Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Peaches for Dessert

My pregnancy brain is getting worse and worse...

At 9:45 this morning, on my way out to take my daughter to the movies I realized I had an eyebrow appointment in 15 minutes.  Now I could either make the appointment (barely) and disappoint my daughter or take my daughter and disappoint my eyebrows.  Of course, I disappoint my eyebrows.  I make a quick phone call to try and reschedule and I am so nicely told that... my appointment is at 4:30.  Phew!  Crisis averted...

I missed it anyway.  I completely forgot till it hit me at 5:30.  I have never done that before, no call, no show.  Ugh.  I called again right away and luckily they understood and were able to get me another appointment on Thursday.  

But, I did not forget about the amazing peaches in my kitchen and the dessert that I was going to make tonight.  Except, I couldn't remember if my husband requested peach cobbler or peach crumble.  Ugh again.  Oh well cobbler, crumble...can you go wrong either way!  Crumble it is.

The Whisk Kid posted a recipe for a peach crumble (original recipe here) that was a little less than traditional.  It had a yummy peach filling, but the topping was that of a crumb cake and not a traditional crumble.  This sounds amazing and I was going to try it.  So first, I assembled my ingredients.  I started by making the crumb topping and followed the directions, but added half a teaspoon of cinnamon as well because it just seemed like it needed some cinnamon.

I started making my peach filling.  The recipe called for 2 pounds and 9 ounces of peaches... um, what?  I tried to eyeball the final product picture and thought that 6-7 average sized peaches should do it.  I peeled and sliced the peaches over my 8 cup Pyrex measuring cup being sure to catch all the juices that were pouring out of these things.  Peeling them was easy since they were so ripe, but took a bit of time.  I made my filling, adding a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg to the peaches and substituted a teaspoon of vanilla extract for the vanilla seeds.  They were so delicious as a filling that I was already planning making a pie out of it next time we go peach picking.  

Peach Filling, Peach Skins and Pits, Crumb Topping
 Assembled and baked.  1 hour at 400.

I'm done!

The Verdict:  In a word, AMAZING!  There was nothing to complain about.  Well, the one thing I can complain about is the peach picking season is too short for this recipe to be this good.  I wonder how it would come out with canned peaches in the winter?  And other fruit?  This one was a keeper.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

So last night, I did get up and cook my chicken for my enchiladas.  (You can find the original recipe here.)  This definitely made making tonight's meal a little faster, but this was still a little involved.  I doubled the recipe in order to make one for tonight and one to freeze.  The recipe actually said that you could freeze right before baking so I of course needed to make one for the freezer.  I did make a few changes.  The original recipe calls for 2 cans of cream of chicken soup.  I decided that I would like a little more of a cheesy flavor, so I used one can of cream of chicken soup and one can of cream of cheddar.  (Actually, since I doubled the recipe I used two cream of chicken and two cream of cheddar.)  I omitted the milk as I thought the mix looked gravy enough and I bought a large can of enchilada sauce to put on top, which the recipe didn't call for.

The best tip I got for this, was to shred the chicken in my stand mixer.  I know what you are thinking, but honest!  I put the egg beater whisk on and threw the cold cooked chicken breast in.  Turned it on and let it go.  Perfectly shredded chicken.  So good to know for making chicken salad, quesadillas or even just large batches of shredded chicken to freeze for individual meals.  

I decided that instead of two 9x13 casseroles, which is too much for our little family for one meal, that I would make two 9x9 casseroles and expected to have some filling and tortillas left over.  And I did.  So I also made a little tray of more traditional enchiladas (filling rolled up in the tortillas), so three meals!  Score!   I will probably "gift" the enchiladas to my mother when she comes to visit tomorrow since during the week its just her and maybe one or two of my brothers for dinner.  I topped each casserole with 1/4 of the large can of enchilada sauce and used the other half of the can on the more traditional enchiladas.  So here is my little guy all ready to go in the oven.

Ready for a long bake!
 And here he is after 45 minutes at 350.

Cheesey goodness!
The Verdict:  It was good, not great.  The flavor was awesome.  It wasn't spicy, but you can totally kick it up with some salsa or pickled jalapenos.  Everyone can make it to suit.  The problem, it was really really wet and gloppy.  I don't know if I made an error doubling it or if it just our taste.  Also, it didn't get quite hot enough.  It was definitely warmed throughout but not hot.  I have another casserole in the freezer and I think next time that I will cover it with foil for 30 or 40 minutes at 350 and then do another 20 or 30 at 400 uncovered.  Hopefully this will dry it out a little bit and make sure it is piping hot!

