considering I never would have been caught dead making any of the Helper meals a mere 4 months ago. When you doctor them up with fresh ingredients they really do taste pretty good.
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lidia's Sugo

It's been a really long time since we had Sunday dinners at our house, but one weekend my mom requested we make Lidia Bastianich's sugo and meatballs. We were happy to oblige. Just look at this gorgeous platter of food:

I have to give SP complete credit for this meal. I took care of Baby Girl while he spent the day in the kitchen making the sugo and the meatballs.

My parents brought a loaf of bread for sopping up all the sauce. This is one delicious meal. We couldn't stop eating the meatballs, which are made with sausage.

For dessert I bought two little pies, the first a Reese's peanut butter pie:

... and the second a key lime:

We barely had any room for dessert but I tried a slice of each. Yum!

Long-Cooked Sugo and Meatballs
Lidia's Family Table by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

For the soffritto:
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions (3/4 pound), minced in a food processor
3 or 4 plump shallots, minced in a food processor
2 or 3 fat garlic cloves, minced in a food processor (about 2 tablespoons)
1 large carrot, peeled and minced in a food processor (about 1 cup)
2 large stalks celery, minced in a food processor (about 1 cup)
5 or 6 fresh bay leaves
1/4 cup tomato paste

For the sugo:
One 35-ounce can plum tomatoes and juices, passed through a food mill (4 cups)
8 to 12 cups or more hot chicken broth, vegetable broth or hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, stripped from the stem
1/4 teaspoon peperoncino (hot red pepper flakes), or to taste
Sausage meatballs: Recipe follows

Frying the soffritto and starting the sugo:

Pour the olive oil into the pan, drop in the onions and shallots and set over medium-high heat. Stir for a minute or two, until the onions begin to sizzle. Drop the garlic into the hot spot and spread it out to caramelize for a minute, then stir with onions. Stir in carrot and celery; drop in the bay leaves and cook the soffritto for another 4 minutes, until it is starting to dry out. Lower heat if necessary to prevent burning.

Push vegetables to the side and drop tomato paste into a hot spot. Toast it for a minute or more, then blend it into the soffritto. Pour in the milled tomatoes and juices and stir. Bring the sauce to a boil quickly and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or more, stirring frequently, until it has just begun to thicken.

Pour in 4 cups of the broth, stir it in. Stir in another quart of broth and bring to a lively boil. Stir in the orange zest, fresh thyme leaves, and up to 1/2 teaspoon of peperonicino, to taste. Cover the pot and adjust the heat to maintain a steady but gentle bubbling all over the surface of the sugo. Let it cook for at least an hour or longer, checking the pot every 20 minutes or so. It should be reducing steadily. If it's barely dropping, or not at all, raise the heat and set the cover ajar to speed its concentration. If it's dropping extremely fast, lower the heat to slow evaporation. Add hot broth or water if needed to keep sauce at the level you want.

Have the sugo at a gentle simmer over low heat when the meatballs are fried and ready to go into the saucepan. Have hot broth or water on hand if needed. Drop meatballs in one at a time; fit as many as you can in the bottom of the pan in one one layer, but leave enough space to roll them around. Drop the rest of the meatballs in to make a second layer. Add hot broth or water if necessary so the meatballs are all covered with liquid. Stir gently to mix the broth with the sugo - don't break the meatballs!

Cover the pan and raise the heat slightly to bring the sugo back to a simmer. Set cover ajar and adjust heat to maintain steady simmering (but no threat of burning the meat on the bottom) and cook meatballs 35 to 40 minutes. Turn off heat and let meatballs cool in sugo and absorb more of its flavor (unless you need them right away). When cool, remove them to a big bowl. If the sauce is thin, return to a boil gradually and cook uncovered to thicken. Stir frequently as it thickens; reduce it whatever consistency you like. Taste the sauce during this final cooking, and add salt, if needed, or adjust other seasonings.

