Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The List

Last night, I was mentally creating a list of all the things I wanted to get done over my holiday vacation. Of course it's way too long to get everything done over the 5 days I have to do it, but I got to thinking. This year, instead of creating New Years Resolutions (which are rarely successful anyway) I decided to create a list. Not a bucket list... although I would love to give that a go sometime :) My list... aptly titled "The List-2012" is a list of things I would like to get done in the next year.

Now, I have cheated a little in that I am starting on December 27th, but I am really digging the concept of the list. It allows me to cross things off as I complete a task, which will give a sense of satisfaction of actually completing something I set out to do. My hope is that each task on the list will better our lives in someway. So far the list has 34 items, having already grown from 27! But, I think this will be a valuable part of the list. Some items are once and done things... i.e. #30- Have snow blower repaired. While some items will need to occur several times throughout the year... i.e. #8- Clean out Avery's closet and donate old clothes. And as I think of more things (or come across new ideas on Pinterest) I can always add to the list.

Below is my list as of December 27th.. as I accomplish tasks or create anything interesting I will post on here. Boy- mission dinner is really evolving into a whole new kind of blog! Ha ha! But, I will continue to post new recipes as well because #24- Create an idea base of Once a Month Cooking recipes, make and freeze meals, will force me to focus on my ongoing struggle with cooking dinner each night :)

Many blessings in the new year! Ciao!

The List- 2012

1. Create a car emergency box

2. Create a car fun box for Avery

3. Knit leg warmers for Avery

4. Create an emergency kit for the house

5. Create 72 hour packs for each person

6. Purge Avery’s old toys and donate

7. Purge Avery’s old bath toys

8. Clean out Avery’s closet and dresser

9. Donate old Avery’s old clothing

10. Clean out our closets and donate old clothing

11. Clean out and organize basement

12. Create a “stock pile” of food in basement

13. Make dry-erase frame (from pinterest)

14. Make activity bags for Avery (from pinterest)

15. Make felt board and activities for Avery (from pinterest)

16. Create art project for Avery’s room (fingerpainted canvases)

17. Make magnet dolls for Avery (from pinterest)

18. Make phonics box for Avery (from pinterest)

19. Make name games/letter rec. activities for Avery (from pinterest)

20.Purge candles/candle holders (sell on Craigslist/E-classifieds)

21. Ebay- Sean’s collectibles

22.Clean out/donate book collection

23.Make a usable control journal

24.Create an idea base of Once a Month Cooking recipes, make and freeze meals

25.Paint Avery’s bathroom

26.Repaint upstairs hall

27.Repaint family room/play room

28.Finish painting touch-ups in master bath and hall

29.Shampoo carpets (or have them professionally cleaned)

30.Have snowblower repaired

31. Have chimney professionally cleaned

32.Purchase outdoor storage unit for Avery’s toys

33.Add shelving to garage to optimize storage

34.Make Avery’s baby book and a scrap book for each year… Avery’s first year, 2nd year, etc.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Grilled Chicken Tenderloins- a la Cracker Barrel

Wow... this is hands-down one of the best recipes I have ever made! I love the grilled chicken tenderloins from Cracker Barrel because they are so simply dressed, but are so moist and delicious. I had actually been hankering for a trip down to Cracker Barrel but since it's in the heart of the outlets in Lancaster there was no way we were venturing down there two weeks before Christmas! Thankfully, through my new obsession Pinterest, I came across a recipe proclaiming itself to be just like Cracker Barrel's tenderloins, but even better. It was so easy and so delicious. Like I said, it was the best dinner I ever made. This afternoon I prepared one serving fresh, but I also prepared a second serving to freeze. I've been doing a lot of research and reading up on once a month cooking in which you prepare are your meats for cooking one day a month and then pull them out of the freezer when you are ready for them. One underlying principle that keeps coming up is freezing your meat with the marinade already mixed in. Apparently this not only eliminates a few steps allowing a meal to be even easier to prepare, but as the meat thaws it better absorbs the marinade for maximum moisture and flavor. So, the second serving is in the freezer and awaiting its turn! I'll let you know how that goes after we give it a try.

When the time comes to cook up the chicken it will look like there is way too much marinade. But the magic in this recipe is when everything caramelizes. In the pictures it will look like the chicken is burnt, but it's not! The marinade turns a wonderful, thick mess of gooey deliciousness. Be sure to scrape out every bit before serving!

