Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weekly Menu 9/25 - 9/30

I can't believe this is the last week in September. Summer is officially over and fall has begun. Which I am in no way, shape or form ready for. At all!

Good news - I finally cleaned out my google reader. As of 1 minute ago, there are 0 recipes unread. Which is quite the improvement from over 600 that was there previously.

As usual, I'm taking a break from college homework to blog this. I made myself a list this week of what homework needed to be done on which days. So far I'm sticking to it and if all goes well, it appears that I will have most of Friday evening to myself. I can't quite comprehend this!

Sunday - sesame ahi tuna with rice and green beans

Monday - chicken and rice (crock pot)

Tuesday - tacos

Wednesday - shrimp bisque

Thursday - coq au vin (crock pot)

Friday - pear and proscuitto pizza

The category this week for the recipe swap is pumpkin/apple recipes. I'm making mine this weekend. I have to say, I'm more than excited about that being the category because who knows how long it would have been before I could get a pumpkin or apple recipe blogged with the crazy schedule I have.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Recipe Swap: Tailgate Sliders

I have a confession.

For the longest time I preferred my burger to come with the standard ketchup-mustard-pickles-onions get up that McDonald's offers. If I was eating at Wendy's I could stand the mayo, lettuce and tomato but only because they were surrounded by cheese, bacon and a burger. Only recently have I started thinking about different condiments and toppings on my burgers.

The recipe I was given for this swap was Tailgate Sliders from Jaida at Sweet Beginnings. Her recipes always make me hungry so I couldn't wait to try out these burgers. 


Tailgate Sliders with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce and Guacamole
Barely Adapted from: Sweets Beginnings
Servings: 8-10 slider sized burgers
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Burger Ingredients:
    • 8-10 Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
    • 1 lb. ground beef
    • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
    • 2 tbs. Worchestershire sauce
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
Toppings:
    • cheddar cheese
    • lettuce
    • tomato, sliced
    • red pepper sauce
    • guacamole

Red Pepper Sauce Ingredients:
    • 1 large red pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. olive oil
    • 4 tbs. cream cheese, softened
    • 2 tbs. mayo
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • salt and pepper to taste

Guacamole Ingredients:
    • 1 avocado
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • salt and pepper to taste 

Creamy Red Pepper Sauce Directions:
1. Preheat the oven or your toaster oven to broil. Line a baking sheet or toaster oven sheet with foil.
2. Cut off the top of the red pepper and remove seeds. Cut into large chunks and place on the sheet. Drizzle with oil.
3. Broil for just a few minutes until the pepper pieces are slightly charred. Set aside until cool enough to touch.
4. Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese, mayo, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a food processor. Once you can, transfer the red pepper into the food processor and pulse until all of the ingredients combine and only small pieces of the red pepper remain.
5. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
Guacamole Directions:
1. Peel the avocado and remove the seeds.
2. Place the avocado in a small bowl and mash until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Burger Directions:
1.Place the ground beef, bread crumbs, Worchestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix until combined.
2. Form the burgers into 8-10 slider sized patties.
3. Cook the burgers to your desired done-ness. (2-3 minutes on the Foreman)
4. Transfer the burgers to a plate and top with cheese. Tent with foil to melt the cheese and keep the burgers warm.
5. Lightly toast the burger buns, then spread the red pepper sauce on the bottom bun and the avocado mixture on the top bun.
6. Layer the burger, lettuce and tomato between the buns.

OMG yum! These burgers were amazing. I refuse to admit just how many of them I ate. 

The original recipe calls for using roasted red peppers from a jar which probably provide more flavor than a fresh red pepper. I couldn't find jarred ones so I opted to roast the red peppers myself. Tom and I both really liked the red pepper sauce but wish that it had a stronger red pepper flavor. I think next time I'll use more than one red pepper or maybe less cream cheese and mayo. As proof of how good the sauce was, I opted to use it in instead of ketchup to dip my fries in. Tom suggested using a milder cheese like provolone next time so he could taste the other ingredients better. I'll have to try that out.
 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Weekly Menu 9/18 - 9/23

Guess what I finally did? I got my Recipe List working. Just click on those words there and you can see a complete list of all the recipes I have on here. 

However, in other news...

Something's gotta give.

Posting the menu for this week on Tuesday was not my intention, but I need to be honest with you, my 42 followers: I'm exhausted.

