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 :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Menu for week of 10/30/11

Well, this is going to be a crazy week because my in-laws will be visiting Wednesday through next Monday and they enjoy eating out. This week's menu is a little loosey-goosey so that if we go out to dinner I won't have to worry about what I defrosted going bad!

Sunday, 10/30- BBQ Pulled Pork and rolls
Monday, 10/31- Pumpkin Chili
Tuesday, 11/1- Tacos
Wednesday, 11/2- Pasta
Thursday, 11/3- Salads and Apps
Friday, 11/4- Pizza or some sort of take-out
Saturday, 11/5- Birthday dinner for my brother-in-law

Pantry Items/Stock Items: (these are things I always have on hand)
Sister Shubert's Yeast Rolls (Sun)
McCormick's Pork Rub Spice (Sun)
BBQ Sauce (Sun)
1 can diced tomatoes (Mon)
Taco seasoning packets (Tue)
pasta sauce (Wed)
pasta (Wed)
garlic cloves (Mon)
vegetable oil (Mon)
chili pepper (Mon)

Shopping List:
1 lb ground beef (Tue)
1 lb ground turkey (Mon)
1 lb pork shoulder (Sun)
Lettuce (Thur)
Tomato (Tue/Thur)
Onion (Mon)
Green pepper, Yellow pepper (Mon)
Pumpkin Puree (2 cups) (Mon)
Cheddar Cheese (Mon)
Sour Cream (Mon) * if desired for chili
Apps of choice (Thur)

Sunday, October 30- BBQ Pulled Pork

Wow... this was super good tonight! And, super easy too, thanks to the crock pot! I always buy pork shoulders at Giant when they are buy one get one free and freeze them. I love that there's no need to defrost before cooking these up in the crock pot. The recipe is below. We had Sister Shubert's Yeast Rolls with this. If you're not familiar with these rolls, I recommend you become familiar ASAP. They are great to pull out of the freezer when you need a quick side dish or bread that tastes almost as good as homemade. They are in the freezer aisle sold in bags of 10. I love that because you can just pull out the number of rolls you want, bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes and they taste great. Enjoy!

BBQ Pulled Pork

1 lb pork shoulder
McCormick's Pork Rub
1 can Coke
Bull's Eye BBQ Sauce
Reynold's Crock Pot Liner Bags

1. Place the liner bag in your crock pot.
2. On a plate, place the frozen pork shoulder, fat side up. Rub McCormick's rub into the pork. Flip the pork and repeat with the other side.
3. Pour the can of coke into the crock pot. Place the pork fat side down into the cooker. (I doubt you really need to do it this way, but fat on meat grossed me out and if I cook it fat side down the fat just falls right off into the liquid when you remove it from the crock pot.)
4. Cover the top of the pork generously with the BBQ sauce. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

After the cooking time is up remove the pork from the crock pot using tongs. The pork is so tender that it generally falls into pieces, so you may have to do a few dips into the pot to retrieve it! Place in a serving dish and use 2 forks to shred. Use a ladle to scoop out some of the liquid in the crock pot and spoon over top of the pork. Serve with additional BBQ sauce if desired.

Week 5 Review

Well, it was another crazy week. Once I get going here I am going to start posting my weekly menu so we stick with it! Monday, 10/24 was Avery's 3rd birthday. She decided we should skip dance class so we could fully enjoy her birthday dinner at Friendly's. I hadn't been there in forever, and my total dinner calories were the same as my total daily calories, but it was great and delicious and totally worth it!

On Tuesday we did the ham steaks with orange champagne marmalade again. It was just as great as the first time. This time I had scalloped potatoes as a side and Sean had creamed spinach.

On Wednesday I used some left-over Williams Sonoma Weeknight Braising Sauce (Carmalized Onion) for something other than braising since that seems a little too time consuming. I tossed about 1/3 of the jar (which is what we happened to have left) into the crockpot with 8 chicken tenderloins. After 4 hours on low (since my chicken was already defrosted) we ate it over white rice. Sean really enjoyed it and I thought it was about as good as a quick, easy dinner could get.