Sausage Meatballs with Fresh Fennel and Orange

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced in a food processor
1/3 of a small fennel, minced in a food processor (about 2/3 cup)
2 fat garlic cloves, minced in a food processor
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 pounds sweet Italian sausage (without fennel seeds)
3 large eggs, well beaten with a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, stripped from the stem
1 heaping cup dry bread crumbs
1 cup or more all-purpose flour
2 cups or more vegetable oil
Salt for sprinkling

Pour olive oil into medium skillet, drop in the minced onion and fennel and set over medium-high heat. Stir them in the pan for a minute or two, until they begin to sizzle; clear a space for garlic and get it sizzling on the side for a minute or so. Sprinkle on half the salt and stir all together. Turn down heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are wilted and slightly dried, but don't let them color at all. Scrape them out of the pan to cool.

Meanwhile, take all the sausage meat out of the casing (if packed in links), crumble it up well and spread it out in a large mixing bowl. Pour beaten eggs on top. Add parsley, remaining salt, pepper, orange zest, thyme leaves, and spread over it all the cooled onions, fennel, garlic and bread crumbs. Now fold, toss and squeeze meat and seasonings together with your hands and fingers to distribute ingredients evenly.

Spread flour about 1/4 inch deep in the center of a baking sheet or large plate. Pour vegetable oil into large, heavy skillet or saute pan (12 inches in diameter if possible) - to a depth of at least 1/3 inch. Scoop up a portion of meat and lightly shape between your palms into 2-inch balls, a bit larger than golf balls. Drop each ball onto floured sheet, roll it around until coated, then place it on another baking sheet. Form and flour all the balls in this manner.

Set the skillet over high heat until oil is very hot. With tongs or a spatula, carefully transfer meatballs to pan, as many as you can, leaving at least an inch between them. Cook for a minute or two, until they've started to brown on the bottom, then turn them continuously until golden-crusted on all sides, about 6 minutes. As they are done, transfer fried balls to a baking sheet. When the meatballs are all on the tray, sprinkle salt lightly over them.

Before frying the next batch, turn off the heat and, with a fine-meshed skimmer or strainer, remove any browned bits from the oil. Add oil if needed to restore the 1/3-inch depth, and heat it up again. When all the meatballs are fried, cook them again with the sugo, following previous instructions.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


It's been awhile since I made breakfast on the weekends. We're just too busy. But one morning SP really wanted me to make something and I happened to have a bagel in the fridge.

I scrambled some eggs, cooked the bacon in the toaster oven and toasted the bagels. I had my half with cream cheese and SP had his half with butter.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chicken with Chile Cheese Rice

This is one of my favorite recipes - Chicken with Chile Cheese Rice:

It's always a winner, provided the spice level is right. After a lot of trial and error I finally perfected the recipe.
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Cheesy Chicken Tomato Skillet

We really enjoyed this recipe for Creamy Chicken Tomato Skillet the last time I made it and it didn't disappoint this time either.

Creamy, cheesy, delicious. And simple, with is a plus these days.
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Smothered Chicken

I saw this recipe for Smothered Chicken at my friend Amy's blog and thought it would be a good thing to make in the crockpot. I prepped everything the night before so all I had to do was plug it in that morning, come home and make the noodles and viola!

Unfortunately the end result wasn't as good as Amy's stovetop version. For starters, the chicken was incredibly tough. Like almost inedible. Now granted, I used breast meat, but isn't slowcooking supposed to break down the fibers in meat and make it more tender? I also WAY overdid it with the Tony's seasoning. Amy sent me some Tony's awhile back and while we like spicy food, I added way too much of it. I didn't realize it was spicy, despite reading the can and seeing that red pepper was the second ingredient. Oops. I think I need to try again, this time using bone-in chicken and being a bit more liberal with the Tony's.
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Paula Deen's Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

I have a go-to recipe for mac & cheese, but I was watching Food Network one day during my maternity leave and saw Paula Deen make a crockpot mac & cheese that sounded easy and good. Unfortunately it wasn't really a crockpot meal since you had to stir the darn thing every once in awhile (not easy to do when your crockpot is at home and you're at work). Still wanting to try it, I made the sauce on the stovetop, added the cooked macaroni and my buttered breadcrumbs and baked it at 350 until the crumbs were toasty (recipe below).

It was bubbly, creamy and delicious, with a nice crunch from the toasted breadcrumbs:

I hate to admit it, but one of the reasons I think this recipe is so good is the cheddar soup. SP absolutely loved this version. In fact, we were fighting over the leftovers. Delicious and a little bit easier then my go-to method.

