Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 2 and 3 Week 4 – The Dinner Nazi

I hope you won't consider Tuesday as cheating. It was ladies night with my friends from church and I could not turn down a dinner with the girls. So I decided I would make a quick meal for Steve and the kids so that I could count it as cooking even if I didn't eat it. I looked at my rules and I never said anything about everyone having to eat the dinners that I make. Besides, I polled my friends on facebook and they all said go for it!

So while I was eating a lovely kid and husband free dinner at American Cafe, the family was having chicken soft tacos. Now I remember saying "it doesn't get easier than that" about the stir fry a few days ago. I was completely wrong. Lots of things are easy, but this was so much so that I felt like I wasn't even fixing dinner. I don't even know how to write it out as a recipe.

I just took 2 or 3 chicken breasts. Cut them into 1 inch pieces and threw them in the skillet with a couple of tsp of olive oil. Once the chicken was browned I added about 1/2 packet of taco seasoning. Toss it all around in the skillet and cooked a few more minutes. To go with the chicken have tortillas, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese on hand. And of course, chips and salsa. Voila.

Wednesday night I was feeling like I needed to redeem myself a bit after skipping out on dinner Tuesday. So I whipped up the ever tasty Chicken Broccoli Braid. Isn't it just beautiful.... Lets just look at it for a minute.

This beauty has all of the major food groups literally wrapped into one. Bread, veggies, fruit (that's right, red pepper is a fruit. Betcha didn't know that, huh) cheese, chicken, oh and a little fat to round out the pyramid. It also makes up for my poor presentation from monday night's "what can brown do for you?" meal.

This is another recipe I snagged from my Mother in Law. While we were visiting them in Houston she threw a dinner party and served this gem. It had broccoli in it and I ate it...and loved it! For me to eat and like broccoli is huge so I knew right away I had to take this recipe home. I must point out that the recipe originally came from Allrecipes.

Now those of you who are also my facebook friend, you heard that I laid down the law recently telling Amelia "you will sit there as long as it takes to eat your dinner" and I got mixed reviews on that. This is the meal she would not eat. And it is a little fancy for most kids' palettes, but Amelia really does eat a lot of different foods. However, one thing she doesn't like is broccoli (she is her mother's child). Now, I knew that this meal does a great job of hiding the taste of broccoli, because if it didn't I wouldn't eat it either. It is not like I was asking her to eat a giant raw stalk of broccoli like Kevin on The Office. Maybe I was harsh, but at the end of the night she ate it and even half way enjoyed it. Hopefully she wasn't too traumatized by the event. Thursday night she will have pizza to make up for it. Anyway, I still love you chicken broccoli braid for showing me that vegetables (when cooked with enough cheese and mayo) can be tolerable, even yummy at times.

Chicken Broccoli Braid
2 cups diced, cooked chicken
1 cup fresh broccoli, chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed or minced
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mayo
2 tsp dried dill weed
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp slivered almonds (I omit this because I don't do nuts... and yes I see the irony in this statement.)
1/4 cup diced onion
2 (8oz) packages of refrigerated crescent rolls
1 egg white, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 375º

2. In a large bowl, toss together chicken, broccoli, red pepper, garlic, cheese, mayo, dill weed, salt and onion (and almonds)

3. Unroll crescent roll dough, and arrange flat on a medium baking sheet. Pinch together perforations to form a single sheet of dough. Using a knife or scissors, cut 1 inch wide strips in towards the center, starting on the long sides. There should be a solid strip 3 inches wide down the center, with the cut strips forming a fringe down each side.

Spread chicken mixture along the center strip. Fold the side strips over the chicken mixture, alternating strips from each side. Pinch or twist to seal.

4. Brush braided dough with the egg white. Bake in the preheated oven 25 to 28 minutes, or until golden brown.

Day 1 Week 4 – Is this the beginning of the end?

