Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving leftovers are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving!

We had an awesome time on Thanksgiving with my parents, my grandmother, my aunt, and her 2 kids-my awesome too grown-up cousins. I contributed the cranberry sauce and the green beans. My mom and aunt did the rest. Yes, they did it up nice and proper with tons of food and LOTS of pie. Now, the only thing about going to someone else's place for Thanksgiving, is no turkey leftovers. Ry Guy and I try to do our own Thanksgiving meal at some point over the holiday weekend, for the leftovers and the practice for the time when we get to host our own Thanksgiving meal for the family. This year we had Ry's parents and youngest sister over on Saturday to help us enjoy our turkey dinner! Now, this leaves us with leftover cranberry sauce, stuffing, turkey, potatoes, gravy, green beans, and corn. As I was organizing my recipe binder this morning (Yes, a recipe binder), I came across this awesome idea for Thanksgiving leftovers in an old Better Homes and Garden magazine. All you need is leftover pie dough and Thanksgiving leftovers. Here's the drill: Make mini pies with leftovers. Press pie dough into muffin tins; bake in a 425 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until golden. Spoon whatever you want-stuffing, turkey, potatoes, even cranberry sauce-into the pie shells. Serve at room temperature or warm in a 350 degree oven about 8 minutes. Top with fresh herbs. These look so cute and I can't wait to eat them!

Monday, October 29, 2012

My first linky party!

Do I have cravings?  I definitely did when I was pregnant with my daughter.  Anything from Hostess cupcakes to salt and vinegar chips-yummmmmyyy.  And yes, cravings very often sneak up on me, like the NEED for chocolate at 12:00 and 2:30 while I am at work.  Yeah, I go searching for chocolate if I don't have any of my own.  It's sad, but so worth it!

I stumbled upon this linky over the weekend and thought it would be fun! I'm probably not following the rules because what I crave is something I have not made yet, but my sister did!  We both got our Food Network Magazines a few months ago and were drooling over the picture on the cover. 

Picture of Easy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Croutons Recipe

I mean seriously, tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons?!!  Personally, tomatoes are my least favorite food, but when you pair tomato soup with grilled cheese, I can get past the tomato taste!  I think the hubby will like it too because the soup isn't too thin since it is thickened up with some orzo.  Hopefully, the power will hold out so this can be made sometime this week!

Easy Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Croutons By Ina Garten, courtesy of Food Network Magazine


  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • Large pinch of saffron threads
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Grilled Cheese Croutons (see below)


In a large pot or Dutch oven such as Le Creuset, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.
Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.
Grilled Cheese Croutons
4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices country white bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
Heat a panini grill. Place the four slices of bread on a cutting board and brush lightly with the melted butter, being sure to butter the corners. Turn the slices over and pile Gruyere on two of the slices. Place the remaining two slices of bread on top of the Gruyere, buttered sides up.
Grill the sandwiches on the panini grill for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute and cut into 1-inch cubes.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday is for Suppers: Convenience Cooking- Quick Chicken Tacos, Crunchy Chicken Strips, 20-Minute Noodle Bowls

We are getting ready for a hurricane.  Yes, Hurricane Sandy is supposed to hit sometime tonight and into tomorrow morning.  It will make landfall mainly by New York and New Jersey, but we will feel the effects all the way down here in good ol' VA.  School has already been closed, so this means my Sunday was full of family time and no blues about work starting back up on Monday.  With that being said, the dinners for this week are kinda up in the air.  We are wondering, are we going to have power?  Luckily, my hubby has learned how to grill just about anything, so the grill is our back up this week. 

We always have chicken on hand-who doesn't?  You'll see that this week's meals are full of chicken since we need to either get rid of it or have something quick to eat.

Quick Chicken Tacos (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens) 
I love cooking with anything that can be turned into a taco!  I love making these because it's basically just assembling the toppings that takes the most time.

1 16-ounce can refried beans
2 6-ounce packages refrigerated cooked chicken breast strips, cut into bite-size pieces
1 10.5-ounce package 6-inch flour tortillas (10)
2 cups shredded Mexican-style four-cheese blend
2 cups shredded greens or iceberg lettuce
1 large chopped tomato
1/2 cup bottled salsa
1/2 cup dairy sour cream

In a saucepan, cook refried beans over medium heat until heated through, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, heat chicken breast strips according to package directions.  Spread about 2 tablespoons refried beans on each tortilla.  Top with chicken, cheese, lettuce, and tomato.  Fold tortillas over filling.  Serve with salsa, sour cream and lime wedges.

Crunchy Chicken Strips (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)
Goldfish and Ranch dressing are two of the ingredients?!  How can you go wrong when you have to cook for kids?

Nonstick cooking spray
7 cups bite-size cheddar fish-shape crackers or 14 cups pretzels (14 ounces)
1 1/2 cups bottled buttermilk ranch salad dressing
2 pounds chicken breast tenderloins

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line two 15x10x1-inch baking pans with foil.  Lightly coat foil with cooking spray; set aside.
Crush crackers (put them in a freezer bag and roll a rolling pin over them) and transfer to a shallow dish.  In another shallow dish place the 1 1/2 cups ranch dressing.  Dip chicken tenderloins into dressing, allowing excess to drip off; dip into cracker crumbs to coat.  Arrange chicken in prepared pans.  Lightly coat chicken with cooking spray.
Bake uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, rotating pans halfway through baking.  If desired, serve half of the chicken strips with additional ranch dressing.
Cool remaining chicken strips for 20 minutes.  Place in an airtight container, cover and chill for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.  To reheat strips, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Arrange chilled or frozen strips in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake, uncovered, until heated through. (allow 15 min. for chilled and 20 minutes for frozen strips)

20 Minute Shrimp Noodle Bowls(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)
Very often, we have shrimp in the freezer because our local grocery store always has it on sale.  These are soo so good.  Just thinking about them makes me want to cook them up right now!

1 14-ounce can reduced sodium chicken broth or lower sodium beef broth
1/2 cup bottled peanut sauce
2 cups frozen stir-fry or mixed vegetables
2 3-ounce packages ramen noodles (any flavor, broken)
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
Cooked shrimp

In a large saucepan combine broth and peanut sauce.  Bring to boiling.  Add grated ginger.  Stir in frozen vegetables and noodles (discard seasoning packet).  Return to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, for 3 minutes or until noodles and vegetables are tender.  Stir in cooked shrimp and heat through.  Divide noodle mixture among four bowls.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday is for Supper: crescent burgers, shredded beef tacos, slow cooker breakfast casserole, slow cooker spaghettie sauce italiano

I want to challenge you.  I want to challenge you to sit down and have a meal with your family.  There are so many positive outcomes that comes from just reconnecting with your family over a shared meal.  We were blessed to have the chance to sit down together at every meal today:  breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It was awesome and a rarity.  During the work week we are usually rushing out the door to work and preschool, and breakfast becomes a grab and go type of event.  Lunch, of course, is on or own at our workplaces and preschool, but dinner is a time for us to be together.  I know this may change as the kids get older and we are pulled in different directions, so realistically for most, would be to sit down together at a meal 2-3 times a week.

When we sit down for dinner, we turn music on and talk about our day.  We all share what our favorite part of the day was.  Tessa loves this and will often look at us and say, "So, what was the favorite part of your day?"  Ry and I are taking a parenting class through church and they suggested playing a game over a meal called, "Sad, mad, and glad."  You take turns going around the table sharing one thing from the day that made you sad, mad, and glad.  We have fun with it and makes for a fun dinner conversation and I think Tessa thinks it's interesting to hear about things that actually made her parents sad and mad.

I hope you have a chance to sit down to a meal together this week!  My wish is that maybe one of these suppers will be one you can make for your family. 

Pinterest has become one of my go-to sites for recipes.  I usually spend part of my weekends scouring the internet and cookbooks for recipes to use for dinners for the week, but pinterest has it all in one place and it has been so fun to find new recipes to try.  Have fun trying these recipes:  crescent burgers, slow cooker breakfast casserole, shredded beef tacos, slow cooker spaghetti sauce italiano.