On Thursday we just decided to order pizza. It was one of those nights. And on Friday night my father-in-law returned from an 8 week long trip so we met him for dinner at Reflections. Reflections is quickly becoming one of my favorite restaurants. I had a crab cake sandwich and it was one of the best I've had at a restaurant. But the star of the evenining was a Smashed Pumpkin martini. I wish I could remember what was in it, but it was easily the best martini I ever had.

Saturday we were without power for most of the day due to a freak snow storm so we decided to order Chinese since weren't sure what the cooking situation would be. Although the power was on it was a nice, relaxing finish to the week. We ate out a lot this week... a lot more than normal. But I guess that's not too terrible every once in a while.

Dinners Cooked- 2
Dinners Out/Ordered In- 4
Winner- Dinners Out (but at least all the dinners we paid for were $20 or less. Friendly's rang in at about $30, but Sean and I had ice cream so that wasn't too bad)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Week 4 Review

Well, it was another hectic week. Sometimes I wonder how it managed when I was full-time considering how busy I feel now working part-time. But, overall it was a good week in the kitchen. The weekend got a bit messy because we celebrated Avery's birthday in Bucks County, so I am not going to count Friday and Saturday since I wasn't in my own kitchen to cook :)

Monday- S. Clyde Weaver Made-To-Order Subs (we had coupons for free subs that were going to expire)

Tuesday- Chicken and Asparagus Risotto

Wednesday- Salads/Steak and Sweet Potato

Thursday- Chinese

Friday, Saturday, Sunday- Out of town

Dinners Cooked- 2
Dinners Out- 2
Dinners Not Counted- 3

Winner- Draw

Next week looks busy too. Better start planning my menu :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 19, 2011- Baked Sweet Potato Chips

I bought a sweet potato when I went grocery shopping this week to go with a BBQ Pork I wanted to make in the crock pot but that meal got hacked from the menu for this week. So I was stuck with the starch and had not a clue what to do with it. Wednesdays are my Zumba nights so we usually do something quick and easy. I've always said that I refuse to be a short-order cook, but with 2 out of 3 in our family being picky eaters it's become a necessity. So- Sean grilled a steak from himself, Avery had mac and cheese, and I made a salad. And then there was the sweet potato. Here's what I did... and it was AWESOME!

Baked Sweet Potato Chips
1 sweet potato (for the 2 of us)
1 TBSP melted butter
2 TBSP brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and slice the sweet potato into thin chips.
2. Meanwhile, mix the butter, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl.
3. Spray a cookie sheet (or 2, which I needed) and spread the potatoes in a single layer. Brush potatoes with butter mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping half way through cooking.

Mmmm...... These were fantastic!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 18, 2011- Chicken & Asparagus Risotto

Okay- so if you don't have a picky eater in your family, this recipe will be SUPER easy only requiring one pan. I modified this recipe from one I found in a magazine called Shrimp & Asparagus Risotto. I'll write up my recipe first and then post the original recipe below that. It was really good and my husband even enjoyed it. Another perk, not too bad on calories. Myfitnesspal calculated my serving at 570 calories, but that can easily be cut by 110 if you only have 1/2 cup of the risotto.

Chicken and Asparagus Risotto (Serves 2)
Chicken Tenderloins (I cooked a whole pound, but only used 1/2 pound for tonight and will use the rest another night this week)
1 bunch of asparagus (tips only, 1-2 inches)
1 box Creamy Parmesan Risotto
2 garlic cloves (minced)

1. In a saucepan, cook the risotto according to the directions on the box.
2. While this cooks, salt and pepper the chicken and cook over med-high heat (I used a setting of 5 and my stove goes up to 8). Remove the chicken and place on a back burner not in use. Reduce the heat on this burner to a low setting.
3. Place a small fry pan on the burner, add a little EVOO and toss in the garlic. After a minute add the asparagus. Saute until tender. I added a little bit of water a few times so it didn't get too crisp.
4. When asparagus is just about done add chicken tenders into pan with asparagus to reheat.
5. Serve over risotto. Or, if you are feeding some like my husband, plate his into 3 separate portions... asparagus, chicken, and risotto :)

This was 30 minutes start to finish. 3 pans... a little much for my liking, but not too bad. The original recipe (below) can be done all in one pan.