I can't believe I have almost finished the first month of this challenge. Will I continue in February? Will I change the rules? Am I bored with this, Are you (blog world) bored with this? Hmmm. Yes I will continue because I have so many more recipes to try that I don't have the urge to repeat one yet. But I think I will change (or better define) the rules a bit. As far as the boredom... that is the tricky part. At times I am bored (or bothered) with the having to cook and the blogging about it. Maybe it is the blog that is boring and not the cooking challenge itself. I don't know... Not sure about that. Will need to look into ways to spice up my blogging. Any ideas?

Speaking of needing to spice things up.... I am a little embarrassed to show the picture of Monday night's meal. Pork Chops and Dirty Rice has always been one of our favorites, but I guess I have never really looked at through a lens before. I never realized how brown it was. Brown meat, brown rice, brown roll.... blah. I totally failed at creating a beautiful and appetizing color palette with this one. Maybe I should have waited to take the picture until after I squirted a gigantic blob of ketchup on my plate. At least that would have given it a little color!

Oh well... here is the pic... for documentary purposes only.

The recipe was given to me by my Mother in Law at a kitchen shower before Steve and I got married. She was, understandably, nervous about my abilities to keep some meat on her son's bones. You see, she took me grocery shopping once while I was in college and was horrified when I asked her how to cook canned green beans. Needless to say, I have come a long way. And if you are reading this Mrs Summy, I hope this makes you proud of the cook I have become. This meal was as yummy as ever, despite its ill use of color.

Pork Chops and Dirty Rice
2 - 4 Pork Chops
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can French Onion soup
1 1/2 cups raw rice

Season pork chops with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Lightly brown the chops in a little bit of olive oil.
In a casserole dish, put the 2 soups and rice , stir together.
Lay the browned pork chops on top of mixture and cover.
Bake for 45 minutes in a 375º oven.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 5 Week 3 - Still playing ketchup

Friday is here and that means I have completed my 3rd week of this cooking challenge. Seems like a lot longer. Hmm.

Friday night is usually movie night but I was not feeling like watching another cartoon. So we switched it to Game night and broke out the wii. It had been a while, but I had no idea how long. When I stepped on the wii fit board it said..."ooo. If it isn't Annah Mary. It has been 352 days since you last worked out". Ouch. that hurt. And you know what else hurt? My body after hula hooping with Amelia all night. There were pictures, but I am not doing that to myself.

Okay so back to the food. I tried another Real Simple recipe. Ham and Cheese turnovers. Very good and easy. And there are tons of different variations you could come up with for this one. Since it is similar to a Calzone. I was happy that Amelia would eat it because it was, in her mind, a pizza roll-up. She will eat anything that can be considered pizza. It was important for us to call it that all night because she would never eat a ham and cheese sandwich. Perhaps that is a bit patronizing or manipulating, but I am okay with that if it gets her to eat.

The recipe suggested that you just serve it with a plain romaine salad and make your own dressing. They were right! Perfect...

Ham and Cheese Turnovers
1 (1 lb) package of refrigerated pizza dough ( i just used the pillsbury pizza crust in the tube)
8 oz deli ham, thinly sliced
4 oz Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, cut into thin rings

2 tsp whole-grain mustard
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Heat over to 400º.
Roll the pizza dough into a 14in circle and cut into 8 triangles

Stack a piece of ham, cheese, and onions on the bottom of each triangle and roll the dough up around the filling. (some of the filling will stick out of the ends.)

Transfer the rolls to a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until golden and crisp, about 20 min.

For Dressing: whisk together mustard and oil in medium bowl and toss with the romaine salad.

Day 3 and 4 Week 3 - Playing Ketchup

Sorry. Very bad pun.
I am getting really behind on all of this blogging so I have to group several of these together. Like I said, week 3 was pretty busy. Not alot of time to post, but I was able to cook every night so that is what counts.

