Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 139, Roasted Tomato and Barley Soup

This was a yummy soup. You can make it completely vegetable by substituting vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth it calls for. I ended up eating 3 bowls worth.

1 can (28 oz) petite diced tomatoes, undrained
2 large onions, diced (about 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Drain the tomatoes, reserving the juice in. Place the tomatoes, onions and garlic in a 17 x 11 inch roasting pan. Pour the olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat. Bake for 25 minutes.
Place the roasted vegetables into a 3-quart saucepan. Stir in the reserved tomato juice, broth, celery and barley and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 35 minutes or until the barley is tender. Stir in the parsley.

Serves 8

This was a tasty low calorie dish. Serve with some crackers if desired. I liked all the different vegetable flavors that were going on and roasting the tomatoes and onions gave it a richer flavor. I definitely recommend this for someone who is looking for a lot of flavor in a few calories. I used the quick cook barley which takes less time to cook than the regular barley.

Flavor Rating: Excellent, a lot of flavor.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, but time consuming.

Day 138, Basic Omelet

I don't make my omelets like I was taught in Home Ec. all those years ago. I prefer a drier egg than Martha Stewart and would never be able to eat an omelet cooked the way she makes them.

Basic Omelet

2 large eggs
1 tbsp water
2 slices American cheese

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and water together until consistently yellow. Spray a small frying pan with non-stick cooking spray and preheat to medium. Add eggs and allow to cook for approximately 1-2 minutes until cooked through enough to flip. Remove from heat and flip cooked egg over. Add cheese and any other ingredients you wish. Fold egg in half and allow cheese to melt. Serve immediately.

Serves 1

I prefer a drier egg and this method allows me to have it cooked all the way through. The method that I was taught and you may be able to find on professional cooking shows is to gently move egg to the middle and allow the liquid to spill to the edges. I like to just cook my eggs like I'm frying them then folding it like an omelet. You can fry up some peppers, onions, mushrooms or whatever you like in the middle of your omelet. Shredded cheese works well for melting inside an omelet also.

Flavor Rating: Good, the more ingredients you put inside it, the yummier the omelet gets.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, this is the easiest way I found to make my omelets.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 137, Fusion Pork Tenderloin

This was the final meal I got from Let's Dish. I got enough in this meal to serve as many as 8-10 rather than the 4-6 it claims. Both the beans and the pork were spicy but not too hot. Check out the link for the ingredients. I don't remember the exact amounts.

2 pork tenderloins
1/2 cup liquid egg
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/4 cup plum sauce
1 tbsp crushed ginger
1 tbsp curry powder
1 bag frozen beans (about 3 cups)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 to 1 tsp crushed red pepper

Mix breadcrumbs and coconut in a resealable bag. Brush pork with egg or place pork in a resealable bag with egg. Place pork in bag with breadcrumbs and pat lightly to coat. Remove from bag and place in a baking pan, repeat with second tenderloin. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake pork for 40-50 minutes until crust is browned and pork is cooked. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
In a small bowl, mix plum sauce, ginger and curry. Serve over sliced pork.
Spread green beans evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees F., until beans are hot. Meanwhile, mix vinegar, garlic powder and pepper. Toss sauce with beans. Serve immediately.

Serves 8-10

I enjoyed this dish. It was spicy, but not burn your mouth hot. I don't remember the exact amounts that went in each sauce, so I hope the recipe above is fairly accurate. I got the pork and the beans with this meal. Although they claim that most of their meals serve 4-6, this had enough to feed at least 8 people. This is a meal I would make again. It is recommended to serve over noodles, but I found that we had enough with just the pork and the beans.

Flavor Rating: Great, just the right infusion of flavors.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, a little messy as with all things I have to stick to breadcrumbs.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 136, Scrambled Egg-Potato Baskets

The April/May 2010 Cooking Club magazine had many recipes I wanted to try. This could be used for breakfast or brunch. I was able to find mascaropne cheese in the Target deli area where they have their imported cheeses. If you can't find the mascarpone cheese, use an equal amount of cream cheese instead.