Shrimp & Asparagus Risotto (Serves 4)
1 lb shrimp, peeled
2 boxes garlic primavera risotto
8 oz fresh asparagus, ends trimmed, cut to 1.5-2 inch lengths

1. Heat 1 TBSP oil in a 12-in nonstick skillet over high heat. Add shrimp and saute 2-3 minutes until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Add rice to skillet, stir 30 seconds. Stir in 5 cups water and seasoning packets. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 12 minutes; stirring occassionally.
3. Stir in asparagus; simmer 7 minutes. Stir in shrimp and any juices; cook 1 minute or until asparagus and rice are tender and shrimp is heated through.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Recipe for Baked Ziti

16 oz (1 box) ziti
3 c spaghetti sauce (28 oz)
15 oz Ricotta
8 oz Mozzarella
1/4 c fresh parsley or 1 TBSP dry
1 egg
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 TBSP grated Parmesan

1. Heat oven to 375 and cook pasta according to directions. Drain.
2. In a large bowl (or I do this right back in the pot) mix hot pasta, 1.5 cups sauce (I use 2 cups), Ricotta, Mozarella, parsley, egg, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
3. Spread into 13x9x2 dish. Top with remaining sauce and parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and back 30-40 mins.

*Make Ahead Directions*
Prepare recipe as directed, but do not bake. Cover with plastic wrap, then foil. Refrigerate up to 24 hours or freeze up to 2 months. Thaw frozen version in refrigerator overnight. Remove plastic wrap, replace foil and bake as directed, adding 10 minutes.

10- 1 cup servings

Pesto Recipe

Makes about 1 cup. I divide it up into 5 small tupperware containers and freeze them. Then defrost in the refrigerator the morning you plan to use it. I've made it with and without the nuts and enjoyed both. As always, I use extra garlic :)

2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts
3 TBSP grated Parmesan
2 small cloves garlic (I use 4)
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
1/2 cup EVOO

1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients except the oil. Pulse until a thick paste forms (you may need to use a butter knife to scrap the paste down to continue pulsing). With processor on, add oil in a slow stream until mixture is well combined.

2. Transfer to an airtight container. Press plastic wrap directly onto pesto (to keep pesto from browning). Cover with lid; refrigerator up to 4 days or freeze up to 2 months.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Week 3 Review

Well, another weird week. The fall always seems so busy. I am really hoping things settle down soon so we can get back into the swing of things! With being over-scheduled so much starts to become affected... diet, exercise, energy, motivation. This week it's back to working out 4-5 days and back to calorie counting for me. And back to cooking dinner!

This past Monday (10/10) we had a wonderful dinner at Isaac's, my favorite sandwich type place. A cup of Pepperjack Tomato Soup (the real deal) and a Twisted Chicken Sandwich hit the spot. Best part was that after 2 gift cards were cashed in the dinner cost us $8, including the tip! Can't beat that!

On Tuesday Sean grilled up some steaks and I added Alexia Olive Oil, Rosemary, and Garlic potatoe wedges. They were great.

Wednesday is pasta night in our house because I have Zumba. Tonight we had Penne Rigate with homemade pesto. I will be posting that recipe tomorrow.

Thursday... hmm. Thursday... what did we have. Well, I can't remember, but I know we ate in.

On Friday Sean left after work to go hunting for the weekend and my parents came out to stay with us. I made baked ziti for the three of us since that's one of the Italian dishes I love but can never eat since Sean doesn't eat red sauce. It definitely hit the spot! That recipe is coming, too.

Saturday brought us to the Caenarvon Fire Hall for the fall turkey supper. We leared that this feast first started in 1934. They serve well over 500 dinners in the hall on this day plus hundreds of more to-go orders. I always love this dinner because it's a great precursor for Thanksgiving! Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, homemade Amish pepper cabbage, and so much more. It was a good week of eating!

