Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 117, Tuna Hot Dish

This is a recipe that I got from a recipe book from the government center. I made it healthier by adding Barilla Plus elbow noodles rather than regular white noodles. There was a new cornflakes made with honey I found for cheap this week, so that's what ended up on top.

Tuna Hot Dish

2 1/2 cups elbow noodles, dry
1 cup peas, frozen
1 can (10-12 oz) reduced sodium cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 (5 oz) cans tuna
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3 cups cornflakes

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook noodles according to packaging, adding peas during last 2 minutes of cooking time. Drain. Mix together soup, milk and garlic powder in a large bowl. Stir in noodles, peas, tuns and cheese. Pour into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Put cornflakes in a resealable bag. Crush using a rolling pin or the back of a dry measuring cup. Bake for 15 minutes. Top with crushed cornflakes; bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Serves 4-6

The original dish didn't have cheese added and only calls for one can of tuna. I added a second can and cheese because I like them. I wanted to add baby sweet peas, but they were out of them on the shelf, so I just picked up sweet peas. I don't like canned peas, they're too mushy and taste like the salt that preserves them. Frozen peas are just peas, no additives. I like frozen peas and I'm someone who would never eat peas at Moms' house. (Sorry Mom, I don't like canned peas.) You could add a carrot pea mixture or any mixed vegetable mix you like. Peas are just the vegetable that many people choose for this mixture. The Honey Cornflakes made it taste sweeter than if I had used regular cornflakes. It's a new cereal, so I don't know if everyone will be able to find them.

Flavor Rating: Great, I'm not normally one for cream of mushroom soup, but this needed it.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, even the kids could help mix this up.

Day 116, Savory Mint Lamb Chops

With Easter coming up, I have been in the mood for lamb. I found a cheap cut at Target last week and went with the $5 a pound shoulder cut rather than the $10 a pound chops.

Savory Mint Lamb Chops
Bon Appetit Magazine October 2006

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 (1 to 1 1/2 inch thick) lamb loin chops (about 5 oz each), trimmed

Place olive oil, chopped fresh mint, minced garlic, salt, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper and black pepper in a resealable bag; mix well. Place chops in same bag and seal making sure mixture coats all sides of chops. Let stand 10 minutes.
Heat oven to broil. Place chops on a broiler pan; broil chops until brown and crusty, 4 minutes a side for medium-rare. Arrange chops on a platter, garnish with additional mint sprigs and serve.

Serves 4

I couldn't allow myself to spend the high price for the good chops, so I went for the shoulder cut. I got about 2 pounds worth and the seasoning mixture was enough for that amount. Strawberries were on sale also, so that was a treat for the family today. The cayenne pepper made this a little spicy, but it wasn't so overpowering that it was unbearable. If you don't like spicy, omit the cayenne. I'm looking for a mint jelly recipe to go with lamb, so more googling is to be done. I actually had a hard time finding lamb because it is so expensive and doesn't sell well at the grocery store, but fortunately Target had some.

Flavor Rating: Great, I like the spiciness, but my husband thought it was too spicy.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, broiling it was easier than frying it would have been.

Day 115, Hash Brown Egg Bake

This is another recipe I found in the coupons. I was actually able to get it to cook all the way through this time. I did change a couple of ingredients from the original though.

Hash Brown Egg Bake

8 slices bacon, chopped
2 cups frozen hash browns, thawed
1 red pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
10 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook bacon in a large skillet on medium heat until crisp. Remove from skillet, reserving 2 tbsp drippings in skillet. Drain bacon on paper towels. Meanwhile, cook and stir hash browns and vegetables in drippings for 10 minutes.
Spread vegetable mixture onto bottom of a 13x9 inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Whisk eggs and sour cream in a bowl until blended; mix cheese and bacon into egg mixture. Pour egg mixture over vegetables. Bake for 40 minutes or until center is set and casserole is heated through.