Crescent Burgers: (thanks to  Tessa took one bite of these and threw her arms around me and said, "Thank you Mommy!  These are so yummy!"  No lie, this actually happened.

1/2 pound of ground beef
worcestshire sauce
1 egg
1/3 packet of dry onion soup mix
1/2 tsp black pepper
2/3 cup cheddar cheese
1 roll of crescents

Preheat oven to 375.  In a skillet heat a small amount of oil and brown meat.  In a medium size bowl mix – 1/2 cup of cheese, onion soup mix, couple drops of Worcestershire sauce, pepper; meat.  Unroll the crescents. Place a rounded tablespoon of the meat mixture towards the larger end of the crescent dough.  Place crescents onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.Brush the tops of the dough with an egg wash ( simply break and egg in a bowl and whisk egg until well blended and 1 tablespoon of water to the mix).  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the egg wash and bake for 10 – 15 minutes.

Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole: (thanks to the  I love my slow cooker and love when dinner is already done for me when I get home.  I think my slow cooker is too big, but it still does its job.  I think I need to go get a 4 quart one, though.

1 Package of Frozen Hash Browns
1 Pound of Cooked Sausage
2 Cups of Colby Jack Cheese, shredded
1 Cup of Diced Peppers (green, red, yellow and/or orange)
1 Cup of Sliced Mushrooms
1 Can of Diced Chilis (optional)
1 Quart of EggBeaters (can also use 16 eggs)
Spray the slow cooker with Pam.
Starting with the frozen hash browns, layer the ingredients, repeating twice.  Shake the EggBeaters well and pour over the top.  cook on LOW for 8 hours on HIGH for 3-4 hours.
Shredded Beef Tacos: (thanks to  These were a true OMG moment.  These are amazing tacos!  Ryan and I totally stuffed our faces and did it again when we had leftover night!
1 1/2 lbs eye of chuck (which is NOT beef chuck roast)
4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsps vinegar
2 tbsps fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tsps ground cumin
1 1/2 tsps chili powder
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup beef stock
salt to taste
~ 24 corn tortillas
lettuce, queso fresco, salsa, guacamole, etc. (for toppings)
Trim the fat and cut the beef into 1 inch thick slices. In a ziploc bag, combine the oil, vinegar, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, and garlic. Place the meat slices in the bag, seal, mix it around and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Bring the meat to room temperature. Place all contents from the bag in a baking dish with the beef stock. Cover the dish and bake for 1 1/4 hours (I baked it for 2 1/2 hours) at 350°F. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes and then shred it with forks or process it quickly in a food processor with the plastic dough blade (I prefer the forks method). Salt the meat to your liking. Fry the tortillas lightly in a little hot oil.  Double the tortillas and stuff them with shredded beef, lettuce, cheese, guacamole, and salsa.
Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce Italiano:  (adapted from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)
1 pound bulk Italian sausage or ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
2 4-oz. cans mushroom stems and pieces, drained
1 bay leaf
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning, crushed
1 cup chopped green sweet pepper
12 to 16 ounces hot cooked spaghetti
In a large skillet cook sausage, onion, and garlic over medium heat until meat browns.  Drain fat; discard.  In a 3 1/2 or 4 quart slow cooker combine undrained tomatoes, tomato paste, mushrooms, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper.  Add meat mixture.  Cover and cook on low 8 to 10 hours or on high 4-5 hours.  Stir in sweet pepper.  Discard bay leaf.  Serve meat mixture over hot cooked spaghetti. 
553 cal, 23 g fat, 51 mg chol, 1,506 mg sodium, 62 g carb, 6 g fiber, 27 g protein.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Foil Packet Cooking=AMAZING!

Yeah, I had a baby almost 7 months ago and these last 10 pounds just would not come off.  Luckily, I am surrounded by lots of other ladies who have had babies in the past 4-5 months and were experiencing the same problem.  They told me about this diet called the 17-Day Diet.  It consists of 4-17 day diet cycles that you progress through gradually to get to your goal weight.  I'm in the first cycle which is called Accelerate.  I can eat any vegetable I want all day long, so I have had a salad for lunch almost everyday usually topped with some kind of lean protein:  ground turkey, chicken, tuna, salmon.  For breakfast, I'll eat two eggs with fruit and then dinner is usually some kind of lean protein with lots of veggies!  I wanted to try something different when cooking all this protein.  This is where the foil packets come in.

To make a foil packet,  lay a large sheet of heavy-duty foil or a double layer of regular foil on a flat surface.  Put the ingredients in the center of the foil.  Bring the short ends of the foil together and fold twice to seal; fold in the sides to seal, leaving room for steam.  Place on Grill!

We have used the packets to cook 4 different times this week and we are so hooked!  We keep trying to find excuses to cook stuff in the packets on the grill.  We made the garlic shrimp twice last week.

Garlic Shrimp
Mix 1/2 stick softened butter, 1 cup chopped parsley, 2 chopped garlic cloves, and salt and pepper.  Toss with the juice of 1 lemon, 1 pound unpeeled large shrimp and a big pinch of red pepper flakes.  Divide between 2 foil packets.  Grill over high heat, 8 minutes.

Dijon Chicken Breasts  We LOVED this!  I can't think of any other recipe I've made that made the chicken as moist as this recipe.
Combine 3 tablespoons olive oil with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 3 tablespoons white wine.  Stir in 1/2 tsp. each of onion powder, garlic powder, and poultry seasoning.  Toss 4 chicken breasts with this mixture and place in four separate foil packets.  Grill over medium-high heat, 12 minutes.

Sesame Fish
Combine 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tbsp lite soy sauce, 1 tsp chopped garlic.  Place tilapia on foil and pour mixture over fish.  Sprinkle each fish with toasted sesame seeds.  Grill over high heat, 10 minutes.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

On the Menu: Grilled Shrimp and Green Bean Salad, Turkey Burgers with Rosemary and Onions, Fiesta Salad, Baked Chicken and Rice with Black Beans, Twice-Baked Potatoes

Ryan and I often question whether or not we are doing a good job as parents.  When our heads hit the pillow at the end of the day we both know we did our best at raising our children.  There are times where we feel completely rotten, like the other night when Tessa decided to throw a MAJOR tantrum, saying no to everything, throwing her toothbrush on the floor, etc.  I found myself close to tears after all was said and done.  I looked at Ryan and said, "I hate it when she does that.  I hate having to get after her."  It reminded me of times when my sister and I would misbehave and my dad would look at us and say, "Girls, don't make me have to be a parent right now." 

But, then there are the times when Tess will look at us and say (unprovoked), "I love my little family.  I love my little brother, my daddy, my mama, and Riley."  This, of course, melts our hearts.  We pick her up at preschool and even her teachers tell us about how much she talks about her family during the day and how much she loves us.  Ryan and I tell each other we must be doing SOMETHING right.

To all you parents out there:  Here's to making mistakes and hoping for the best!

