Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bzzzz Bzzzz

Tonight we are having cheese stuffed shells for dinner. Cheese, pasta, homemade marinara, what isn't there to love? For starters, it is not a low-calorie dish, but I ignore that most of the time.

Stuffed shells scream for a green vegetable side dish. This week I got a bag of mesclun and a head of lettuce in my CSA share. As much as I despise salads, I know that they go well alongside pasta. It would be a waste to not use the lettuce. Lettuce is healthy. The cards are stacked against me.

So, I tore up the lettuce, washed it and ran it through the salad spinner to dry. Now what? I swear that the best part of the salad is the crouton and I'm all out, so I must find something to top tonight's salad. A bare lettuce salad will not be served. That would just be wrong.

I decided that a few radishes would be nice. So I gathered Samantha and we headed to the garden. She loves strawberries, so we took a detour to pick today's red, juicy berries. My little berry thief ate them as quickly as I could pick them.

With the strawberries eaten, I proceeded to the small row of radishes. However, I couldn't get very close without hearing a very distinctive sound - the buzz of bees. I've never been stung and I'd like to keep it that way. I backed away and observed half a dozen bees flitting about the chive blossoms. Can you imagine chive honey? Ick. It probably tastes like onions, but is sweet like honey.

This spring I divided and transplanted one clump of chives. They have a new home in my garden as four clumps with lovely purple blossoms. The problem is that I planted a row of radishes adjacent to the chives. At the time I figured that the radishes would grow quickly and be harvested before their neighbors, the chives and carrots, got very big. I didn't realize that the chives would be in flower during the radishes' harvest.

No radishes for my salad. I hope there's some shredded cheese in the fridge.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Don’t Panic: More dinner’s in the freezer cookbook giveaway

Tricia and Cortney over at Once a Month Mom are giving away a copy of "Don’t Panic: More dinner’s in the freezer" by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell and Bonnie Garcia. Check out their blog to find out how to win it.

I have not yet read this new cookbook, but I expect it to have lots of yummy recipes if it's anything like the original. I borrowed the original book "Don’t Panic: dinner’s in the freezer" from my library. I wish I could have kept it longer than a month! I tried three recipes on my May 3rd cooking day. The Quick Mix Pizza Dough was a thin crust (I like thin, but Joe prefers thick) and the dough wasn't sticky on serving day. Farmer's Casserole was very good and will definitely be put into my OAMC rotation. It was nice to have a frozen side dish on hand for Mother's Day at the campground and Hash Brown Casserole was well received.

I have way too many cookbooks, but either Don't Panic book is welcome in my kitchen.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I hope everyone had a good holiday weekend. We went to a cookout Saturday. When we got home, one of the neighbors invited us over to a bonfire. We stayed out until 1 am. I am getting too old to do that. There just isn't enough coffee to keep me going. I'm still feeling sluggish two days later. Ugh.

Today was a big OAMC day. I got lots done. We have enough frozen meals to get us through until after we get back from vacation next month. I was exhausted last night before bed, so I failed to set out all the needed items. Let me say that things go a lot smoother when I have a chance to think through each recipe and lay out the needed ingredients, bowls, utensils, pots, baking dishes, baggies, wraps, etc. in advance. Every recipe I felt like I was stepping all across my kitchen to find something that wasn't out on the table yet.

A new batch of OAMC meals means that I have new options to choose from for this week's menu, but it looks like I'm mostly trying to use up older meals. Fortunately I wrote up the menu Saturday afternoon before we left the house or else it would probably not be done yet. Here it is:

Monday - the chicken and corn quesadillas that we didn't eat on Sunday, refried beans and a spanish rice mix

Tuesday - chicken enchiladas, green vegetable

Wednesday - quiche in a bag, green vegetable, frozen biscuits if I can find them in my freezer

Thursday - first CSA pickup of the year! lasagna (I couldn't find it last week, so I had ravioli instead) and probably a salad since Ben likes to grow yucky lettuce :p (He grows beautiful lettuce, but I really don't like lettuce, that's all.)

Friday - pizza night, salad, bake cookies for Joe's golf outing

Saturday - Joe will be eating steak at his golf outing; Samantha and I are having chicken tacos, velveeta mac and cheese, green veg

Sunday - Stuffed shells

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Seven Layer Bars

Tomorrow we're going to a cookout and I knew that I wanted to take a cookie or other dessert-type item, but I just wasn't sure what. So tonight I'm just sitting there and seven layer bars pops into my head. It's been ages since I've eaten one and even longer since I've made them. Have I ever even made them in my adult life? Maybe in college.

