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I live in the Midwest and spring is…well, she is fickle. Typically, in the Midwest, we get one of two spring options. We have winter until sometime in June or at the end of March we go from six feet of snow on the ground to the center of the equator with no transition. There’s no telling what you’ll get. A mild winter doesn’t mean an early spring. Nor does a long, deep cold winter mean an early spring. Spring does what it wants. I think that’s on purpose. I think most people just glide past spring when we think of seasons. We long for summer, we love fall, we loathe winter (only some of us) and spring? Well, it gets mentioned last.

This year, however, has been the most beautiful Spring I can remember.  It’s gorgeous.  It’s pleasantly warm in the day time and still cool with a snap in the air at night.  We still get some frost, but the girls can wear shorts to school most days.  We have to leave the heat on for over night, but during the day we can throw open the windows and the air actually smells sweet.

My grass looks like a green carpet that you want to go roll around in.

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Today I want to talk about this dish.  When I first tried the recipe, I was skeptical and when I dumped the ingredients in the pot I got even more skeptical and wondered if we were going to have to have McDonald’s for dinner, but everyone loved this dish (except for Baby Bee who hates 80-90% of everything I cook for dinner).   I was afraid the Princess wouldn’t eat it because 1) beans 2) tomatoes, but even she loved it. The best part of this dinner it is literally on the table in fifteen minutes with minimal effort from the cook. I’m not going to go into another essay on how busy weeknights are.  I don’t care of it you have kids or not, weeknights are frequently busy with time crunched and limited and this is a great way to get a healthy dinner on the table in fifteen minutes with minimal effort.  Even more exciting is that you can keep all the ingredients in the pantry to save you on one of those nights.

Superfast Southwestern Red Beans and Rice
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1-8oz package of precooked brown rice (like Uncle Ben's)
  • 1-16oz can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-14.5oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 glove of garlic, diced
Instructions
  1. In skillet over medium heat, add rice, beans, tomatoes and spices. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat and simmer until heated through and liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  2. Serve with warm tortillas or shredded cheese, although if you're watching calories neither of these are necesary.

 

I moved to Chicagoland in 1999. I was not yet married to Big Daddy (that would come a few weeks later). We moved into an apartment in the Northwestish suburbs and lived there until we move to the far Northwest suburbs in 2001. We spent the vast majority of ten years living in the Chicago area before moving to, what I describe as, pretty rural Ohio.

Life is different far away from Chicagoland. There’s a lot to miss; the people, the city, the vast amount of things to do and the food. Food in Chicago is…fabulous. There are fantastic Michelin Star restaurants and tiny little dives that serve one thing and you’d better not ask for what they don’t have.

Some Chicago food are easy to replicate Except for our inability to get poppy seed buns, we can make a mean Chicago Style hot dog at home (pickles, onions, mustard, relish, celery salt, hold the sport peppers) but we’ve been missing Italian Beef. Up until this weekend, there weren’t to be found in Northeast Ohio for love or money. They were Chicago fare (like Giordanos) and we had to make do with eating them when we were in town.

No longer.

A lot of “authentic” Italian Beef recipes call for a pot roast in the slow cooker, but any Chicagoan worth his or her salt know that’s nothing like the meat served at your favorite hot dog joint. It’s thin sliced, deli-style roast beef and it’s delicious! Big Daddy, the Princess and I gave this recipe a great big thumbs up.

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Italian Beef
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5
 
Nearly authentic Chicago favorite
Ingredients
  • 4c of water
  • 1 lg onion, sliced thin
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and sliced thin
  • 1 pkg au jus
  • 1 pkg brown gravy
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp oregnao
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • a few dashes of tobasco or Frank's Red Hot Sauce
  • 1 lbs of thin sliced deli roast beef
  • 1 loaf of french bread, cut into sandwich size pieces and cut oen
  • shredded mozzarella
Instructions
  1. Bring the water to a boil and then add the onions and peppers. Boil 3-5 minutes until the onions and peppers have started to soften.
  2. Add dry packages, spices and garlic and hot sauce, whisking well to avoid clumps. Cook until smooth and veggies are soft.
  3. Add the meat to the sauce a slice at a time. Overcooking the beef will make it tough, so consider only adding a sandwich or two's worth at a time. The meat heats quickly.
  4. Once the meat is heated through, decide if you want yours wet or not (wet means dipped into the gravy). Pile on the beef and add the cheese if you want.