Serves 12

The original recipe called for 12 eggs and Velveeta cheese. I used two fewer because I didn't think it really needed all 12 eggs. I wanted to use real cheese rather than the processed cheese. I also used bacon pieces that you can find in the salad dressing isle so I didn't have to cook the bacon so I used 2 tbsp olive oil instead of the drippings. The oil needs to be hot before adding the vegetables or you'll end up with everything sticking to the bottom of the pan. Baking it in a rectangle pan rather than a pie pan helped cook it all the way too. I've tried egg bakes before and the center just never set.

Flavor Rating: Great, I liked the combination.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, it has a couple of steps, but all in all it's easy to prepare.

Day 114, Matzo Ball Soup

Due to the holidays, I thought I'd try a new type of dinner: Kosher. Thanks to my Jewish friend for recommending this to me.

Matzo Ball Soup
from the box mix

1 box Matzo Ball & Soup Mix
2 eggs
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 1/2 quarts cold water (approx 6 cups)

According to box directions: In a small bowl, blend 2 eggs and 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Add matzo ball mix and stir with fork until evenly mixed. Place bowl in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Add soup mix to 2 1/2 quarts water and bring to a boil in a 4 quart pot. Wet hands and form batter into balls approximately 1 inch in diameter. Drop into boiling soup; cover tightly; reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Serves 4

When I made this I read it as 2.5 cups and ended up having to add more water. Maybe I'll have to read it better next time. I have a conversion chart on my refrigerator and didn't look at it for the cup to quart conversion. The matzo balls swell in size when cooking, so that one inch ball swells to three times its size. I found it to be a tasty grain and ended up picking up another box of the matzo ball mix, but not the soup mix. Next time I'll have to put them in homemade chicken soup with just vegetables and chicken.

Flavor Rating: Good, I think it would have been better with home made soup instead of the mix, but I loved the matzo balls.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, be sure to wet your hands for easier handling of the matzo.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day 113, Tangy Ranch Chicken

The original recipe I found in this weeks coupons by French's mustard coupon. I baked them instead of frying them.

Tangy Ranch Chicken

2/3 cup ranch dressing
1/3 cup mustard
3 tbsp brown sugar
4 to 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Mix dressing, mustard and sugar. Set aside. Bake chicken ate 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Brush dressing over chicken.

Serves 4-6
The original recipe had me frying the chicken again. I don't like frying food, so I decided to bake it. I also cut my chicken up before pouring the dressing over it. It was a tangy mixture and I think I would use less mustard next time because it tasted like a mustard chicken rather than a ranch chicken.

Flavor Rating: Great, I did like it because I like mustard chicken, but I was hoping for more ranch flavor.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, just bake and stir.

Day 112, Pork Chops with Dried Cherry Sauce

This was from the same magazine I took yesterdays recipe from, my Cooking Club February/March 2010 issue. I couldn't find pork chops on sale, so I used pork ribs instead.

Pork Chops with Dried Cherry Sauce

4 (6 oz.) boneless center cut pork chops (3/4 inch thick)
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. pepper, divided
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup ruby port or cherry juice (I used the cherry juice)
1/3 cup dried cherries
1 1/2 tbsp. raspberry preserves
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled

Sprinkle pork with 1/4 tsp. each of the salt and pepper. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook pork 8 minutes or until golden brown and internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F., turning once. Remove pork, cover loosely with foil.
Add cherry juice, cherries, preserves, mustard and thyme to skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan; boil 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 5 to 8 minutes or until syrupy, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Whisk in butter, any accumulated juices from pork and remaining 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Serve over pork chops.

Serves 4

I seared the pork ribs then baked them in a 325 degree oven for 30 minutes to finish cooking. Had they been pork chops, I would have been able to follow the recipe, but because of the thickness, I decided this was the best way to go with them. I don't like cooking with alcohol, so I used the cherry juice. I had a hard time finding all the ingredients at one store; I ended up going to two different ones. WalMart doesn't carry plain cherry juice, but Cub Foods does. If you can't ind just cherry juice, I think the cherry grape juice would work well with this recipe also.

Flavor Rating: Excellent, a flavorful concoction.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, I hate grease splatters and always get them when I cook with oil.

Day 111, Potato Chip Chicken

I found this recipe in my cooking club magazine, the February/March issue. I altered it slightly to make it with chicken breasts instead of bone-in wings.