These two college classes are kicking my ass. Monday through Friday I'm doing 4+ hours of homework a night on top of making dinner and working 9 hours. Saturday consists of a rushed grocery list, scrambling through the store to grab everything followed by 8+ hours of homework. Subtract the groceries and Sunday looks the same. I'm behind on everything. I have over 600 recipes in my Google Reader that I haven't had a spare moment to look at. I haven't sat down and watched television in I don't know how long. I spend less than 20 minutes a day with my husband. I used to use my time in the shower to relax and decompress and now I'm spending it making mental lists for the day. If it was possible to write a list and shower at the same time I would.

So why am I telling you this? Because I need to take mini-break from blogging. On 10/8 one of my college classes is over. I hope to finish it the week before, but we'll see. So until then, I'm only going to blog a limited amount of recipes; the recipe swaps from the What's Cooking board, the Secret Recipe Club and the menu's for each week. If I get a chance to blog anything else, I will. So please be patient with me as I get through this exhausting time. :)

Menu: Week of 9/18-9/23

Sunday - corn chowder

Monday - chicken quesadillas

Tuesday - recipe swap!

Wednesday - rosemary chicken with jasmine rice and green beans

Thursday - mango chutney pork with roasted potatoes

Friday - shrimp scampi

Friday, September 16, 2011

How to Meal Plan

The absolute last thing I should be doing right now is blogging. I have an overwhelming amount of homework stacked up next to me, a pile of laundry that comes up to my knees, a rather dirty apartment and our one year anniversary is Saturday.

However, my brain may explode if I try to think about accounting any longer. I've seen quite a few people ask how to plan out their meals for the week recently. It's funny, but I thought that everyone did this for the longest time. With the frequency that I see the question, I figured I may as well share the way I plan the meals for each week.

The Short Version
1. Keep you freezer, fridge and pantry stocked with basic items you use frequently, like chicken, ground beef, seafood, cheeses, milk, eggs, breads, pastas, canned tomatoes and veggies, spices and sauces.
2. Go through the freezer, fridge and pantry and see what you can make with what is on hand.
3. Look at grocery store ads and/or for coupons.
4. Find recipes: cookbooks, blogs, websites, magazines, friends, etc.
5. Determine how long you are going to plan meals for. 5 days? 10 days? 14 days? A month?
6. Pick recipes that use the same ingredients so you can buy them cheaper in bulk.
7. Look for quick and easy recipes to make during the week.
8. Make your grocery list and a list of meals. If you don't like eating the same things, make sure you don't choose all chicken recipes. :)
9. Go shopping!
10. Prep veggies and put them in ziplock bags for faster prep during the week. (Optional)

The Long Version

I plan out the meals for a week at a time. I go to the farmers market near work on either Thursday or Friday. I plan the meals the night before. Everything that I can't pick up at the farmers market, I get on Saturday when we go to the grocery store. There are times where I'll find a ton of recipes I like so I'll plan the menu for 2+ weeks. 


Pre Planning The Meals
1. Have a few sources to find recipes. I use my the blogs I follow, cookbooks, magazines and websites like Cooking Light and All Recipes.
2. Have a general inventory of what is in your pantry, fridge and freezer. This will prevent you from buying things you already have and ending up with 10 different types of pasta in the pantry. Which I've been guilty of.
3. Determine how many days you want to plan for. 5 days? 10 days? 14 days? A month? Factor in evenings where you won't want to cook or where something will come up that prevents it. When I'm super busy, I rely on the crock pot. He's my best friend. And there's just something satisfying about knowing dinner is waiting for you when you get home.

Grocery Store Ads/Coupons
 I don't always do this, but when I do...I drink Dos Equis. (Sorry, the joke was too easy.) Anyway,
1. I look at the grocery store ads to see what is on sale. If strawberries are 3 for $5, I'll specifically search for a dessert that uses strawberries.
2. Sometimes I compare prices of items we don't buy very often to see if a certain store has them cheaper. If there are enough items cheaper at one store than another, I'll make a special trip, but we usually just stick to one store.
3. Search for coupons. Honestly, I rarely do this. For the most part we shop at a Super Wal-Mart and you typically can't beat their prices. But I do make special trips to Costco when I see things with coupons, like toilet paper, paper towels, dishwasher tablets, olive oil, etc. Just the things we'd use in bulk anyway.

