Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dinner Menu for the week of March 29 - April 4

I managed to get this week's menu written down on paper early last week... even though it's more than halfway through the week now before I managed to get it posted here.

Sunday - breakfast for dinner: pancakes and turkey bacon
Monday - rigatoni and hot sausage sauce
Tuesday - open faced hot turkey sandwiches & pierogies
Wednesday - crockpot chicken cacciatore over rice
Thursday - *new recipe - Greek chicken* & pasta salad
Friday - Kids cook - club sandwiches & tater tots, pickled beets & corn
Saturday - My hubby's BD - his choice

Cookie Carnival - Inside Out Carrot Cake Cookies

I couldn't decide whether or not I was going to bake this month's cookie selection because I was afraid that I would be the only one in my family who would eat them. I've stared at the recipe the entire month and finally today I decided to make them. I'm really glad that I did.

Even though my cookies seemed to have flattened out more than the others I've seen, they were still really good. My husband started eating them while they were still cooling on the racks.

I had to stop him from eating some of them so that I could try them with the cream cheese filling.

Which version did we like better - the plain carrot cake cookies or carrot cake cookies with cream cheese and honey filling?

The verdict:
My husband and I both liked the plain cookies much better. Neither of us were crazy about the cream cheese filling. We both thought that the cookies were plenty sweet enough without it.

I'm really not sure what caused my cookies to flatten out so much. The only change that I made was to sub more raisins for the nuts. Oh well, at the rate he is eating them, they won't last long anyway!

You can view the recipe for the March Cookie Carnival here.

If you would like to join us in the Cookie Carnival, you can sign up here.

I'm looking forward to seeing what April brings! :)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Breakfast for Dinner

Well....after the first week of menu planning, we only missed Wednesday's meal. Believe me, that's GOOD for us. lol!

I decided to use Wed's dinner plans for 'breakfast for dinner' for this week.

We had planned on pancakes, turkey bacon, scrambled eggs and Rye toast--things got busy and we ended up eating pancakes and turkey bacon.

My husband was not thrilled but he ate it--and with the mood I was in, it's a good thing that he did or he would've been cooking for himself. (Did I just write that?!?)

I used to have the world's best pancake recipe that called for seltzer water instead of regular water or milk. My computer got infected with a virus a few years back and I had to have it reformated. I think that I lost the recipe during this time. (this was long before I became computer literate or whatever it is that you can call me now.) Be nice here!


I was searching the 'net for a good recipe. I came across this one on Martha Stewart's website. Now, I am not a fan of MS so I don't make it a habit of using her recipes...BUT this particular pancake recipe has received lots of rave reviews so I decided to try it.

I followed the directions to a "T", only adding a bit of vanilla to the batter. In the end, I was disappointed in the taste of them--I thought that they were really bland. Also, they weren't fluffy like I like my pancakes. That said, my kids really liked them and my husband ate them (or possibly choked them down - the whole time not saying anything.)

They look good and they taste ok --I'm guessing that it was just me.

I'm still seaching for the "BEST" pancake recipe. If you have one that you are willing to share, I would love to try it out!

Pizza Roll-Ups for Friday Family Fun Night

For the last few weeks we've been having "Friday family fun night" at our house. I usually blog about our Fridays on my other blog, but I wanted to comment on our dinner from last Friday.

My kids and I made pizza roll-ups using frozen bread dough and our favorite pizza toppings. Since my son had plans for a sleepover at school, we needed something for dinner that would be quick and easy to put together. This did the trick. :)

1 loaf of frozen bread dough = 6 big pizza roll-ups
pizza sauce
shredded mozzarella cheese
canned mushrooms - I know that some people hate these on pizza but they're a favorite here

Thaw the frozen bread dough on a baking sheet and covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before you are ready to make the roll-ups so that the bread can rise.

Roll the dough out into a large rectangle. Lightly cover with pizza sauce, making sure to go all of the way to the edges of the dough. Sprinkle cheese over the entire surface of the sauce. Top with your favorite toppings - in this case mushrooms.

