Monday, February 28, 2011

Beef Barley Vegetable Soup

We've had some unusual spring weather here in NC lately. For the last two days, the temps have reached over 75*. That's about to change, though. With warm winds meeting the cold winds from up north, our whole area in under a tornado watch. Six years ago this would've freaked me out. Moving from PA, I never had to deal with tornadoes much at all. In fact, I can remember 2 tornadoes touching down in my lifetime while living there. From the first day of moving to this area of NC, we've had tornado watches and warnings all around us in the spring. The very first day that we moved in I asked a lady how often they have tornadoes. She said "Don't worry hun, we haven't had a tornado in our area in more than 8 yrs." HHHmmm... we must have brought that cold Yankee weather with us to mix with the warm southern winds because we've had at least one tornado touch down in our area each of the last six years!! There's been destruction but luckily no one has been injured or worse and we've faired just fine from it. Bottom line, buy a good weather radio and get on with life.

Bet you didn't think that you were going to get a weather report from me today, did you? Keep reading....  there really is a recipe today.

Cool, rainy weather puts me in the mood for soup. Beef Barley Vegetable soup is on the menu today. Take a look. MMMM!!

Beef Barley Vegetable Soup

1 1/2 lbs. beef stew meat
1/2 c. flour for coating meat and vegs
2 stalks of celery, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 large carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces
8 oz. mushroom, chopped into bite-sized pieces
12 oz of canned or frozen corn, drained if canned
12 oz of canned or frozen green beans, drained if canned
1 can stewed tomatoes, chopped
3/4 of a large can of tomato juice
64 oz beef broth
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves 
1 1/2 c. quick cooking barley

In a large soup pot, brown meat in 3 tbsp. oil. While meat is browning, add celery and carrots. Finish browning meat and then stir in flour. Stir to coat the meat and veggies.Cook for 5 minutes

Pour in tomato juice, beef broth, stewed tomatoes and seasonings. Cook for 15 minutes.

Add corn, green beans and mushrooms. Stir well. Cover with a lid and cook on low for 2 - 2 1/2 hrs or until the meat and carrots are tender. Stir in 1 1/2 c. of quick cooking barley. Continue cooking barley using the instructions on the back of the box. (about 15 minutes).

Serve with warm, crusty bread. Freeze any leftovers.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

It's that time again! Last week's menu plan worked out really well. I'm happy that I've decided to try menu planning again.

This menu is includes some new recipes, along with some old favorites.

Sunday - Sante Fe lasagna & salad

Monday - beef barley vegetable soup

Tuesday - broiled citrus cod, pierogies & green beans

Wednesday - Cajun shrimp rolls, rice, corn & cucumber salad

Thursday - grilled pork chops & mac n cheese

Friday - hot turkey sandwiches with mashed potatoes & gravy

Saturday - Italian Herb & Cheese Ziti Primavera & "Olive Garden" salad

How do you make menu planning work for your family? Is there a certain way that you plan your meals? I'd love to talk to you about it. Please share any tips that you might have for me!

Menu Plan Monday

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spicy Chicken & Broccoli Stir Fry

I have always been able to get my kids to eat different kinds of vegetables by cooking stir fries. They love trying new flavor combinations, too. I was rummaging around our local thrift store last week but not having any luck finding anything worthwhile. My daughter ran up to me to show me that she had found three Betty Crocker cookbooks... a dessert book, a casserole book and a stir fry book. Not one to turn away many cookbooks, into the cart they went!

Tonight's dinner, Spicy Chicken & Broccoli Stir Fry, was from the stir fries cookbook. Betty didn't disappoint me. The dinner was delicious. I did a quick search to see if I could find the recipe on the Better Crocker website. It's there and with only one change with the new version from the older version in the cookbook - the older version called for deboning chicken breasts  and the new version calls for an easier way by using chicken tenderloins. I used boneless chicken breasts. I made a few substitutions to the recipe which I've highlighted in bold.