I looked through my recipe box of clipped dessert recipes (desserts get their very own box and everything else goes in another), but alas, no seven layer bar recipe. I moved on to the cookbooks. I could have gone straight to the internet, but I knew my umpteen cookbooks would not let me down and they didn't.

I started with the plastic ring-bound cookbooks that are typical of the church fundraiser. The first book had nothing, but I struck gold with the next book, "Roaring Good Cookbook" by the Witt Lioness Club in Witt, Illinois. There on page 64 was the following recipe for submitted by Kathryn Walcher for Seven Layer Bars:

Seven Layer Bars

1 stick oleo

1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs

1 small or large pkg. chocolate bits

1 small or large pkg. butterscotch bits

1 c. coconut

1 c. chopped nuts

1 can Eagle Brand milk

Put in layers in order. Cover all with Eagle Brand. Bake 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

That's it. I love how Kathryn assumed that her readers were familiar with the desired outcome of the dish. If you had never eaten a seven layer bar would you know to make this in a 9x13-inch baking dish? Would you know to melt the oleo (butter would be yummy) in the baking dish while the oven preheats? How big is a small or large bag of chocolate bits? What do they look like when they're done? How many servings does it make?

All of the ingredients I had on hand. Six of the seven were purchased back during "baking season" before Thanksgiving and Christmas. The seventh item, graham crackers, I picked up this week for no particular reason other than the fact that "s'mores season" is kicking off at all my stores. All of the stores had marshmallows, graham crackers and milk chocolate bars on sale. They would have you believe that no Memorial Day party would be complete without a few ooey-gooey s'mores.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

It was a cold morning today. We had a light frost, so I covered the tender plants in the garden last night before bed. I don't recall needing to cover anything in the spring since planting my first garden in 2003. That means that either this is a later frost than usual or that I am not waiting long to enough to set particular plants out. Probably a combination of the two. My neighbor gave me one extra tomato plant and I planted it last week, so I had to cover it. Usually Memorial Day weekend is the time when most people around here set out tomatoes, so I admit that it's early for tomatoes. I also covered the potato plants, but they still got a slight burn where the blanket came in contact with some of the leaves. The damage would have been much worse, possibly fatal, without the blankets.

I will be doing my OAMC cooking on Memorial Day Monday, but I still have lots of food in my freezer, so I haven't completely decided what we'll be eating this week. We must either free up a bunch of freezer space or else I'll postpone the Big Day for the following weekend. Here's what we might be eating:

Monday - 3 Step Jambalaya, broccoli, corn, strawberry and banana sorbets

Tuesday - tuna casserole

Wednesday - lasagna, garlic bread, green veg

Thursday - pizza night -- one with cheesy chicken taco topping and the other with vidalia onions a la Vidalia Onion Pie Casserole

Friday - microwave BBQ round steak, rice, green veg

Saturday - cookout at Max and Amy's house, pasta salad, dessert

Sunday - chicken and corn quesadillas, refried beans

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I hope everyone had a good Mother's Day. We spent the day at the campground with Joe's parents and his sister's family. I played a game of corn hole with my twin nieces. Samantha was our fourth. She doesn't quite understand the concept, but neither do the twins and they're 8.

I laid out this menu on Saturday so that I could take it easy yesterday. Here's what we're having this week:

Monday - quiche, green veg

Tuesday - lasagna, green veg

Wednesday - tuna casserole, applesauce

Thursday - farmer's casserole

Friday - pizza night

Saturday - grill night (I hope the weather agrees), steak, mac and cheese, green veg

Sunday - baked ziti

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Corn Pizza

Whenever I make pizza I tend to make two pizzas. "Joe's pizza" will have toppings commonly found at a pizza place. "Amy's pizza" either has unusual toppings or toppings that Joe doesn't like such as onions or pineapple. I always eat some of both pizzas. Joe will only try my pizza if it is onion-free. He doesn't like half-and-half pizzas because the onions on one side somehow contaminate the non-onion side.

Last week was no different. I knew I would be making pepperoni for Joe, but I didn't really know what the other would be until I started cooking. The $0.19 ears of corn in my crisper drawer called out to me. I don't recall ever using corn on pizza, but the other veggies (carrots, celery, super old daikon) just didn't inspire me like the corn did.

That night I baked the pepperoni pizza first. Joe and Samantha ate the pepperoni pizza while I worked on the corn pizza. When the corn pizza was done, we all had some. Joe was skeptical about putting corn on a pizza, but he went back for a second slice which meant he liked it. Samantha is an unpredictable toddler whose eating habits are typical for her age. Yet she ate more of the corn pizza than she did of the pepperoni. That spells success in this house.