Potato Chip Chicken
Taken from Cooking Club's Crispy Potato Wings recipe

8 oz potato chips, I used Archer Farms Cheddar Cheese chips
1/2 tsp garlic powder (the original recipe calls for garlic salt, I don't own any)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp pepper
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 pounds chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with foil, line with cooling racks. Spray racks with cooking spray.
Crush potato chips in a resealable plastic bag with a rolling pin (you should have 2 1/2 to 3 cups finely crushed chips). Place in a shallow bowl or pie pan; stir in garlic powder, paprika and pepper. Place oil in a small bowl. Lightly dip chicken in oil; roll and press into chip mixture. Place on racks.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and no longer pink in the center, rotating baking sheets halfway through.

Serves 8-10

If you decide to make this with drummies like the original recipe, you'll have to bake them 45 minutes. I prefer boneless chicken pieces; they're quicker to cook than bone-in chicken. The original recipe also called for plain potato chips, but I felt like cheesy ones and that also happened to be the chips I had in the house at the time. I think that you'd taste the extra seasonings if you use plain chips. I didn't have garlic salt, but also think that the chips were plenty salty and didn't want to add more salt to the dinner. I didn't crush my chips as finely as I think they wanted me to, so I had big flakes still. Had I had to bake them for another 20 minutes, I would have had burnt dinner.
I also made couscous with our meal today. I just took 1 cup chicken stock, brought it to a boil added a little butter (about 1 tbsp), took it off the heat and added the couscous. I added some honey glazed almond slices and julienned carrots to the mix. It turned out pretty good and even my husband liked it this time.

Flavor Rating: Great, I liked the cheesy chips on this chicken. Try your favorite chips for a different flavor.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, messy fingers and needing to crush my chips longer gives it this rating today.

Day 110, Turkey Sausage and Sauerkraut

I had leftovers from the Reuben sandwiches so I had to use up the rest of the sauerkraut.

Turkey Sausage and Sauerkraut

1 ring turkey sausage
1 bag sauerkraut

Cut sausage into desired lengths, we had it cut into bite sized pieces but cutting it into hot dog lengths works too. Place ingredients into a large frying pan and heat over medium until hot. Serve on plates or in hot dog buns.

Serves 8

I made some biscuits with this dinner, actually I should give all the credit to my husband who made dinner this time. The biscuits were Pillsbury frozen biscuits which you can make one or a dozen at a time. I like making Kielbasa with the sauerkraut also, but the turkey sausage was on sale and also healthier for me anyhow.

Flavor Rating: Great, I like this combination, I even put sauerkraut on my hot dogs. The kids weren't too thrilled about it, they don't like sauerkraut.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, the hardest thing is cutting it up.

Day 109, Molten Cheeseburgers

We love cheeseburgers, so I thought I'd try the inside out version.

Molten Cheeseburgers

1 pound lean ground beef
4 slices fresh mozzarella, cut 1/4 inch thick
4 buns

Divide ground beef into 4 equal parts. Flatten ground beef into flat round circles. Place cheese in the center of each circle and bring the sides of the ground beef up so it touches in the center. Press the ground beef so it sticks together on outside of cheese. Preheat large frying pan over medium heat. Cook hamburgers for about 5 minutes a side, until cooked through.

Serves 4

I didn't use any seasoning because I wanted to taste the hamburger. This would be good with Italian seasoning too. As I was cooking them, they split open on two of the burgers, perhaps I didn't form the burgers enough or I started those ones with the side that I pressed together up. I chose fresh mozzarella because it's easy to melt. I also found a long pre-sliced loaf on sale this week which also helped my cheese selection.

Flavor Rating: Good, maybe some seasoning would have made it better even though this was a really good grass fed cow.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, I ended up having to shift the meat so none of the cheese was showing before I placed it in the frying pan.

Day 108, Reuben Sandwiches

What to do with all those leftovers from St. Patrick's day? Well, throw it on bread and call it a sandwich.