Choosing Recipes
1. As I said in the pre-planning section, I'll go through and pick out a variety of recipes to make. I can't eat the same thing every night so I'll search for chicken, pork, beef, seafood and vegetarian recipes. I try to have at least one meatless meal per week, but thats kind of difficult when you're married to a carnivore. A veggie-hater. My lovely husband, Tom.
2. Look for recipes that use the same ingredients so you can buy them in bulk. I buy all of the produce from the farmers market and sometimes I'll let what is available there dictate the meals for the week.
3. Gather the recipes you want to make and make a list of them. You can specify them by day or just list them.

Writing the Grocery List
I don't expect anyone to be as detail-oriented as I am, so step 2 is completely optional.

1. Go through the recipes and write down all of the ingredients you will need. I typically check the pantry, freezer and fridge a few times during this process.
2. Organize the grocery list by the layout of the store. Yes, I am that picky about it. But honestly, its so much easier to just go up and down the aisles grabbing things off your list instead of getting all the way to the dairy section only to realize you've skipped over half your produce which is at the complete opposite end of the store.

After the Cooking
1. Keep track of the recipes that you want to make again. Having a stock of basic recipes to turn to when you just can't figure out what to make is extremely helpful.

Other Things I Do
1. Buy veggies in bulk, cook them and then freeze them in portions.
2. Chop up veggies the night before or on the weekend to make prepping easier during the week.
3. Include lunches in my meal planning. I'll eat the same thing for lunch every day so this typically includes adding lunch meats, tuna or salad ingredients to the list.
4. Keep a chalkboard/dry erase board on your fridge and write down items you run out of or notice you're low on throughout the week.

And Something I Should Have Done:
With the insane amount of stuff I have to do in the upcoming weeks, I really should have planned out the meals for quite a few weeks in advance so I could at least have a general guideline of what to make. Because here it is, right before I need to go to the store and I have absolutely no idea what to make next week.
 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chicken and Pasta with Asiago Cream Sauce

As I mentioned in a previous post, Tom and I are cheese and cracker type of people and we quickly found out that asiago cheese just isn't a cheese we're willing to eat alone on a cracker. I didn't want to throw away the cheese so I began searching for recipes to use up the rest of the cheese.

Chicken and Pasta with Asiago Cream Sauce
Slightly Adapted from: All Recipes
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 1 box whole wheat penne pasta
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 1/2 cups asiago cheese, shredded
    • 2 cups heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 1/4 cup chicken broth
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
    • 2 tbsp. water
    • 1/4 cup proscuitto, diced
    • 1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
    • salt and pepper 

Directions:
1.  Cut the chicken breasts into cubes and season with salt and pepper.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook the penne according to package directions. Drain and place a towel over the pasta to keep warm.
3. Pour the olive oil into a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is lightly browned on all sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
4. Lower the heat of the skillet to medium-low and add the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the proscuitto, mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.
5. Meanwhile, combine the heavy cream and milk together in a pot. Bring to a simmer. Add the chicken broth and asiago cheese and whisk until the cheese has melted. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water and whisk into the cheese mixture. Lower the heat to low and stir occasionally.
6. Add the chicken to the skillet with the proscuitto, mushrooms and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, just until the chicken is heated through.
7. Pour the pasta into a large bowl. Add the chicken mixture and the cream sauce. Toss well to combine.
8. Serve in bowls and top with fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I really liked this recipe. I did end up adjusting the amount of cheese from the original recipe because it didn't have a cheesy enough flavor for me. I think next time I'll go with more of a cheese sauce than a cream sauce. The flavors of the mushrooms and the proscuitto were unfortunately covered up with all of that cream.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper and Asiago Bread

It's Secret Recipe Club time again! This is my third time participating in the Secret Recipe Club. Like I said last time, if you haven't join yet, I really suggest you hop on over there and sign up. Just participate once and you'll be completely addicted. I promise. :-)

For September's reveal, I was given The Novice Housewife blog. Shumaila has a lot of different recipes to choose from and many of them are Indian cuisine. The last time I participated I made a deal with myself that I absolutely could not make a baked good. I had intended to do the same this month but quickly found that most of the ingredients for Indian dishes are just not available around here. Boo!