Starting at one of the short ends of the dough, roll the it up tightly jelly roll style. Slice the loaf into 6 equal pieces (or if you want smaller roll-ups, cut it into 8 equal pieces). Lay the slices onto a greased baking sheet. Make sure to tuck the loose ends under so that the rolls stay together when they are baked. Place 3 inches apart on the sheet-do not crowd the rolls or they will stick together when they bake.

Bake at 350* for 40 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from baking sheet immediately.

This is a very kid friendly meal! They will not only like eating this version of their favorite pizza but I bet that they will want to get in there and help make it, too! I know that my kids had a fun time helping out.

We served these roll-ups with a simple salad with homemade balsamic dressing.

Simple Balsamic Salad Dressing

Whisk olive oil with a good quality balsamic vinegar @ 2:1, oil to vinegar - I used 1/2 C. oil & 1/4 C. vinegar.

Whisk in 1 tsp. of sugar, 1 -2 tsp. of Dijon mustard and 3 tsp. Italian seasoning blend.

Crockpot pork chops and gravy

Geez...sometimes life just gets in the way. I have lots of catching up to do.

Let's start with my recipe for
Crockpot pork chops and gravy

12 pork chops --I used the bone-in type because
I got them on sale for a really good price. ;)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 1/2 C. milk
2 small cans of mushrooms
a splash of Kitchen Bouquet
garlic and onion powder

Whisk together soups and milk. Stir in mushrooms and set aside.

Layer pork chops in crockpot, seasoning the chops with garlic and onion powder. Pour the soup mixture over the chops and cover with the lid. Cook on high for approximately 4 hrs.

Once the chops have fully cooked, remove them-one at a time-from the crockpot , removing any bones. Cover plate with foil to keep them warm until the gravy is ready. Leave the soup mixture in the crockpot.

To make gravy: stir together 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with enough cold water to make a thickener. Stir this into the liquid in the crockpot. Mixture should thicken pretty quickly. If it doesn't you might need to add more of the cornstarch mixture.

**This is where I add a splash of the Kitchen Bouquet to the white gravy to make it brown so that my husband will eat it. He detests any kind of white gravy. Gotta keep 'em happy, ya know?

I served the pork chops with egg noodles and green beans.

The leftover meat went into the freezer to be used in a stir fry or soup later on.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I came across a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that said "These are the best chocolate chip cookies ever!", I just had to try them. Let's just say that they don't disappoint! These cookies are thick and chewy, just like we like them.

I found the recipe on a blog called Chocolate Bytes.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups + 2 Tb all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1-1/2 sticks butter (3/4 cup)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix flour, baking soda and salt together, set aside. Mix butter and sugars in mixer until well combined. Beat in egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. Using a cookie scoop, place cookies two inches apart on greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until cookies are golden brown.

Whoops! I stuck my finger in one by accident. (well, I just HAD to lick it off of my finger instead of wiping it off!) MMM...ooey, gooey chocolatey heaven!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spicy Orange Beef with Vegetables

For tonight's dinner, I tried a new recipe called Spicy Orange Beef with Vegetables. It was delicious! I found this recipe posted on FamilyCorner.com by member kathymac.

Here is the original recipe:

Spicy Orange Beef with Vegetables

Makes 4 servings.

3/4 pound beef top round, trimmed of all
visible fat, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 teaspoons canola oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 pound green beans
, halved crosswise
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 carrot, cut into matchstick-thin strips

(I doubled the recipe. I also subbed mushrooms for the carrots.)

Combine beef, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, and orange rind in a medium bowl; toss well to coat and set aside. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch, broth, orange juice, soy sauce, sugar and crushed pepper in a small bowl; set aside.

Heat a nonstick wok or a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles. Swirl in 2 teaspoons of the oil, then add the beef. Stir-fry until cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Swirl the remaining 2 teaspoons oil, then add the ginger. Stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the green beans, bell pepper and carrot. Stir-fry until crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes. Add the broth mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens, about 1 minute. Add the beef and cook until hot, about 1 minute.