I like mine wet with no cheese.  Littlebit likes hers not wet, with cheese.  Big Daddy and the Princess like theirs wet with cheese.  We served them with crinkle cut fries(obviously) with home made cheese sauce.  They were a hit and Big Daddy requested them for dinner the next night as well.   Now, if I can figure out pizza puffs….

 

The Menu Plan

Monday Cajun Chicken Pasta (another Big Daddy favorite)

Tuesday Cheesy broccoli chicken and rice

Wednesday Mexican Rice Casserole

Thursday Paninis (by the Princess’s request).

I write my blog posts in advance. I’m sure you know that and I’m sure most bloggers do it. It’s easier to plan and write things in advance. Typically, I write posts bout a week ahead of time, but my menu plan posts usually wait until Saturday or Sunday.

It’s finally snowing in Ohio. We’ve had a little bit of snow a time or two, but it seems like we may finally get some winter. Big Daddy and I are very opposite in regards to seasons. Big Daddy can’t wait to get outside and let the sun cook him and that’s when I tend to hide in the shadows. Not only do I sunburn easily, but I dehydrate quickly and too much time in the sun can make me not feel well. Big Daddy could skip winter all together, but I need that cold cleansing that comes in January and February. I need the yard to be covered over with snow. I need the trees to be bare and stark against the sky. I need the seasons and the wet, green winter we’ve been having so far just isn’t doing it for me.

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After the New Year, a new cousin-t0-be posted something that resonated with me.  She rides horses and the quote she posted was related to training and riding horses, but the message spoke to me and it was about enjoying the journey.  I’m really bad at that.  I’m impatient.  Genetically impatient. I didn’t pick a word for this year.  I debated and opted not to, but maybe I need a concept instead and enjoying the journey sounds like just the right one.  Thanks, L, for the much needed clarity.

 

Monday Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies

Tuesday  One Pot Mexican Rice

Wednesday Crock Pot Minestrone

Thursday  Slow Cooker Chicken and Gravy

Friday  Baby Bee’s choice

Saturday  Bubble Up Pizza

 

Join me in my chant: “No More Turkey!”.

Yes, like millions of American’s we spent the last four days eating Turkey, but now it’s a new week and almost a new month and I’m over turkey. This week’s menu plan features absolutely no turkey in any way. I’m sure there are tons of blogs out there who are featuring a full week of leftover turkey dinners, but not me. Our 14 pound bird provided four delicious dinners and that’s all I wanted out of it.

This week, I’m thinking of lighter fare. We had some insane dinners over the last week. Thanksgiving tends to bring with a season of decadence, but as we ring in December, I’m feeling like I need to eat things that are a little less complicated and heavy.

But first I have to share this amazing breakfast/brunch recipe that Big Daddy, the big girls and I enjoyed a few weeks ago. Big Daddy loves bread pudding and I’ve made sweet versions for dessert, but I was looking or a breakfast casserole type option a few weekends ago and this popped up on my Pinterest board. We stop and picked up a good loaf of bread from our local bakery and I turned this out for Sunday morning. It’s worth the time and the wait.

