Monday, January 30, 2012

Pepperoni Carbonara

When I found this recipe, I knew my family would like it. I've been trying to branch out from tomato-based pasta dishes to give them more variety. Even the Princess who prefers no sauce at all on her pasta really enjoyed this dish and went back for more. I left out the tomatoes because I knew the kids would be more likely to eat it. I also tweaked the seasonings a bit to suit our tastes.

I have to say that making your own sauce instead of using jarred alfredo sauce is definitely the way to go in these types of dishes. Nothing beats homemade.

Here's what you need:

8 oz penne pasta, cooked according to the package directions
1/4 cup butter
2 teas minced garlic
1 cup chopped turkey pepperoni
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup half and half
1 teas Italian seasoning
1 teas dried basil
1/4 teas salt
1/4 teas black pepper

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Keep stirring until the cheese is completely melted. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and make sure everything is well coated with sauce.

Menu Plan January 30-February 5

Next week is Superbowl Sunday, and though we're still having some friends over to watch the game with us, it won't be as big of a party as last year's. Because my Steelers aren't in it this year. Oh, well.

In the meantime, I'm keeping things simple in the kitchen.

Here's what on the menu:

Pulled pork sandwiches (crockpot), fries

Cheeseburger soup, homemade bread

Chicken burritos (using my crockpot chicken filling), rice

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce, seasoned potatoes

Ravioli, green beans

Homemade pizza

Cheesy chicken nachos

For more yummy meal planning ideas, head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chicken Taco Filling in the Crockpot

I often cook chicken breasts in my crockpot, then shred them up in my Kitchen Aid mixer. Then I divide the shredded meat up and freeze it for future use in soups, sandwiches and casseroles. It's so convenient to take a bag of cooked chicken out of the freezer and toss it into the soup pot when I need it.

So I thought, why not spice up the chicken a little for specific dishes? So here's a simple, simple way to get flavorful cooked chicken to use in a variety of recipes.

Here's what you need:

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 packet taco seasoning (I use 2 TBSP of my homemade seasoning)
2 cups your favorite salsa (again, I use homemade)

Trim any excess fat from the chicken. Place it in a crockpot. Sprinkle the taco seasoning over the chicken, then pour salsa over all. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or until chicken is very tender.

Remove from the crockpot and shred. Separate into 2-cup portions for future use. Freeze in Ziploc bags or other freezer containers.

This chicken can be used in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas and nachos. It's very versatile and yummy!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Make Your Own Taco Seasoning

I've been trying to make my own seasoning mixes now for a while, and I've finally found a taco seasoning blend we all like. My children aren't big fans of spicy foods, so I always have to take that into consideration when whipping up taco seasoning. If your family prefers more heat, add more chili powder and a little cayenne.

Here's what I use:

1/4 cup minced onion
2 TBSP sea salt
2 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP corn starch
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP cumin
1 1/2 teas dried oregano

Mix up all the ingredients and blend well. Store in a jar or airtight container. To make tacos, start with 1 tablespoon seasoning mix per pound of meat. If that's not spicy enough for you, add a little more, up to another tablespoon.

I also use this mix any time taco seasoning is called for in a recipe, like taco soup or nachos.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tasty Tilapia

My family loves eating fish, especially tilapia. I enjoy cooking it for them because I know it's a healthy meal. Whenever Mr. Lego sees it pop up on the menu, he cheers. So I guess I'm doing something right. LOL

I especially like this recipe because the fish is baked, not fried. And I usually have all of the seasoning ingredients on hand. The result is a flavorful, colorful dish that everyone loves.

Here's what you need:

4 tilapia filets, thawed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teas garlic powder
1 teas ground mustard
1 teas ground ginger
1 teas paprika
1 teas coarse salt
1 teas dried oregano
1/2 teas black pepper
1/2 teas chili powder
1 TBSP lemon juice

In a shallow bowl, combine the olive oil and seasonings. Let sit for about 10 minutes to give the flavors a chance to blend. The oil will turn a lovely orange-red color.