On to dessert!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Staying Flexible!

So two girls go peach picking...

There are many reasons I love NJ (and a few why I hate it, but I digress) and one of the top ones is the produce in the summer!  There is nothing like Jersey tomatoes, corn, green beans... basically everything.  And in the summer months, at a farm stand you can get the best produce at the best prices.

Grace and I took a quick trip to our favorite farm stand around, Samaha's in Aberdeen.  Honestly, the best produces (especially the corn), amazing prices, and the sweetest little dog named Maverick who is always down for a little loving from the customers.  He is easily Grace's favorite part!  Going to the farm stand is always a special trip for Grace and I.  We talk about how to check the fruits and vegetables (Grace can sniff out the best corn and apples) and it has encouraged Grace to try things not typically in a 3 year old's diet (I mean honestly, how many of them get excited to see fresh string beans and Italian eggplant?).  This trip is always a sunny spot in our week.

So today we stopped by and got: green beans, Italian eggplant, Mini Ramapo Tomatoes, corn, green peppers, carrots, and red potatoes.  All grown in NJ.  Most of it right behind the farm stand.
My grand total?  $10.55.  I know, farm fresh and cheap!  

When we were done there, we headed out to Eastmont Orchard where we met up with some friends to do some peach and nectarine picking.  Another Jersey bargain.  The peaches and nectarines right off the tree were so delicious and only $1.39 a pound.  Grace and I loaded up and we will definitely be making a peach crumble tomorrow!

Yellow peaches, white peaches and nectarines!

After all our picking, we needed some lunch.  Pizza and frozen yogurt fit the bill perfectly.  Then we headed home for quiet time/nap.  Now my three year has recently just about given up a nap, but still lays in bed for an hour a day, reading books and having a quiet time.  This is working for us as mommy gets a little break and Grace maintains a good mood till bedtime.  Grace lays down at 1:45 and is asleep by 2... ASLEEP!  I check on her at 3.  Still sleeping.  She will probably be up any minute now, but... I think I will go lay in may bed till she gets up.  Now Murphy's Law clearly states that as soon as I get settles and dare I say it, close my eyes, she will be up and ready to go grocery shop.  And sure enough, I close my eyes and feel little hands on my back, waking me up.  I look at the clock...4:45!!!!  Oh boy... I now have a three year who doesn't really take a nap anymore... and just took a three hour nap.  It's 9:20.  Typically she is sleeping.  Right now she is in the kitchen with my husband.  Eh, a little more Daddy/ daughter bonding over Temple Run.

So dinner plans had to change... there was no way to go grocery shopping and make dinner at a reasonable time and believe me the cupboards were bare (well, if I did some digging, I could have come up with something, but...)  Houlihan's here we come.  Grabbed a quick dinner and then dropped my hubs and my chicklet at home to make a run to the grocery store.  

So my menu is changing.  I am taking out my chicken curry to save for another day.  Pushing tonight's dinner to tomorrow and tomorrow's to Wednesday.  I do have my chicken for my enchilada's cooking now.  If I feel truly ambitious I might try to assembly my enchiladas so they just have to cook tomorrow (and one to freeze!), but I make no promises!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Week 2

A New Week, A New Plan

So I decided to switch my game plan up a bit.  I was making one big post with my week's plan and my reviews of it.  I thought that this week, I would try making a plan with recipe links on one page, and then individual posts reviewing the recipes as the days go.  Might make me seem like I have an idea about this blogging business as well.  Here is my plan for the week!


Chicken Enchiladas   Going to split this recipe in half and freeze half of it, but if your family was larger than mine and you wanted to do the same, you could easily double it!


Honey Butter Pork Tenderloin  This is the 3rd time this has been on my menu, I swear  I want to make it!  I have all the ingredients, my tenderloin is in the freezer.  It just always seems to fall on a day that needs to be flexible.


Curry Chicken  From my freezer! No mess or prep!  This is a freezer crock pot meal, which I am a fan of.  Mama and Baby Love have a lot of these recipes and she even has a cookbook, which you can get here.  (I have not purchased it yet, but will soon!)  This recipe was a good start for me, but I wasn't fair to it.  I couldn't fine canned or frozen mango and didn't want to walk back across the grocery store (maybe this blog should be called the lazy chef?)
so I used frozen pineapple that I had at home.  This time I will definitely buy fresh mango and I am going to add another healthy dose of curry as I really love the flavor and think it was a bit mild for my taste.  I will update when I make this again.