****This recipe takes a lot of prep, so make it on a relaxing weekend or uneventful day (whatever those are) because the end result is SO worth it!  Tessa told me she loved her dinner when I made this.
Grilled Shrimp and Green Bean Salad adapted from Southern Living Annual Recipes
8 Wooden skewers
1 1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
2 lb. peeled, medium-size raw shrimp
Basil Vinaigrette, divided (recipe follows)
6 cooked bacon slices, crumbled
1 1/3 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup roasted, salted almonds (I just had roasted on hand)
Cornbread (optional)

1.  Soak wooden skewers in water to cover 30 minutes.
2.  Cook green beans in boiling salted water to cover 4 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain, pat dry, and place in a large bowl.
3. Combine shrimp and 3/4 cup Basil Vinaigrette in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag; seal and chill 15 minutes, turning occasionally.  Remove shrimp from marinade, discarding marinade.  Thread shrimp onto skewers.
4.  Grill shrimp, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350 to 400 degrees) 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink.  Remove shrimp from skewers; toss with green beans, bacon, cheese, almonds, and remaining 3/4 cup Basil  Vinaigrette.  Serve over hot cornbread, if desired.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Basil Vinaigrette
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
4 large shallots, minced (feel free to cut back on this-I love shallots, but they can be over powering)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp seasoned pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup olive oil

Whisk together first 7 ingredients in a small bowl until blended; gradually add olive oil, whisking constantly until blended.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups

***These are good for you and yummy!  Don't leave out the rosemary-it totallymakes this recipe!
Turkey Burgers with Rosemary and Onions adapted from Southern Living Annual Recipes
1 pkg. lean ground turkey breast
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tbsp butter, divided
1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced
1 tsp chopped fresh or dried rosemary
Vegetable cooking spray
1 package goat cheese, sliced (I use Swiss, but you can also use blue cheese or Gorgonzola)
6 whole grain white hamburger buns
Toppings:  lettuce, Dijon mustard, tomato slices

1.  Gently combine first 4 ingredients.  Shape mixture into 6 thin patties; cover and chill 30 minutes.
2.  Melt 1 tbsp butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and rosemary, and saute 10 minutes or until onion is tender and golden.  Remove onion mixture from skillet.
3.  Melt remaining 1/2 tbsp butter in same skillet over medium heat.  Cook patties 6 mintues on each side or until no longer pink in center.  Place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet or broiler pan coated with cooking spray.
4.  Top each patty evenly with onion mixture and 1 cheese slice. Broil 6 inches from heat 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.  Serve on hamburger buns with desired toppings.
Makes 6 servings.

***I had a get together with my co-workers and I was asked to bring a side dish for our Mexican themed meal.  This was a great addition!
Fiesta Salad adapted from Southern Living Annual Recipes
10 cups torn romaine lettuce leaves
1 1/2 cups chopped tomato or cherry tomato halves
2 avocados, diced
2 green onions, chopped
1 cup tortilla chips, crushed

Toss together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.  Top with crushed tortilla chips.  Makes 8 servings

***This looks so pretty in a bowl.  Ryan looked at it and said, "This has almost every vegetable imaginable in it."  Carrots sound a little odd, but make sense once you try it.  I even had the leftovers the next day for lunch in a tortilla.
Baked Chicken and Rice with Black Beans adapted from Southern Living Magazine Feb. 2009
1 (10 oz.) pkg. yellow rice mix (I used white rice b/c that's what I had!)
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper (or red!)
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
2 cups (8 oz) grated Monterey Jack cheese (I used a combo of cheddar and Monterey Jack)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare rice according to package directions.
2.  Meanwhile, saute onion, bell pepper, and carrot in hot oil in a medium skillet over medium heat 10 minutes or until tender.
3.  Combine hot cooked rice, onion misture, chicken, beans, diced tomatoes and chiles, and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a large bowl.  Spoon into a lightly greased 3 qt or 13 x 9 inch baking dish; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
4.  Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

***My new favorite thing is twiced baked potatoes.  You can add so much to them if you want to.  I have even added cauliflower puree to the potato pulp to add an extra nutitional umph to them.  No, I wasn't trying to be sneaky!  Ryan knew I had done it and you couldn't even taste the difference!
Twice Baked Potatoes adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook 15th edition
4 medium baking potatoes
1/2 cup dairy sour cream or plain yogurt
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
milk (optional)
3/4 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 tbsp snipped fresh chives (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Scrub potatoes thoroughly with a brush, pat dry.  Prick potatoes with a fork.  Bake for 40 to 60 minutes or until tender. 

Let potatoes stand for about 10 minutes.  Cut a lengthwise slice off the top of each baked potatos; discard skin from slices and place pulp in a bowl.  Scoop out potato pulp; add to the bowl.
Mash the potato pulp with a potato masher or an electric mixer on low speed.  Add sour cream, garlic salt, and pepper; beat until smooth (If necessary, stir in 1 to 2 tbsp milk to reach desired consistency)  Season to taste with salt and additional black pepper.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese and, if desired, chives.  Spoon the mashed potato mixture into the potato shells.  Place in a 2 qt baking dish.
Bake uncovered in the 425 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until light brown.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake for 2 to 3 minutes more or until chese melts.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

On the Menu: Grilled Chicken with White Barbecue Sauce, Chicken Fajita Salad, Banana Pecan Pancakes

For this week, I have another fun spin on breakfast for dinner and a couple chicken dinners that will do double duty for you.  The white barbecue sauce has multiple uses-not just for chicken!  I hope you enjoy the recipes!

Grilled Chicken with White Barbecue Sauce adapted from Southern Living 2007 Annual Recipes
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
10 chicken thighs (about 3 lbs)  ***I used thighs and drumsticks.

1.  Combine first 7 ingredients.  Rinse chicken, and pat dry; rub mixture evenly over chicken.  Place chicken in a zip-top plastic freezer bag.  Seal and chill 4 hours.  Remove chicken from bag, discarding bag.
2.  Grill chicken, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350-400 degrees) 8 to 10 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 180 degrees.  Serve chicken wtih White Barbecue Sauce.  Makes 5 servings.

White Barbecue Sauce (This sauce is so delicious.  It's tangy and pairs perfectly with the spices in the chicken.)
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp coarsely ground pepper
1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp horseradish (I LOVE horseradish!  It's one of the weird cravings I had when pregnant with Tessa.  I made as many things as I could that had horseradish as an ingredient.)

Stir together all ingredients until well blended.  Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.  Makes 1 3/4 cups.
You can serve the sauce as a topping for baked potatoes or a condiment for burgers.

***Now, you will have leftovers from this dinner, so why not chop up some of the chicken, removing the skins and use it in the Chicken Fajita Salad????  Nice!

Chicken Fajita Salad adapted from Southern Living 2007 Annual Recipes
1/2 (24 oz.) package frozen grilled chicken breast strips (just use leftover chicken!)
1 large onion, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
4 (10 inch) burrito-size flour tortillas
1 medium head iceberg lettuce, torn (about 6 cups)
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with peppers (I just used regular Monterey Jack)
Toppings:  sour cream, salsa, guacamole, Ranch dressing, lime wedges, chopped fresh cilantro

Prepare chicken strips according to stovetop package directions.  (Or just warm up last night's leftovers!)  Remove chicken from skillet.
Saute onion, bell pepper, and next 3 ingredients in hot oil in skillet over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned.  Stir in chicken strips and 2 tbsp water, and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture is thoroughly heated.
Arrange tortillas in 4 individual serving bowls.  Divide lettuce and cheese evenly in tortilla lined bowls.  Top with hot chicken mixture.  Serve with desired toppings.  Makes 4 servings.

***I love breakfast for dinner, so when I have the time to make it, I try to put my own spin on the trusty old toast and eggs or pancakes and waffles.  This recipe starts with your own homemade Pancake mix-so no Bisquick up in here!

Pancake Mix adapted from SL 2007 Anuual Recipes
6 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp salt

Stir together all ingredients in a large bowl; store in a zip-top plastic bag up to 6 weeks.

Banana-Pecan Pancakes (My husband said these tasted like banana nut bread in a pancake.)
1 1/2 cups pancake mix
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I use the powdered buttermilk that you can find on the baking aisle.  You just add water to it.  Thanks Mama for that suggestion!)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 chopped banana  (You can omit these if you want to.)
1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans  (You can also omit these, too.)