Dip each filet into the bowl, making sure both sides are covered. Place on a greased baking sheet. If there is any of the oil mixture left, pour over the filets. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Bake at 400 degree for 10 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

If I had to choose my favorite sandwich of all time, it would be a Philly cheesesteak. Charles laughs at me because if we go into a sandwich or sub place to eat, I almost always choose a Philly cheesesteak. I love the combination of meat and cheese, onions and maybe some peppers on a crusty roll, dripping with butter. Not good for the waistline, but oh so good!

And they're easy to make at home, too. You can control how much butter, if any, you wish to use to cut down on calories and fat. But don't ever leave out the onions. Ever.

Here's what you need:

1 lb thinly sliced round steak, cut into strips
1 onion, sliced into rings
seasoned salt
2 TBSP worchestershire sauce
4 slices provolone cheese
4 crusty sandwich rolls

After you slice the meat into small strips, sprinkle with seasoned salt and set aside. This is the seasoning I use, Emeril's Baby Bam Seasoning. I'll post the recipe below.

Melt some butter in a pan and cook up the onions until they're soft and brown. I like them really browned!

Add a little more butter to the pan and fry up the sliced steak.

Cook until no longer pink. Stir in the worchestershire sauce, making sure all the meat gets coated.

Split the sandwich rolls and spread a little butter on both sides. Pop into a 400 degree oven for a few minutes until the butter is melted and the buns are a little crisp. Load up with meat.

Layer the onions and provolone cheese on top. Stick back into the oven until the cheese is melted and gooey. This will only take a few minutes.

These are so yummy! Even the kids like them, though Mr. Lego has me leave off the cheese for him. He has this thing about no cheese on sandwiches.

Here's the recipe for Emeril's Baby Bam Seasoning. I use it on fries, all kinds of meats, even baked potatoes. It's really flavorful.

Combine the following:

3 TBSP paprika
2 TBSP coarse salt
2 TBSP dried parsley
2 teas garlic powder
2 teas onion powder
1 teas dried oregano
1 teas dried basil
1 teas black pepper
1/2 teas celery seed

Store in a small bowl or jar.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Menu Plan Monday January 23-29

It's the last full week of January. Can you believe it? And the weather so far this winter has been crazy! Last week we had near record high temps and were under tornado watches for most of the weekend. This week is supposed to be more of the same.

So I'm settling back and making some family favorites. Rain or shine, warm or cold, my family is going to eat well this week.

Here's the plan:

Baked egg rolls

Feel Better Chicken Stew, rolls

Tasty Tilapia, lemon pepper broccoli

Philly cheese steak sandwiches, fries

Spaghetti casserole, garlic bread

African Peanut Soup (new recipe in anticipation of our upcoming Disney trip and eating at Boma)
Pulled pork sandwiches (crockpot), seasoned potatoes (in a different crockpot)

For more yummy meal plan ideas, head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

Today was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday at our church. I thought I'd share this video with you that shows the miracle of conception and the wonderful process through which a baby grows in the womb.

As a Christian, I believe that abortion is wrong. Life is sacred and the power of life and death is in God's hands. Today was a powerful reminder of that.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Greek Lemon Roasted Potatoes

Last fall Charles and I went to a Greek restaurant for our anniversary. Well, it was actually a very nice seafood restaurant whose owners were Greek, so there were many Greek-inspired items on the menu. One such item was lemon potatoes. I'd never had potatoes seasoned with lemon before, so I was eager to try it. I wasn't disappointed, as the potatoes were delicious! This is my attempt to recreate that wonderful side dish.

Here's what you need:

3 lbs small potatoes
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup melted butter
2 TBSP lemon juice
2 teas dried oregano
1 teas garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Wash and scrub the potatoes, leaving the skins on. I used a variety called Honey Gold, which is why my potatoes are so yellow. You can use red potatoes, too.

Cut the potatoes into quarters. If your potatoes are on the larger side, you might need to cut into sixths or eighths. Basically you want all the potato wedges to be roughly the same size. Place the potatoes into a greased baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine the broth, butter, lemon juice, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Pour over the potatoes, then give them a good stir to make sure everything is coated. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes.