6 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 cup finely chopped onion
10 eggs, divided
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
3/4 tsp pepper, divided
1 (20 oz) package refrigerated hash brown potatoes
1 1/2 tsbp chopped fresh tarragon
1 1/2 tbsp sliced fresh chives
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, softened

Place oven rack in lowest position. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray 12 muffin cups generously with cooking spray. Melt 4 tbsp of the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook onion 3 minutes or until it just begins to soften, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, whisk 2 of the eggs, 1 tsp of the salt and 1/2 tsp of the pepper in a large bowl until blended. Stir in hash browns until coated. Stir in onion mixture. Spoon into muffin cups (cups will be full). With back of spoon, press into bottom and up sides, making an indentation in center. (Keep hash browns from spilling over edges to avoid overbrowning.)
Bake on bottom rack 40 to 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and sides are brown. Remove from oven; run thin spatula around outside edges to loosen. Cool in pan on wire rack 5 minutes. Carefully remove potato baskets from pan; place on foil-lined baking sheet. (Baskets may be made as much as 4 hours ahead.)
Place oven rack in middle position; reduce oven to 300 degrees F. Whisk remaining 8 eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, tarragon and chives in a large bowl 45 seconds or until frothy and blended.
Melt remaining 2 tbsp butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Pour in eggs; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook slowly 2 to 3 minutes or until eggs just begin to form curds, stirring constantly with heat resistant spatula. Stir in cheese. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until curds form, but eggs are still very creamy. Spoon eggs into potato baskets.
Immediately bake potato baskets at 300 degrees F. for 5 minutes or until hot.

Serves 6

I normally like my eggs cooked well until they're dry. This was unusual for me, but I ended up enjoying the creaminess of these eggs. I used my cheap flexible spatula to remove the baskets from the cupcake cups and I used my thicker heat-resistant spatula for mixing the eggs. It's amazing how many spatulas I've gained over the years. This took longer than I was expecting, so make sure you have at least an hour to prepare these.

Flavor Rating: Great, I loved the creaminess of the cheese and egg mixture. There were a lot of flavors happening in every bite.

Ease of Preparation: Hard, the egg baskets were think in the bottom corners and I wasn't able to get every bite of potato out of the cupcake tin.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 135, Cesar Mahi Mahi

This was meal #3 from Let's Dish. I chose the Mahi Mahi because I wanted to try one of their fish dishes. I mad this a while ago, so the ingredients may not be exact. I'll try my hardest to remember what I put on them so it can be remade.

4 Mahi Mahi fillets
1/2 cup finely crushed bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp Cesar dressing
1 tsp Culinary Cream

Mix cream and dressing together. Brush fish fillets with mixture. Mix bread crumbs and cheese; top fillets with mixture. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake fillets for 20-30 minutes, until fish reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees F.

Serves 4

I served this with a salad topped with ranch dressing. I don't have Cesar dressing lying around the house. There might have been more to the sauce mixture, but I don't remember. It was a very tasty fish. They were thick cut fillets unlike most white fish I usually have. The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork, but don't overcook them or they will end up dry.

Flavor Rating: Great, these were yummy fish.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, looks difficult, but is really easy in the end.

Day 134, Brats

I found a brand of brats that were MSG and gluten free with no added nitrates and wanted to try them. Klements makes this brand that can be found next to the rest of the hot dogs and processed brats.

1-2 brats per person (6 in package)
same amount of buns

Heat brats in shallow water for 7-10 minutes, until heated all the way through. Serve on buns and top with favorite toppings.

Serves 4-6

I am not a hot dog fan and something in the spices didn't agree with me. These were a decent flavor for a smoked brat and if you can handle eating brats, they weren't too bad. The macaroni and cheese were Velveeta and I was trying it because they came out with a whole wheat noodle. After the cheese was put on, the noodles tasted similar to the shells that come in the standard box. I think I will stick with my homemade version so I can control the ingredients better.

Flavor Rating: Good, not bad for that amount of processed food.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, just heat and eat.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 133, Bacon Ranch Burgers

Sorry I haven't been able to update lately. Life just sometimes gets in the way. This was a different bunch of toppings for my burger.

Bacon Ranch Burger

1 pound lean ground beef
4 slices bacon
4 tbsp ranch dressing
1 cup French's French Fried Onions
4 buns

Form ground beef into 4 patties, cook in a large frying pan over medium heat until desired doneness, approx. 5 minutes per side for well done. Form bacon into circles; bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until desired crispiness. Split buns if not already cut. Place one burger on each bun, top with bacon, 1 tbsp ranch dressing on each and french fried onions.