I can't personally vouch for the reheatability of it because Joe took all the leftovers to work. He said his coworkers laughed at him for eating corn on pizza, but he didn't mind because it microwaved well without the warmed-over flavor that pizza often gets.

Corn Pizza

1/2 lb of your favorite pizza dough
1 T or so of EVOO
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 ears of corn, kernels cut off
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese
Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 450. Spray a cookie sheet or pizza pan with non-stick spray. Press out the dough to desired size in the pan. Drizzle the olive oil onto the dough and brush to coat evenly. Lightly rub the garlic all over the dough. Sprinkle the corn over the garlic; cover with cheese. Season with Italian seasoning, to taste. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is browned and the cheese is beautifully melted.

Now listening to The Laurie Berkner Band - Five Days Old on iTunes
via FoxyTunes

Menu Plan Monday

Yesterday's cooking session made laying out this week's menu super easy. I think it only took about two minutes. Here's what is on the menu for this week:

Monday - Farmer's Casserole, asparagus from the garden

Tuesday - turkey corn quesadillas, refried beans, green veg

Wednesday - baked ziti, asparagus

Thursday - turkey macaroni bake, green veg

Friday - pizza night, asparagus

Saturday - stuffed shells, garlic bread, green veg

Sunday - Mother's Day at the campground with Joe's parents

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

OAMC Big Day

Today was my freezer cooking day. Joe and I got started around 8:30. We took a break for lunch at noon. Then he stopped to go pick up Samantha from his parents, so I was on my own in the kitchen. I finished cooking around 3. I packaged up some of the meals that were already frozen and cleaned up the dishes. I finished up around 4.

We made:
-- homemade marinara sauce for ziti and stuffed shells
-- 3 meals of baked ziti
-- 2 meals of cheese stuffed shells
-- 3 meals of pork lasagna
-- 27 pumpkin muffins
-- 3 lb of pizza dough for pizza roll-ups, stromboli and put 1 lb of it in the freezer uncooked
-- 2 meals of pepperoni pizza roll-ups
-- 1 meal of pepperoni stromboli for tonight (I had a little pepperoni leftover from the roll-ups)
-- 2 meals of smoked sausage quiche mixture
-- 3 meals of farmer's casserole (2 smoked sausage and 1 bacon)
-- 2 sides of hash brown casserole

I figure that most "meals" will feed the three of us dinner one night as well as lunch the following day. Fifteen meals isn't too shabby. Not exactly a month's worth of food, but still plenty. I won't have to spend a bunch of time in the kitchen making dinner for a couple weeks unless I want to. That's a great feeling.

Here are the pumpkin muffins cooling.

Here are the pizza roll-ups.

This is my freezer mid-day. The top shelf has baked ziti and stuffed shells cooling. On the bottom are loaf pans of lasagna, stuffed shells in the back, baggies of pizza dough and some bags of potatoes that I used later on.

These three dishes are the farmer's casserole midway through assembly. The mixing bowl with the whisk has an egg mixture which was poured over the potatoes, meat and cheese.

This is what my freezer looks like now after all the cooking is finished. Some food has been wrapped and baggied while other dishes are still cooling. I don't want to mislead you into thinking this is everything that was prepared today. There is one casserole still chilling downstairs in the chest freezer. Some of the muffins will be eaten this week, so I put them in the pantry instead of freezing them. The stromboli will be eaten tonight, so it's in the fridge. Tomorrow we're having one of the farmer's casseroles, so it's in the fridge too. Everything else is in the freezer. As you can see, there's still quite a bit of empty space available.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Preparing for the Big Day

Tomorrow is my cooking big day.  Good news is that I have a sous chef.  Joe will be helping me.  Samantha is spending the night with his parents.  It's so odd not having her around.

I just set up my kitchen in preparation for tomorrow's cooking.  I cleaned all the dishes and put away everything that is already dry.  I unfolded my folding table and put it in my kitchen.  I went through each recipe and put the nonperishable ingredients on the tables.  Refrigerated ingredients are all on the bottom shelf in the fridge.  Baking dishes are on the table.  Mixing bowls are on the counter.

Bad news is that I have to cut one recipe off the menu.  I discovered that one of my two 8 oz packages of pepperoni was growing nasty black mold.  So gross.  I had two recipes calling for pepperoni.  Pizza rolls need 8 oz and stromboli needs 4 oz.  Not enough good pepperoni to do both recipes, so I decided to try the pizza rolls.  Roll out the dough, add toppings, roll up jelly-roll style and cut into slices similar to a cinnamon roll, but with savory flavors instead of sweet.

Ah, it's getting late.  Joe fell asleep watching Nascar on the couch.  Forty-three guys driving in a circle knocks me out too.  Gotta get to bed.  Busy day tomorrow.