Wednesday night's meal was Pork Tenderloin and roasted sweet potatoes. I take alot of help from the grocery on this one. Not a whole lot of preparation needed. I just buy a pre-marienated Hormel pork tenderloin from Kroger and cook it according to the pkg directions. They have several flavors...we like the lemon garlic. Bonus, this is very good the next day sliced on a sandwich!!! Yum. The potatoes are kind of a "made it up myself" recipe from my mom. Thanks mom!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
3 sweet potatoes (cut into 1 inch pieces.)
1 pkg Lipton dry onion soup mix
olive oil
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to about 400º. Cut up the sweet potatoes and place in a large/medium size microwavable dish. Poor about 1 tbsp olive oil over top and toss the potatoes in the olive oil.
Add the onion soup mix and toss again.

Microwave on high for about 3 to 5 minutes. Just until they are a little soft. (not completely cooked or mushy).

Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray and poor potatoes out on the cookies sheet. Drizzle a little more Olive oil on top and sprinkle with Salt and pepper.

Cook for about 10 min or until the edges of the potatoes get brown and crispy. Like this....

Thursday night was the day of the snow and ice. It was cold and dreary. The perfect day for the wonderful Taco Soup. I have been trying to hold out as long as possible to cook this soup because it is so good and we have it so much. I knew I would be sad once it was out of the running until the challenge is over. But it is easy and delicious. Perfect for a busy and dreary day.

I believe this recipe came from my co-worker Ricky. He would bring it to work for lunch and it looked so yummy. I talked him into giving me the recipe. Thanks R to the D! Your Taco Soup is awesomely delicious and kid friendly!

Taco Soup
1 lb ground beef ( or ground turkey)
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can rotel (mild if you are serving to the kiddos)
1 can white shoepeg corn
1 pkg McCormick Taco Seasoning (mild)

Brown meat in skillet (w/chopped onion and garlic if you want more flavor)
Drain grease (or skip this step if you are using turkey.)
Mix with other ingredients in a large pot. Cover and Cook on Medium heat for 45 min.

Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese and chips! Mmmm.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 2 Week 3 – In the box type of person

Thursday was all rainy and snowy here. So the kids and I were kind of trapped inside all afternoon. We tried a few different indoor activities but finally settled on my favorite...coloring.

I love to color. It is such a perfect pastime. It is the closest thing to being artistic as I get most days. I am an artist by trade. Sounds very weird to say but it is true. Ive got the degree to prove it. But I think a coloring in a coloring book pretty much sums up my artistic style. I like working within limits. I like the challenge of making something beautiful with a finite number of colors, boundaries and concepts. I guess that means Im not really an "out of the box" type of designer. But I am comfortable with that. I just like to stay in the lines.

That doesnt really have anything to do with the next meal that I cooked. Except that it was pretty much cooking "inside the lines". Nothing fancy, no crazy ingredients. Pot roast with potatoes and carrots. Just meat and potatoes. Total comfort food. Just give me that and a box of crayons and you have one pretty perfect day!

Pot Roast with New Potatoes and Carrots
Chuck or Round roast
2 cans beef consomme
1 pkg dry onion soup
1 lb new potatoes (halved or quartered)
couple of handfuls of baby carrots

Put the roast in the crock-pot. Place potatoes and carrots around the roast. Add consomme, onion soup mix and about one can of water.

Cover and cook on low all night or all day while you are at work.
Smells great and tastes even better.

Day 1 Week 3 – We're half way there...Livin on a prayer.

I don't really know why I decided to go with that title. It really doesn't have anything to do with today's post. Other than I am half way through January and Bon Jovi is always relevant. I am a few days behind in my blogging so I will do my best to remember every morsel of Monday night's meal for this post. Why should you suffer because I am a procrastinator?

This week is busy. I have meetings 3 out of 5 nights which means I had to get a little creative with the meal planning. But that is what makes this a challenge, right? For those of you who are uber busy and need a few working woman recipes to stick in your back pocket, this is the week for you. Monday night's quick and easy dinner of choice...Chicken Stir Fry.