Serves 4

I decided to make my burgers like this from inspiration from some fast food restaurants that top their burgers with ranch dressing and onion rings. They looked yummy, so I decided to try this version myself. My husband loves the french fried onions on his green bean casserole during the holidays, so I decided that placing them on burgers would go well. Lean ground beef was on sale a couple of weeks ago, so I got the 90-10 beef and this works really well for burgers because I can't rinse the fat off a burger.

Flavor Rating: Great, I liked this combination. It may not have been the healthiest burger, but it tasted very good.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, form your patties thin and indent the center for even cooking. Check my baking bacon recipe in my BLT recipe.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 132, Spinach and Strawberry Salad

I had to make something light so as to not upset any stomachs any more so I went with a salad. This was light and tasty. I have started to buy from the bulk section of my grocery store which is where I got my sunflower nuts.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

1 bag baby spinach
1 pound strawberries, cut into slices
2 tbsp sunflower nuts
2 tbsp raspberry vinaigrette

Place spinach and strawberries in a bowl. Add dressing and toss. Top with sunflower nuts.

Serves 2

I found unsalted sunflower nuts in the bulk section. It was nice to be able to purchase just the amount I needed and not a prepackaged portion. Fortunately I have a husband that doesn't mind having just salad for dinner. It's easy to be able to just toss together a salad every once in a while.

Flavor Rating: Great, a nice fruity combination.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, the hardest part is preparing the strawberries.

Day 131, Chicken Alphabet Soup

We didn't actually eat yesterday, so I'm declaring this to be the next meal. It was edible but no one was eating due to a virus going through the area.

Chicken Alphabet Soup

1 box (32 oz) chicken broth
1/2 cup alphabet noodles
1 cup carrots, chopped

Bring broth to a boil, add carrots and boil for 5-7 minutes. Add noodles and boil for an additional 7-9 minutes according to packaging.

Serves 4

This was thrown together, if you can't tell. I found alphabet noodles in the organic section and had to try them. I thought alphabet noodles would be fun and they still might when I make a heartier chicken noodle soup. The different shape isn't really worth the extra price, but if you want to go organic, these might be fun. I'm thinking I may make a creamy tomato soup with these later. Had everyone been feeling better I would have put more vegetables and spices in the soup.

Flavor Rating: Ok, edible, but not flavorful.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, noodles and carrots, what could be easier.

Day 130, Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Mexican Cream Cheese

I have a total of 4 different meals from Let's Dish and this was #2 of the 4. I picked dishes I wouldn't have thought to make myself and this was one of the tasty ones.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Mexican Cream Cheese

12 chicken tenders
6 slices bacon
6 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp taco seasoning

Line counter with waxed paper. Place bacon flat on wax paper. Place one chicken tender at top of each bacon slice. In a small bowl, mix cream cheese and taco seasoning until well blended. Spread 1 tbsp of mixture on each chicken tender. Place other chicken tenders on top of cream cheese. Roll bacon around chicken. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place chicken wraps on individual aluminum foil. Roll up into packets. Bake for 10 minutes, unwrap and cook an additional 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Serves 4-6

This meal came with frozen corn. It can be cooked from frozen, just add an additional 5 minute for both foil wrapped and unwrapped baking. I think if I were to make this at home I would leave out the taco seasoning, I liked the cream cheese but was not sure of the taco seasoning. I picked the regular bacon, but there was a choice of jalapeno bacon. Perhaps I would have liked them better if I were feeling better. The next couple of days we didn't eat because of illness running through the house.

Flavor Rating: Great, I liked this combination, bacon makes everything better.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, a lot of hand washing and it took a minute to figure out how to roll the bacon around the chicken.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 129, Sweet and Tangy Braised Beef

Thanks to winning some meals at Let's Dish from I was able to have a few meals already prepared in my freezer.

(all ingredients approximate)

2-3 pound beef loin
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tbsp cocktail sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup ginger ale

Combine last 7 ingredients in a plastic resealable bag. Place beef loin in bag. Seal and massage to mix ingredients. Marinade overnight. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Serves 4-6

Beer may be substituted for the ginger ale. I liked having the meal ready to cook whenever I want and I know what was in the meal because I prepared it at the store. They also have pre-made meals for those who are in a hurry but still want a real meal. The ingredients I listed are to the best of my memory and may not be exact to what was actually in the meal.