Combine Pancake mix and sugar in a medium bowl.
Whisk together 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, egg, and oil; add to dry ingredients, whisking just until lumps disappear.
Stir in 1 chopped banana and 1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans into batter.
Pour about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or large nonstick skillet.  Cook pancakes 2 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges begin to look cooked; turn and cook 2 more minutes or until done.  Makes 4 servings (about 15 pancakes)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Baby Food Breakdown

This is for all you Mamas of little ones!  When Tessa as a baby I did not make my own baby food for her and wish I had.  She turned out just fine, but I really wanted to give it another try with my Dempsey bear.  I have two cookbooks that I have referred to to get started:

Cooking for Baby
Cooking for Baby: Wholesome, Homemade, Delicious Foods for 6 to 18 Months

and Tyler Florence's Start Fresh Cookbook (this is actually a Christmas present for a good friend, but I couldn't resist a sneak peek!)
Product Details

What I have learned from these two books is just how easy it is to make your own baby food at home!  All you need is a pot with a steamer basket, blender, food processor, rimmed roasting pan (rimmed cooking sheet), ice cube trays, and freezer bags! 

Our doctor recommended introducing foods to Dempsey by doing a fruit, vegetable, fruit, vegetable, and so on.  He said this would prevent the child from developing only a likeness for sweet fruits.  He also suggested waiting three days after introducing a new food to see how the child reacts to the new food.  Tyler Florence recommends using a blender to mix first foods because it creates a smoother consistency and then usign a food processor once the baby is used to eating these first foods becuase a food processor tends to give foods a thicker consistency.

Once I make the pureed baby food, I let it cool and then spoon it into ice cube trays.  Once it is frozen I pop it out and into freezer bags.  I then label the bag with the food and the date which I make it.  Depending on who you talk to, baby foods can last up to three months in the freezer and three days in the fridge. 

To feed Dempsey, I take two of the ice cube foods and place them in one cup glass bowls that I purchased and they come with lids.  Then I put the bowl in the fridge in the morning and it is thawed by the time I need to feed it to the Little Bear.  Since I store it in a glass bowl, I feel comfortable heating up the food in the microwave.  I stir it to even out the hot spots and wait a few minutes to make sure it's not too hot.

So far, Demps has tried apples and sweet potatoes with success!  I plan on then moving onto pears, peas, carrots, and maybe bananas!  Neither cookbook has a recipe for just bananas.  I'm thinking this is because bananas don't freeze well.

Here are some recipes for homemade baby food! 

Apple Puree (makes 2 cups) This would also make a good base for applesauce!
6 Golden or Red Delicious apples, quartered and cored just before cooking

Bring 1 inch water to a boil in a pot.  Put apples in a steamer basket, set in pot, cover tightly, and steam until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 10-12 minutes.

Let cool, reserving cookign liquid.  Scrape flesh from skins and puree in a food processor until smooth.  Add reserved cooking liquid to thin the puree, if desired.

Refrigerate cooled apple puree in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or fill ice-cube trays or other containers to freeze for up to 3 months.  There will be some slight discoloration during storing.

Pear Puree (makes 2 cups)
4 ripe pears, quartered and cored just before cooking

Bring 1 inch water to a boil in a pot.  Put pears in a steamer basked, set in pot, cover tightly, and steam until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 7-10 minutes, depending on ripeness.

Let cool and scrape flesh from skins.  Puree pears in a food processor until smooth.  As baby gets older, add baby's cereal to thicken this liquidy puree, if desired.
Refrigerate cooled pear puree in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or fill ice-cube trays or other containers to freeze for up to 3 months.  There will be some slight discoloration during storing.

Sweet Potato Puree (makes 2 cups)
2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Prick sweet potatoes with a small knife and place on a baking sheet.

Roast until wrinkled and tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 45-60 minutes.  Let cool.

Halve sweet potatoes, scoop out flesh from skins, and puree flesh in a food processor until smooth.  Add water, breast milk, or formula to think sweet potatoes to a consistency your baby can handle.  As baby gets older and can eat thicker purees, mash some or all of the sweet potato with a fork.

This can also be used for baking potatoes as well.

Refrigerate cooled sweet potato puree in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or fill ice-cube trays or other containers to freeze for up to 3 months.  There will be some slight discoloration during storing.

Sweet Pea Puree (makes 1 1/2 cups)
Peas, fresh or frozen, 2 cups (10 oz.)

Bring 1 inch water to a boil in a pot.  Put peas in a steamer basket, set in pot, cover tightly, and steam until bright green and tender enouch to mash easily with a fork, 5-7 minutes for fresh or hard frozen peas and 3 minutes for thawed frozen.  Remove basket from pot, reserving cooking liquid.  Rinse peas under running cold water to stop the cooking.

Puree peas until smooth.  Add cooking liquid, breast milk, or formula to thin pea puree to a consistency your baby can handle.

Refrigerate cooled pea puree in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or fill ice-cube trays or other containers to freeze for up to 3 months.  There will be some slight discoloration during storing.

Carrot Puree
1 bunch carrots

Cut the greens off if needed.  Peel the carrots and then slice the carrots evenly into circles and set aside.

Bring about 1 cup of water to boil in a large pot over high heat.  Place carrot slices in steamer basket and place over boiling water.  Cover with lid and steam until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. 

Transfer to a blender or food processor while hot and puree.  Add some of the cooking water to thin out the puree.

Tyler Florence's book even has recipes for the following foods to feed baby:  summer squash or zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, turnips, cauliflower, and parsnips.  There really is no limit to what you can do to introduce your baby to new foods! 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Happy Anniversary! Menu items: Brunch for a Bunch, Honeyed Chicken, Grilled Hamburgers with sour cream and herbs

Ry Guy and I are celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary on July 15th.  We have had a very eventful 6 years of married life.  I filled out a questionnaire about us and will include some meals to make this week!

1.  How did you all meet?
   We met in college.  We both attended Lynchburg College.  A mutual friend, Kevin Graves, told me I had to meet two of his friends who were also from Richmond.  He introduced me to Ryan and his roommate Justin our freshman year.  All three of them ran cross country and track together while I played soccer.  Being an avid football fan, I was looking for someone to watch Sunday football with and someone who was a fan of the Redskins.  Every weekend I would head over to Ryan and Justin's dorm room to watch football with the two of them and Kevin.  I only considered Ryan to be a friend and enjoyed spending time with him and the guys.  Second semester of our freshman year, we found out we had a class together called Argument and Reasoning.  Luckily for us, our first assignment was to interview a classmate and present the interview of the other person as an introduction to the class.  Ryan and I got paired up.  It was a perfect opportunity to get to know him better and we realized we had more in common than we thought. 

2.  When did you all start dating?
     We made our relationship official on March 15th of 2003. 

3.  Where was your first date?
      To be honest, we don't remember our first date.  As freshmen, we did not have cars on campus, so we had to make do with just hanging out with each other.  We did end up borrowing someone's car to go on a date, but honestly don't remember where we went.

4.  What were your favorite memories of your courtship?
      We dated all through college.  Some of my favorite memories together were hiking the Peaks of Otter, going with Ryan to the various lakes in Lynchburg while he fished and I did schoolwork, running track and cross country with Ryan and the rest of the team....I loved meeting his family and introducing him to mine.  Ryan has a very goofy personality and he definitely was not afraid to show it to my family.  I brought him with me to our family's river house the first summer we were together.  We had an awesome time with my parents and sister and started packing up our stuff to go home on Sunday.  Ryan put the towel he had been using all weekend on his head and walked out to my parents who were sitting on the screened-in porch.  In a high-pitched voice he asked my parents where they would like him to put his towel.  It made my parents laugh and they still remember this story.

5.  When did you realize you were in love?
      For Ryan, it was a little sooner than for me.  He kept telling me he would just wait until I was ready to love him back, which made me like him even more.  I realized I loved Ryan when I met his family.  He wasn't shy about hugging both of his parents in front of other people and telling them he loved them.  I watched him interact with his younger sisters.  His younger sister was in high school at the time and his youngest sister was 6 and in the first grade.  I knew this relationship was very different from any of the other relationships I had been in.