Note: when I cooked the beef at the beginning, I left it slightly pink when I removed it from the pan. Since it is sliced so thin, it will finish cooking very quickly when you put it back in the pan at the end for an additional minute.

(The next time I make this, I am going to try it with a little more orange juice instead and less beef broth for more of a "orangey" flavor. I skipped the ginger because I didn't have any but I will definitely add it in the next time, along with a little more red pepper flakes.)

After all of the prep work, it comes together rather quickly and easily. I added spaghetti noodles to the dish instead of serving it over rice. Everyone really enjoyed it. It's a keeper!

I'm submitting this for my BookMarked Recipe of the Week for next week. Check here for more info. on how you can join me!

Check out this week's BookMarked Recipes.

TWD - Blackberry Crumb Muffins

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe was Blueberry Crumb Cake. It was chosen by Sihan of Befuddlement. Thanks for choosing a great recipe!

I decided to make muffins instead of the cake, as they are easier to pack up to send with my husband for his lunch.

I replaced the nuts in the recipe with almonds and the blueberries with blackberries. The baking time was shortened to about 30 minutes. I got 20 muffins out of this recipe. They turned out very light and moist. My husband and I really liked them.

Be sure to check out Sihan's blog for the recipe. Take a look at the TWD blogroll to see many wonderful variations of this recipe. I love reading all of the different twists that were tried with this one. Warning.....you will probably leave the blogroll very hungry!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Trying to save money by menu planning

We talked about menu planning at Amanda's Cookin' blog two weeks ago on Thrifty Thursday. I said then that I was going to make an effort to save money by planning a weekly menu. I've never stuck to one for very long before. Hopefully this go 'round I will be a little more successful.

Here is my first menu:

Monday - meatloaf w/ gravy, buttered potatoes, steamed broccoli
Tuesday - spicy orange beef w/noodles
Wednesday -breakfast for Dinner--pancakes, scrambled eggs, hashbrowns and toast
Thursday - crockpot pork chops with cream of mushroom gravy over egg noodles, green beans
Friday - homemade pizza roll-ups and salad
Saturday -chicken tortellini soup w/homemade ciabatta bread
Sunday - spaghetti and meatballs w/homemade Italian herb bread (This is usually my shopping day)

Tonight's meal went over well...even though my kids don't really like cooked potatoes. We ate late because my son had to stay after school to practice his part in a school play. Everyone was starving so I didn't bother to take pictures.

I made a huge meatloaf:

3 lbs of hamburger
1 C. of Ritz crackers, crushed fine
1/2 C. ketchup --I am picky, I only like Heinz
1/2 C. milk
2 eggs
1 package of Lipton onion soup mix
extra garlic and onion seasonings
a few splash of Worcestershire sauce

Mixed it altogether with my hands and formed a large rectangle of meat in a 9x13 pan. Baked it at 350* for about an hour. I drained the grease off of it half way through the cooking. We like brown gravy served on our meatloaf instead of any type of tomato topping.

I'd planned on making dessert but the night got away from me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thrifty Thursday a day late

Lately I have been late doing everything. I hate it, it's not me. I'm usually on time or early for the things that I have planned to do.

I hadn't planned on participating in Thrifty Thursday this week because I haven't done any frugal this week. Even the cookbooks that I bought for a steal turned out too good to be true --but that's a story I want to forget about. What's that they say... "If it seems too good to be true..."

Anyway.... I came across a nice freebie this morning and wanted to pass it along to everyone in hopes that you can take advantage of it. Who doesn't love Italian ice?!?

You can enjoy a FREE 10 oz. cup of Italian Ice from Rita's today from noon until 10:00 pm. Check here to see if there is a shop near you! Unfortunately, I don't have a shop nearby so I'd love to hear from you if you take part in this one!