I had no written recipe for this one. In fact, I have never cooked stir-fry. That is a Steve specialty. But we talked it over and decided having him cook the meal (although extremely easy on me) would pretty much be cheating on the challenge. So he stood behind me spouting out directions like "a little more of that...Whoa whoa that is enough!" while I cooked this for the very first time. Considering I didn't have an actual recipe and I don't handle being told what to do very well, it came out pretty good. When I was finished I wrote down the recipe for myself and my blog friends. Love you honey, but I don't plan on cooking with you "coaching" over my shoulder ever again.

Chicken Stir Fry
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 or 4 chicken breasts cut into 1 inch pieces
2 bags frozen stir-fry veggies
2 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1 tsp of bottled minced garlic)
4 tbsp soy sauce (we use reduced sodium)
2 tbsp teriyaki sauce
4 cups cooked rice

Put 1 tbsp oil and chopped chicken in wok or large skillet.
Heat to med-high and cook chicken until almost done
Add garlic and cook chicken the rest of the way.
Add 3 tbsp Soy and 2 tbsp of Teriyaki.
Add veggies and toss until combined.
Cover and simmer for 5 min. Uncover and stir. Cover and simmer 5 min more.
Vegetables should be a little crisp. Don't over cook or they get soggy.
Add soy sauce to taste.
Serve over hot rice.

Doesn't get any easier than that.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 5 Week 2 – Movie. Meatballs. Madness.

I can't believe that I am half way through this challenge. Well at least for the month of January. Am I really going to try to do this for a whole year? That is madness. We will see what happens.

Friday night is movie night in the Summy house. This usually means frozen pizza served on TV trays in the living room. Well that doesn't really jive with my rules so I attempted something that would seem like a fun alternative to pizza...Mexican meatballs. (Amelia is her mother's child and was not happy with the change in routine. So the promise of candied popcorn for dessert to be eaten while watching Toy Story 3 was the only way I could talk her down from the ledge.) The Mexican meatball was another Real Simple recipe and it was very quick and easy. Made with ground pork (which to my surprise was significantly cheaper) instead of ground beef. The meatballs came out very moist and tasty, but I had trouble getting past the mexican-ness of them. I just think meatballs should always be Italian. I don't think of myself as a prejudice person, but I guess when it comes to the nationality of a good meatball, I am. And don't get me wrong, I love salsa, but I don't think it can replace spaghetti sauce. That is also madness. Also, it was so confusing out to serve it. You can't put it over pasta. That is wrong. I tried it in a roll like a meatball sub. That was just weird. I think the best option would have been served over plain white rice.

But Hey, don't let my review sway you. You should try it for yourself. Let your family be the judge. Should a meatball be mexican? I should point out that the male half of our family would say YES! Walt and Steve could not get enough of them. So I won't say this recipe was a complete failure. It all comes down to your personal preference. I give this Real Simple recipe a B-.

Mexican Meatballs
2 TBSP olive oil
1 med yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 lb ground pork
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 large egg
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 16oz jar salsa

Heat oven to 400º. Heat 1 TBSP of the oil in a large, preferably ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened., about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno and cook for 1 minute more.

Remove from heat and let cool.
In a large bowl, combine the pork, bread crumbs, egg, salt, pepper, cumin and onion mixture.
Shape into 12 meatballs.
Wipe out skillet and add the remaining oil, and heat over medium-high heat.
Brown the meatballs on all sides, about 7 minutes total. If not using an ovenproof skillet. Transfer the meatballs to a baking dish. Pour salsa over the top. Bake until cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 4 Week 2 – Short and Sweet

So week 3 is about to start and I am quite behind on my blogging. In an effort to catch up I will try to trim the fat on the next couple of posts.