The recipe I used to make this called for 4 chicken breasts cut into tender strips or 2 lbs total meat. That's way too much for us so, like I said, I prepared enough marinade for 2 pounds, but used 1/2 for tonight's meal (which was 7 chicken strips, less than a pound) and used the other 1/2 for the freezer portion.


Grilled Chicken Tenderloins

2 lbs Chicken tenderloins (or boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into strips)
1 cup zesty Italian dressing
2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp honey

1. In a measuring cup, pour out 1 cup of the Italian dressing. Add 2 tsp lime juice and 1 tsp honey. Stir together.
2. In a plastic bag, add your chicken. Use 1/2 cup of the marinade for each pound of chicken. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. But, the longer the better :)
3. Pour ingredients into a skillet and cook over medium heat (4-5) for about 40 minutes. It will look like a lot of liquid, but as it cooks it thickens and caramelizes.
4. Before serving, take each piece of chicken and really swirl it into the caramelized marinade. This is where all the flavor is!

Friday, December 16, 2011

White Christmas Candy

Well, just like with a lot of things I begin, I am finding that maintaining a weekly blog is becoming a bit too much. I am going to change the format a bit and just post recipes for new meals we've tried and liked. With the holidays being right around the corner there's not a whole lot of experimenting going on in the kitchen... but there is plenty of baking and candy making. Here's my favorite recipe for a super easy, super delicious Christmas candy. It stores well, freezes well, and everyone I've ever given it to just absolutely raves about it!

We're blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) to be surrounded by candy/chocolate producing companies here in central Pennsylvania. Hershey is just a 30 minute drive away, but about 10 minutes from our home there is a fabulous little company called Wilbur. Their Wilbur Buds are way tastier than the kisses! I love to use their candy supplies to make this bark, but you can use any form of candy wafers. I actually did two different batches this year after I burned a pound of Wilbur white chocolate wafers. Both are very, very good... but my preference will always be for the Wilbur products. The red and green peppermint crunch is a product manufactured and sold at Wilbur, but last year when I went to purchase the ingredients they had none left! I was able to make my own using red and green peppermint candies... unwrap them, put them into a freezer bag, put that bag into another freezer bag, cover with a towel, and bang the heck out of it with your rolling pin! Very similar taste, kind of fun for stress relief too!
Happy Holidays! Enjoy!

White Christmas Candy (from the kitchen of my friend, Virginia Young)

2 pounds white chocolate wafers
1/2 pound red & green peppermint crunch
1/4 pound dark chocolate wafers

Melt white chocolate over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in peppermint crunch. Spread on to 2 wax paper covered cookie sheets. Melt dark chocolate and drizzle over candy. Chill in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Break into small pieces and store in plastic containers or plastic freezer bags.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chicken Stir Fry

I've been a major slacker lately. I never got into the whole blogging thing because I just can't seem to stay on top of it. So I decided that I will just post when I have something worthy of posting- or at least something I think is worthy of posting :)

Tonight's dinner was inspired by a show I used to watch on Food Network called Semi-homemade with Sandra Lee. Her whole thing was that you can make cooking more manageable by combining premade foods with other homemade items. Now- she always went way over board with coordinating apps, desserts, table decor, and even a signature cocktail to go with each meal. I took this concept and created a meal that my husband and I really enjoy. It's not quite as good a real Chinese food from a restaurant, but it's good enough to satisfy our cravings until it's one of our "eat out" nights.

Chicken Stir Fry (for 2 people)
Pam Cooking Spray
Hoisin Sauce (found in the international section of grocery store)
6 chicken tenders, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 bag of steamer vegetables (you can pick out which vegetables you like...sometimes we do just broccoli, but most times I use the mixed bag that has broccoli, snow peas, carrots, and water chestnuts)

1. Start boiling the water for the rice. This is when I usually cut my chicken into cubes. Add rice to boiling water. Heat large cook pan over medium heat and spray with pam. Add chicken to pan.
2. Add 2 TBSP of Hoisin Sauce to the chicken and mix. Cook until chicken is brown.
3. While this is all going on, steam the bag of vegetables for about half of the cooking time in the microwave. Then, add the vegetables to the pan with the chicken. If you like a saucy stir fry add some water and about 1/4 cup more of Hoisin. If you don't want to much sauce just add the 2 more TBSP of the Hoisin.
4. Let chicken and vegetables cook through together until the veggies are cooked. Sometimes I add water to steam the veggies a little more.
5. Serve over rice.