6.  How did he propose?
      Little did I know, but Ryan had contacted my Dad to ask for his blessing before he popped the question.  I had just gotten back from a cross country meet and had the day off from practice.  Ryan wanted to hike the Peaks of Otter together.  It was a rainy, cloudy day, but as we hiked up the mountain, we went through the clouds and ended up finishing our hike in sunshine.  I went to the edge and looked down at the clouds below us and turned around to see Ryan on his knee and a ring in his hand.

7.  What was your wedding day like?
     We got married July 15, 2006 in Lynchburg.  We exchanged vows at the Snidow Chapel on Lynchburg's campus and had our reception at West Manor Bed and Breakfast.  It was really hot that day, but it didn't matter.  We had an amazing time with our family and friends and then enjoyed our honeymoon in Key Largo.

8.  What major events have happened since you got married?
      Geez, we bought a house and have steady careers.  In 2008, we welcomed our daughter, Tessa to the family and then in 2012, we added our Dempsey boy to the fam.

9.  What marriage advice would you give to other couples?
      Remember to laugh together and not take things too seriously.  Very often, Ryan and I find ourselves in stressful situations with our kids, work, or just life in general and we turn to each other and just start laughing because sometimes that's all you can do.  It helps us keep things on the light side.

Happy 6th anniversary, Ry!

The recipes for this week are fairly simple and of course include a new burger recipe to try.  The honeyed chicken recipe makes use of ingredients most of us have on hand and the Brunch for a Bunch recipe is a good one for breakfast for dinner.

Brunch for a Bunch
1/2 lb. bulk pork sausage
3 frozen hash brown patties (I used 4)
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1 can green chilies, chopped
5 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk

Brown and drain sausage.  In a 8 x 8 inch greased dish, layer starting with potatoes, then sausage, cheese, and chilies.  Combine eggs and milk, stirring well.  Pour over layers.  Bake at 350 degress for 50 minutes.  This recipe can easily be doubled!

Honeyed Chicken
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup mustard
1 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. butter
Chicken pieces
1/2 tsp salt (optional)

Combine honey, mustard, lemon juice, and salt.  Melt butter in foil-lined pan.  Place chicken skin side down.  Baste wtih honey mix.  Bake 1/2 hour (350 degrees).  Turn, baste, bake 1/2 hour more; basting with remainder of mix.

Grilled Hamburgers with Sour cream and Herbs
2 2/3 pounds ground beef
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespon minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried, crumbled
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary or 1/4 tsp dried, crumbled
3/4 tsp ground black pepper

8 hamburger buns, split

Combine first 6 ingredents thoroughly in medium bowl.  Shape beef mixture into eight 1-inch thick patties.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours.  Place burgers on grill.  Cover grill and cook burgers 4 minutes.  Turn burgers.  Cover grill and cook burgers to desired doneness, about 4 minutes longer for medium-rare.  Grill buns, inner sides down, during last 2 minutes if desired. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy July! Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs with Wilted Spinach, Farfalle with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cream, Perfect Pork Burgers, Chicken Salad

July is one of my favorite months for a few reasons.  My wonderful husband was born in the month of July, we were married during this month, my grandmother also celebrates her birthday, July is the one full month that teachers have off during the year, and the country celebrates its independence!  I love it!  (There have been plenty of unpleasant things that have happened in my lifetime during the month of July, but the good stuff totally outweighs the bad.) 

I still have yet to make the fajitas and sausage burgers from this past week because of schedule changes, etc., but the corn dogs and the lo mein were huge hits at the Fletcher house!  Ryan even made the comment that we probably really don't ever have to eat out since we can make most everything at home.  Yay!  :)

I hope you enjoy this week's recipes!

***Chicken thighs are fun to cook with and a nice change-up to the old standby of chicken breasts.  I like it when my grocery store has the boneless, skinless chicken thighs on sale.  I bought two cases.  I'll use one for this recipe and cook the other case so I will have cooked chicken on hand.  This recipe comes from a blog called The Cookbook Junkie.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs with Wilted Spinach
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons hot chili garlic sauce

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 large handfuls baby spinach leaves

1.  In a small bowl, mix the marinade ingredients together.
2.  Place the thighs in a large resealable plastic bag.  Pour in the marinade.  Seal the bag tightly and turn it to distribute the marinade over the chicken.  Place bag in a bowl and refrigerate 1-2 hours, turning the bag occasionally.  (I might even marinate it overnight)
3.  Remove the thighs from the bag, reserving the marinade.  Pour the marinade in a very large skillet and set aside.  Grill the thighs over direct high heat until the meat is firm and juices run clear, 8-10 minutes.  Turn once or twice.
4.  Meanwhile, bring the marinade to a boil over high heat and allow to boil for 1 minute.  Add the spinach leaves and cook until the spinach is just wilted, 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally.  Serve the warm spinach mixture under the chicken.

***This next recipe is an old stand-by.  Again, we love Italian sausage in our house and find multiple uses for it.  This was one of the first recipes I made as a married woman and needless to say, the hubby loved it.  The sauce has a nice kick to it and don't skip out on the cream.  You can substitute milk for it, but the cream really does give the sauce a nice color and texture.

Farfalle with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Italian Sausage, casing removed
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red peper
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes with added puree
1/2 cup whipping cream

1 pound farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (I have used Parmesan and it's just as good)

Heat oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and crushed red pepper.  Saute until sausage is no longer pink, breaking up with back of fork, about 5 minutes.  Add onion and garlic; saute until onion is tender and sausage is browned, about 3 minutes longer.  Add tomatoes and cream.  Reduce heat to love and simmer until sausage mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite.  Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.  Return pasta to same pot.  Add sausage mixture and toss over medium low heat until sauce coats pasta, adding reserved cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if mixture is dry.  Transfer pasta to serving dish.  Sprinkle with basil.  Serve, passing cheese separately.

***This next recipe is another burger to try.  I'm holding to my word of trying a new burger every week!

Perfect Pork Burgers
5 slices bacon
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
Freshly ground pepper
4 potato buns, split
Unsalted butter, softened, for spreading
Coleslaw, for topping

1.  Pulse the bacon and garlic in a food processor until coarsely ground.
2.  Combine the ground pork, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the sage in a large bowl.  Add the bacon mixture and gently mix with your hands.  Gently form the meat into 4 balls, then lightly press into 4-inch-wide, 1-inch-thick patties.  Make a 2-inch-wide indentation in the center of each with your thumb to prevent the burgers from bluging when grilled.
3.  Preheat a grill to medium high.  Season the patties wtih pepper.  Grill, undisturbed, until marked on the bottom, 5-6minutes.  Turn and grill until the other side is marked and the patties feel firm, 4 to 6 more minutes.  Meanwhile, spread the cut sides of the buns with butter and toast on the grill.
4.  Serve the patties on the buns; top with coleslaw.

***One of my goals this week is to get the whole family to the pool after Ry Guy comes home from work.  If we do this, we usually bring dinner with us since there really is no place to pick up a good meal on the way to the pool.  Chicken salad would be a great meal to have after playing with the kids together!

Chicken Salad
8 ounces chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/3 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise (could also try plain low-fat yogurt of Greek yogurt)
1 teaspoon snipped fresh basil or 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel (optional)
Bread slices or salad greens

In a medium bowl, combine chicken, celery, and green onions.  For dressing, in a small bowl stir together mayonnaise, basil, salt, and lemon peel.  Pour dressing over chicken mixture and toss gently to coat.  Cover and chill 1 to 4 hours.  If desired, serve on bread or over salad greens.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

On the Menu: Fajitas, Spring Onion Pie, Pork and Egg Lo Mein, Corn Dogs, Sausage Burgers

It's pretty daggone hot around here, but it's GLORIOUS because that means another school year is over and it's summertime.  I had the chance to say goodbye to my schoolbabies and start spending a whole lotta time with my home babies.  Life is good!

My dad is cranking out radiation and chemo treatments up in Baltimore with my mom during the week and home on the weekends.  It's crazy and we hate it, but if this is what it takes to heal him, then so be it.  I am so proud to call these two wonderful people my parents!!! 