Thursday night we had another one of our favorite soups. White Bean Chicken Chili. This soup is hearty but light and has tons of flavor! The recipe came from my neighbor Brooke. She served this chili as the soup course for the 2009 Snowden Progressive Dinner. I don't think I have mentioned it before, but we have the best neighbors in the city. Seriously. Most afternoons you can stand our in the yard and visit with a group of friends while we watch all of the kids play. When the whether is warm we have impromptu porch parties and every Christmas we look forward to our neighborhood progressive dinner. We get to hop from house to house enjoying drinks and delicious meals. We have been doing it for 9 years and it is the best holiday party of the year!

The theme for 2009 was Cinco de Diciembre! Brooke and Bryan hosted the soup course and served this White Bean Chicken Chili. I am pretty sure I emailed her immediately after I got home asking for the recipe! Gracias Brooke. We have enjoyed this too many times to count!

White Bean Chicken Chili
1 TBSP olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped (or use one jalapeno)
1 (4.5 oz) can diced greed chilies
2 cup shredded cooked chicken (alot of times I use the store bought rotisserie chicken)
3 or 4 (15oz) cans cannelloni beans
1 TBSP dried thyme
1/2 tsp cumin
1 TBSP Kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken stock
sour cream, cilantro, jalapenos (garnish. optional.)

In a large pot over medium high heat, warm the oil until a few drops of water sizzle in pot. Add onion and poblano and saute until soft, about 10 min.

Add the green chilies and saute 1 minute more.

Stir in chicken and beans. Season with Thyme, cumin, and salt and pepper.

Cover mixture with chicken stock, bring to boil. Simmer uncovered for 45 min. Stir frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 3 Week 2 – TV for smart people

So I haven't been feeling very bloggy the last few days. I don't know maybe it is the extreme coldness or the obsessive need to finish the book I was reading. I don't read much, but when I do I get obsessed. I have often made the statement that "reading is just TV for smart people". I mean, it is just as much of a ginormous time waster as TV is. When I am in the middle of a good book I avoid doing anything productive and just sit and read until I finish. (and since I am an incredibly slow reader...we are talking months of little to no productivity). If I do actually have the will power to ignore the book and get my work done then I just stay up all night and read while everyone is asleep. Rendering me sleepy and basically useless the next day. So I stand by my statement. Of course this only applies to fiction novels (which is the only thing I read). I guess if you are reading history books or the bible or any christian materials then it is educational and therefore not as bad as TV. Likewise, if you are watching educational TV like the history or discovery channel then I don't think that counts as rotting your brain in the least. So that takes me back to original statement.... "Reading is just TV for smart people."

I just finished The Help late last night. (Great book!) Having grown up in Mississippi I was immediately sucked into this story. Picturing my grandparents and parents as I read. Wondering if they can identify with it. Honestly, I hope not. But I finished and so today I am getting back to my reality. Cleaning, cooking, changing diapers, and, of course, blogging.

Wednesday night I was feeling ambitious again and tried another new Real Simple recipe, Cheesy Baked Shells and Broccoli. I am continually (or contiuously? I get those confused. Maybe next I should ready some grammar books.) impressed with the simplicity of these recipes. I don't know why... it's right there in the title. But they really are quick and easy and my family loves them! Okay, so I did have to sit and make Amelia eat the broccoli (I refuse to have her turn out like me) but she DID eat it finally. So that's something right? I was a little nervous about having no meat for dinner. I could never be a vegetarian. I don't really feel like it is a decent meal without some chicken, pork or beef on my plate. I mean, it is not like I am a huge red meat eater. (although I do love a good steak!) At home I usually stick to the white stuff Chicken, turkey, and pork. Mostly because I have no idea what to do with the grease. I remember the jar of fat under the kitchen sink when I was growing up. And that just freaks me out. So I stick to the super lean meats when I am doing the cooking. It is just easier that way. Anyway, I shouldn't have worried. This meal was so filling I didn't even miss the meat. Look at me...Im growing!

So here is the deliciousness up close. Beautiful.

And here it is looking lovely on a plate. I figured I would post 2 pics of this meal because I forgot to take pictures of Thursday's meal. It was soup. Yummy but not very photogenic. Stay tuned.

