Friday, February 28, 2014

Crockpot Cheesy Cowboy Casserole

I adore using my crockpot on busy weekdays. I adore using my crockpot on busy weekends, too. It is one of my most-used appliances ever.

This recipe is one of the reasons I love using my crockpot. I can prep the ingredients in 15 minutes, throw it all into the pot, turn it on, and forget about it until it's time to serve. There are no fancy ingredients here - just plain, old-fashioned, hearty stuff that fills you up.

Here's what you need:

1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
4-5 small potatoes, thinly sliced (I used Yukon gold)
1 (15 oz) can beans, rinsed and drained (I prefer pintos, but kidney or black beans work just as well)
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted tomatoes)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I used homemade)
1 small onion, diced
1 teas seasoned salt
1 teas garlic powder
1/2 teas black pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Place all the ingredients except the cheese in a lightly greased crockpot.
Give it a good stir.
Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours or until the potatoes are tender. About 20 minutes before serving, sprinkle the cheese over the top and turn the crockpot off. It shouldn't take long for the cheese to melt.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Menu Plan February 24 - March 2

It's kinda hard to believe February is almost over since this winter seems to have dragged on. We're supposed to get another blast of cold air this week after a warm, lovely weekend. Only 23 days until spring!! Who's ready??

This week is going to be a busy one for us. Our church is hosting a missions conference, and I'll be cooking a bit for our visiting missionaries. On Friday night we have an International Supper where everyone brings a dish from another country and shares. I'll be making a double batch of my Coconut Curry Chicken Soup and some Russian black bread. I've been experimenting with the bread and am still trying to perfect it.

So, this is what I've got on the menu:

Chicken dressing, mashed potatoes

Calico beans, squash and zucchini saute

Chicken and noodles, broccoli

Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread

International Supper at church

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce


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

Monday, February 17, 2014

Italian Sausage Sandwiches

As I was growing up, this is one quick and easy meal my mom served often. And we kids loved it! It's now one of my favorite sandwiches to prepare for my own family. And it's so simple to throw together, its makes the perfect busy weeknight dinner.

My mom always used spicy Italian sausage. But my kids aren't really big fans of spicy stuff, so I just use the mild or sweet sausage. And because the meat is already well seasoned, you don't have to add anything but sauce. How much easier can that be?

Here's what you need:

5 Italian sausage links (usually sold in a 16-19 oz package)
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce - this is the smallest can of tomato sauce
shredded mozzarella cheese, if desired
4-6 sandwich rolls

Remove the sausages from their casings. In a skillet, brown the sausage until no longer pink, breaking it up into small chunks as you cook it. Drain any excess grease from the skillet. I do this by removing the sausage with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel-covered plate. Then I pour the grease into a small bowl and dispose of it when it cools and hardens. I put the meat back into the pan and proceed.

Stir in the tomato sauce and heat through. Serve on crusty sandwich rolls and top with shredded cheese if desired. I usually pop the sandwiches into the oven at 375 degrees for a few minutes until the cheese is melted.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Menu Plan February 17-23

Okay, this is going to sound whiny and I fully acknowledge that. But I'm ready for winter to end!!! I know we here in the South haven't had nearly the amount of snow and horrible weather y'all in the North have endured this season.  But I am SO ready for spring! Who's with me?

This week's menu is about comfort food and family favorites. Most of the meals on I've got on the schedule I can make with my eyes closed because I've made them so many times. And those are the kind of meals I want to deal with - quick and easy.

So, here's what we've got:

Creamy ham and potato soup, pretzel bread

Chinese 5-spice beef and broccoli, rice

Italian sausage sandwiches, french fries

Cheeseburger rice, green beans

Chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes, fried apples

Beef and bean burritos, Mexican rice

Feel better chicken stew, yeast rolls

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cinnamon Chip Scones

Today is Mr. Lego's 13th birthday, so I made these yummy scones for his special day. He loves these flaky scones and would eat the entire batch if I let him. Then he'd probably ask for more, since he is quickly becoming the typical teenage eating machine!

The important thing to remember about scones is to not overwork the dough. If you do, it becomes too compact and won't flake a bit. If the dough appears too dry, don't freak out. The butter bits throughout the dough will melt and provide the lovely flakiness you want.

The recipe calls for buttermilk, which is something I don't usually have on hand. But substituting milk mixed with some vinegar or lemon juice will produce the same results. For the amount of buttermilk called for in these scones, I measure out 1/3 cup milk into a glass measuring cup, then stir in one teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice. I do this before I even start gathering the rest of the ingredients to give the milk a chance to sour.