Spicy Chicken & Broccoli Stir Fry
adapted from

I doubled this recipe.

1 package (15 ounces) chicken breast tenders (not breaded) - I used 5 boneless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 pound broccoli - I used 4 small bunches of fresh broccoli florets
3 tablespoons chili or vegetable oil
1 hot fresh green chili, cut into very thin slices - I used red pepper flakes & added them to the adult's plates only
2 tablespoons brown bean sauce - I subbed Hoisin Sauce
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger root
3 green onions, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces

Mix chicken, cornstarch, salt and white pepper in medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes.

Peel outer layer from broccoli. Cut broccoli lengthwise into 1-inch stems; remove flowerets. Cut stems diagonally into 1/4-inch slices. Place broccoli flowerets and stems in boiling water; heat to boiling. Cover and cook 1 minute; drain. Immediately rinse with cold water; drain.

Heat wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add oil; rotate wok to coat side. Add chili, brown bean sauce, garlic, sugar and ginger root; stir-fry 10 seconds. Add chicken; stir-fry about 2 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center. Add broccoli and onions; stir-fry about 1 minute or until broccoli is heated through.

I served the dish with jasmine rice.

**Notes:  While the dish was delicious as is, we tend to like more sauce with our stir fries. I will make the sauce portion of this recipe x4 the next time**

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hot & Crispy Chicken Legs

We don't eat fried chicken that often. In fact, before we moved to NC, we hardly ever at it. We happen to live near a place called Price's Chicken Coop that makes the best fried chicken I've ever eaten. We usually splurge a couple of times a year there to get our fried chicken fix. lol!

Last week I was watching Rachael Ray's talk show and she was cooking  Super Hot 'n Crisp Drummers or Wings. Since my family tends to love spicy food, spicy fried chicken got two thumbs up when it showed up on the menu.

Hot & Crispy Chicken Legs
adapted from Rachael Ray

2 packages of chicken legs (about 20 legs)

For the chicken coating:
1 c. Frank’s Red Hot
2 c. flour
1 tbsp poultry seasoning
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp baking powder
Salt and pepper

*I've adapted the directions to cook chicken legs, not wings.*

Place the chicken pieces in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, par-boil for 15 minutes, then drain and pat the chicken dry.

Cool the chicken and toss it in hot sauce to coat, then toss with flour seasoned with spices to coat. Toss the chicken once more in the hot sauce and the flour. Fry in batches over medium to medium-high heat in 3 inches of hot oil, 350°F, until very crisp, 5-10 minutes.

**Notes**  The end results were a crispy breading on the outside and juicy, tender chicken on the inside. You could definitely taste the Frank's hot sauce but there wasn't an overpowering "hot" taste to the chicken.

Be prepared for quite a bit of work to go into cooking this meal. It gets quite messy when you are coating the chicken in hot sauce and flour.

In the end, I'm not sure that I'll be making this again. We're not big fans of breaded chicken and for the time that it took to put it altogether and cook it, I could have grilled the cooked chicken legs and my family would've enjoyed them more and we would have eaten dinner a lot sooner.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

On My Menu This Week

Tomorrow starts our month of daylight shifts for my husband. Wish me luck. lol! It's a big change for all of us from midnight shift to daylight. We'll get through it, I'm sure.

Here's our menu for the week:

Saturday:  crockpot bbq chicken sliders with rice and salad on the side

Sunday: planned spaghetti & meatballs but ended up having tacos

Monday: super hot spicy chicken legs from RR with mashed potatoes and corn on the side

Tuesday: spaghetti & meatballs

Wednesday: spicy chicken & broccoli over jasmine rice

Thursday: pita pizzas & salad

Friday: mexi lasagna

Stop by and say "hi". I love talking with friends! 

I'm linking to Menu Plan Monday!