Cheesy Baked Shells and Broccoli
3/4 lb medium pasta shells
1 TBSP butter
2 TBSP all purpose flour
2 cups of whole milk
2 cups coarsely grated Cheddar or Gruyere cheese (8oz)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
kosher salt and black pepper
1 - 16oz bag frozen broccoli florets, thawed
(I used frozen chopped broccoli to make it more Amelia friendly)

Heat broiler. Cook the pasta according to the package directions

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat. add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 cups of cheese and stir until melted. Stir in the nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.

Add the pasta and broccoli and toss to combine. Transfer to a broilerproof 8-inch square or another 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Broil until golden, 3 to 4 minutes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 2 Week 2 – Pork Chops and Apple Sauce

Do ya'll remember that episode of the Brady Bunch? Peter is trying out a new identity to get in good with the ladies. He is doing his best Humphrey Bogart impression asking Alice what is for dinner tonight. She replies and he repeats as the world's worst Bogart "Pork Chaps! and Apple Sauce!" That scene is so stuck in my head that I really can't say Pork Chops without it sounding like Peter. I think when this challenge is over I will start my new blog. "Everything I need to know I learned from the Bradys!"

So we did have Pork Chops but only Walt had apple sauce. The actual meal was Southwest Pork Chops from Better Homes and Garden. I really don't remember when or where I found this recipe. I think it was when Steve and I were living in Birmingham and I was trying out Weight Watchers with my coworkers. We stumbled upon this recipe and realized how easy and healthy it was. (only 334 calories per serving!) It is a Summy standard and is perfect for busy nights because it is a crock pot recipe! When I worked we had this all of the time because I could come home at lunch and load it all in the pot and it would be ready for us when we came home. I love walking into a house and smelling dinner that has been cooking all day!!

I have never really thought this meal was very pretty. But I promise it is delicious. Oh and this is Steve's plate. For those of you that know me, I would not eat just steamed broccoli and cauliflower. I'm not that healthy. Again, one challenge at a time.

Southwest Pork Chops
6 pork rib chops (3/4" thick) 2/5 lb.
1 (15oz) can Mexican style or TexMex Chili beans
1 1/4 cups bottled salsa
1 cup frozen whole kernal corn
2 cups hot cooked rice (we use brown rice to be a little more healthy)
cilantro for garnish (optional)

Place chops in the bottom of the crock-pot
Add Chili beans and salsa. Cover.
Cook on high heat for 2.5 hours or Low heat for 5 hours
When complete, turn to high setting and stir in corn.
Cover and cook 30 min. (while rice is cooking)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 1 Week 2 – 5 second rule!

Well nobody said this was going to be easy. Week 2 started off with a bang last night. This is a picture of our lovely dinner. Ali's Spaghetti Casserole.

Looks beautiful right? Well this picture was taken exactly 2 minutes before our dinner went SPLAT all over our kitchen floor. Lovely. I am not going to lie. I threw a pretty big fit after that. At that moment, I could not imagine a worse feeling than cooking a beautiful meal for your family only to have it destroyed as soon as you take it out of the oven. Similar to the turkey scene in "A Christmas Story" only I didn't pack everyone up and take us out to eat.... No I called 5 second rule and scooped spaghetti directly off the kitchen floor onto our dinner plates. Don't judge me. You weren't there.

We all tried to put that incident behind us and enjoy our meal because this really is one of my family's favorite dishes. It came from my friend Ali Mayes. She and her husband brought this to us after Amelia was born. It was so delicious that we have been eating it almost once a week for the last 4 1/2 years. In fact, if you have had a baby and I have brought you dinner, you have probably enjoyed this spaghetti casserole yourself! I almost hate to pass on the recipe because now I will have to come up with a new "you just had a baby so here is a home cooked meal" dish. But I can't be selfish. I must pay it forward. Thank you Ali from the bottom of my belly! It is easy, cheesy and so yummy!