Now, here's what you need:

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teas baking powder
1/2 teas baking soda
1/2 teas salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into little cubes
1 egg, separated
3 TBSP honey
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup cinnamon chips

1 TBSP brown sugar
1/2 teas cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or a fork until crumbly.

In a measuring cup, measure out the buttermilk (or substitute mentioned above). Stir in the egg yolk and honey until combined. Set the egg white aside. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and stir until moistened. You will probably have a lot of crumbs. That's okay. Gently fold in the cinnamon chips.

With floured hands, form the dough into a ball. The key here is to be gentle and don't squeeze or press too hard. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, pat the dough into a circle about 1/2 inch thick and 8 inches round.

Brush the egg white over the circle using a pastry brush. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon, sprinkle over the dough. With a pizza cutter, slice into 8 wedges and separate slightly.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Check them at 10 minutes. They might look a little moist still around the edges, but do not overbake. Overbaking will make your scones crumbly and dry - not good!

If you want to glaze your scones, allow them cool for about 10 minutes. Then combine 1 cup powdered sugar with some milk (start off with just a couple of teaspoons) until you get the consistency you want. Pour over the slightly cooled scones. Sometimes I glaze them, sometimes I don't.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Menu Plan February 10-16

This week is a momentous one for me. This week I become the mother of a teenager.

That's right, Mr. Lego turns 13 on Wednesday. I can't even begin to figure out where the time has gone. In keeping with our birthday traditions, he gets to choose what he wants for dinner. Either he can choose to go out to eat, or he can request me to make a meal. This year he's chosen lasagna. Made by me. He told me since I make the best, that's what he wants. Awwww. How could a mom say no to that?

Now here's what I've got scheduled for the rest of the week (subject to change, as always):

Ground beef hash, green beans

One pan cheesy smoked sausage and pasta, cauliflower

Lasagna, garlic bread

Crockpot cheesy chicken and tater tots, broccoli

Steak bites, twice baked potatoes

Brunswick stew, pretzel bread

Crockpot Cafe Rio chicken

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

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Baked Chicken Provencal

Herbs de Provence is one of my favorite spice blends to use with chicken. Most herbs de Provence blends consist of thyme, rosemary, marjoram and lavender. The lavender gives such a nice, fresh flavor to the entire dish, in my opinion. The basic ingredients are common to southern France, where the blend originated.

This is so simple to prepare, yet tastes so elegant. Plan ahead so your chicken can marinate for a few hours or overnight, allowing the marinade to soften and add flavor to the meat.

Here's what you need:

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 TBSP herbs de Provence

In a large resealable bag, mix the olive oil, lemon juice and herbs de Provence. Add the chicken breasts and squish around until all the meat is covered. You can also do this is a glass dish, if you prefer. You might have to turn the chicken to make sure all of it gets marinated, as the liquid might not cover it all in a dish. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, or even better, overnight.

About an hour before cooking, remove the chicken from the fridge. The olive oil tends to solidify when it's refrigerated, so this will give it some time to liquefy again.

Pour the chicken and marinade into a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices runs clear. About halfway through the cooking time, turn the chicken over and baste with some of the liquid. I usually give it a good soaking when I take it out of the oven, too. Do not overbake or the chicken will be dry.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Menu Plan February 3-9

Well, last week's menu plant was a bust! I found myself surrounded by sick people all week long! So I made several pots of chicken soup, this chicken soup to be exact.
Feel Better Chicken Stew

But I ran out of brown rice and had to substitute orzo pasta instead. Best substitution ever! Orzo cut down the cooking time considerably and was much easier to swallow for those with sore throats.

In addition to the virus going around, we had snow. Not much, but enough to paralyze our entire state. You might have heard about it? Alabama (and Georgia) were slammed with ice and snow, causing 3 days of total shut down. Yeah, sick and stuck, that was us.

I made it through the week caring for my poor family, then yesterday I started running a fever and feel a bit stuffed up. I've been drinking lemon and honey tea to alleviate my symptoms and so far it seems to be working. Hopefully this week will go a little more according to plan.

So here's what I've got for this week (and yes, there are some repeats from last week):

Pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw

Kale and white bean soup with smoked sausage, Italian bread

Easy chicken pot pie, green beans

Hamburger steaks, mashed potatoes

Creamy ham and potato soup, pretzel rolls

Date Night! Pizza for the kids

Savory beef roast

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