So there you have it, a Thrifty Thursday food freebie! I love freebies!!

Check out more Thrifty Thursday tips at Amanda's Cookin' blog.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

TWD - French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze

This week's TWD recipe, French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze, has grown on me to the point that I am now liking it. The description of the cake that Dorie uses in her cookbook is right on the mark - it's somewhat of a pound cake and somewhat of a sponge cake. The cake itself is moist and has a nice texture to it, but it is also sort of bland to me. I tasted a piece of it while it was still warm and really didn't care for it. I decided to give it another try once I read all of the rave reviews that it was getting from everyone else. The cake had had time to cool completely and it tasted much better. The nuttiness came through a bit more this time. I bet that it would taste really good toasted just a bit.

I didn't make the marmalade glaze to go with it. For those who did, I bet that it was great. I pureed some strawberries and sugar, and then stirred in a little of the left over almonds from the cake recipe for my topping. With the strawberry topping, it was more like a strawberry shortcake, I guess.

We have Liliana of My Cookbook Addiction to thank for choosing this week's recipe. You can see the recipe for this French yogurt cake on her blog.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pot O' Gold Soup + Lucky Lemon - Lime Drops

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

If you've ever eaten at Chili's, chances are you've tried their Chicken Enchilada soup. My husband and I ate lunch there for the first time about a month ago. We both ordered the soup and salad lunch special. We took a chance on trying something new. When they sat the bowl of soup down in front of my husband, I couldn't help but laugh out loud. The soup was a bright yellowish-orangish color and it was topped with diced tomatoes. Now...you have to know my husband... if it doesn't look "normal" to him, he's NOT going to eat it. It took some prodding to get him to try it. One spoonful in.... ok...he's not spitting it out. Hey, wait! Is that another spoonful going into his mouth? He LIKES it! I'm shocked! Now it was my turn to try it.... I liked it, too, but I wasn't nearly as dramatic as he was. The combination of chicken, cheese, spices and the crunch of tortillas chips (add them or you will miss something!) made for a great combination.

I was so happy to have another soup to add to my menu at home. After searching through many recipes, I put together one of my own using this-n-that from several recipes. It's a very, very close to the original - in fact, my husband liked mine better because it wasn't quite as thick as the restaurant's version.

So here we go for St. Patrick's Day.... no, not an Irish dish, but it is a beautiful goldish color.

Alongside, I served simple chicken and cheese quesadillas.

MMM! Cheesy!

Pot O' Gold Soup (Chicken Enchilada Soup)

1 TBSP oil
1/2 rotisserie chicken, shredded
1/2 cup diced onion
1 TBSP minced garlic
4 C chicken broth
1 C Masa Harina
1 1/2 C hot water
1 can of Rotel tomatoes
1 1/2 C water
1 small can enchilada sauce
2 C. Velveeta cheese. cubed
2 TSP cumin

Top with: corn tortilla chips

Saute diced onion and garlic together until onion is opaque. Stir in chicken broth.
Turn heat to medium/low and continue cooking while you are preparing the rest
of the recipe.

In a large bowl, stir together the masa harina (found near flour in store) and
1 1/2 C. hot water until smooth and no lumps remain. Stir this mixture into
the pot with the onion, garlic and chicken broth. Add Rotel tomatoes.

Stir in remaining 1 1/2 C. water, enchilada sauce, Velveeta and cumin. Add shredded chicken and
bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and cook 40 minutes or until desired thickness. Stir frequently
to avoid scorching.

Serve in bowls and top with corn tortilla chips.

The soup was a big hit with my whole family. I have to warn you, though, it IS spicy. If you do not want it to be spicy, simply add plain, chopped tomatoes in place of the Rotel tomatoes. Don't leave out the corn tortilla chips. The crunchy chips really add a nice texture to the soup when they are crushed up and stirred in. Enjoy!