Reuben Sandwiches

8 slices rye bread
4 slices Swiss cheese
1 pound shredded or thinly sliced corned beef
2 cups sauerkraut
4 tbsp Thousand Island dressing

Heat oven to broil. Heat sauerkraut in microwave 1 minute, until hot. Heat Corned beef in microwave 1 minute to 90 seconds, until hot. Spread Thousand Island dressing on 4 slices of bread. layer meat, sauerkraut, and cheese on bread. Top with other slices of bread. Place in oven 2-3 minutes, until cheese is melted and bread is toasted. Serve warm.

Serves 4

I usually buy the sauerkraut that comes in a bag from the meat section instead of the canned version. Heating the meat and the sauerkraut before placing it on the bread helps to make a warm sandwich. Since I was bringing everything out of the refrigerator, it needed to be warmed or I would have had a cold center to my sandwich and my bread may have burned waiting for the center to warm. I used a full flavored cheese instead of the Baby Swiss I normally use. Had I used the Baby Swiss, it would have gotten lost between all the other strong flavors going on in this sandwich. I used the light rye for this sandwich, but a dark pumpernickel would have worked as well.

Flavor Rating: Great, a lot of strong flavors mingling in just the right order.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, there are a couple of steps and you really have to watch so you don't burn your bread.

Day 107, Corned Beef and Cabbage

Happy St. Patrick's Day to those who celebrate! I made the traditional meal of the Irish that I make every year now.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

3-4 pounds corned beef
1 small bag baby carrots
4 medium potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium head of cabbage

Place the potatoes and carrots into bottom of a large slow cooker. Place corned beef on top. Add enough water to cover. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, until vegetables are tender and corned beef falls apart with a fork.
Cut the cabbage into 8 pieces. Place in a large pot. Add enough water to cover and boil on high 10-15 minutes, until tender.

Serves 6-8

Since my husband comes from Irish heritage, we make this meal every year. I hadn't made it before marrying so it was new to me the first year we got together. It actually is pretty tasty. The corned beef comes in a couple of cuts, flat and point. Different manufacturers will either place the seasonings in a small bag or stick it in with the meat. Since we always use the seasonings that come with, I don't mind either way.

Flavor Rating: Great, cooking the potatoes with the meat adds flavor to the potatoes.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, slow cooking makes everything easier.

Day 106, Focaccia Sandwich

Today we had little time for dinner because of winning preview tickets to How to Train Your Dragon at the Mall of America thanks to, so we had sandwiches on the run.

Focaccia Sandwiches

1 Focaccia Loaf
4 oz garden vegetable spreadable cheese
1/2 pound mesquite turkey lunchmeat
8-9 slices thinly sliced hard salami
2-3 lettuce leaves

Cut bread in half. Spread cheese on top half of loaf. Place turkey flat on bottom half of loaf. Place lettuce on top of turkey, arrange hard salami on top of lettuce. Top with top half of bread. Cut into 8 pieces. Serve with chips.

Serves 4-6

We were able to throw these into plastic bags to eat in the car. The kids didn't even make too much of a mess. The bread I got was a cheesy bread where the cheese was baked on top. Not a really healthy meal, but easy to run with.

Flavor Rating: Good, it was a sandwich, nothing spectacular.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, the bread had an indent on the bottom I had to cut around so I ended up with a little hole in the bottom.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day 105, Spaghetti Salad

I was wandering the isles at Target and found myself by those tomatoes again. It is getting warmer, so I wanted a cold salad today.

Spaghetti Salad

1/2 box thin spaghetti noodles
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 English cucumber, cut into pieces
2 cups tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces

Cook noodles as directed on package; drain. Mix olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, garlic and cheese in a small bowl. Pour dressing over noodles, place in refrigerator to cool, 30 minutes to an hour. Add vegetables just before serving; mix until everything is well distributed.

Serves 6-8

I think I could have used a little more oil or some water to make more dressing. It coated the noodles just enough, but I didn't have enough for the vegetables too. Fortunately the noodles picked up enough of the flavor to make it tasty, but I think next time I'll make more dressing.

Flavor Rating: Good, I like my Seafood Salad better, but that I make a lot of dressing to go on top of it.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, just a lot of chopping to do.