Ali's Spaghetti Casserole
1 lb ground beef (I use ground turkey. surprise surprise)
1 can Cambells tomato soup
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 packet of McCormick spaghetti seasoning
1 pkg thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 2cup pkg shredded cheese (I like mexican blend)

Brown meat. Combine other ingredients (except noodles and cheese) and simmer on low, medium for 30 to 45 min. (I never have time for this so I just heat it on medium for as long as it takes the noodles to cook and the oven to preheat)
Cook and drain noodles.
Pour noodles in casserole dish, pour meat sauce on top of noodles. Top with shredded cheese and bake at 350º until melted.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 5 Week 1 - Semi Homemade. Is it legal?

One week down! I feel like the one week mark is crucial. If you can make it for a week you are set. So I rounded out the week with a meal that is probably a bit controversial. Soup from a packet. It was not really cooking from a recipe, but it was something different for dinner which I think was my only rule. You guys can tell me if you think this was a cop out. But seriously, it was Friday night! Usually we just order pizza or go out so this a big deal for me! We had Bear Creek Minestrone Soup mix. It comes in a bag/packet and you add water and whatever else you want to the soup. I added a little ground turkey and diced tomatoes. It was delicious and a perfect ending to a busy week. Oh and just so I wouldn't feel like a total loser I whipped up some yummy cornbread to go along with it. So there's your homemade for the night. Good old fashioned buttermilk cornbread. You can crumble it, dip it, or eat it plain... it is mmm mmm good!

Bear Creek Minestrone Soup and Cornbread. Delish.

Buttermilk Cornbread
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 TBSP shortening

Preheat over to 450º. Melt the shortening in a 9 inch round iron skillet in preheating oven.
In a large bowl, stir the cornmeal, salt and baking soda together. Stir in the egg and buttermilk.
Remove skillet from the oven and pour the batter into the skillet , stirring the melted shortening into the batter.
Bake in the preheated over for 30 - 40 min. Remove from the oven when top is brown and it feels firm to the touch. Turn out on to a serving plate and serve immediately with butter. Yum.

One awesome thing about this challenge is that the weekends are so exciting for me. After cooking all week I was ready for a couple of nights off, and Steve couldn't say no to my requests to go out for dinner since I had slaved over the stove all week! Guilt-free dinner out... Priceless! I haven't made it to the store to do my big shopping for this week. So Steve had to get out in the snow last night to make the emergency run to the grocery. Not for milk or bread like all of the other weather crazed Memphians, but for the ingredients for tonight's dinner. I was not letting a little snow blow my cooking challenge. Thanks hubby for braving the white stuff all in the name of saving your wife from internet embarrassment.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 3 and 4 Week 1 – I think I can... I think I can...

I took a day off from the blogging. That part is going to be difficult to keep up with, but the challenge is not cook everyday AND blog everyday. So I will spend my time and energy on the cooking and blog when I can. Wednesday was Easy Beef Lasagna day. This meal is always good but afterwards I started to get bored with this and thought about stopping. You can probably guess that I have never been good at keeping New Years Resolutions. I get bored easily. Anyway, I had a few friends give me some encouragement telling me that I had actually inspired them to get out of their dinner rut. So that inspired me again... (I am a people pleaser and really thrive on compliments. I should get an app that will say "great job!" and applaud for me every time I need it. Does that exist? It should, people like me would LOVE it!)

Back to the food... So Easy Beef Lasagna recipe came from my friend Amanda who always has it together. Seriously. She is a doctor and has two kids and cooks every night and is annoyingly thin and her house and kids are always spotless. I get exhausted just thinking about it. Whew. That was hard. Thanks Amanda!

Easy Beef Lasagna
3 cups ground beef, cooked, drained (I used ground turkey)
26 oz your favorite pasta sause
15oz ricotta (I used part skim)
1/2 cup parmesean
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
6 lasagna noodles (the NO COOK kind)

Mix beef and pasta sauce

Mix parmesean and ricotta in a small bowl

Grease a large baking dish

Layer it up!
1/3 beef sauce mixture
1/2 noodles
1/2 parm/ricotta mixture
1/2 mozzarella
1/3 beef sauce mixture
1/2 noodles
1/2 parm/ricotta
1/2 mozzarella
1/3 beef sauce

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 min to 1hr. Uncover and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

Bonus: Make a double recipe and freeze one!