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Modified from Paula Deen

1lb uncooked elbow macaroni
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces (divided use)
2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3-4 slices white bread, torn into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a casserole dish. Boil the macaroni in a 2 quart saucepan in plenty of water until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain.

In a medium saucepan, mix 4 tablespoons butter and cheese. Stir constantly until the cheese melts. Add sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper and stir well. Then add drained macaroni and stir again. Pour into buttered casserole dish.

Add bread to food processor and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter and add to bread crumbs. Pulse to incorporate. Spread crumbs over the top of the mac & cheese and bake 30 minutes or until crumbs are toasted and the edges are bubbling.
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Friday, February 12, 2010

Roast Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

The thing I love about roast chicken is how easy it is to make. I served it with mashed potatoes and green beans:

We had a chicken in the freezer from the last trip to the wholesale club, so all I had to do was season it (stuff the cavity with crushed garlic and a lemon cut into wedges, sprinkle the outside with salt and pepper) and rub the outside with oil. It baked at 400 degrees for about an hour and a half. My chicken was a little frozen in the center, so I ended up having to cut the meat off the bone and finish roasting it on a sheet pan.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pork Paprikash

I was looking for recipes to use up one of the pork tenderloins I bought and came across this one for Pork Paprikash:

I usually use a different recipe for paprikash and SP said he preferred that one. I have to agree with him. I just like the flavors in my usual version better, although this was pretty good.
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chicken Tacos with Avocado Cream and Mexican Sour Cream Rice

During my maternity leave I saw Sunny Anderson make this recipe for Chicken Flautas. They looked amazing but I couldn't be bothered actually making the flautas for dinner for just the two of us (I would for a party, though). I made the filling and asked SP if he'd prefer quesadillas or tacos. He said whatever was easier so I chose tacos.

We spooned the filling into warm flour tortillas (sorry, no photo), and topped it with shredded cheese and avocado cream (included in the flauta recipe link above). We're obsessed with this Mexican Sour Cream Rice:

It's easy to make and always delicious. If we have a Mexican-themed dinner SP always asks if I'm going to make the rice.
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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Fish Filets, Fries and Corn

Warning - The only thing homemade in this post is the tartar sauce.

I have to admit, even if some of my readers are disappointed, that since having Baby Girl my food standards have gone way, way down. Whereas before I frowned upon convenience foods like boxed potatoes, powdered sauces, soup from a can, heck, even frozen veggies, these days I've actually cooked (and enjoyed) Hamburger Helper. I just don't have the same kind of time to cook that I once did and while I hope that as Baby Girl gets older I can return to my from-scratch ways, I'm shocked to say we're doing just fine with some of the prepackaged items. Like these fish filets that I served recently:

They were Gorton's and all I had to do was bake them, along with the fries, and dinner was served. I added frozen corn since that's SP's favorite veggie and homemade tartar sauce (just mix mayo and relish together).
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Monday, February 08, 2010

Cheeseburger Meatloaf, Scalloped Potatoes and Broccoli with Cheese

A few weeks after giving birth to Baby Girl a few of my friends got together to make us some freezer meals. My friend Lauren made us Cheeseburger Meatloaf, which might sound weird but was amazingly good.

She shared the recipe with me and I've since made it for dinner a few times. It's easy to throw together and has great flavor. Lauren adds a squirt of yellow mustard to the mix so I do, too. I served the meatloaf with scalloped potatoes (yes, from a box) and broccoli that SP asked me to coat with some shredded cheddar cheese.

I think my favorite part are the pieces of bread & butter pickles throughout the meat. Yum!

Cheeseburger Meatloaf
Everyday with Rachael Ray

2 tablespoons
extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
1 red onion, finely chopped
2/3 cup
2/3 cup
bread crumbs
2 large eggs
1/2 cup bread-and-butter pickle chips, chopped
1-1/2 pounds
ground beef
8 ounces
cheddar cheese, cut into 1/3-inch cubes

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the ketchup, bread crumbs, eggs and pickles; mix in the onion. Crumble in the beef, add the cheese and mix together. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and shape into a 4-by-12-inch loaf.

Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 160°, about 35 minutes.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Roast Pork Loin, Couscous and Green Beans

Pork tenderloins were on sale at the supermarket so I bought a few without really knowing how to prepare them. I trust Ina, so when I saw her recipe for Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloins I knew it would be a winner.