Breakfast Bread Pudding
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 4 c of cubed bread (we used a good quality bread from the baker)
  • 3 c grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 lb of sausage, cooked and drained
  • 14 oz of diced tomatoes
  • .25 c fresh basil
  • .25 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 6 eggs
  • 1.5 c whipping cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray
  2. Combine bread, cheese, tomatoes, sausage sugar and spices in a large bowl and combine.
  3. Pour bread mixture into casserole dish
  4. Mix eggs and whipped cream.
  5. Pour over bread mixture
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-65 minutes

This is one of those recipes where you keep going back for just one more bite until the pan is gone. I’m thinking that I will pre-prep this Christmas Eve and then combine and bake on Christmas morning. It is absolutely delicious!

 

The Menu Plan

Monday Chicken and Rice (I’ve used this recipe several times and slowly make adjustments to it.  However, it’s delicious and filling and simple, just as it’s written).

Tuesday Slow cooker honey garlic chicken and veggies

Wednesday  Chicken Taco Salad

Thursday  Chicken Burrito Bowls

Friday  Bubble Up Pizza

 

I know Starbucks has moved on to Christmas and red cups and controversy and pumpkin spiced anything seems pretty last month, but I really wanted to feature this easy dessert for Thanksgiving because it’s such a perfect fit and a bit of a break from the traditional Thanksgiving dessert options.

I found a recipe for homemade cream horns on Pinterest and we are big fans of cream horns at our house.  I was disappointed to discover that you need molds, essentially, to make your own cream horns from scratch and I was absolutely unwillling to buy a set (even though they can be found on Amazon for about $4) and I was unwilling to wait for them to be delivered.  There had to be a solution and google came though, as always. To replicate the horn molds, you only need to wrap sugar cones with tin foil and sugar cones are available just about every place, including my small town grocery store.

Traditional cream horns tend to have a more traditional filling, but I was feeling a little saucy and decided to make up a batch of my favorite cake icing and add some pumpkin spice to it, to make it a little more festive. The results were delicious and I’m actually considering whipping up a batch for Thanksgiving.  The frosting recipe is pretty big, so you could make at least 18 cream horns, but you’d need another box of puff pastry for that to work.  Instead of making more, we just enjoyed the leftover pumpkin spice whipped cream cream cheese frosting straight from the mixer bowl.

Pumpkin Spice Cream Horns
Serves: 12
 
Ingredients
  • 1 box of sugar cones
  • 1 box of puff pastry,thawed
  • cooking spray
  • 1 egg, whipped
  • sugar
  • 8oz cream cheese
  • ⅔c white sugar
  • 1.5c heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 tsp pumpkin spice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Wrap each sugar cone with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray
  3. Lay out puff pastry sheet on a flat surface and cut into six equal strips.
  4. Starting at the tip of the sugar cone, wrap around the cone, making sure to overlap each layer slightly.
  5. Lay on a parchment paper and gentely wash each cone with the beaten egg. Don't be too generous, as you don't want to add much moisture into the mix. Sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. While the horns bake, mix whipping cream in a bowl until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  8. Mix softened cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and pumpkin spice until smooth. Gently fold in whipped cream. Chill until ready to use.
  9. One cream horns are finished, remove from cones and place on a cooling rack. Allow them to cool to room temperature before filling. When you're ready to fill, fill an incing bag with the frosting and use a large tip to pipe the horns full.
  10. We ate ours immediately, but you will need to refrigerate them if you don't plan on eating them as soon as you fill them.

 

The end of November to the end of December is officially my favorite time of year.  Oh, I like summer.  And October.  And don’t even get me started on Fall. But, yes, I’m one of those “Christmas People” that people bitch about on Facebook starting sometimes around Halloween. I cannot wait for Christmas.  I love everything about it. I love the trees and the lights and the presents and the cookies and the “very special episodes” of my favorite shows.  I work hard to wring every single bit of fun out of the Christmas season.

But, this week I’m talking about Thanksgiving.

First, if this is your first year making a turkey, I want to reassure you that they’re really not difficult at all to make.  They’re big.  They’re (sometimes) expensive. But, they’re not difficult.