Patty Melts (no recipe for this!)  I do plan on making a double patch of the seasoned hamburger patties and freezing half for burgers (or more patty melts!) another night!


Baked Ziti, my own recipe again!  This is from my freezer.  I do need to top it with a little more cheese (I ran out!) and make another batch of sauce to serve with it.  A side of garlic bread will do!


Vegan Crockpot Pepper Steak Ok I am by no stretch of the imagination a vegan, but this recipe excites me for several reasons... crockpot, score... portobello mushrooms, score and I like a meatless meal once in a while!  Can't wait to try this.


Mom's house/ Last Chance Buffet

Pancakes and Shadowboxes

Pancakes, anyone?

So this morning my mini-chef decided that chocolate chip pancakes were in order before our pilgrimage to IKEA (also known as the holy land.)  I decided to try pinterest to find a perfect pancake recipe.  I decided to try this one.

Pancake Recipe

Fail.... Epic Fail.

I tried following the directions as is and I really should have known better.  I mixed all my dry ingredients in my mixer while using the beater for the wet ingredients.... milk, eggs, vanilla... melted butter.  I dumped the melted butter and then had milk, cooked scrambled eggs, vanilla and butter... not good.  Luckily, it was just a waste of wet ingredients, so we dumped it out and started over.  This time I put the melted butter into the dry ingredients first and then added the remainder of the wet.  Ok, back on track.  Pan is nice and hot, first pancake is always a throw away.  Get them going, drop in some chocolate chips and star shape sprinkles (for color) and... hmmm, they look weird.  Why aren't they rising?  Ahhh yes.  I never put in the baking powder.  At this point I just threw some into the remaining batter and kept cooking.  The result was ok, I thought they were a little too eggy and still a little flat.  The recipe does say to let the better sit for a few hours or better yet overnight if you can.  When we were all full, there was some batter left over so I put it in the fridge to try tomorrow.  I will keep you updated.

Took the voyage to IKEA and walked the shop, bought new dressers and a few other things and of course, ate in their restaurant.  Gotta love a Swedish meatball.  I was going to buy a bag of the frozen ones to make for dinner one night this week, but didn't since I hadn't brought a cooler and its a bit of a ride.  I already regret this decision (NOTE TO SELF: Find a reason to go back to IKEA, ASAP!)

When I got home, I decided to tackle a project.  This was kind of a 2fer.  Grace has outgrown her ballet shoes and we bought a new pair for dance camp in a week.  What to do with the old ones?  Common sense says to throw them out, donate them, try to resell them.... but no, this sentimental pregnant momma couldn't bring herself to do any of them.  We are in the midst of the great room switch and Grace's room is going to have a ballerina theme, so why not make a shadow box!  It's a great way to justify hanging onto things like old ballet shoes AND a decoration Grace's new room.  I got to work, gluing scrapbook paper, a picture, her shoes and a ticket to her first recital.  Time to go in the box and.... crack.  I broke the glass. Not sure how.  I had bought a three pack of shadowboxes, so I was able to finish.  I saved the broken shadowbox minus the glass.  Now I have to figure out how to repurpose the broken box or if I want to buy another frame of glass.   We will see!

Here is the finished product.  I was pleased as was my prima ballerina.

Now I have to start preparing myself to throw out her second pair of ballet shoes... once she outgrows them, but I better start now!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bonus Lunchtime Recipe!

I am blessed to have the best of both worlds.  I work September to June as a special education teacher and get to spend July and August as a Stay at Home Mom.  I always say I would love to be home full time, but sometimes I wonder if staying home makes me enjoy work and work makes me enjoy staying home!  For now its a perfect balance.

I have a 3 year old daughter named Grace Ann, she will be 4 in October, but sometimes I think she will be 13!  She is really smart and funny and I love spending the summer with her.  I am also 6 months pregnant and we are expecting a son in October.  My due date is actually Grace's birthday!  So I will more than likely have 2 little pumpkins!  If I am still pregnant in November, I will probably cry.  My husband, Tim, is a probation officer at the county courthouse and is always a good sport about trying new recipes, although he is not often a fair critics.  Many times he will tell me something is good and then I take a bite and wonder what it was he was tasting!