Crockpot BBQ Chicken Sliders

When I created these sliders I had one thing in mind...being able to cook dinner while attending my daughter's basketball game on Saturday afternoon. We have been spending way too much money eating out after her basketball games and I've been wanting to squash that routine for a while now. It was nice to come home to half of the meal waiting on us. We ate rice w/gravy and salad with the sliders. Everything was ready to go in under 30 minutes. :)

Crockpot BBQ Chicken Sliders
4 lg boneless chicken breasts - about 2 lbs, thawed
1 c. + 1 c. of your favorite bbq sauce - plus extra, if wanted
Frank's hot sauce (optional)
2 tsp. minced garlic
8 oz smoked provolone cheese, shredded
small dinner buns or potato buns

Layer the chicken breasts into the crockpot by alternating one piece of chicken with a little bbq sauce...continuing until all of the chicken is covered with sauce with 1 c. of sauce. Cover and cook on high for 4 hrs.

After 4 hrs., check to see if chicken has been cooked. The chicken should fall to pieces when you shred it with a fork. If it doesn't, continue cooking for up to 1 hour longer.

Remove chicken and place on a platter. Using two forks, shred the chicken. Drain any water that was left in the crockpot. Place the shredded chicken back into the crockpot. Stir in the remaining cup of bbq sauce, adding more sauce if you like. Heat on low for 20 minutes.

Layer the shredded chicken and shredded provolone onto the buns. Enjoy!

**Optional**  At this point you can lay the sliders on a baking sheet and place them in the oven at 425* for 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mini Cucumber Sandwich Appetizers

We love these little cucumber sandwiches. If you don't have the luxury of having freshly picked cucumbers from a garden, use English seedless cucumbers. They sub just fine.

I didn't get a really good picture of the sandwiches because my family was eating them as fast as I was making them.

Mini Cucumber Sandwich Appetizers

1-2 English cucumbers, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 oz. mayo
1-2 tsp. milk
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning Mix
1 loaf of cocktail rye bread

Peel and slice cucumbers into thin rounds. Lay rounds on paper towels to remove any water. Set aside.

Mix together cream cheese, mayo and ranch seasoning mix. Stir in milk, 1 tsp at a time, until the mixture reaches a spreadable consistency.

Spread a think layer of the ranch mixture onto the rye breads. Top each bread slice with one or two cucumber slices, depending on the size of your cucumbers. I had to use two rounds on each bread because the cucumbers were thin.

Layer sandwiches into a container that has a tight fitting lid. Add waxed paper between layers of sandwiches. Refrigerate for at least two hours or up to overnight .

Refrigerate any leftovers.

One Pan Pork Fried Rice

I came up with this fried rice recipe to go along with the homemade egg rolls that I made a while back. It's easy to make and very can use chicken, pork, beef or even make it without meat. It's great for using bits and pieces of leftovers from the week that's stuck in the frig. The secret ingredient is the sesame oil that really gives it a unique flavor.

One Pan Pork Fried Rice

4 c. quick cooking  rice
3 1/2 c. water for cooking rice
2 c. boneless pork, cubed into 1" pieces
4 eggs
1 bag frozen stir fry vegetables
1 1/2  c. soy sauce
1/2 c chicken broth
sesame oil

Cook rice and set aside. I use quick cooking rice - Cook 4 c. rice in 3 1/2 c of water to make it less sticky.

Using one large frying pan:

Scramble 4 eggs. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

Saute frozen stir fry vegetables in 2 tbsp of canola or vegetable oil. Cook until vegetables are fork tender. Remove to the plate that holds the scrambled eggs.

Cook the pork in 2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil + 1 tsp sesame oil.  Cook just until the pork is no longer pink. Be careful not to over cook. Add the cooked pork to the eggs and vegetables.

Add cooked rice to the large frying pan. Stir in one cup of soy sauce + 2 tsp. sesame oil. Heat over medium low heat for 1 -2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir in vegetables and pork. Mix well. Pour in 1/2 c. chicken broth + 1/2 soy sauce. Heat through.

Chop eggs into small pieces. Stir into rice.