I used dried herbs and the pork was still tender and delicious. I served the slices with couscous and green beans.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Kielbasa and Pierogies

Another meal with my parents. This time they brought smokey kielbasa and fresh pierogies.

I sliced the huge onion they brought with them and sauted the slices in butter until they were nice and soft before adding the pierogies to heat through. I sliced the kielbasa on an angle and added that in as well to heat through. We ate the meal with mustard and bread (for some reason I didn't take a picture of my plate).
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Friday, February 05, 2010

Breakfast Pizza

I wanted to do something different then the usual pizza for dinner one night when I remembered how much we loved the breakfast pizza I made last year. I had all the ingredients on hand so it was simple to throw together.

I love how the gooey egg yolks mix with the herbs and bacon to make a delicious bite.
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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Onion Chicken, Scalloped Potatoes and Broccoli

A quick meal - onion chicken, scalloped potatoes and broccoli:

... with some leftover bread from dinner with my parents (this was the bread I used to make the croutons for the salad). In the interest of full disclosure, the potatoes are from a box and the broccoli is frozen that you microwave in the bag.
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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Dinner With My Parents

Along with the grilled shrimp from the previous post, we had the eggplant rollatini SP made and some grilled sausages my parents brought over:

... along with Caesar salad with homemade dressing and croutons:

I love making my own salad dressings. They always taste so much fresher.
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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Grilled Shrimp with Anchovy Butter

One of our favorite restaurants for special occasions serves a grilled shrimp with anchovy butter appetizer that I've always wanted to try making at home. We had some jumbo shrimp leftover from Christmas Eve dinner and my parents were coming over, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I grilled the shrimp until they were just barely cooked through. The smoke from the charcoal grill is imperative for this recipe since that's what gives the shrimp most of its amazing flavor. For the anchovy butter I melted a few tablespoons of butter in a pan and then added half a tin of anchovies. The anchovies melted into the butter, which I then drizzled over each serving. A squeeze of lemon adds brightness to the dish, accentuating all the flavors.
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Eggplant Rollatini

SP wanted to make something homey and delicious one cold winter day, so he bought a bunch of eggplants and set about making eggplant rollatini.

He used some of the fresh tomatoes my mom and I canned last summer in the sauce and it was phenomenal. You could really taste summer in every bite.

Eggplant Rollatini
Lidia Bastianich

3 cups whole-milk ricotta
tomato sauce
2 medium eggplants
coarse salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup olive oil
3 eggs
all purpose flour
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
black pepper
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4" sticks
8 fresh basil leaves

Preheat 375 F.

Trim the stems and ends from the eggplants. Remove strips of peel about 1" wide from the eggplants, leaving about 1/2 the peel intact. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4" slices and place them in a colander. Sprinkle generously with coarse salt, tossing to expose all slices, and let drain 1 hour. Rinse eggplant under cool running water, drain thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.

Pour olive and vegetable oils into a medium skillet over med-high heat. While the oil is heating, whisk 2 of the eggs and 1 teaspoon coarse salt together in a wide, shallow bowl. Spread flour in an even layer in a separate wide, shallow bowl. Dredge eggplant slices in flour, shaking the excess off. Dip the floured eggplant into the egg mixture, turning well to coat both sides evenly.

Add as many of the coated eggplant slices as fit without touching and cook, turning once, until golden on both sides.

Stir the ricotta, 1/2 cup grated cheese, and parsley together in a mixing bowl. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Beat remaining egg in a separate bowl and stir into ricotta mixture. Pour 1 cup tomato sauce over the bottom of a 10 X 15 baking dish.

Lay one of the fried eggplant slices in front of you with the short end toward you. Spoon about 2 tablespoons ricotta filling over the narrow end of the slice and top it with a mozzarella stick and a basil leaf. Roll into a compact roll and place seam side down into the baking dish. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices, placing rolls side by side. Ladle remaining tomato sauce over eggplant rolls to coat them evenly. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top.

Cover dish loosely with aluminum foil and bake until the edges of the casserole are bubbling and filling is heated through, about 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
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Another pizza:

... this one has pepperoni and black olives hidden under the blanket of melted mozzarella.

Sometimes I put the cheese on first and then the toppings and sometimes the other way around. How do you do it if you make homemade pizza?
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