Next, I want to take about this great little sweet potato casserole recipe that is super easy and inexpensive to make and tastes delicious.  It happens to be a “knock off” recipe from a sweet potato casserole featured at a famous steak house.  I’ve never been to know whether or not that’s true, but  I can say this buttery, nutty sweet casserole is a great addition to Thanksgiving dinner.

Yes, that’s a crust made from brown sugar and pecans.

Sweet Potato Casserole
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 1 can of sweet potatoes
  • .5 stick of butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ⅔c sugar
  • crust:
  • ⅔ c brown sugar
  • ¼c flour
  • ½ c chopped pecan
  • .5 stick of melted butter
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Butter a casserole dish
  3. Dump drained sweet potatoes, eggs, butter, sugar and vanilla into a mixing bowl and mix until smooth.
  4. Pour into buttered casserole dish.
  5. Mix together melted butter, brown sugar, flour and pecans.
  6. Spread over top of sweet potatoes
  7. Bake for 30 minutes

This is one of those dishes that can be plopped into the oven with other items and cook at their temperature.  If you’re cooking at a higher temperature watch to be sure it doesn’t burn and reduce the cooking time.  This is a great, sweet dish to add to the more savory Thanksgiving offerings and if you’re looking for a budget conscious side dish, this is a great choice.

Enjoy!

As I write this, it’s too dark to take a picture, but this week the leaves on our hold out tree have turned brown and the tree is on its way to bare.  We’re moving towards late November and most of the trees have shed their leaves now.  This is the time of year where I usually proclaim that it might as well snow to cover up the dead and brown.  However, we’ve been enjoying an extra long Indian Summer and we might actually need to mow the grass again soon if we don’t start getting some heavy frost.

But, it’s nice to take advantage of the warmer weather to hang up a few Christmas lights in preparation of the coming season (both Christmas and cold) which is what we did over the weekend.  We have a few, final touches to add in the coming weeks, but our display will be simple this year and I’m looking forward to it.

We are down to our last couple honeycrisp apples.  If we had more, I’d have made the apple pie filling for today’s featured recipe from scratch, but it seems a shame to waste it on pie filling, so I’ll eat one this week dipped in peanut butter (which seems like a fitting way to honor the last honeycrisp apple of the season).  We ate 2 bushels of honeycrisp apples this season.  We can get them a little later into the year, but they’re just not as good.

But, enough about honeycrsip.   This is an easy weekend dessert you can call on to use up the last of your apple supplies or just to add a little something special to the end of another fall day.

Author: adapted from Spend with Pennies
Ingredients
  • flour tortillas
  • .5c sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • frying oil
  • apple pie filling
  • whipped cream
Instructions
  1. Using a round cookie cutter, cut tortillas into smaller circles. I bent my cutter oblong and got tw out of the medium sized tortilla
  2. Mix cinnamon sugar in a bowl and set aside
  3. Pour 1 inch of oil into a heavy skillet for frying. Test the heat of the oil by tossing in a smal piece of tortilla. It should bubble and float the tortilla around the skillet. Place the tortilla into the skillet and allow to cook for 15-30 seconds. Flip it over and using a butter knife and fork, fold the tortilla in half to make a small taco shell
  4. Fry about thirty seconds a side until golden brown. Remove from the oil, blot quickly and dip it into the cinnamon and sugar while still hot
  5. Fill with apple pie filling and top with a dollop of whipped cream. Enjoy

So, the recipe itself is pretty simple, but the folding and timing of the taco shells take a little finesse. My first two, I over cooked and couldn’t fold them when I flipped them. It’s better to err on the side of under cooking the first side and then flipping to allow it to fold.

 

Also, I allowed my first few to drain completely on a towel and it didn’t allow the sugar to adhere.  I left the rest a little more “damp” from the hot oil and it cinnamon sugar stuck much better.