Serve hot.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - I'm Back :)

I did so well for quite a few months but then I fell of the wagon with menu planning. I've decided to hop back on board. I need to buckle down and start saving money and quit spending wasting it on eating out.

My week runs a little differently with my husband having Mondays and Tuesdays off now. Yes, it really does screw things up when you are used to another schedule for 15 yrs. Our menu now runs from Sat. to Fri.

So, here's our menu for this week:

S - turkey burgers, tater tots and onion rings, salad

M - lasagna and Italian bread - mini chocolate cupcakes for dessert for Valentine's Day

T- pork fried rice w/ egg rolls

W - beef veggie soup w/ grilled cheese

H - grilled chicken, fried potatoes, salad

F - chicken noodle soup

I'm linking up with Menu Plan Monday @ I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Have a great week! The weathermen say that we should have some warm, sunny days this week! I can't wait! :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

January Cookie Carnival Round Up!

The round up is finally here and boy do I have some pretty cookies to show you!

The two choices for the month were

Two Tone Cookie Crinkles

Raspberry Limoncello Linzers

Surprisingly, everyone chose the crinkle cookies. There was a big debate over why these cookies were called crinkles. Really, I have no idea why. 

Our Cookie Carnival bakers are so talented...take a look at these cuties!

Chaya @ Bizzy B. Bakes said "With a vanilla and chocolate component, you know it is good."

Mrs T @ Across My Kitchen Table said "These went over quite well at the potluck I took them to."

Kerri @ Kerri's Texas Kitchen said "I dressed them up a bit in preparation for Valentines Day. Everyone at home and work that tried them out really enjoyed them. I liked that they weren't super sweet but just sweet enough."

Sue @ Munchkin Munchies said "Two-Tone Cookie Crinkles double your pleasure with a chocolate cookie and a butter cookie, sandwiched together with chocolate ganache in between.  A chocolate and cookie lover's delight."

Juliana @ horneandoalgo said "A simple, yet captive cookie."

Krista @ Meet the Swans said "I followed the recipe exactly as written, but added a few drops of pink food coloring and raspberry flavoring to the plain dough. So instead of having a brown and white cookie dough, I ended up with a brown and pink."

Thank you for joining us this month. If you like what you see, please let me know! Share some blog love. Take a minute to stop by these ladies' blogs, too! They are awesome! 

We are working on two new cookies for this month. If you haven't joined the Cookie Carnival yet, I'd love for you to do so! If you've joined but haven't participated in a while, I'd love for you to come back again! The more, the merrier!

Click here for info. on how you can join the Cookie Carnival!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tomato Chilie Chicken over Egg Noodles

I'm cookin' from the pantry tonight. I had chicken thighs in the frig that had to be cooked, along with some green peppers and mushrooms. I knew that I had some canned tomatoes....sounds like a plan to me.

We've been fighting the flu here for the last week. Things are finally looking up. We're just left with some coughing. Seems like everyone is fighting one strain of flu or another right now. Food is finally starting to taste normal again. :)

This meal came together rather quickly and everyone enjoyed it....well, almost everyone ate without complaining. My daughter won't allow a tomato to pass her lips without complaining about it. She ate some of it anyway.

Tomato Chilie Chicken over Egg Noodles

6 chicken thighs, cooked, skin removed and deboned
2 - 14.5 oz - diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
1 - 28 oz - crushed tomatoes
1/2 c. water
2 green peppers, sliced into thin strips
1 -8oz - package sliced mushrooms
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp cumin
12 oz. cooked egg noodles, kept warm for serving

Cook chicken. Remove skin and pull the chicken from the bones. Set aside.

Into a large frying pan, add the green peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes with chilies, crushed tomatoes and water. Stir in chili powder and cumin. Cook for 15 minutes over medium-high heat.

Stir the chicken into the tomato mixture. Continue cooking for 30 -45 minutes over low heat, cooking for 30 minutes if you like the peppers tender crisp or longer if you like them softer like we do.

Serve chicken and tomatoes over egg noodles.

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