Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Waiting Game

And another week has passed.  And no baby.  It's ok!  The house got cleaned and I think the husband did more nesting than I did.  Most of the lesson plans are done for this week and next.  My last day of work will be this Tuesday if the little guy hasn't shown up by then.  I really should be working on grad school homework, but am planning melas instead.  Anyways, if we're home I will be making the following recipes:  Southwestern Chicken Soup, Creamy Beef Spinach over noodles, and Sloppy Joe and Macaroni Casserole.  Most of these recipes can be frozen or made ahead.

The weather has not been cold in any way, shape, or form.  However, I still love trying to have soup at least one night a week.  I came across this recipe and it sounded very simple and yummy!
Southwestern Chicken Soup adapted from Once a Month Cooking
1 12 ounce jar salsa verde
3 cups cooked, diced chicken
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
3 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
tortilla chips

Empty salsa into a large saucepan, cook 2 minutes over medium-high heat, then add the chicken, beans, broth, and cumin.  Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
You can freeze this ahead of time.  When thawed heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.  Top each bowl with a sprinkling of onions, a dollop of sour cream, and some tortilla chips.

***I need to utilize my crock pot as much as possible, just in case we end up heading to the hospital unexpectedly.  This recipe will definitely come in handy this week!
Creamy Beef and Spinach Over Noodles adapted from Southern Living Annual Recipes
1 lb. ground chuck
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (8oz) package, sliced fresh mushrooms
1 (10oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 (14 oz.) can low-sodium, fat free beef broth
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 (8oz) container sour cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 (8oz) block Monterey Jack cheese with peppers, shredded
hot cooked egg noodles

Cook first 3 ingredients in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring until beef crumbles and is no longer pink; drain.
Drain spinach well, pressing between paper towels.  Combine beef mixture, spinach, broth, and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl.  Spooin into a lightly greased 4 qt. slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low 4 hours.  Serve over egg noodles.

***I was watching Rachael Ray's show Week in a Day and she made this sloppy joe casserole that you can make ahead.  It has simple ingredients and is simple to put together.
Sloppy Joe and Macaroni Casserole
3 tbsp. dark brown sugar
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp Worcestshire sauce
one 15 ounce can tomato sauce
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
salt and ground pepper
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
1 cup beef broth
12 ounces elbow macaroni with ridges
2 cups shredded yellow cheddar


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce in a small bowl. Heat the EVOO in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until well browned. Season with salt and lots of pepper. Add the garlic, bell peppers and onions and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Pour the tomato mixture over the beef, add the beef broth and stir until well combined. Simmer until thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the macaroni in a large pot of salted boiling water until not quite tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and add to the sauce. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish and top with the cheese.

Bake until the casserole is bubbling and the top is browned.
Cook's Note: The unbaked casserole can be covered and refrigerated for a make-ahead meal. Bring to room temperature and bake as directed before serving.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Oh Baby, Baby...Totally Freaking Out

I am 38 weeks pregnant.  The doctor told us Baby Dempsey Boy (this is what Tessa calls him) is making progress and should make his debut sometime soon!  With that news, I promptly went home and freaked out.  I could not sleep because I was thinking too much about all the things I still had to do.  So, I was up at 3:30 finishing my report cards to turn into my principal.  Looking at recipes to plan the week's meals is just what I need.  It calms me.

The blog hasn't been updated in a while.  Preparing for baby boy has been consuming my life.  My sis-in-law threw me a shower last weekend.  It was a Dinners and Diapers shower.  It was an awesome idea!  We pretty much have everything we need for baby, so people brought dinners that were easy to freeze and diapers!  So fun!  Our freezer is so well stocked now.  It hasn't been this full since before we lost power during the hurricane over the summer.  And yesterday, my 2nd graders and their families threw me a "surprise" baby shower complete with cake and gift cards.  Those 7 and 8 year olds were so pleased with themselves.  I can't wait to be on maternity leave with my Tessa and Dempsey, but those 21 little people become my babies when I am at work and I will miss them!  We are so blessed by the people in our lives. 

I'm still planning meals for the week even though I have no idea what's in store.  I'm going to TRY to make the following three recipes:  Parmesan Chicken, Baked Spaghetti, and Roast Beef sandwiches.

You can never have enough chicken recipes.  Chicken is such a staple in our house.  We make it at least once a week.  I got this recipe off of 
Parmesan Chicken
  • tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 (5-oz) skinless boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 1/2 English muffins (not sandwich-size)
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 1/2 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Whisk together mustard, vinegar, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl and add chicken breasts, tossing to coat well.
Pulse English muffins in a food processor until finely ground. Add cheese, butter, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and pulse until combined well. Transfer to a shallow soup plate or pie plate.
Dredge chicken, 1 piece at a time, in crumbs, coating completely and pressing gently to help crumbs adhere, then transfer to baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until golden brown and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.
Cooks' note: · Chicken can marinate in mustard mixture, covered and chilled, up to 2 hours before coating.