Flavor Rating: Great, the cocktail sauce added an extra kick. I wouldn't have thought to do that on my own.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, just throw together and have a hot meal ready for you when you get home.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 128, Open-Faced Primavera Sandwiches

This was another recipe form my new Cooking Club magazine. They had a whole section of Primavera in this issue. My husband loves asparagus and this was a tasty sandwich.

Open-Faced Primavera Sandwiches

16 thin asparagus spears
1 1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp coarse salt
1/8 tsp pepper
4 large slices artisan bread (1/2 inch thick)
2 tbsp purchased pesto
4 thin slices prosciutto
1 (8oz) jar roasted bell peppers, drained, patted dry, sliced (1/2 inch)
4 slices mozzarella cheese (1/8 inch)

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Spread asparagus on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 10 minutes; remove asparagus from baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
Place bread on baking sheet; bake at 400 degrees F. for 10 minutes or until toasted, turning once.
Heat broiler. Spread 1/2 tbsp pesto over each bread slice; top each with prosciutto, peppers, asparagus and cheese.
Broil 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Serve warm.

Serves 4

I had my husband make this recipe too. The fire alarm indicated the asparagus being done because of the amount of olive oil he drizzled on them. I guess that indicates this being a more moderate to make recipe. The spears don't need to be drenched in oil, use it sparingly. It ended up being a tasty sandwich, but not as filling as I'd like. Next time I'll have to make a side with them.

Flavor Rating: Excellent, a great blend of flavors.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, be sure not to use more than the indicated amount of olive oil on the asparagus.

Day 127, Primavera Potato Salad

I got my bi-monthly Cooking Club magazine and had to try out a few of their new recipes. The bonus for me was that I was able to get my husband to make them for me. Check out the original recipe here.

Primavera Potato Salad

1 1/2 lbs small new potatoes, unpeeled
5 oz green beans, sliced
2 cups lightly packed baby spinach
1/2 cup diagonally thinly sliced carrots
1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
1/2 cup diagonally thinly sliced green onions

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp shopped fresh thyme
1 tsp coarse salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Add green beans and carrots; cook 5 minutes, or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain; cool under cold running water.
Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl until well blended.
When potatoes are cool enough to handle, quarter larger ones and halve small ones. Place in a large bowl, along with beans, carrots, spinach, radishes and green onions. Toss with vinaigrette to lightly coat. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 10 (3/4 cup servings)

The way we eat, and because this was the only thing we were eating, it only served 4-5. It was interesting, I think the vinegar was a bit too tangy for what I was looking for. I suppose as a side it wouldn't be too bad, but as a main course it needed a little something.

Flavor Rating: Good, a little too tangy for me.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, quick to prepare and easy to tell if the potatoes are done.

Day 126, Ham and Bean Soup

With all that leftover ham, I had to make something with it. Since nothing was open except WalMart on Easter, I had to stop there to pick the mix up because I forgot to pick the mix up before Easter. I found a 12 bean soup mix and that's what I ended up making.

12 Bean and Ham Soup

1 bag 12 bean soup mix
6 cups chicken stock or water
juice of one lemon, approx 1-2 tbsp
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ham, cut into bite sized pieces

Soak beans overnight according to packaging; drain. Add beans, chicken stock and ham; simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and lemon and simmer for 20-30 minutes more.

Serves 10-12

I didn't mind the soup for the first several bites, but it ended up being way too many beans for me. I'm just not a bean person, so my husband has plenty of leftovers for lunches. I ended up giving the kids the backup dinner of peanut butter sandwiches, they couldn't eat it at all. At least my husband liked it.

Flavor Rating: Ok, the lemon and garlic helped, I didn't add the soup flavoring mix, I'm just not a bean person.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, I ended up burning the soup to the bottom of my pot, but the packaging called for 2 1/2 hours of cooking.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 125, Easter Dinner

I had a ham to make, so I made this for Easter. Not the first time I had this, but I think it was a different glaze, a honey glaze. I actually made this ham, just heat according to the directions on the glaze packet.