Now onto cooking...I have cooked up some amazing meals these past couple weeks and am so mad I didn't have the chance to share them.  Hopefully, this will not happen again!  Here's what's on the menu this week:  Pizza (duh), Fajitas, Spring Onion Pie, Pork and Egg Lo Mein, Corn Dogs, and Sausage Burgers.

***I am always looking for new and creative meals to do for Mexican night at our house, so Fajitas sounded awesome.  I hadn't made these in a while, so it will be a nice change-up!

Fajitas adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

12 ounces beef skirt or flank steak, cut into thin bite-size strips
1 recipe Homemade Fajita Seasoning (recipe follows)
1 cup thin strips red or green sweet pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup chopped tomato
1 tablespoon lime juice
4 to six 8 inch flour tortillas, warmed

1.  Sprinkle beef with 2 teasoppns of the Homemade Fajita Seasoning, toss to coat.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
2.  In a very large skillet cook pepper, onion, and remaining seasoning in 1 tablespoon oil until tender.  Remove from skillet.  Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil and meat to skillet.  Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes until desired doneness.  Return pepper mixture to skillet.  Stir in tomato.  Cook until heated through.  Remove from heat; stir in lime juice.  To serve fill warmed tortillas with beef mixture.  If desired, top with guacamole, salsa, and dairy sour cream.  Roll up tortillas.

Homemade Fajita Seasoning:  Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed; 1/4 teaspoon salt; 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper; 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder; and 1/8 teaspoon onion powder.

Nutrition Info:  Per tortilla and 3/4 cup beef mixture:  356 cal., 21 g total fat, 51 mg chol., 326 mg sodium, 21 g carb, 2 g fiber, 20 g protein.

***I got myself a cast iron skillet not too long ago and was so excited when I came across this recipe which suggests baking this next recipe in a cast iron skillet.  Now, a cast iron skillet should be a staple in every kitchen.  It's a piece of equipment that lasts for years and should NOT be washed with soap.  Cast iron holds onto the flavors of every meal you cook and actually comes pre-seasoned when you buy it.  All you have to do is rinse it out and wipe it down with a paper towel when you are finished cooking.  Now that's my kind of clean up!

Spring Onion Pie
10 thin spring onions (green onions)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp butter
5 oz Gruyere cheese, cubed (you can substitute Swiss or sharp cheddar)

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet in oven.  Trim roots from onions; discard roots.  Chop half of onions. 
2.  Whisk together eggs and milk.  Sift together flour and next 3 ingredients.  Gradually add flour mixtrue to egg mixture, whisking rapidly 20 to 30 seconds or just until blended and smooth.  (There should be no lumps.)  Stir in chopped onions.  Let stand 5 minutes.
3.  Carefully remove hot skillet from oven.  Add butter, and let stand until butter is mielted.  Place skillet over medium-high heat, and pour batter into skillet.  Arrange cheese and remaining whole onions over top of batter, and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute or until edges begin to set.
4.  Transfer skillet to top oven rack, and bake at 400 dgrees for 22 to 25 minutes or until goden brown and puffy.  (Outside edges should be crispy.  Pie will deflate quickly.)  Serve immediately.

***I absolutely love to make my own Chinese food at home.  If you can find the right ingredients in your grocery store, there is no need to head out to an expensive restaurant.

Pork and Egg Lo Mein

Kosher salt
6 ounces dried lo mein noodles, spaghetti, or linguine
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (even my grocery store has this!)
2 1-inch-thick boneless pork chops (about 3/4 pound), thinly sliced
2 12 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled ginger (ginger freezes well, so keep it in your freezer!)
4 cups broccoli slaw mix
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1.  Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the noodles and cook as the label directs.  Reserve 3 tablespoons of the cooking water, then drain the noodles and rinse under cold water.  Meanwhile mixe the soy sauce and oyster sauce in a small bowl.  Put the pork in anoutehr bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce mixture.
2.  Heat 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the eggs; cook, without stirring, until set, 1 minute.  Flip and cook 30 seconds, then transfer to a cutting board and cut into strips.
3.  Heat the remaining 2 tbsps vegetable oil in the skillet.  Add the pork and stir fry until golden but not fully cooked, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.  Add the scallions, ginger and garlic to teh skillet and stir fry 30 seconds.  Add the broccoli slaw and bell pepper and stir fry 4 more minutes.  Return the pork to the skillet and add the noodles, the reserved cooking water and the remaining soy sauce mixture.  Stir-fry until the pork is cooked through, about 2 more minutes.  Stir in the egg.

Nutrition info:  454 calories, 20 g fat, 153 mg chol, 630 mg sodium, 44 g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 28 g protein

***Yes, I am always trying to find meals I can make at home rather than go out and pay way too much for meals made by someone else.  This way I know exactly what's going into the food.  So, why not try to have a kid-friendly dinner and whip up some corn dogs???

Corn Dogs

1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
10 to 12 wooden skewers
10 to 12 hot dogs
Vegetable oil for frying (about 8 cups)
Ketchup and/ or yellow mustard 

1.  Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  For batter, in a large bolw stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, dry mustard, and salt.  Using a pastry blender (or 2 knives), cut in shortening until mixture resembles fine crumbs.  In a small bowl combine egg and milk.  Add egg mixture to flour mixture; mix well.
2.  Insert the wooden skewers into ends of hot dogs.  Pour vegetable oil in a ver large skillet to a depth of 1 inch, heat oil over medium-high heat to 365 degrees.
3.  Coat hot dogs with batter (I would dredge the hot dogs in flour first to help the batter stick)  You could also pour the batter into a drinking glass and dip the hot dogs into the batter to ensure an even coat.  If the batter is too thick, add 1-2 tablespoons milk.
4.  Arrange the batter-coated hot dogs, three at a time, in hot oil.  Turn franks with tongs after 10 seconds of cooking to prevent batter from sliding off.  Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown, turning again halfway through cooking.  Drain corn dogs on paper towles; transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in oven while frying remaining franks.  Serve hot and with ketchup and mustard!

Nutrition info:  315 cal, 22 g fat, 45 mg chol, 632 mg sodium, 21 g carb, 1 g fiber, 8 g pro

***In the winter, I tried making a different soup every week, now that it's summertime, I want to try making a different burger every week.  Italian sausage is almost always in our freezer and we usually use it in sandwiches.  I wanted to change it up a bit and of course found an awesome burger recipe from Rachael Ray.

Sausage Burgers courtesy of Rachael Ray

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
2 Cubanelle peppers, seeded and halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup beef stock
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (hot or mild)
1 pound ground sirloin
1 tablespoon grill seasoning
2 large cloves garlic, grated
Handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
8 deli slices provolone cheese
4 sandwich rolls

1.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Saute mushrooms, onions and peppers until tender, 7 to 8 minutes then season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pan with stock.
2.  Combine the sausage and sirloin with grill seasoning, garlic and parsley. Mix and form 4 patties thinner at the center and thicker at the edges for even cooking and to keep burgers from bulging.
3.  Heat cast iron or nonstick skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat, cook patties 12 minutes turning once and top with mushrooms, onions and peppers and 2 slices of cheese. Turn heat off and cover pan with foil to melt cheese, 2 minutes. Pile on buns and serve.

Happy Eating, y'all!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

On the Menu: Barbecue Shrimp, Oven-Fried Chicken with Crunchy Broccoli Slaw, Beef and Noodle Toss, Sesame-Coated Pork Chops, Pesto Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage

The blog hasn't been updated because maternity leave came to an end and I am back working full-time.  My long term sub did an amazing job and my "school babies" miss her, but were happy to see me.  Teacher Appreciation week was this past week and my class surprised me with a binder of recipes.  How sweet is that?!  I can't wait to try them and post them on here! 