According to the origina recipe, these will keep for days, but I’m not sure about that.  I think the texture of the “tacos” would degrade and that they’re better eaten fresh.  They’re also a little messy, but worth it.
Monday  Chicken Spinach Pasta Bake

Tuesday  Chicken Faitas

Wednesday  Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Pitas

Thursday  Spaghetti

Friday  Pizza night

 

 

Tree Update:

Everything else is just about bare, but our little tree soldiers on and become more lovely with each passing day.

I think I’ve been cooking from The Pioneer Woman Cooks since she began blogging about cooking.  I’m not totally sure that I’ve been adding her meals to our repertoire since 2007, but it’s been a long time.  Actually, it was her “how to make cinnamon rolls in bulk for gifts” post that really drew me in.  People have complaints about Ree, of course, and I’ll admit that not all of her recipes have been five star at our house, but she usually presents recipes that families will like and her Perfect Pot Roast is no exception.

Big Daddy and I don’t go to church.  It’s a long, complicated thing and I don’t want to get into why, because that’s not my point.  My point is, back when families did go to church, Mom would throw a slow cooked meal into the oven and the family would head out together, returning to a lovely, slow cooked, home made lunch.  Something about that tradition still rings true for us. Sunday is a day for slow cooking.  It’s a day to toss the ingredients in the oven and let it warm the house while we watch hockey or football, play video games or watch a movie, play outside or snuggle in with a book.  These slow cooked meals never require much work and they’re not ingredient heavy, but they taste delicious after a day of smelling them throughout the house.

We tossed this roast together before heading out to a concert at the high school and when we returned, it was ready to eat.  We held off for long enough to make mashed potatoes.  It was tender and delicious.  The recipe says to not worry about it if you don’t have wine available, but I’m going to disagree.  If you don’t have a bottle of wine, hold off until you have it.  The wine adds a distinctive taste to the dish and I don’t think it would be as good without it.

Perfect Pot Roast
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
Ingredients
  • 3-5 pound chuck roast
  • 2 onions
  • 5-6 whole carrots
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2-3 c beef broth
  • rosemary
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
  2. In a dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil
  3. Peel onions, cut in half and place into the hot oil. Let cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until brown. Remove onions from the heat once brown
  4. Trim carrot ends and slice into 1-2 inch pieces
  5. Place into the hot oil and toss for 2-3 minutes until some browning starts to show. Remove carrots from the pot.
  6. Season roast with salt and pepper and seer on all sides in the hot oil.
  7. Remove roast from pan and use one cup of wine to deglaze the pan. Once deglazed, return the roast to the pot. Pour in 2-3 cups of broth or until the roast is half covered. Tuck onions and carrots along the size and add several sprigs or 1 tsp of dry rosemary
  8. Cook 3 hours for a 3 pound roast or 4 hours for a 4-5 pound roast.

 

 

Hey! Chuck Roast was on sale at our local store this week, so I picked up and tossed in an extra roast with our Sunday dinner to help us prepare for the week.

Monday Brinner!  Roast beef hash, eggs and corn muffins

Tuesday Beef pot pie–This is my go to pot pie recipe. Yes, I know it’s for chicken. Replace the chicken with beef and the chicken broth with beef broth and it works perfectly

Wednesday Roast Beef Stroganoff

Thursday Soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.  It’s kind of cheating, becaue it will be canned soup, but sometimes you need a break and an easy meal

Friday Holding out hope for a date night, but if not, pizza for everyone!

 

 

Happy November.

The leaves are blowing down off of the trees.  There are a few holdouts, as usual.  The ornamental pear in the backyard is usually the last to turn and the last to drop its leaves. It stands out there now, just a quarter or so of its leaves turning reminding me that it’s not winter yet.

It’s been an interesting fall season for me. Life is about season, both literally and metaphorically, and I’m in a new season now.  I’m learning my way around it.  I don’t know how long it will last, yet, but we never really do.