Sandwiches are an easy weeknight dinner and I don't make them enough for dinner.  I thought this recipe from Food Network would be fun to try.
Hot Open-Face Roast Beef Sandwiches
  • 1 1/2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, pierced with a fork
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 to 1 cup milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 thick slices sourdough bread
  • 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 3/4 pound sliced roast beef
  • 1/2 bunch watercress, woody stems removed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


Microwave the potatoes on high until soft, about 20 minutes. Using a fork, mash the potatoes in a bowl with 2 tablespoons butter. Add the milk and mash; season with salt and pepper. Preheat the broiler.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook until slightly brown. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth until smooth. Whisk in the Worcestershire sauce and simmer until thick, about 3 minutes.
Toast the bread under the broiler, about 1 minute. Spread the mustard and horseradish on toasts; place each on a plate. Pour some gravy over the toast; top with the roast beef, more gravy, watercress and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the sandwiches with the potatoes.

I have a new fave chef:  Bobby Deen.  We watched his new show, "Not my Mama's Meals," last weekend and we were hooked.  He is taking his mom, Paula's, meals and making them lighter and healthier.  So awesome!  In this month's Food Network magazine, he took his mama's baked spaghetti and lightened it up.  I have ground pork in the freezer, so I will be using that instead of the chicken sausage he calls for.
Light Baked Spaghetti


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions; drain.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bell peppers, mushrooms, seasoned salt and Italian seasoning and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, 3/4 cup water and the basil and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors are blended, about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to combine with the sauce. Spoon half of the pasta mixture into the casserole dish. Sprinkle with half of each cheese. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and cover loosely with foil sprayed with cooking spray (do not let the foil touch the cheese). Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
*This recipe will make great leftovers or keep in the freezer well.
Have a great week!  Happy Eating Y'all!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Food Brings Families Together

I have my usual routine on Sundays.  The paper gets delivered and I pull out the Wedding Celebrations section (to see if I know anyone), Flair (to laugh at my horoscope and read Miss Manners and Dear Abby), the coupon inserts (gotta save money), and Parade magazine.  I read this every Sunday and they usually have a recipe from some celebrity in the very back.  Today, it was Buddy Valastro, from Cake Boss on TLC.  I love this show and its Italian family.  It's dysfunctional, but so loving and they always have great food!  Even though his family works together everyday at the bakery, they get together every Sunday to have Sunday dinner.  In his short article, he says, "Nothing brings families together like food."  (No, I am not using his recipe this week, but I am hanging onto it for the future.)  The quote he said reminded me of my mom.  She once said that she loves cooking for her family because of the memories the meal provides.  She said she likes making a meal that people remember because of the event that was happening around that time.  It's so true!  For instance, I remember the last meal I ate at home before I got married.  She made a quiche, muffins, and her chicken ramen noodle salad.  I'll have to post these recipes at a later date because quiche has to be one of my all time favorite foods and the chicken ramen noodle salad is awesome.

Our little family sits down to dinner together every night and we treasure this time together.  My husband's family and my family also had the routine of eating dinner together at night, so we both feel it's important to continue this.  I have to agree with Buddy Valastro.  Food definitely brings families together. 

As I am now 36 weeks preggo, I do not want to miss out on family dinners together, but they have to be EASY at this point.  I am tapping into my freezer collection of food (homemade soup) for one of our dinners this week and Ryan has requested (SURPRISE!) pizza!  He will be trying to make this for the first time on his day off on Friday.  Can't wait!  I will be making the following recipes this week:  Chicken Pouqui and Big and Juicy Burgers.

***This recipe includes stuff I already have on hand and is easy on the budget.  I found this on  I'll probably serve it with steamed veggies, and rice.
Chicken Pouqui

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine

  • 1/3 cup canned cream of chicken soup
  • 1/3 cup half and half

  • 4 boneless chicken breast halves, skinned
  • Salt and pepper

Melt 1 tablespoon butter with oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and thyme and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add wine and cook until reduced by half. Add soup and half and half and stir until heated.
Meanwhile, melt remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Pat chicken dry. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet and cook until springy to touch, turning occasionally, about 7 minutes. Transfer to plates. Spoon sauce over.

***This burger recipe is on of my hubby's favorites.  I found it in my Southern Living cookbook, which is probably one of my best friends, and have made it many times.  I love making it in the summer with some potato salad and chips, but since it's winter I'll grill them inside on my grill pan and I'll probably serve it with roasted potatoes made with onion soup mix and some fruit.
Big and Juicy Burgers (This recipe is easily halved)
-2 cans 100% vegetable juice
-3 white sandwich bread slices, torn into pieces (I use whatever I have on hand)
-3 pounds ground chuck or ground round
-1 large egg
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-1 teaspoon pepper
-10 hamburger buns

  1. Microwave vegetable juice in glass bowl at HIGH 1 minute; add sandwich bread pieces, and let cool.
  2. Combine with hands.
  3. Combine vegetable juice mixture, ground chuck, and next 3 ingredients. Shape into 10 patties.
  4. Grill patties, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until beef is no longer pink.
  5. Spray cut sides of buns with cooking spray; place buns, cut sides down, on grill rack, and grill 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hamburgers on buns. Garnish, if desired.
Enjoy your week and happy eating!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Goodbye 2011! Hello 2012!