Take the potatoes out of the oven and remove the foil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and return to the oven, uncovered, for another 20-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are browned to your preference.

The Princess pronounced these "most delicious" in her best Mary Poppins voice. She's been practicing a British accent for days for some reason. Mr. Lego asked for seconds. And Charles and I were both pleased that this tasted remarkably similar to what we had at the Greek place.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Princess Milestone

In early December, the Princess got her ears pierced. Finally.

When she turned 9, we told her she could get them pierced if she wanted to. That was back in July. It took her a few months to work up her courage. We even went to the mall for the express purpose of ear piercing once but she backed out at the last minute.

Then her cousin Anna, who was born on the exact same day, got her ears pierced and assured the Princess that it wouldn't hurt. Much. And so the final choice was made and before she could change her mind, I took her to Claire's and the deed was done.

There were a few tears, mostly from fear of the unknown and not really pain.

Last week, she was able to change her posts out for other earrings. She chose the biggest pair of blingy earrings she could find!

Since then we have been treated to several earring modeling sessions where the Princess shows off her already-large collection of jewelry. It helps that Daddy makes wire and bead jewelry, so he's keeping her in good supply.

The Princess told me soon after the piercing that she felt so grown up now! Like she had gone from being a baby to an adult all at once. Boy, am I in trouble! LOL

Seriously, though, this has been a great experience for her. I wanted to wait until she was old enough to care for her ears herself. She proved to me that she was responsible and took great care of her piercing. I'm really, really proud of my little girl. I mean my little adult.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Menu Plan January 15-21

We're gearing up for a long-awaited trip to Disney World in just a few weeks, so all of us have spent time doing this.

That's right! Mr. Lego is walking on the treadmill. We know that we'll be walking miles and miles while we're at Disney, so we're trying to get our poor bodies and feet used to it! The TV on the wall was there when we bought the house. It's come in very handy now that we've put the treadmill in front of it. Watching TV definitely makes the time pass more quickly as you walk!

Now on to this week's meal plan:

Chicken and corn chowder

Cheeseburger rice, green beans

Ham broccoli quiche, roasted carrots

Pepperoni Carbonara, sauteed peppers

Minestrone, breadsticks

Chicken cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy

Gyros with flatbread, fries

For more meal-planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Make your own popcorn seasoning

We love popcorn around here. Hubby and the kids prefer theirs buttered and salted, while I like to experiment with flavors. I like caramel popcorn, cheesy popcorn, you name it. So when I came across this super simple recipe to make you own pizza flavored popcorn seasoning mix, I knew I had to try it! It's like eating pizza without the tomato sauce.

Here's what you need:

3 teas dried basil
2 teas dried oregano
2 teas Italian seasoning
1 teas garlic salt
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a small food processor, combine the seasonings until they're finely ground. Stir together the spice mix and Parmesan cheese, then transfer to a jar. Sprinkle the desired amount over buttered popcorn.

I've seen similar seasoning blends at the grocery store but they're way too expensive. It's so much easier to whip up my own batch, saving myself several dollars without any preservatives and unpronounceable ingredients.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Menu Plan January 8-14

Last week was a crazy mix of cold days and warm days. I have to say, I enjoyed the warm ones more! This week should be more seasonal, staying cooler but not extremely cold. I'm still planning to serve soup several times, though. I'm thankful that my family likes soup as much as I do!

And a shout out to my West Virginia Mountaineers, underdogs going into the Orange Bowl against Clemson. Not only did the Mountaineers win, they set a scoring record for any bowl game - 70 points! It's great to be a Mountaineer!

Here's the plan for the week:

Hot dogs with West Virginia Hot Dog Sauce

Beef stew, homemade bread (bread machine version)

Coconut curry with chicken over brown rice

Stuffed shells, whole wheat garlic breadsticks

Southwestern bean soup, sweet buttermilk cornbread

Rice and bean burritos, chips and salsa

Feel Better Chicken Stew

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

West Virginia Hot Dog Sauce

Where I grew up, hot dogs were always served with hot dog sauce - a mixture of ground beef, tomato sauce and spices. I'd never heard that kind of sauce called anything else until I moved to the Deep South. Down here hot dog sauce is called chili. But to my mind, chili is supposed to have beans. Hot dog sauce does not. Aren't regional names for the same thing fun?