Day 104, Take out Chinese

I wanted a day off from cooking, so I was able to get some take out today. My husband ran across the street to the China Dragon in Elk River. I had Beef and Broccoli with pork fried rice and potstickers. My husband had Sesame Chicken. The kids had Chicken on a Stick. It was a tasty eat out day.

Day 103, Italian Chicken with Almonds

I told my husband to make sweet and sour chicken while I was out. This is what I came home to.

Italian Chicken with Almonds

1 pound boneless skinless chicken, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
2 tbsp sliced almonds

Cook chicken on medium heat until done, about 10 minutes. Add seasoning and almond slices. Serve warm.

Serves 4

We like to cut up our chicken before cooking it to cut down on cooking time and so we don't have to cut it up for the kids after cooking them. I always have sliced almonds hanging around the house for salads. This happened to be Italian Parmesan almonds. It turned out to be pretty good after a longer than planned work day.

Flavor Rating: Good, it was hot and one of my favorite seasoning blends.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, just cut up and cook.

Day 102, Cornbread Muffin Tamales

I found a recipe that inspired me to make this. It originally had Bisquick and corn meal made into flat circles, but I find cupcake pans easier to use, especially when I'm using premixed cornbread mix.

Cornbread Muffin Tamales

1 pound ground turkey
1 taco seasoning packet
1 cup cheddar or taco cheese
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 large can sliced black olives
2 cups lettuce mix

Brown turkey in a large frying pan. Drain; add seasoning packet and water according to package. Add black olives to mixture and stir until evenly distributed. Mix corn muffin mix, egg and milk in a small bowl. Spray a 12 cupcake tin with non-stick spray. Evenly distribute half of corn muffin mixture in bottom of each hole. Add turkey mixture evenly to each hole. Add cheese to tops of turkey mixture; add remaining corn muffin mixture evenly over cheese. Bake in 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm on beds of lettuce.

Serves 12

Although the box of corn muffin mix says it only makes 6-8 muffins, you're filling each with the meat mixture causing them to need less batter for each muffin. You're still getting a lot of cornbread taste from it being all over the outside of the meat mixture. I'm not usually one fore tamales, but this is a good way to make them for the not a big fan of real tamales.

Flavor Rating: Great, I liked the combination.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, it just takes a few steps.

Day 101, Pulled Pork Sandwiches

My husband requested Pulled Pork, so it actually happened today.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Sandwiches

2 pounds boneless pork chops, loin or roast
1 bottle of your favorite bbq sauce
8 large buns or 12 small ones

Place pork into slow cooker with 1/2 cup of water or chicken stock for moisture. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, until pork is tender and easily falls apart. Remove pork from slow cooker and use two forks to shred. Remove liquid from slow cooker; place shredded pork back into slow cooker and add barbecue sauce. Heat for an additional 15-20 minutes, until hot. Serve on buns.

Serves 8-10

I used K.C. Masterpiece barbecue sauce today. I also used chops which made for easy shredding. If you use a pork roast, you may have to cut it into pieces before cooking for easier shredding. The tomatoes I had with my sandwiches today was a gourmet medley I found at Target.

Flavor Rating: Great, barbecue sauce and pork just can't be beat.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, slow cooking makes everything easier.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Day 100, Steak and Potato Skins

Wow 100 days already! This calls for a celebration! How about steak?

Steak and Potato Skins

1 pound steaks, cut into 4 steaks about 1 inch thick
Steakhouse Grinder seasoning
1 tbsp olive oil
5 potatoes
1 tbsp melted butter
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup bacon pieces

Bake potatoes in a 375 degree oven for one hour or until cooked through. Let cool enough to handle. Cut each potato in half, scoop out the centers, leaving about 1/4 inch of flesh around the sides. Reserve potato centers for a later recipe. Brush each potato skin with melted butter, sprinkle with seasoned salt, if desired. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp, but not dry or hard. Remove from oven and add cheese and bacon pieces; return to oven and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melted.
Meanwhile heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Season steaks with steakhouse seasoning. When oil is hot, place steaks into frying pan and cook for 5 minutes a side for medium doneness.