They both love to wear headbands!  My sis was in town this past week spending time with my parents.  She came to my classroom on Friday as our Mystery Reader.  She sent in 5 clues for me to read to see if the kids could guess who was coming to read.  They never did guess and her clues really threw them for a loop.  Her clues were:  I love plane rides.  I love my niece and nephew.  I am a doctor.  I have one sister.  I help people walk.   They asked her questions like, "What kind of doctor are you?"  "Where do you live?"  "Are you married?"  "Do you have kids?"  They thought she was so cool!  One little girl said, "She is such a cool sister!"  Sis and I then went to go pick up Dempsey Boy and Miss Tessa.  She spent the night with us and spent the day on Saturday celebrating my graduation.  My mom made a cute cake that looks like an open book.

I am hoping to do some more cooking this week.  The hubs is cooking dinner tonight for Mother's Day with assistance from me.  Here's his meal he's going to make:

Barbecue Shrimp adapted from Southern Living
1 1/2 lb. unpeeled jumbo raw shrimp
1 large lemon, cut into wedges
1 envelope Italian dressing mix
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place shrimp and lemon in a 13 X 9 inch baking dish.  Stir together dressing mix and butter.  Pour butter mixture over shrimp, stirring to coat.  Bake, covered, at 425 for 25 to 30 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink, stirring once.  Remove shrimp mixture from oven, and sprinkle with parsley.

Ryan and my dad love my mom's potato wedges.  Ryan prides himself on now being able to cook these himself.  He wants to make these as a side for Mother's Day dinner.
Baked Potato Wedges with seasoned salt adapted from Bon Appetit
8 large Russet potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons seasoned salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Cut each potato lengthwise into 8 wedges.  toss in bowl with butter, oil, and seasoned salt.  Arrange in single layer on 2 bakign sheets.  Bake until tender and golden, turning potatoes and rotating sheets halfway through baking, about 45 minutes. 

Oven Fried Chicken with Crunchy Broccoli Slaw adapted from Real Simple
Canola oil, for the rack
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
salt and black pepper
2 3/4 pounds bone-in chicken parts, skin removed
1 cup crushed buttery round crackers
1/4 cup reduced fat mayo
1 tbsp cider vinegar
3/4 pound broccoli, chopped, about 4 cups
1 large carrot, coarsely grated
1/2 small shallot, chopped

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and lightly coat with oil.  In a shallow baking dish, combine the paprika, 1 cup buttermilk, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Add the chicken and turn to coat.  Place the crushed crackers in a shallow bowl.  Remove the chicken from teh buttermilk mixture and coat with the crackers, pressing gently to help them adhere.  Place the chicken on the rack and bake, turning halfway through, until crispy and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees in the center of the thickest piece of chicken 40-45 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, vinegar, the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Add the broccoli, carrot, adn shallot and toss to combine.  Serve with the chicken.

Beef and Noodle Toss
8 oz. lasagna noodles
12 oz. boneless beef sirloin, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pint grape tomatoes
8 oz. sliced crimini or button mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
1 14 oz. can beef broth

Break noodles in half; cook according to package directions.  Drain.  Meanwhile, season beef with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Toss with flour.  Heat oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add meat, andy remaining flour, and the tomatoes to skillet.  Cook 3-4 minutes or until beef is well browned, stirring often.  Add mushrooms and garlic.  Cook 5 minutes more.  Add broth; cook 3 to 4 minutes more or until beef is done and liquid is slightly thickened.  Add cooked noodles to skillet; stir gently to coat.  Heat through. 

Serve with steamed green beans or broccoli.

Tangy Sesame-Coated Pork Chops
4 6-ounce lean center-cut loin pork chops, about 1/2 inch thick
4 tbsp. Dijon mustard, divided
1/3 cup each:  dry bread crumbs, grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp dried parsley OR 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
cooking spray

Trim away excess fat from pork chops.  Spread 1 tbsp mustard on sides of each pork chop.  Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, parsley and garlic powder in shallow bowl.  Coat pork chops and place in a 9 by 13 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until chops are tender. 

Nutrition:  297 calories, 36g protein, 9 g carbohyrate, 13 g fat, 82 mg cholesterol, 1g fiber, 454 mg sodium

Pesto Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage adapted from Real Simple
12 ounces orecchiette
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas
1 tbsp olive oil
8 ounces fully cooked Italian-style chicken sausage links, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pesto
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the green beans and peas during teh last 3 minutes of cooking.  Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta and vegetables and return them to the pot.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 6-8 minutes.  Add the sausage, pesto, Parmesan, and 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water to the pasta and vegetables and toss to combine.  Add more cooking water if the pasta seems dry.

I hope you enjoy these meals with your family!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Three Passions

I'm done!!!!  Grad. school is over!  These past 2 years have dragged by and flown by at the same time, if that's possible.  The two years I have spent in grad school to become a reading specialist have heightened the three passions in my life:  Family, Cooking, and Teaching.

Without my family, I would not have been able to accomplish graduating on time.  Family was the reason I joined this cohort:  my mother-in-law, grandmother, and grandfather.  My husband has taken care of my daughter and then my son on the weekends we had class.  My mom and dad have been there rooting me on the whole way, including letting us live with them when the washing machine flooded our house over one of the weekends I had class.

My mom has also taught me the love of cooking.  Just like a good meal brings people together, so does a good book.  The ingredients you put into a meal can be tweaked, added to, or removed based on what you want the end product to be and the interests of the people you are cooking for. 
During the past two years, I have seen so many connections between cooking a meal and teaching a child to read.  There is no 'right' recipe for teaching a child to read.  You have to take a little of this, a pinch of that, a heaping tablespoon of something else to teach a child to read.  But, the recipe you use for that child may not work for another.  You are constantly looking for the perfect 'recipe.'

Things I have learned from the two years I have spent with Longwood University:
Comprehension skills and strategies are not the same.   
I just might be able to teach kindergarten, but with weekly e-mails to Dr. W.
Students use metacognition and schema when reading, and CAN use these two words in their language.
If you give students choice when reading, they LOVE it!
Students get annoyed when you tell them they are helping you with your homework for class.
You can actually look forward to the weekends of class because you can't wait to catch up with your friends who you used to consider just classmates.
Mentor texts are now your go to instead of worksheets to practice grammar and writing skills.
Basals are NOT the only way to teach reading and you can convince others to believe this as well.
Being a role model and showing young ones that you love to read, DOES make an impact.

Tessa does quote Fancy Nancy, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and Love You Forever.  And she would much rather read books than take a nap.

What am I going to do now that I'm done???  Let's see...clean the house, catch up on laundry, organize closets that I have stuffed with odds and ends, and most of all, spend time with my family and COOK!

Like always, here's a recipe to make sometime this week.  This recipe was given to me by my Aunt Cathy, my mom's sister.  It's an awesome salad to have anytime of the year, but very enjoyable on a warm Spring or Summer day.  Wait to add the dressing right before you serve it.  Happy Eating Y'all!

Cashew and Craisin Salad

1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 bag spinach, chopped
2 large apples, skinned and chopped (granny smith)
12 oz. Swiss cheese, grated
1 can cashew pieces
1 small bag Craisins

1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 T poppy seeds
1/2 cup sugar

Mix dressing in jar and shake well.  Assemble salad fixings and toss well.  Toss with dressing before serving.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Back at it

I felt like I was my old self again last week!  I got 4 cooked meals to the table and once again had lots of leftovers in the refrigerator.  With warmer temperatures, I definitely have the itch to cook out at some point.

Dempsey is doing a great job with his schedule.  He continues to be indecisive as to what he wants, but that's got to be a typical guy trait, right???  He is such a smiley boy and loves it when people talk to him.

Some of the recipes I will be making this week were found on Pinterest.  This site is so addicting and so fun!

***Ok, I love lasagna, but it can be so time consuming to make.  Here's a version I found that can be made on the stovetop.  I found it at this site here.  Have fun exploring this site!  It has amazing freezer meals.  I think I may double this recipe to have some in the freezer for the week I go back to work.
Skillet Lasagna
recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated

1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound fresh italian sausage, crumbled
10 dry curly edged lasagna noodles, broken into 2 inch pieces
1 (8oz) tomato sauce
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese + more for serving
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Pour diced tomatoes with their juices into 1-quart liquid measuring cup. Add water until mixture measures 1 quart; set aside.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add italian sausage and cook, breaking apart meat, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.