Easter Ham

Spiral Cut Ham
Glaze Packet
2 tbsp water

Heat ham according to packaging. Heat at 250 degrees F. for about 30 minutes. Bring oven up to 425 and prepare glaze by mixing it with 2 tbsp water in a bowl them drizzling it over the ham. Heat for an additional 5 minutes, until glaze has melted.

Also with this meal: Yukon potatoes, microwaved; asparagus, boiled; corn, steamed.

Serves 8-10

Ham is a traditional meal for many Christians for Easter. I just happened to have one in the freezer and needed the room. Now I have a quarter of that ham in the freezer for later use. Spiral cut hams need to be oven heated but unsliced ham can be boiled then heated. Do not boil your spiral cut ham or you will lose all the moisture from the ham and it will be dry. I made that mistake once.

Flavor Rating: Great, I loved this glaze.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, just throw it in the oven and forget about it for a little while.

Day 124, Pasta wtih Vegetables

I had little time to make dinner and a microwavable veggie packet with sauce, so I threw this together.

Pasta with Vegetables

1 bag microwavable vegetables with sauce
1/2 box thin spaghetti
1 tbsp butter

Prepare vegetables and pasta according to packaging. Mix all ingredients together.

Serves 4

I found this vegetable mix on sale at Cub Foods. It had asparagus, yellow squash, carrots and a cracked pepper sauce. It was tasty, but very mild. It could have used a little more pepper in the blend. It worked for as hungry as we were.

Flavor Rating: Good, mild flavor, could have used a little something.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, the microwave speeds up production and frozen vegetables are quick , easy and just as nutritious as fresh.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 123, Lemon Chicken Salad

With the weather warming like it has been, I felt the need for a salad. I like my meat warm on the salads.

Lemon Chicken Salad

1 pound chicken, cut into slices
1/2 bottle Lawry's Herb and Garlic marinade
1 bag salad mix
1 container grape tomatoes

Place chicken and marinade in a resealable bag. Let set in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. In a large frying pan, cook marinaded chicken until cooked through, approximately 8-10 minutes. Discard remaining marinade. Divide salad mix into bowls. Top with chicken and tomatoes.

Serves 2-3

I didn't think this needed any dressing because the chicken is so flavorful, but if you feel the need for additional dressing, a good vinaigrette would work with this. Shredded cheese might be a good addition also. It is a light meal, so this would be good for a night you're not too hungry.

Flavor Rating: Good, I like this marinade, it's one of my favorite ones.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, cooking in the marinade makes oil unnecessary.

Day 122, Taco Lasagna

This is a recipe I moderated from one I found on which was a pie rather than a lasagna. Once again I had to modify for what was in the house.

Taco Lasagna

1 pound ground turkey
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 bag (approx 1 lb) veggie mix (red bell pepper, onions, zucchini)
1 taco seasoning packet
1 cup shredded taco cheese
12 corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large frying pan, cook ground turkey until browned; drain if needed. Add seasoning mix and water as directed on packaging. Heat vegetables. Add tomatoes to turkey. Spray a 8x10 inch pan with non-stick spray. Place 4 tortillas on bottom of pan, add 1/2 meat mixture, 1/2 vegetable mixture, 1/3 cheese, 4 more tortillas, repeat. Top with remaining cheese. Bake covered for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and mixture is hot.

Serves 6-8

The original recipe I was looking at had rice as part of the ingredients, but I didn't want to have that many carbohydrates in one meal. My husband liked it and said I should make it again. I actually used 15 shells because I was using the broken ones in the center to fill the gaps. The top was crispy, but the shells on the inside ended up soft. I finally got some aluminum foil, but didn't use it on this recipe. I think that covering it would make the top less crispy, but don't know for sure. I used a vegetable mixture that had the three ingredients I listed above, but it also had green beans. We liked it with those vegetables, but try different ones you think would work better for you.

Flavor Rating: Great, good flavor, I like corn tortillas every once in a while.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, you have to heat several things at the same time.

Day 121, Cheeseburger Calzone

I occasionally like to make a calzone, and today's combined pizza and cheeseburgers.