Steaks serve 4
Potatoes serve 5

The potato skin recipe was taken from America's Most Wanted Recipes by Ron Douglas in the TGIFriday's section. I forgot to get the chives that go with the recipe so I didn't put them in my above recipe. Feel free to serve them with sour cream. I will be using the potato innards for twice baked potatoes later. There are never enough innards for twice baked potatoes so this will help that recipe later.

Flavor Rating: Great, This was well worth the long cooking time.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, it takes a bit of time to do and be sure to let the potatoes cool before handling them.

Day 99, Heated Turkey Wraps

I had little time to throw together dinner today between being out myself and my husband having to go out right around dinner, so this is what I threw together.

Heated Turkey Wraps

1/2 pound Cajun Turkey lunchmeat
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 Rollout Flatbread Wraps

Spread cheese 3/4 of the way up one side of each bread. Place 2-3 pieces of turkey on each slice. Roll each wrap starting at the cheese filled end and ending at the side that doesn't have all the cheese. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute, until cheese is melted all the way through.

Serves 4

I only spread the fillings 3/4 of the way because when you roll them up, it starts to spread itself the way you're rolling it. I ended up having to heat them for an entire minute to melt all the cheese. I found a 3 cheddar cheese blend I had to try. It was a pretty good blend.

Flavor Rating: Good, I like the Cajun turkey I found in the WalMart deli.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, even a young child can put these together.

Day 98, Stuffed Jumbo Shells

I wanted to try to do stuffed shells. It turned out a little different than the recipe, maybe I just stuff them fuller than the original recipe calls for.

Stuffed Jumbo Shells

1/2 box Jumbo Shells
1 pound Italian sausage
1 cup onion, chopped
1 bag (6 oz) baby spinach, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan/Romano cheese
1 jar traditional spaghetti sauce
1 cup shredded Italian 5 cheese blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook Jumbo shells according to instructions; drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the water. Cook sausage and onion in a large frying pan over medium high heat until browned. Drain and rinse; return to pan. Add spinach, garlic and reserved water; cook for 7-10 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until spinach is well wilted; remove from heat. Stir in egg and Parmesan cheese. Pour 1 cup of the spaghetti sauce into bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan. Place jumbo shells into pan; fill with meat mixture. Pour remaining sauce over filled shells; top with Italian cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, until thoroughly heated.

Makes about 15-16 shells
Serves 4-5

I took this from the back of the Barilla Jumbo Shell box. I forgot some ingredients from that recipe and exchanged some ingredients for others. They claim this is is an easy prep, but I disagree, holding open the shells takes a technique so you don't burn your fingers. I used two forks to hold open the shells while using a spoon to fill them. I suggest making extra shells because they don't all make it through the boiling or stuffing process. I like stuffing them full with 2-3 spoonfuls which is why I ended up with 15 shells vs the whole box of shells.

Flavor Rating: Great, it tastes kinda like a lasagna, just not so many layers.

Ease of Preparation: Hard, you end up losing some shells and have to know how to hold them open. It takes a little practice.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 97, Slow Cooked Beef and Potato Stew

I found some stew meat for cheap at the store, so I couldn't pass up the deal.

Slow Cooked Beef and Potato Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat
1 bag frozen stew vegetables
1/2 bag frozen cut carrots
1 bag ready-cut potatoes
2 boxes (32 oz each) beef broth
1 tbsp garlic herb seasoning
1 tsp ground pepper

Place one box of beef broth into a large slow cooker. Add beef and seasonings. Add vegetables and remaining broth. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, until beef is cooked through and vegetables are tender.

Serves 10-12

I usually buy a roast and cut it into 1 inch pieces myself, but the stew meat was a really good price. I still had to do some trimming of fat and cutting some pieces into the right size, but it was still a good way to get my beef. I used a new garlic herb seasoning this time, it was the Target brand seasoning in the glass bottles. This turned out to be a really good blend. Using the frozen vegetables saved on prep time for me. It was just toss in and forget until dinner.