We topped our dinner off with Lucky Lemon Lime Drops. If you have room for dessert after this meal, these cookies are pretty good. They have a very light lemon-lime taste to them. My husband and kids liked them but I would prefer a stronger lemon-lime taste if I were to make them again.

Lucky Lemon Lime Drops

1/2 C. butter
1 C. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 C. lemon juice
1/4 C. lime juice
3 C. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
green paste food coloring

Preheat over to 350*

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in lemon and lime juice, and then the egg.
Sift in flour and baking powder. Beat in green food coloring.

Roll into balls about the size of a walnut and place onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly.

Bake for 9 minutes or until very lightly browned. Remove immediately to a cooling rack.

The icing is simply powdered sugar thinned with lemon juice. Drizzle on top of cookies and
allow icing to dry before eating.

Word of warning....!!!!

Don't turn your back on these cookies like I did!! This might happen to you!

Those darn Leprechauns never miss an opportunity to eat cookies!

Sharing with The Gooseberry Patch: Round Up for St. Patrick's Day

Monday, March 9, 2009

Moo Goo Gai Pan

Tonight's dinner was a delicious dish called Moo Goo Gai Pan. My friend, Amanda, from Amanda's Cookin' made it and posted it on her blog a couple of weeks ago. The pictures on her blog called out to me begging me to try the recipe. I'm so happy that I did because my whole family loved it.

I followed her directions and added several other veggies to the mix. (extra veggies in blue below). I made the sauce x 6 because of the extra veggies. Also, so that we would have enough sauce to go over the rice.

1/2 lb chicken, sliced thin + 1/2 lb
1 cup mushrooms, sliced - I used baby bella
1 cup broccoli florets + 1 C. - I used frozen florets
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
1 lg. green pepper, thinly sliced
1 med. onion, diced small
1 can of bamboo shoots, drained well
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp rice cooking wine
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce

All ingredients listed in green x 6 to make the sauce.

Combine broth, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice cooking wine, cornstarch and sugar and set aside.

Heat wok on high heat and add a tablespoon of olive or other cooking oil. Stir fry vegetables for a 3-4 minutes, remove vegetables. Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok on high heat. Add garlic and stir fry one minute, then add the chicken. Stir fry chicken until no longer pink. Add the broth mixture and let thicken a little, about 2 minutes. Add vegetables and cook for a few minutes, stirring to combine sauce, meat and vegies.

Serve over white rice.


Now for the fun stuff.....

Fortune Cookies!

Do you believe that their messages hold any truth? With all of the hubbub going on at my house lately, I sure do hope that this one comes true!

This was in my fortune cookie....

Chili Mac

Last night's chili mac dinner was super easy to whip up. I had an awful sinus headache and really didn't feel like cooking anything...but...we have to eat.

This recipe comes from The Frugal Table @ Meal Planning Mommies. I didn't take pictures but if you check out the link above, she shows a picture of it. There are great step by step instructions, too.

Chili Mac w/Garlic Bread

The orginal recipe is for 4 people so I doubled it and made a few changes to the measurements (below).

2 can beanless chili
1 can ketchup - I used 1C
4 tbs. worchestershire sauce
1 box of spaghetti - I used elbow macaroni, about 1 1/2 lbs
parmesan cheese or other toppings

Garlic Bread (not pictured)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thrifty Thursdays thrift shop finds - cookbooks!

Amanda from Amanda's Cookin is hosting Thrifty Thursdays!

I LOVE cookbooks! I love to sit and read them just like a novel. During a recent search through a local thrift store, I found these cookbooks:

They are all in excellent condition. The best part is that I picked them all up for under $5.00! Yes, there's quite a variety there, but I plan on putting all of them to use sooner or later.

Want more great Thrifty Thursday news?

I was given a large food processor from a very nice lady in my local FreeCycle group. I had one before we made the move to NC, but I FreeCycled it while I was cleaning out before the move.

That's it for me today!

If you would like to read more thrifty tips, take a look at what others have to say....

Join in on the fun and share your thrifty tips, too!
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