For me, it takes 30 minutes from stove to table. You can use as much or as little Hoisin as you like. I think this recipe would also be good with shrimp or beef. Enjoy :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Baked Potato Soup

Finally got around to making this one today. Only took a few weeks! It was good... not as good as Jack's, but it hit the spot after raking leaves for an hour on a chilly, breezy fall afternoon!

The original recipe is called Loaded Baked Potato Soup, but to save some calories I didn't load it all the way. I ended up having to add some extra liquid because at first bite it was just like eating a bowl of mashed potatoes! Also, for the first time in my adult life, I felt like there was too much garlic. Now, I doubled it from the recipe, so don't do it even if you love garlic!

Loaded Baked Potato Soup
6 large baking potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1/2 pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 quart chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter
2.5 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 TBSP chopped fresh chives
1 cup sour cream
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
extra cheese for sprinkling

Combine first seven ingredients in large crock pot; cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours (potatoes should be tender).

Mash potato mixture until potatoes are coursely chopped and soup is slightly thickened.

Stir in half-and-half, cheese, and chives (I added in an extra 1/2 cup of cream and 3/4 cup water to get it a little more soupy. I think I mashed my potatoes a little too much given them the consistency of smashed potatoes).

Serve topped with sour cream, cheese, and bacon if desired.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Well, I have been a total slacker the past week and half. To my defense though I had a really nasty case of strep throat (which I haven't had since I was a kid) and a busy week of preparing for a weekend get-away to NYC.

So, week 8 is not off to a great start either. Tonight Avery had dance class from 4:45-5:30 and I have now added a Monday night Zumba class to my schedule from 6:30-7:30. Much to Avery's delight she got a happy meal and I had a fruit and walnut salad from McDonald's. Prety good.. but looking forward to recreating my own version at home!

I suspect that the weeks between now and Christmas will continue to be a mess. There's just so much going on and this week isn't going to be any different. Sean leaves for a hunting trip Friday morning and will return Monday evening. So here's the menu for this week...

Tuesday- Chicken and Asparagus Risotto (previously featured in October)
Wednesday- Pasta
Thursday- Orange Champagne Ham Steaks and Cinnamon Apples
Friday- Not quite sure... think I may squeeze in another Zumba class if I can, which would make
Tropical Smoothie for dinner a good choice. But, we'll see!

On Thursday I am hosting my part-time library friends for lunch and am going to try to make the Loaded Baked Potato Soup I mentioned a few weeks ago. Can't wait to try that out! Of course it's not quite the same on a day when it's 60 degrees in November!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pumpkin Chili

Wow... lots of requests for this recipe! I wasn't quite sure how this would turn out since...

1. I am not a "real" chili eater. I don't like beans and my versions of chili are really ground beef with tomato sauce and spices.
2. I wasn't quite sure what pumpkin puree would do to it!

But, I was pleasantly surprised. It tasted great! This was my first experience using ground turkey as well, so this was a little ambitious for me in all regards! Sean wrinkled his nose when I described the recipe so I had planned on making it and freezing it into single portions for myself for lunches this fall/winter. However, when Sean walked in and smelled it he decided he would give it a try!


Pumpkin Turkey Chili
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb ground turkey
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
2 cups pumpkin puree
1.5 TBSP Chili powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
dash salt
Cheddar cheese
Sour Cream

Heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, peppers, and garlic and saute until tender. Stir in turkey and cooked until evenly browned (I drained the excess liquid/grease, but I am not sure if it needed to be done or not). Add meat mixture to crock pot. Mix in tomatoes and pumpkin. Season with chili powder, salt, and pepper. Cover, set on low for 4-5 hours. Serve with cheddar cheese and sour cream if desired.

Some notes... I did not use the peppers. I also added 1/2 cup water to the mixture to get it a little saucier than it looked like it was going to be. Also, my love of garlic has been well-documented throughout the posts on this blog so I used 3 cloves instead of 1 :)