Dinners Cooked- 4
Dinners Out- 3
Winner- Dinners Cooked! Wahoo!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Week 2 Review

Wow- this was a BAD week! I cooked Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas on Sunday night and the heart burn afterwards made me sick for a day. This weekend we embarked on our first camping trip and cooking on a campfire was a whole new breed of cooking for us!

On Friday night we cashed in a gift certificate to the Nauti Goose in North East, MD. Although the atmosphere was wondering eating on the Chesapeake Bay I was not overly impressed. The atmosphere was the best thing going for it. So disappointed we wasted a trip to North East by not eating at Woody's. But, it gives us an excuse to go down another weekend for their amazing crab bisque and other seafood dishes. Heaven on Earth... On Saturday I cooked sausage links and eggs on the campfire using a griddle. Sean's eggs (sunny side up) came out great... looked fantastic. My scrambled eggs were another story! They tasted fine, but since I only eat egg whites now it was a bit much. For lunch we made pizza mountain pies. I <3 mountain pies. So simple, yet somehow so delicious! Dinner consisted of hot dogs and s'mores. Although Avery says she liked camping, I think she really just liked the s'mores!

Back to reality tomorrow. On the menu, BBQ Pulled-Pork in the crock pot. One of my faves. Can't wait!

Dinners out- 3
Dinners cooked- 3 (no dinner Monday night)
Winner- Tie

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Been a slacker this week so far. Cooked on Sunday, felt sick and Sean made a steak for himself on Monday. And tonight I had a late meeting and we needed to run some errands so I had Salad Works at the Food Court.

Plan for tomorrow.... Grilled Porkchops and Sauteed Apples. This week is going to be a bad week though since we are going camping Friday-Sunday.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tonight's adventure was Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas. But, before I take too much credit, I fully admit that this is from one of those McCormick spice kits that have the spices measured for you and all you do is follow the directions on the back. Did that prevent any major kitchen mishaps? No... what an adventure, but it was another great dinner!

Disaster number 1 of the night was that I totally didn't read the directions first and went to cook the fajitas only to realize the meat had to marinate for 30+ minutes. So, I quickly mixed the spices with orange juice and lime juice and began the 30 minute marinade. While the chicken marinated I worked on slicing the onion and green pepper. After the 30 minutes was up I grabbed the EVOO to add to the pan only to realize that it was supposed to go in the marinade. Oh well... Disaster #3 you will read about below in the recipe!

This was a quick, easy, delicious dinner... one that I am sure will grace our dinner table again in the future. However, I suspect the prep and cooking will go much better next time around!

Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas- Easy Directions
Buy the McCormick spice packet in the baking aisle and follow directions on back :)

Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas- Real Directions

1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced onions
3/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp oregano leaves
1/2 tsp cilantro
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup each lime and orange juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips (I did this after they were cooked)
1 medium green or red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
8 flour tortillas (8-inch)

1. Mix juices, olive oil, and spices in a small bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade (and don't spill it all over the kitchen before using it! Disaster #3). Place chicken in large resealable plastic bag and pour in remaining marinade; turn to coat well. Refrigerate 30 minutes or longer for extra flavor. While chicken marinates, cut pepper and onion.

2. Cook and stir chicken in large heated skillet on med-high heat for 4 mins. on each side or until cooked through. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside. Add bell pepper, onion, and reserved marinade to skillet; cook and stir for 5 minutes or until pepper is tender.

3. Return chicken to skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes or until chicken is heated through. During this time microwave your tortillas covered with a wet paper towel for 30 seconds to make the tortillas warm.

4. Spoon chicken mixture into tortillas. Serve with assorted toppings, if desired. We ate ours plain and there was plenty of flavor!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Week 1 in Review

Well, although it was an atypical week for us, I did manage to cook great dinners 4 days this week. Okay- well the pasta with meat sauce wasn't great, but it was cooking. Thursday evening Sean and Avery had a date night to McDonald's since I was at an educators' forum at Millersville University and on Friday night we used a gift certificate to our favorite outdoor restaurant, TJ Rockwells in Elizabethtown. Wanted to squeeze that one in before the nice weather ran out and the deck closed for the season. Tonight we just ordered some pizza so we could enjoy the Phillies first play-off game against St. Louis. So... here are this past weeks' stats...