Lasagna - Cheesy yummy deliciousness

Last night I tried out another new recipe from Real Simple. Steak Fajitas. Fabulous on every account! Super quick, super easy and super delicious! (and I think it was pretty healthy too. bonus!) This a great make-ahead meal. Just mix everything and throw it into ziplocks and toss it in the freezer. You can take it straight out of the freezer and put it in in a skillet and it will be ready in 10 to 15 minutes! I have no pictures because we ate it too fast. You have done it again Real Simple. If I had that applause app it would be going crazy for you right now!

Make Ahead Steak Fajitas
1 pound flank steak, thinly sliced against the grain
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced (I only had green on hand because they are cheaper. Turned out great.)
1 jalapeno, seeded (if desired) and thinly sliced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp hot sauce
Kosher salt
Olive oil
4 quart size ziplock bags

In a large bowl combine the steak, onion, bell peppers, jalapeno, chili powder, hot sauce, and 3/4 tsp salt. (Oh and I added a couple of teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce to the mix just because I love it.) Divide evenly among 4 bags. (or if you are making it right away and don't want to divide the servings just dump it all in a gallon size ziplock and put it in the fridge until your ready to cook.) Freeze until ready to cook, up to 3 months.

Cook It:
In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat the oil (use 1 tsp per serving). Empty the frozen contents of the bags into the skillet (use 1 bag per serving). Cook, covered, stirring occasionally to break up the ingredients, for 10 min. Raise the heat to med-high and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are tender and the steak is cooked through, 2 to 6 min. Serve with warmed tortillas and salsa and sour cream. Yum!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 2 Week 1 - Two Thumbs Up!

Last night I tried one of the Real Simple recipes that got this whole ball rolling. Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Creamy Romaine Salad. The recipe boasts that it is quick and kid friendly which it perfect for the Summys! Well, I think it would have been quicker and more kid-friendly if I had planned my day a little better. We were all a little worn out after grocery shopping, rushing to and from Amelia's ballet class and then dragging the kids to a store to pick up some jeans that I ordered (super important!). By the time we got home it was close to 5:30 and natives were getting restless. Note to self: When this challenge is over and I make this again (I definitely will make it again since Steve and Amelia gave it two thumbs up) I will do some prep work ahead of time just to make the cooking go a little more smoothly. But I must say this is my first time to use cornmeal and buttermilk to bread chicken and it was GREAT! Very crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside!! Loved it!

So for one of the "first timer" recipes this one was a success and I am getting more excited about challenging myself in this way. Now if I can just figure out how to do this AND keep up with the rest of my life. (PS. All my Christmas decorations are still up....taunting me.) Thank you Real Simple - for keeping it real and simple.

Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Creamy Romaine Salad
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup cornmeal
Kosher salt and pepper
8 chicken cutlets ( about 1 1/2 pounds)
6 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup sour cream (reduced fat)
1/2 tsp honey
1 head romaine lettuce, cut into pieces
1 red bell pepper, sliced

Place 3/4 cup of buttermilk in a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the cornmeal, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Dip the chicken in the buttermilk (letting any excess drip off), then the cornmeal, pressing gently to help it adhere.

Heat 3 Tbsp of the oil in a large skillet over med-high heat. Cook half the chicken until golden and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Wipe out the skillet. Repeat with the remaining oil and chicken.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, honey, the remaining 1/4 cup of buttermilk, and 1/4 tsp salt. In a large bowl, toss the lettuce and bell pepper with the dressing. Serve with the chicken.

Not as great as the pic from the magazine but you get the idea.
Kid Approved! Such a little encourager!