Whenever New Year's comes around, I think of my dad.  He is all about "wiping the slate clean and starting fresh."  He loves taking out last year's resolutions and seeing how we all did.  We used to even have competitions and keep score as to who kept the most resolutions.  Ryan and I now do our own resolutions.  We make some as a couple and family and then write down some personal ones of our own. 

2011 was an eventful year.  We found out we were pregnant on Memorial Day weekend. We went on an awesome vacation with my family to the beach for the first time in a looooong time, and I went back to teaching at a school I have always loved when they finally had a position open up.  In 2011, we saw two of our family member's diagnosed with cancer-not cool.  My dad spent 7 weeks undergoing radiation and we just got good news before the New Year that he is healing well and his scans are looking good.  He is an awesome example of having a good attitude and determination throughout his ordeal.  We're really proud of him.

So, here's to 2012.  I'm hoping for a healthy year for everyone in the family!  We will finally get to meet our little guy sometime in the next few weeks and I will graduate from grad. school in May.  Hopefully, these fun events just mean there are more to come.

New Year's also means the end of winter break.  It's back to work this week, so I need to be really organized when it comes to our dinners!  I am going to try the following recipes this week:  Sardinian spaghetti, Chicken Chili Stew, and Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce.

I came across the Sardinian spaghetti recipe while searching for New Year's meals to make on Food Network.  I always read the reviews when looking at a recipe on this site and they all were raving about this recipe.  I might make some extra sauce to have frozen and then keep this on hand for anyone who may need a meal due to current surgeries or babies!  The recipe calls for saffron threads, but I think I may just use saffron.
****Sardinian Spagheti****

Prep Time:
30 min
Cook Time:  40 min       Level:  Easy
Serves:  6 servings


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian fennel sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, drained, seeded and halved, with 1/2 cup juice reserved
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 pound spaghetti
  • 1 cup shredded pecorino cheese


Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown, about 7 minutes. Push to one side of the skillet and increase the heat to high. Add the tomatoes, stirring to break them up a bit, and cook until the edges brown and the oil turns red, about 6 minutes. Stir the sausage and tomatoes together.
Add the garlic, bay leaves, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes to the skillet, then scatter the saffron over the mixture. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add the parsley, 1 cup basil and 1 teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
Remove and discard the bay leaves.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Add the spaghetti, cooking liquid and reserved tomato juice to the sausage sauce and toss, about 3 minutes. Top with the pecorino and the remaining 1/2 cup basil.

I have an amazing mom who made me a cookbook last year with family recipes in it.  I love it and use it often!  I also have a close relationship with my aunt who did the same thing this year!  She gave us a binder with recipes she uses and that have been favorites in her household.  I have always wanted to try her chicken chili stew.  She actually got this recipe from a friend of hers who is the mom of a friend of mine from college.  Small world!

***Chicken Chili Stew***
6-8 boneless chicken breasts
4 cloves garlic minced
3 medium onions diced
2 T olive oil
6 15 oz. cans chicken broth
6 15 oz. cans Great Northern bans, rinsed and drained
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
2 10 oz. cans Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies
4 t cumin
1 t oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil in an 8 qt. pan.  Add chicken broth and chicken breasts.  Bring to boil and cook.  Remove when done and set aside to cool.  When cool, shred chicken.  Add remaining ingredients plus the shredded chicken.  Keep on medium heat for about an hour until the soup thickens and serve.  Yield 10-12 servings .  Add grated cheese as a garnish.

When we first got married, I didn't have a whole lot of experience cooking my own meals, let alone figuring out what to have for dinner.  I frequented the website A LOT to figure out what to cook.  I came across this pork chop recipe and have made it many times.  The sauce makes the dish.  I never knew pork chops paired so well with dijon mustard, but it does!  So yummy! 

***Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce***
4 pork chops
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 T vegetable oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 T unsalted butter
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup country style Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325 degreesF.
Heat a dry 12 inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot.  Pat pork dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add oil to hot skillet, swirling to coat, then brown chops, turning over once, about 8 minutes total.  Transfer to a shallow baking pan, reserving skillet, and bake, uncovered, until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Let stand, loosely covered with foil, 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour off fat from skillet, then cook shallots in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until softened 3 to 5 minutes.  Add broth and any juices from baking pan and boil, scraping up any brown bits, 2 minutes.  Add mustartd and cream and return to a boil, then add lemon juice and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Happy New Year and Happy Eating!