Dinners Cooked- 4
Dinners Out- 3
Winner- Dinners Cooked

Check back next week for some new creations. On the menu for the week Lime Chicken Fajitas, Apple Sage Porkchops and pesto. Mmm....

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ah... what a lovely dinner time it will be this evening. I am attending an educators town hall meeting at Millersville Univeristy and the Gettysburg girls and I are reuniting at Fiorentino's before heading to the forum. My perfect kind of dinner... someone else cooks it! Sean and Avery are on their own tonight, so I suspect a date to McDonald's is in store for them. Now... the tough decisions... do I get the salad I usually order or splurge? Definitely will be splurging on a glass of Pinot :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Wednesdays I take a Zumba class at 6:30 so we do some sort of pasta dish every Wednesday. Tonight is nothing fancy... plain noodles with EVOO and garlic for my DH and noodles with Prego for me. Gotta squeeze my Italian foods in some how... no matter how basic they may be!

Tonight will probably call for a glass of Pinot Grigio :) Zumba is a latin-inspired dance aerobic kind of work out and I know I look absolutely ridiculous doing it. But, last week I burned 500 calories in an hour. So it's awesome. A little liquid courage never hurt anybody, right?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I could eat chicken every night of the week, but my DH (dear husband) would tire of that very quickly. So, we've been adding pork products into our repitoire recently. Tonight's dinner features Glazed Ham Steaks with Sauteed Apples. I was afraid it would be "too much sweet, " but it actually wasn't. The marmalade on the ham really mellows out with cooking and the cinnamon in the apples balances the sugary sweetness. For three nights in a row my hubby has praised my cooking... and genuinely meant it!

Glazed Ham Steaks and Sauteed Apples
Ham Steaks (one for each person you are cooking for)
Mackay's Orange Marmalade with Champagne
2 Golden Delicious Apples (peeled and thinly sliced)
1/4 cup water (I think I forgot this last night!)
2 tsp canola or vegetable oil (I used Right Balance's soy, vegetable blend)
2 tbsp dark brown sugar (I used the Splenda mix)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place ham steaks in a baking dish and top with just a touch of water (enough so that the bottoms are in, but the tops aren't covered). Top each ham steak with 2 tbsp of marmalade (or as much as you would like) and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes.

2. While the ham steaks cook, start working on the apples. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add apple and remaining ingredients. Cook 8 minutes or until apple is tender and golden, stirring occassionally.

Using MyFitnessPal to track my calories this meal came in at 489 calories for the meal. That's 325 for the ham (thanks to the marmalade adding an extra 100 calories- so that can be skipped if needed) and 164 calories for 1 cup of apples.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday is dance night for my daughter, so typically this is a crock pot day or something easy. This afternoon when I got home from picking up my daughter at daycare I made my favorite soup. Here in central PA we have a great chain of restaurants called Isaac's. Amazing sandwiches and the best soup I have ever had- Pepperjack Tomato. I did a Google search for some recipes and found one I ended up modifying. Monday's tweaking of the recipe resulted in the best ever soup. It freezes really well so now we have another dinner ready to go in the freezer for another night. I also added a garlic crostini to tonight's meal and it was equally as amazing as the soup!

Pepperjack Tomato Soup
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes (I used one regular and 1 can of tomatoes with garlic and onion)
3 cans condensed tomato soup, undiluted
1 can water
1.5 cups milk
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp paprika
4 oz cream cheese (softened block or Philly Cooking Cream Cheese)
2-4 oz pepperjack cheese (I grated it this time and it actually melted in the soup instead of being chunky)
Dash Tabasco sauce

1. In a large saucepan or I used my 10 qt. pot, saute onion in butter, until tender, add garlic. Stir in tomatoes, soup, water, milk, sugar, basil, and paprika. I do this over med-low heat.