Here's what you need:

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1/2 onion, chopped (or you can sub minced onion)
1 can(15 oz) tomato sauce
1 1/2 teas chili powder
1 teas salt
1 teas pepper
1 teas garlic powder
1 teas sugar
dash of cayenne pepper (more if you like a little heat)

Place the ground beef and onions in a sauce pan and cover with water.

Bring to a boil, breaking up the meat into small bits. The water helps break down the meat, too, so you end up with a finely ground meat. No big chunks allowed! Cook until the meat is no longer pink.

Drain the water from the pan. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for about an hour until thickened. It will cook down, so add a little water if it gets too thick. You don't want burned hot dog sauce!

It's best to make this sauce a day or so ahead. Just pop in the fridge. The spices have a chance to blend nicely and give a wonderful flavor to the sauce. You can easily freeze into smaller portions, too. Simply thaw in the fridge and heat up in a sauce pan.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Chex Mix

I adore Chex Mix. All kinds of Chex Mix. Hubby prefers the traditional stuff. But I decided to branch out a bit and make a version on the back of a Wheat Chex box. It was called "Deviled Chex Mix" but I tweaked it a bit and renamed it Sweet and Spicy Chex Mix.

Here's what you need:

3 TBSP of sugar (yes, that seems like a lot, but it sets off the spicy stuff perfectly)
1 TBSP paprika
1 teas curry powder
1 teas cumin
1 teas ground coriander
1/2 teas chili powder
1/2 teas black pepper
3 cups each of Rice Chex, Corn Chex and Wheat Chex
2 cups Cheez-it crackers
1 cup mixed nuts
1/3 cup vegetable oil

In a small bowl blend the spices together. In a large bowl, combine the Chex cereals, Cheez-its, and nuts. Pour oil over and stir until well coated.

Sprinkle the entire bowl of spices over the cereal mixture. It looks like too much, but believe me, you want it all on there! Stir until everything is covered with spice.

Divide the mixture between two cookie sheets. If you have a very large roasting pan, you can use that. Bake at 250 degrees for one hour, stirring every fifteen minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in an airtight container.

This smells incredibly good while it's roasting in the oven. And the flavor is amazing and completely addicting.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ham, Broccoli and Potato Soup

Temps have been well below normal here in the Deep South. Yesterday it didn't even reach 40 degrees! Baby, that's cold for this neck of the woods! Well, on cold days like that, soup is my go-to meal to warm my family. I still had some Christmas ham leftovers in the freezer, so I threw them together with some other yummy ingredients to make this wonderful soup.

Here's what you'll need:

2 cups diced fully cooked ham
1 bag frozen broccoli florets
3 cups frozen hash browns (not shredded)
2 cartons (32 oz each) chicken broth
1 small onion, diced
1 teas garlic powder
1/4 teas sage
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Place the ham, broccoli, hash browns and onion in a slow cooker. Pour the chicken brother over all. Stir in the garlic powder and sage. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours until potatoes and broccoli are tender.

About 30 minutes before serving, whisk the milk and sour cream in a small bowl until smooth. Add to the slow cooker. Stir in the cheese until melted. Allow the soup to warm up again. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The ham gives such a wonderful flavor to the soup! The only complaint my family had was the broth was thin....which I love because I sop up the broth with crackers or bread. But if you prefer a thicker soup, blend some flour with warm water and pour into the soup about halfway through cooking time.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

First Menu Plan of the New Year - Jan. 1-7

Hard to believe it's 2012! But the holidays have passed, a new year has dawned, and life continues to go on. I'll be glad to get back into our regular routine after two weeks of Christmas break!

Here's the plan for this week:

Pork roast, mashed potatoes, green beans

Christmas with friends who've been out of town

Ham, Broccoli and Potato Chowder

Fiesta Chicken and Rice, chips and salsa

Pesto penne pasta, broccoli

Chicken Caesar sandwiches, fries

Sausage veggie calzones

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.