Any hoo, I have spent the whole more trying to get ready for the great room switch by going through some of Grace Ann's items and getting things ready for the consignment sale.  Grace was very patient and played nicely while I did this.  Then she found "the photo."  It seems benign at first glance.  My husband and I on our wedding day, smiling happily at the camera, but what it truly was was 20 minutes of torture.  This photo caused Grace to sob for 20 minutes straight... why you ask?  Because she was not in it.  The fact that she wasn't born for another 19 months was not a good enough excuse.  She loves the picture, but why was she left out?  <cricket, cricket>  There was no reasoning with her.  It was time for Plan B.  Distract her with a cooking project.  But what to make?

Pepperoni Cheese Stick Roll Ups... original recipe found here Pepperoni Cheese Stick Roll Ups .  I made them with little change.  I did use mini turkey pepperoni instead of traditional pepperoni, because it is what I had on hand.  Anyone who knows my little sous chef knows that her favorite food is any processed meat that comes in a log form (sausage, pepperoni, hot dogs, etc.)  So we just about always have turkey pepperoni on hand.  I don't know if my cheese sticks were extra long, but when we rolled them up some cheese was still showing.  So I tucked the sides of the croissants in to prevent too much leakage.  I also didn't make the Garlic Butter Glaze because, well, I am lazy.  I did give them a little squirt of cooking spray and sprinkled them with garlic powder, oregano and Parmesan cheese.

Here is a picture so you can see how I tucked the sides:

Stuffed, tucked and sprinkled!

 I baked them for the time recommended, but truth be told they could have stayed in a few more minutes to get really golden.  I knew this as soon as I saw them, but we were hungry... really hungry.  We didn't have sauce to dip and these were yummy anyway!

They needed to keep working on their tan! 

Week 1

Meal Planning, Week #1

So this is actually my meal plan for this past week.  We were away in Tennessee for a long weekend for my husband's aunt's wedding, so I didn't plan 5 meals, but here is what I did plan!

Monday- Returning home from Tennessee, ordered Chinese food from my cell phone on the drive back from the airport!  Gotta love a smart phone.

Tuesday- Pulled pork, rolls, coleslaw and avocado & grilled corn salad.

Pulled Pork in the crockpot

I use a half pork shoulder, a bottle beer and half a bottle of  barbecue sauce.  Throw it all in and let that baby cook on high for about 6 hours (or on low overnight.)  Then I shred it will two forks, pulling out the bone and any yucky stuff and let it hang out in the broth on low until I am ready to serve (sometimes another hour or two soaking up flavor.)  Piled high on a hard roll, topped with more barbecue sauce and coleslaw.

Avocado & Grilled Corn w/ Cilantro Vinaigrette

Recipe is here Avocado & Corn Salad .  I did tweak it a bit.  I roasted my corn in the oven.  Threw all five ears of corn in the oven husk and all for 30 minutes at 350.  Let them cool and shucked.  Much easier than standing at my grill on a hot afternoon!  I also used dried cilantro (it's what I had) and apple cider vinegar (and more of it!  I like acidity.)   The recipe has you dressing the salad immediately before eating and it was good!  But is was better the next day.  Next time (and there will be a next time!) I will leave the avocado out, dress it the night before then add in the avocado before serving.  Definitely a nice change to your typical summer salads!

Wednesday-  Dinner at Moms (I brought the rest of the corn salad!)  I also made Slutty Brownies to have dessert!

Recipe is here Slutty Brownies  . I baked them for 30 minutes and then made the mistake of trying to cut them to take out of the pan and put on a plate.  They were amazing, but had a lava cake quality.  Next time I will leave them in the pan to cut before serving and also get some vanilla ice cream.
Slutty Brownies getting their top layer.

Thursday- Teriyaki Chicken with rice

Teriyaki Chicken in the Crockpot

Recipe is here Teriyaki Chicken .  This is the blog of a very ambitious momma and how she made 18 meals for her freezer in 3 hours.  I am no where near this, but I do like the 9 recipes she has posted.  Tonight I am trying the teriyaki chicken.  In fact, it is cooking in the crockpot as we speak.  I did make one freezer meal with the other half of the recipe.  I will then immediately put it on the schedule for another day in a future week (so it doesn't die a sad death in the unknown parts of the freezer.)  I did it as is, except I froze my chicken in a separate bag.  This way if we totally hate tonight's meal, the chicken can be used for something else!

Updated:  This was good, but not great.  I like a thicker sauce and will probably try it again with a slurry of cornstarch added at the end.  Also, the flavor was a little tame for me.  I think I will have to investigate some other teriyaki recipes and see how to doctor up my freezer meal.