Scatter pasta over meat but do not stir. Pour diced tomatoes with juices and tomato sauce over pasta. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove skillet from heat and stir in cheeses. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with heaping tablespoons ricotta, cover, and let stand off heat for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Serve.

* To make ahead/freezer meal - Prepare recipe above as directed up until you scatter the pasta. Scatter pasta over meat but do not stir. Pour diced tomatoes with juices and tomato sauce over pasta. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is barely al dente, about 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer dish into oven- and freezer safe container. Allow dish to cool and then freeze. When ready to prepare, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Defrost completely and place container on a baking sheet. Dot with heaping tablespoons ricotta and bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with basil and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Serve.

***Stuffed peppers are also a favorite of mine and I love this variation I found on this site.  This recipe calls for ground turkey which is a healthy alternative to ground beef.
Southwestern Stuffed Peppers
  • Olive Oil ( I used Tahitian lime olive oil)
  • 1/2 lb lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 heaping tbsp of homemade taco seasoning (or you can use the packaged type if you like)
  • 2 cups of cooked rice (any type you like – I like brown)
  • 3-4 organic bell peppers, halved and seeds removed
  • 1 can of black beans, drained & rinsed
  • ½ cup of organic frozen corn
  • 1 (15 -16 ounce) jar of salsa (my favorite is mango peach)
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Toppings:
  • fresh cilantro
  • sour cream
  • sliced avocado
Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat the peppers with olive oil and roast in a baking dish about 20-25 minutes just until cooked thru. Remove the peppers from the oven and allow to cool until you can handle them.
*****Note – make sure you cook your turkey ahead of time that way you do not have to worry about it later. Also, I sauteed the onions until cooked thru, I then added in my cooked rice, black beans and corn.
In a bowl add the taco seasoning, cooked ground turkey, chopped onions, black beans, corn and rice. Add in the jar of salsa and mix well.
Carefully spoon the turkey mixture into each half of the bell peppers and place back into the baking dish. Cook the peppers for another 15-20 minutes or until the peppers are cooked all the way thru. Before removing from the oven sprinkle the tops of each pepper with shredded cheddar cheese. Place back into the oven just until the cheese has melted.
Remove from the oven and top with fresh cilantro, avocado slices and/or sour cream just before serving.

***I also got my Southern Living magazine this week.  It had some great kid-friendly, healthy simple recipes.  Chicken breasts are on sale this week at our local grocery store.  I'm going to try this simple meal this week and I will also include some of the other simple meals they included for kids.

Two-Ingredient Chicken Strips
Chicken breasts cut into strips.
Marinate the chicken strips in ranch dressing for a few hours.

How simple is that?!

I also want to try these for lunch this week:
Hazelnut-Strawberry Sandwiches
Smear hazelnut spread and strawberry jam on white bread.

What a nice change from the old standby peanut butter and jelly!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Finding time to cook

Dempsey is finally getting on a schedule, so I am hoping to find some time to cook.  Here's the schedule I am using for him that we also used for Tessa.
6 a.m.:  Wake him up and feed 5 oz. bottle
6-8:  Keep him up by playing, talking to him, tummy time
8-10:  nap
10:  wake him up and feed 5 oz. bottle
10-12:  Keep him up by playing, talking to him, tummy time
12-2:  nap
2-4:  Keep him up by playing, talking to him, tummy time
4-6:  nap
6-8:  Keep him up by playing, talking to him, tummy time, bathtime, books, prayers, bedtime at 8
8-10:  bed to sleep
10:  wake him up to give him one last bottle to help get thru the night
He will usually sleep until about 2 or 3 and we'll get up to give him another 5 oz. bottle. 

So, you can see he eats every 4 hours and takes three 2 hour naps during the day.  We are working towards this schedule and he's doing pretty well.  We're trying to get him used to soothing himself as best he can and not putting him to sleep by holding him.  This is easier said than done!  But, we're getting there!

I'm hoping to use his 4-6 nap to get dinner ready.  I will be trying to make the following meals:  Oriental Chicken, Super Sloppy Joes, Sesame Orange Pork Chops, and Chicken Sausage Quesadillas.

Oriental Chicken:  This recipe is adapted from Once a Month Cooking.
2 tbsp sweet butter
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 cup cooked, diced chicken
1 tsp pepper
1 5-ounce can chow mein noodles

Melt butter in a medium saucepain over low heat.  Add flour and stir over medium heat until bubbly.  Add broth, water, soy sauce, garlic powder, chicken, and pepper; simmer for 5 minutes.  Serve over chow mein noodles.

I would also like to serve egg rolls with this dinner.  Maybe I'll find some that are already made to serve alongside.

Super Sloppy Joes With Deviled Potato Salad:  Courtesy of Rachel Ray (Don't use that canned stuff!  Make your own sloppy joes!)


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground beef sirloin
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon steak seasoning blend, such as McCormick brand Montreal Seasoning
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 crusty rolls, split, toasted, and lightly buttered
  • Garnish: sliced ripe tomatoes, pickles, Deviled Potato Salad, recipe follows


Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and meat to the pan. Spread the meat around the pan and begin to break it up. Combine brown sugar and steak seasoning. Add sugar and spice mixture to the skillet and combine. When the meat has browned, add onion and red peppers to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium and cook onions, peppers, red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce with meat for 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and paste to pan. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to simmer and cook Sloppy Joe mixture 5 minutes longer. Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, pile sloppy meat onto toasted, buttered bun bottoms and cover with bun tops. Serve with your favorite sides or sliced tomatoes seasoned with salt and pepper, dill pickles and Deviled Potato Salad. Have plenty of napkins on hand!

Deviled Potato Salad:

5 all-purpose potatoes, peeled and diced
Coarse salt
1/4 onion
3 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise, eyeball the amount
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon hot cayenne pepper sauce (recommended: Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
Boil potatoes in water seasoned with coarse salt until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain cooked potatoes and return to the warm pot to dry them out. Let the potatoes stand 2 minutes, then spread potatoes out on to a cookie sheet to quick-cool them.
In the bottom of a medium mixing bowl, grate 1/4 onion using a hand grater. Add mustard and mayonnaise, paprika and cayenne pepper sauce to the grated onion and stir to combine. Add potatoes to the bowl and stir to evenly distribute dressing. Season potato salad with salt and pepper and taste to adjust your seasonings. Top servings of salad with chopped scallions.

Sesame Orange Pork Chops:  My awesome cousin, Heather Dixon, uses the site, Moms Who Think, to get a lot of crock pot recipes.  I checked the site out and loved it!  Here's a crock pot recipe to try.

3 pounds pork chops
2 cups orange juice
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 cans mandarin oranges drained, (11 ounces each)
1 can pineapple tidbits drained, (8 ounces)
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds

1. Place pork chops into the crock pot.  In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar with the orange juice until well combined. Pour orange juice mixture evenly over chops.
2. Cook on  low 6 to 8 hours.
3. About 30 minutes before serving add the oranges and pineapple, warm for  20 minutes.
4. Sprinkle sesame seeds evenly over each pork chop.  Serve with rice or broccoli.

Chicken Sausage Quesadillas:  Chicken Sausage is on sale this week at our grocery store and I have a coupon!  This should be an easy weeknight meal.

12 8 inch flour tortillas
1 pkg. Johnsonville Chipotle Monterey Jack Cheese Chicken Sausage, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
3 cups colby jack cheese, shredded

Place 3 tortillas on a large greased baking sheet.  Sprinkle each with sausage, red pepper, green onion and cheese.  Top each with a tortilla.  Place baking sheet on center rack in oven.  Broil for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Cut into wedges.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.  Serve with salsa.