Sunday, March 30, 2014

Menu Plan March 31-April 6

Spring has finally arrived in the Deep South, and I hope it's here to stay. My folks up in West Virginia got snow last night and this morning - perhaps winter's final farewell?

One of the things I most look forward to about warmer weather is grilling. My husband is the grill master around here. He's got chicken, steaks and burgers perfectly timed so they're tender and delicious. We often cook up several kinds of meats then use the leftovers throughout the week for quick lunches.

You want to know the best marinade for chicken and steak? Italian dressing. No kidding, it's amazing on both. And it will work for pork, too. You can use bottled dressing from the store or you can whip up some of your own. I'll share a great recipe later this week for that.

Now on to the week's menu:

One pot spaghetti, garlic bread

Oven baked chicken fajitas, Mexican rice

Baked egg rolls, garlic sesame noodles

Chicken meatball soup, crusty bread

Loaded jambalaya

Grilled chicken

Roast beef sandwiches

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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Beefy Three Cheese Dip

Since we homeschool and hubby works from home, we eat lunch together as a family nearly every day. How many families get to enjoy that? I try to keep lunch simple. Usually I serve leftovers from the night before. But sometimes we have no leftovers, thanks to the growing appetite of a particular teenage boy in our house!

This yummy dip serves as a fantastic lunch or snack. It's something different from our usual lunch fare, which makes it a huge hit with the family. And it's easy.

Here's what you need:

1 lb ground beef, cooked and drained
2 TBSP taco seasoning
1 cup salsa, your preference for spicy
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded white Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
3 oz. cream cheese

In a large skillet, combine the cooked ground beef, taco seasoning and salsa; heat through. Stir in the heavy cream, but don't allow the mixture to boil. Stir in the shredded cheese and stir until completely melted. Cut the cream cheese into smaller pieces, then stir into the mixture until melted. Resist the impulse to just throw everything into the pan at once. Adding a little bit at a time really helps all the cheese to melt and not glop up. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Menu Plan March 24-30

I'm back in the saddle again, home from South Carolina where I cooked for 8 more people than I'm used to. My sister-in-law's surgery went well and she's recovering nicely. I'm so glad I live close enough to my brother's family that I can help out in situations like this.

While I was away, I celebrated my 44th birthday. My brother's family made sure I had birthday cake.
And when I got home, I found that my husband had installed a fantastic new kitchen faucet. The faucet that we had was probably original to the house, built in 1975. It was awful! But this, this is a work of art! And I love it. I can pull the nozzle out to use as a vegetable sprayer. It's wonderful!
Well, it's the last full week of March, and it appears to be going out like a lion just like it came in. We had some beautiful days at the end of the week, but now we're back to cold and possibly freezing temps to start off the week. Spring is a little slow this year, isn't it?

I've got a few new recipes I'm going to try this week. I'll post them as I make them.

So here's the menu for the week:

Homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese

Baked chicken and rice, broccoli

Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes

Loaded baked potato soup, crusty bread in a cast iron pot

Chicken teriyaki with veggies, rice

Steak and cheese calzones, fries

Italian sausage sandwiches

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

Monday, March 10, 2014

No Menu Plan This Week

Hey, y'all. Normally I post a menu plan each week but I'll be out of town this week. My sis-in-law is having surgery and I'm traveling to South Carolina to help take care of her six children while she recovers. My kids are coming with me, so we'll count this as our spring break. They are eager to see their cousins, whom they haven't seen since Christmas.

Over the weekend I posted a recipe for pretzel dogs. Be sure to check it out. Hope you have a great week!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Pretzel Dogs

Recently our local Walmart added an Auntie Anne's pretzel shop to the front of the store. Right by the exit. So you have to walk past it. Unless you try to avoid temptation and walk all the way over to the other side to exit, like I have been doing.

One of the popular items on Auntie Anne's menu is their pretzel dog, a hot dog all wrapped up in a pretzel. Like the pigs in a blanket we used to eat as kids. Only with a pretzel crust, these are WAYYYY better. But at $4 a hot dog, it's a little too pricy for my budget. I already have a pretzel bread recipe, so I just decided to halve that recipe for the pretzel crust.