Flavor Rating: Great, it was a nice blend of flavors.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, just toss in and forget. An easy meal for someone who needs to work all day.

Day 96, Shake and Bake Pork Chops

Pork has been cheap and I haven't had it in a while, so I decided to make it the easy way today.

Shake and Bake Pork Chops

6-8 boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick
1 bag Shake and Bake original pork seasoning

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Moisten chops with water, shaking off excess water. Place seasoning into provided bag; add seasoning to bag. Place pork chops into bag of seasoning one at a time and shake until coated; discard extra seasoning. Place coated pork chops into a foil lined baking pan and bake for 15 minutes, until pork is cooked through, but still moist.

Serves 6-8

This is a very easy way to make your pork. Do not overcook it or you'll end up with dry chops. My sides today were a Green Giant steamer bag with rice and flavored sugarless applesauce. The Mott's natural applesauce doesn't have any fake sugar in it to sweeten the applesauce, it's just pureed fruit and a little water. Some of the "no sugar added" foods have sugar substitutes in them instead, which can be worse for some people than real sugar. I was pleasantly surprised when reading the ingredients on this no sugar added applesauce to find no added any type of sweetener in them. I love this applesauce, if you can't tell.

Flavor Rating: Great, I really like this shake and bake. Because of having 2 flavoring packet in it, I may just have to do one of the variations on the back of the box.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, it was so easy I was able to let my husband watch it while I got some other stuff done.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Day 95, Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole

I really thought this was going to be easier to make, but I suppose I needed to have the quick minute rice to have everything cook thoroughly.

Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole

1 can Cheddar Cheese soup
1 1/3 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup uncooked regular long grain white rice
2 cups fresh or frozen vegetables of your choice
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Stir the soup, chicken stock, rice and vegetables in a 12 x 8 inch baking dish. top with chicken, season chicken as desired, cover. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes or until done. Top with cheese.

Serves 6

I used my large frying pan to cook this in as I didn't have any aluminum foil to cover a baking dish today. I'm not sure if having the hot dish in a smaller pan made the difference or the fact I used good rice that normally takes 45 minutes to boil on top of the stove, but the rice still wasn't done an hour and 15 minutes into cooking it. I also cut up the chicken and it wasn't cooked all the way in the 45 minutes the recipe said it should take. I think if I were to make this dish again, I would cook the rice in the chicken stock before placing it in the baking dish. The chicken either should be baked whole on top of the rice dish or cooked in a frying pan before adding it to the dish. For an easy recipe, this took forever to make and I still wasn't satisfied with the dish. I substituted some ingredients from the original recipe so click on the link above to see the exact original recipe. I also placed the cheese on top right away knowing that cheese can be good in the oven for an hour as long as it's covered and that part went well, but it ended up being mixed in when I had to simmer the mixture to finish cooking the rice.

Flavor Rating: Good, once it was fully cooked, the ingredients were still a good combination.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, it should be an easy rating, but I had so many issues that I can't honestly give it the easy rating.

Day 94, Slow Cooked Short Ribs

I saw that someone else was having ribs the other day and that prompted me to want some too.

Slow Cooked Beef Short Ribs

2 pounds Beef Short Ribs
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 (32 oz) box beef broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Place ribs in a large slow cooker. Pour beef broth and Worcestershire sauce over ribs. Spread remaining ingredients over ribs. Cook for 6-8 hours on high, until ribs are tender.

Serves 4-5

I made a roast with cinnamon on it one time and my husband wasn't sure why it was so yummy, so I stuck cinnamon on this too. I use preminced garlic so I can just throw a spoonful into whatever I'm making. These are simple ingredients, but oh so yummy.

Flavor Rating: Great, the cinnamon adds that little extra that makes them say hmm.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, just toss in and forget until dinnertime.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Day 93, Open Faced Sloppy Joes

This is another way to make sloppy joes, but still not the traditional way to eat them.

Open Faced Sloppy Joes

1 pound ground beef
1 can sloppy joe mix
6 garlic texas toast slices

Brown ground beef in a large frying pan over medium heat. Drain and rinse. Add sloppy joe mix and mix well. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Toast garlic toast in oven for 5 minutes, until golden brown. Place toast on plate; top with sloppy joe mixture.