So, I’m bringing back the menu plan.  It’s been such a popular feature here over the years and, more than that, it actually helps my household.  Having a menu plan not only saves time, but it saves money too in that having that plan keeps you out of the drive thru.  I always pull out my weekly calendar and use it to help me plan ahead.  Do I have extra time after school to put together something more complicated? Do I need my slow cooker to do the work for me?  Do I need Big Daddy to do the cooking (that means something simple or I do the prep ;))?  Do we have any special occasions or celebrations?

This week, I’m focusing on meals that use precooked chicken.  We had a great sale on chicken at my local grocery store and I bought several pounds and dumped them into a vat of boiling water to cook up.  After cooking and cooling, I remove the skin and the meat from the bone and have a large quantity of pre-cooked chicken to use for making dinner throughout the week.  Most of these recipes go together quickly with minimal cooking time required which is great for busy weeknights (or busy weekends if you’re doing football games and soccer or hockey tournaments).

Creamed Chicken in Biscuit Bowls

Did you eat creamed chicken and biscuits growing up?  I’m pretty sure I did.  It’s a great recipe that eats up leftovers and is quick and inexpensive to prepare. It’s a little more simple and less time consuming than pot pie and I won’t lie.  We enjoyed the little biscuit bowls and I’ve been spending time deciding how else we could use them.
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Creamed Chicken in Biscuit Bowls
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-1 biscuit servings
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • .5 c chopped onion
  • .5 c diced celery
  • 10.75 oz can of cream of chicken soup
  • .5 c milk
  • .25 tsp taragon
  • 2.5 c cooked chicken (shredded or diced)
  • 8 oz frozen mixed veggies
  • 1 can of flaky layer biscuits (use the can with 8 large biscuits)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven according to the biscuit package. Separate biscuits. Spray the bottom of a muffin tin with cooking spray. Be generous, you don't want your bowls to stick
  2. Spread each biscuit over it's own muffin tin. Pinch closed any tears that occur during the process.
  3. Bake according to package directions
  4. While biscuits are baking, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add onions and celery and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Whisk in soup, milk and taragon. Allow to heat through, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add chicken and frozen veggies. Allow to cook over medium-low heat until heated throughouly, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent sticking
  6. Once biscuits are golden brown, remove from the oven. Use a knife to loosen any stuck edges, but they should pop off easily
  7. Serve and enjoy

The Menu Plan

Monday-Broccoli, chicken and rice casserole

Tuesday-(Baby Bee’s Doctor appointment)30 Minute Chicken Noodle Soup

Wednesday-Roasted Chicken Risotto

Thursday-Scouts-Chicken Spaghetti

Friday-Big Playoff Game!-Pizza

Saturday-Dinner with Friends

Several years ago, Big Daddy, the girls and I spent some time in the North Woods of Wisconsin with Big Daddy’s Dad and Stepmom. They’re both good cooks and we had lots of really good food they prepared themselves at the cabin.

One dish, however, my Stepmom-in-law prepared for breakfast and it has become a staple in our house every since. It is relatively easy to make, hearty and filling.

We make it weekdays with regular ingredients, but it’s a great place to showcase expensive bacons because it takes so little in the dish to make a big impact.

Southern Delight
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1.5 cups of dry, instant grits
  • 2 slices of bacon per serving
  • 1-2 eggs per serving
Instructions
  1. ) Pan fry bacon
  2. ) Boil water in a medium sized sauce pan. Once water comes to a boil, add grits (stir during adding or else they'll get clumpy!) and reduce heat to low. Quick grits cook in about five minutes. However, slower cooking grits are much creamier and worth the time, but this recipe refers to what I had on hand.
  3. ) Once grits are finished, fry eggs to taste.
  4. )Serve grits (about half a heaping cup) into a bowl. Top with eggs and bacon and serve.

I like mine with salt and some Frank’s Red Hot sauce. I stir it all together, but I won’t take a picture of that because it doesn’t look very pretty that way. But, trust me, it tastes delicious! Even the little girls like this with various additions or subtractions (Baby Bee: with butter, no egg. Littlebit: with butter, no bacon, egg white only).