I convinced myself that while bread is a baked good, this one isn't a dessert bread so I still was keeping up my end of the bargain with myself. :-)

Tom and I have been on a mission to try as many different types of cheese as possible. We've found quite a few that we really like, but asiago didn't top the list. We're the cheese and crackers type of people and asiago is just too pungent to eat alone. While I was slicing the red peppers for this bread I remembered that Panera Bread sells as Asiago cheese bread and I could easily add some to this recipe.



Roasted Red Pepper and Asaigo Bread
Slightly Adapted from: The Novice Housewife
Yield: 1 loaf
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 2 red peppers, stemmed and seeds removed
    • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
    • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
    • 1 tsp. sugar
    • 3 tbs. ground flax seed
    • 1 tsp. poppy seeds
    • 3/4 cup green onions, chopped
    • 1 1/4 cup water, divided
    • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 cup shredded Asaigo cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Slice the red peppers into chunks and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes until slightly charred.
3. Attach the paddle attachment to your stand mixer. In the bowl of the stand mixer, combine the bread flour, whole wheat flour, yeast, sugar, ground flax seed and poppy seeds.
4. Add the green onions, red pepper chunks, 1/4 cup water and salt to a blender. Puree until no large pieces remain.
5. Transfer the pureed mixture to a small bowl and whisk the olive oil and remaining water in. Pour into the bowl of your stand mixer.
6. Mix on low until the ingredients incorporate and then switch to the dough hook. Mix for 8-10 minutes until a soft dough forms.
7. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for two minutes or until the dough is smooth. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with moist paper towels. Let rise in a warm place until dough doubles, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
8. Once doubled, punch down the dough and turn out on a lightly floured surface.
9.  Gently roll the dough into a rectangle. Starting at one short end, roll up into a log and press the seam in to seal. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place the dough on the baking sheet and cover with a towel. Let rise for one hour or until it has doubled again.
10. Preheat the oven to 400. Sprinkle the Asaigo cheese over the dough and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 and bake for 30-35 minutes, until slightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack.

I assumed that the sweetness from the red peppers would tone down the sharpness of the asiago cheese and I was right! I made this bread the day before Hurricane Irene tortured those of us on the east coast. My cousin and her boyfriend didn't want to chance their house with the expected wind gusts so they came to stay at our apartment. We went through this loaf of bread pretty quickly while we impatiently waited on Irene to knock out our power.





Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weekly Menu 9/11 - 9/16

I don't even know what to talk about for this prelude into the recipes for this week.

Maybe I should talk about how today is the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. Ten years already? Just something else where you can't believe how fast the years have passed. Its a common question that always seems to be asked on each anniversary, but do you remember where you were that day?

I was sitting in my 11th grade Oceanography class. Our classroom was across the hall from the library and our teacher wasn't in the room at the start of class. It was unusual, but not that strange. When he came in, there was a blank look on his face and he said "A plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City". My first thought was that it was an accident. I didn't even really understand what a terrorist was at that point. The teacher explained as much to us as he could and then we moved into the library for a project. Except the word had spread and all of the televisions in the library had the local news on. Teachers were pouring into the library to watch the tv. The second plane hit the second tower and no one moved. I realized at that moment that it definitely wasn't an accident. Some of the teachers made a half-hearted attempt to tell us to work on our projects, but we all just sat there staring at the screen daring to wonder what we'd see next.

As much as watching that second plane hit the tower is a memory that will never be erased from my mind, what affected me more was a phone call I got at work that evening. I worked for an answering service and we answered for all types of companies; a small division of the Red Cross was one of them. I spoke to a woman who told me that she was a registered nurse and was willing to drive to NYC that evening to give blood, take care of people, or remove bodies. I still can't think about that conversation without getting teary-eyed.

On a lighter note, I have no idea where this summer went.  I can only vaguely remember Memorial Day and 4th of July and being super impressed with our electric bill not being astronomical during the hot and humid days this summer. But for the most part, it all just passed by in a blur.

Which somewhat related to the next thing I could talk about. Our one year wedding anniversary is this Saturday, the 17th. I'm sure I'm starting to sound like a broken machine when I say "already?" again, but its the truth. It's been an interesting year for us and I'm hoping that the next one will be less stressful. It's funny to think that at this time last year, I was picking up my dress from the final fitting and double checking that I had a list made for absolutely everything that needed to be done.