Serves 6

I was out today so I left dinner up to my husband. He wanted sloppy joes and said he was putting it on texas toast. I forgot we had plain texas toast and though he was going to make the garlic toast, so I ended up cooking the garlic toast and placing the sloppy joe mix on them. It's always interesting when you are inventing food on a whim.

Flavor Rating: Great, I like garlic toast and needed the meat, so it was a good combination.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, just heat and eat.

Day 92, Pizza Pasta

I found some cute little pepperonis and wanted to do something with them. Pizza pasta is what I ended up with.

Pizza Pasta

1/2 box rotini pasta
1 bag mini pepperoni
1/2 jar pasta sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain, add sauce, pepperoni spices and 1 cup mozzarella; mix well. Place mixture into an 8 x 10 inch greased pan. Add remaining cheese to top of mixture. Bake, uncovered 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden.

Serves 6

This would be good to put any of your favorite pizza toppings such as ground browned sausage, mushrooms, peppers, onions, black olives, etc. If you add extra ingredients, you may end up needing more sauce to cover the amount you use. I ended up taking it out of the oven at 15 minutes because we were in a hurry to eat, but everything was melted at that time and we were hungry.

Flavor Rating: Great, pizza and pasta, how can it be bad?

Ease of Preparation: Easy, there are a couple of steps, but not too hard. Be sure to precook ground beef or sausage before putting it in this dish.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Day 91, Au Jus Roast Beef Sandwiches

It was my birthday today, but I still had to make dinner, so I just made sandwiches.

Roast Beef Au Jus Sandwiches

1 pound sliced roast beef
1 (32 oz) box beef broth
4 slices baby Swiss cheese
4 long buns, I used bollios today

Place beef broth and roast beef in a medium pot; bring to a boil. Slice buns, top with roast beef, add cheese if desired. Place some beef broth in a bowl for dipping.

Serves 4

I don't like a lot of salt in my meals, so I just used beef broth instead of Au Jus sauce. If you prefer, there are several brands of Au Jus sauce in the grocery store. I have used both condensed and dry mixes, but find them all too salty for my tastes. The roast beef is even a low sodium brand.

Flavor Rating: Good, I think the saltier sauce may have given it a little more flavor.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, nice and quick.

Day 90, Meatball Sandwiches

I had some hamburger thawed out and wasn't sure what to do with it. This is what I found to make.

Meatball Sandwiches

1 pound ground beef
3/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg beaten
6-8 long buns of your choice: bollio, brat, etc.
olive oil
garlic powder
1 jar pureed spaghetti sauce
6-8 slices provolone cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Italian seasoning Parmesan cheese and egg. Add ground beef and knead until mixed thoroughly. Shape into half-dollar sized meatballs, makes about 18. Place in a baking tray on a raised slotted broiling sheet to allow the fat to drip off. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through.
Meanwhile brush interior of sliced buns with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder. Place on a baking sheet and toast for 3-4 minutes until lightly toasted. This can be done in the oven with the meatballs for the last few minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the sauce in a small pan on the stove over medium heat. Spoon some sauce onto each bun, add 2-3 meatballs to each bun, spoon more sauce over each meatball to coat, place 1 slice provolone cheese on each sandwich. Heat the sandwiches open faced for 2-3 minutes more in the oven to melt the cheese. Let cool slightly so you can handle them, close the sandwiches and serve.

Serves 6-8

If you wish, place the meatballs into the warmed sauce to coat them instead of placing the sauce directly on the buns. I cut the buns so they were still attached on one side instead of cutting them all the way through. Making the meatballs with cheese mixed in allowed for a better cheese flavor. If you really like garlic, add some minced garlic in with the ground beef mixture. I always mix the dry ingredients with the eggs and/or milk before mixing with the ground beef for a moister meat. Placing the meatballs on a raised pan allows the excess fat to drip off and the meatballs to come out dry instead of sitting in the fat at the bottom.

Flavor Rating: Great, everyone loved it.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, you have to watch the buns so they don't burn.