I learned a couple of things in making these for my family. One, do not leave both ends of the crust open. Your hot dogs will become a little slippery as they bake and the dough won't stick well. And your hot dogs just might slip out of their pretzel-y shell and land on the floor, where your real-life furry dog is waiting for just such an occurrence. While he or she might be thrilled by such a turn of events, you will not be. You will be disappointed and offer to eat the empty hot-dog flavored pretzel shell.

Second, don't use bun length hot dogs. You won't have enough dough to wrap the dog completely AND enclose one end. I don't think I need to explain why you want one side enclosed again, do I?

So, here's what you need:

3/4 cup warm water
1 and 1/8 teas yeast
1 teas sugar
2 to 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
2 TBSP melted butter or olive oil
1 teas sea salt
1/4 cup baking soda
1 egg white
coarse salt for sprinkling
Pkg of 8 hot dogs

In a mixing bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Allow to stand for about 5 minutes, until foamy. Stir in the flour, melted butter, and salt. Start with two cups of flour, then add more (up to 1/4 cup) if the dough is too sticky. I use my stand mixer for this but you can do it by hand too. Cover and let rise for about an hour until doubled.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll or twist each piece of dough into a long rope about 12 inches long. Wrap the dough around a hot dog, making sure one end is enclosed. Alternately, you can roll out each piece into a circle, then wrap it completely around the hot dog, enclosing both ends. It's up to you!

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, then add the baking soda. It will foam up at first, but that's okay. Drop two wrapped hot dogs into the water and allow to simmer for 30 seconds. Remove to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I use a slotted spoon and spatula to do this.

Brush each pretzel dog with egg white, then sprinkle on some coarse salt. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, or until browned.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Crusty Bread in a Cast Iron Pot

Last week hubby got me a cast iron Dutch oven for my birthday - which isn't for another 10 days, but I am not opposed to early birthday presents. At all.

I specifically wanted it so I could make this recipe for crusty bread. My mouth watered just thinking about it. With only 4 ingredients and no kneading, I knew I wouldn't be able to find any bread that is easier to make.

And so I tried it. It was amazing! My husband said it was worth every penny he spent on the Dutch oven for just one loaf! He compared it to an artisan loaf you'd spend $5 for at a bakery. The crust was very crunchy while the inside was delightfully chewy. So, so good!

Here's what you need:

3 cups unbleached flour
1 3/4 teas salt
1/2 teas yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and yeast. Stir in the warm water and mix until the flour is no longer dry. Your dough will look like a sticky mess.
Cover the bowl and allow to sit on the counter for 12-18 hours. I made my dough the night before I wanted to bake the bread. It was perfect. This is what your dough will look like after 12 hours.
See all those lovely bubbles in the dough? Those will make for some great texture in your bread!

When you're ready to bake your loaf, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface. I just use a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper to reduce the mess I have to clean up later. Shape the dough into a round loaf shape.
Place your cast iron pot into the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Allow the pot to heat up for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven very, very carefully - remember it's 450 degrees! Drop the loaf into the hot pot. Cover and place back into the oven for 30 minutes. Now take off the lid and allow to bake for another 10-15 minutes.
Isn't that just gorgeous?

Carefully remove the bread from the pot. I use two spatulas to do this since my pot is so heavy I can't tilt it while it's hot. Place the loaf on a cooling rack and wait about 30 minutes to slice.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Menu Plan March 3-9

Yay! Yay! March is here. It's "coming in like a lion" in many parts of the country which according to the old saying means March will go out like a lamb. Not sure if that weather wisdom is really something to count on, but isn't it lovely to think that spring and warm weather is on its way?

I also like March because it's my birthday month. Even though it's two weeks away, hubby has already gotten me a gift.
Yes, that's a cast iron Dutch oven. I love getting stuff like this as presents! I'm going to experiment this week with some crusty bread baked in this lovely pot.

Now, on to this week's menu:

Pizza for the guys and kids - Girls Night Out for me and my friends

Crockpot cheesy cowboy casserole, green beans

Baked egg rolls, garlic sesame noodles

Homemade chili mac, broccoli

Indian butter chicken over rice, flatbread

Grilled hamburgers, fries

Roast and potatoes in the crockpot

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