This is getting long, so I may as well get to the menu. :-)

Sunday - chicken and pasta with asiago cream sauce

Monday - burgers (a newly created recipe) and fries

Tuesday - pork and veggie stir fry

Wednesday - rosemary chicken with jasmine rice and green beans

Thursday - steak with mushrooms and twice baked potatoes

Friday - stuffed shells


Friday, September 9, 2011

Recipe Swap: Parmesan Tilapia

When I saw that this recipe swap category was fish/seafood I was excited. We eat a decent amount of shrimp, crab and scallops but we rarely ever eat fish. Mostly because of the variety of fish where we live is pretty slim pickins.

I remember the first time I tried tilapia. I was in Costco with my mom and they had it out as a sample. When I was younger I absolutely never ate fish. I wouldn't even try it. But there was just something about that sweet old lady standing behind the cart offering me fish and the smell of the butter melting in the pan that made me give it a shot. I thought it was extremely mild but tasty.

I had my mom try a sample and told her I liked it. She immediately put one of the packages into the cart. We found quite a few ways to make the tilapia and one of them was with Parmesan cheese. I don't know if this recipe is the same, but I'm sure its pretty similar.

Parmesan Tilapia
Source: Michelle (The Cooking Nurse) adapted from Mrs. B Cooks
Servings: 4
Printer Friendly 

Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. tilapia filets
    • 2 tbsp. butter, softened
    • 1 tbs. mayo
    • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1/8 tsp. onion powder
    • 1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
    • salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2.Place the fish on the baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.
3. In a small bowl, add the butter, mayo, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, garlic, onion powder and Italian seasonings. Stir to combine.
4. Broil the tilapia for 3 minutes, then flip the fish over and broil on the other side for 2 more minutes.
5. Remove the fish from the oven and spread the cheese mixture over the fish. Return to the oven and broil until the fish is lightly golden brown.

This was as good as I remembered. For some reason Tom doesn't like tilapia so I haven't had it in forever. I could have let the cheese get a bit darker, but our broiler is touchy and I didn't want to risk it getting too dark. I served this over spinach leaves with cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices and Italian dressing. Definitely a much better lunch than one I have to bring to work!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vegetable Tomato Sauce

Isn't it funny how once you make something new one time you want to find new ways to make it? Or is that just me? Either way, after making tomato sauce the first time, I immediately began looking for new recipes and different flavors to try out. Luckily, my co-workers garden is still producing tomatoes at an alarming rate so my costs for this are unbelievably low!

When Tom and I went to visit his parents a couple of weeks ago, I eyed up his mom's plentiful basil plant and tomato sauce ingredients began swimming through my head. A trip to the farmers market set the idea of a vegetable filled tomato sauce into play. Armed with a shopping bag full of tomatoes, a huge handful of basil, and some produce from the farmers market, I decided to try out a new recipe.

Vegetable Tomato Sauce
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Yield: about 6 cups
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 10+ large tomatoes, quartered
    • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
    • 2 vidalia onions, quartered
    • 2 zucchini, sliced
    • 1 red pepper, stemmed, seeds removed and quartered
    • 5 cloves garlic
    • 1/4 cup red wine
    • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
    • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. pepper
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 tsp. olive oil 

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425. Line two large baking sheets with foil.
2. Spread the tomatoes, onion, carrots, zucchini, red pepper and garlic on the baking sheets and drizzle with the oil.
3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables for 20-25 minutes or until fork-tender. Set aside.
4. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, gently remove the skins. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and use a potato masher to mash the tomatoes. Pour the juice from the tomatoes into a blender or food processor.
5. Transfer the onions, carrots, zucchini, red pepper and garlic into the blender or food processor and pulse until combined.
6. Transfer the tomatoes and blender ingredients into a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the basil, wine, Italian seasoning, tomato paste, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Stir until combined.
7. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 2 hours and then discard the bay leaves.

I think this turned out great but Tom the vegetable-hater was not a fan. The carrots provided just enough sweetness and the other vegetables gave it an orangey-red color with a lightness you'll never find in jarred tomato sauce. I've ate this over pasta and used it as pizza sauce. Due to a lack of freezer space, I had to give away the rest to my tomato-providing coworker. *cough*IneedAdeepFreezerTom*cough*