Friday- I had planned a pork tenderloin for tonight, but my brother texted me this morning about meeting up at the Monmouth County Fair tomorrow... yes, please!  I may be 6 months pregnant and unable to go on any rides, but fair food I will take any day.  Being flexible, pork tenderloin goes in the freezer and on the schedule for next week.

Saturday-  Buffalo Chicken Garbage Bread 

Recipe is here Buffalo Chicken Garbage Bread.  I haven't made it yet, but when I do I will update with any changes/ my review.

Update:  Made this pretty much to the recipe.  I did make my own wing sauce, following this recipe Buffalo Wing Sauce with 3 changes: I used salted butter (because I didn't have unsalted), I omitted extra salt (duh) and I didn't have Worcestershire sauce so I used a bit of Tastefully Simple's Merlot Sauce.  The sauce alone is addictive.  This recipe made more than enough to make the garbage bread, but I did use all of it!  So delish.  I made the garbage bread according to recipe, except that I didn't let the chicken cool completely.  This did make the pizza dough a little tricky to flip, but manageable.  I will definitely make a double batch of the chicken next time and freeze half.  This way another garbage bread is as good as done!  I baked it 25 minutes at 425 and mine came out, well... very brown.  Not burnt, but well.. you can see.

All worry about a failure went right out the window when I cut into this bad boy... food porn!  This is a definite make again recipe!

Sunday- Last Chance Buffet/ My mom's

Like a good Italian family, most Sundays you can find all of us at my mom and dad's for a 2 pm meal of pasta and meatballs.  I love this tradition and getting to see my brothers, sister-in-law and especially my nephew every week.  This also makes Sunday a great last chance buffet day!  Come 7/8pm, my husband and I are ready for a little something and leftovers fill that need perfectly!

So what are you cooking?  Let me know if you have tried any of these recipes or know of any I should try!

Why I plan...

My First Blog!

In order to keep up with my life, I always have to have a plan!  This is especially true when it comes to dinner time.  After months and months of buying groceries that go bad and wasting a ton of money, I have learned to meal plan!  I aim for a week at a time and try to make a meal or two that will be used twice.  I definitely need more work incorporating the weekly sales flyer into my meal planning in order to get the most bang for my buck, but baby steps!  I figure buying food I will use at full price is a better deal than buying food on sale that will eventually get thrown away.  Most of the recipes aren't mine and I will always do my best to link back to the original site.  I get a lot of ideas from pinterest so feel free to follow me on there as well.

Tips for Successful Meal Planning

  • I try to plan 5 meals a week.  This gives me one night to eat out/order out/go to my moms and one night of a last chance buffet... this is when I take all the leftovers out of the fridge and let everyone make their own plate and heat it in the microwave.  It is a last chance buffet because it is the food's last chance! After the meal, the leftovers get dumped, the fridge gets wiped out and everyone is ready for the next week to begin.
  • BE FLEXIBLE!  Sometimes plans change.  You might plan for and buy food for 5 meals, but only end up home for 3.  Assemble and freeze what you can!  Especially crockpot meals.  I always try to double the recipe and put half in the crockpot and half in a freezer bag.  Now I have a crockpot meal ready to go on a  busy day.  Take it out and put in on the counter to defrost for a bit while I shower and then pour it in the crockpot.  More on this to come... the point is, plan b is ok.  The idea is to not waste the food you buy!
  • Double up!  I touched on this the bullet before.  Whenever possible I double up on recipes and put half in the fridge.  There are a ton of ways to freeze meals.  Some people like to freeze them in tins or tupperware.  I prefer freezer bags.  Make sure its Ziploc brand, it really makes a difference.  I will do another post about freezing crockpot meals (as it is currently what I am into!)  A big secret to freezing meals is to immediately put it on the plan for another week (I generally go two weeks ahead.)
  • Stick to the plan.  It is so easy to come home after a busy day, look at your meal planning schedule and order a pizza.  Make sure you take into account your schedule for the week when you are meal planning.  A super busy day may call for a crock pot meal so when you come home dinner is ready!  A lazy day home may be a good day for a slowly simmer stew or slow roasted chicken.
  • Write it out.  I have a magnetic pad on my fridge that I got at Michaels for $1.  It is separated into 7 days.  I write what is for dinner on each day (or the plans for the night) and where to find the recipe.  I write my grocery list on the back of the page of the previous week.  This way I can add small things to it as the week goes on.   Grocery day comes, I rip off the old week and go shopping.
These are all the tips I can think of for now, but I will definitely share as I learn!