2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in cream cheese and pepperjack cheese. Serve immediately or reheat as needed.

Sorry- no servings or nutrition information.

Garlic Crostini

1 loaf of french bread
butter (I used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray)
garlic salt

Slice bread into 1/2 inch slices. Spray each slice with butter spray. Top with garlic salt and toast in toaster oven until golden and crispy. Serve on the side with soup. I like to dip mine in the soup!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Okay- here we go. Day 1: Lemon-Rosemary Chicken and Fresh Spinach Rice

This was super simple, and super delicious. I found both of these recipes in a Weight Watchers recipe magazine that I paid way too much for while waiting to check out at the grocery store about a year ago. This is the first time I made anything out of this $10.99 magazine! And it was awesome... picky husband enjoyed it, even with the spinach mixed into the rice. On top of being picky with what he will eat, he also does not eat anything mixed together. I joke that he likes peanut butter and he likes jelly, but God forbid you give him a PBJ sandwich! I was proud of him for being willing to give it a try and much to his own amazement, he actually enjoyed it! Recipes below...

Lemon-Rosemary Chicken
1.5 pounds chicken breast tenders (I only used a pound)
1/2 tsp grated fresh lemon rind
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp EVOO
1 garlic clove, minced (I love garlic, so I used 4!)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp dried rosemary, crushed

1. Heat a grill pan over med-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until done.

2. While chicken cooks, combine lemon rind and next 6 ingredients in a small bowl.

3. Transfer chicken to a serving platter. Pour lemon juice mixture over chicken; cover and let stand 4 minutes.

Yield 4 servings (approx. 3 tenders per serving) 220 calories/serving

Fresh Spinach Rice
1 package precooked whole-grain brown rice (I used Uncle Ben's... the 90 second microwave kind)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced (I, of course, used 4)
2 cups packed fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp salt

1. Microwave rice according to directions. Set aside and keep warm.

2. While the rice cooks, heat a large nonstick skillet over med heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and garlic; saute 3 minutes or until tender.

3. Place spinach in a medium bowl. Add cooked rice, onion mixture, and salt. Fluff with a fork until spinach wilts.

Yield 4 servings (3/4 cup) 130 calories/serving

From Weight Watchers 5 Ingredient 15 Minute Recipes, 2010.

Mission: Dinner

I hate cooking dinner. For a long time, it's been the bane of my existence. A few years ago the laminator at school took over that role, but I continued to struggle with cooking dinner for my family of 2, that became a family 3 in 2008.

This year my teaching position was cut to part-time due to budgetary reasons and I knew our evenings of eating out were soon going to be something of the past. So, this school year, I am on a mission. That mission is to cook dinner 5 nights a week. Definitely at least 4 nights. Well, maybe just 3 is a good number to start at.

Today before heading to work I was trying to think about why cooking has been something I have hated for such a long time. If I am being honest though, I've only really been cooking for myself or my family for the last 10 years. But struggling with something 365 days a year for 10 years is a really long time! The first factor I identified was energy. After working with children in an elementary school all day long the only thing I wanted to do was take a nap once I got home. Now that I am only working part-time I've not struggled with the lack of energy this year as in the past. Another factor is my dear husband. Yes- I love him. I knew that he was a picky eater long before marriage became a discussion in our relationship. But I thought I could convert him. My mom is Italian so I grew up eating all that fantastic Italian food... lasagna, ziti, spaghetti with meat sauce, stuffed shells... mmm, stuffed shells. Can't remember the last time I had those. Ravioli. Anyway- he eats none of those great foods I grew up loving which means half of my cooking repatoire was kicked out the door once we moved in together! Now, I have a semi-picky 3 year old (well, on October 24th) who eats everything under the sun at her daycare center, but limits herself to chicken nuggets, yogurt, grapes, and mac & cheese at home.

So, follow my adventures as I try to capture my culinary domestic goddess-ness and attempt to save money as we wade through our lives on half my normal salary. Cheers!