Cheeseburger Calzone

2 boxes Jiffy pizza crust mix
1 cup hot water
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cook ground beef in a large frying pan over medium heat until browned; drain and rinse. Combine pizza crust mix and hot water; let stand for 5 minutes in a warm place such as the top of the oven. On a floured surface, knead crust several times. Grease a pizza pan with olive oil. Grease your hands with olive oil. Place dough in middle of pan and press toward sides of pan until crust is even allowing crust to go over edges slightly. Place half of ground beef on half of dough, add half of cheese on top of ground beef, add remaining ground beef then remaining cheese. Bring dough over beef mixture until edges meet. Fold dough from bottom half over sides and press gently to allow dough to stick to itself. Sprinkle sesame seeds over top. Bake 18-20 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Serves 8-10

If you like different cheeseburger combinations, enjoy the combinations you normally like. Good combinations would be mushrooms and swiss, tomatoes, or cooked bacon. I wouldn't bake lettuce or condiments in the calzone, but having them on the side for dipping is good. I used ketchup to dip mine in this time. I used a cheap cut of ground beef which is why I rinse it in hot water. It ends up being a little less beef in the end, but after rinsing it is nearly as lean as the leaner cuts. If you end up using a different dough mix, go by the temperature rating on the back of the package. Do not precook the dough because you have to fold it upon itself.

Flavor Rating: Great, pizza and cheeseburgers, how can you miss?

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, it takes practice to figure out how to make fresh dough.

Day 120, Texas Black Bean Soup

I found this recipe at but altered it for the ingredients I had in the house. I served it with a garlic pull apart I found at SuperTarget.

Texas Black Bean Soup

1 cup dry black beans, soaked overnight and drained
2 small cans (14.5 oz) or 1 large can (28 oz) petite diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen corn
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder

In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients. Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours, until heated through.

Serves 8

This ended up tasting like a vegetarian chili. I was looking for a soup and ended up with this. I don't feel the need for meat at every meal and this has a good amount of protein because of the beans. I love to slow cook my meals so I don't have to think about them just before dinner time every day. It was a little spicy because of the amount of chili powder, but not bad in the end. I think I will have to find another soup recipe, but having no food processor makes many recipes impossible. Maybe I'll have to try out my blender for some of those recipes I need to puree.

Flavor Rating: Good, more of a chili than a soup.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, just toss it all in and forget, but be sure to soak your beans beforehand.

Day 119, Chicken with Sweet and Sour Sauce

I picked up a new brand of sweet and sour sauce and had to try it. It was better than some of the ones I've tried before. The brand today happened to be Fa Ling sweet and sour sauce that comes in a glass jar. It has fewer ingredients than some of the others I looked at.

Chicken with Sweet and Sour Sauce

1 cup dry brown rice, cooked as directed on package
1 pound chicken, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups frozen broccoli
1 jar sweet and sour sauce

Cook chicken over medium heat until no longer pink on outside. Place broccoli on top and heat until hot, stirring as needed. Pour sauce over mixture and stir until coated. Serve over warm rice.

Serves 4

Traditionally Sweet and Sour Chicken has a breading on it, but I'm not one that likes breading on everything. I prefer my stir frys to be breading free. This is a simple recipe even though I did manage to burn the chicken because I wasn't paying attention to my cooking as well as I should have. If your mixture is becoming dry as you are cooking, feel free to add a little bit of broth to allow the chicken and broccoli to steam. I am able to cut out oil by adding broth or water to allow steaming instead of frying.

Flavor Rating: Great, this was a better sweet and sour sauce than some I've had.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, just don't walk away while cooking.

Day 118, Easy Stovetop Mac N' Cheese

I had the hankering for mac n cheese but didn't' want to make it out of a box. I found this recipe at after googling for recipes. Easiest recipe ever!

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

1 1/4 cup uncooked elbow noodles (about 6 oz)
1 cup lowfat milk (I used skim, the original recipe calls for 1%)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups (5 oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup croutons, crushed

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting fat and salt; drain. Combine cold milk and flour in a medium saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium heat about 2 minutes, until thickened, stirring constantly with whisk. Remove from heat; add cheese and mix until melted and combined thoroughly. Add pasta; toss to coat. Let stand 4 minutes. Divide into serving bowls and sprinkle crushed croutons over pasta mixture.

Serves 4

The original recipe had me making fresh toasted bread for the topping. I have said before, I am a lazy cook and will find easy shortcuts to help me get dinner on the table quickly for my children who claim to be dying of hunger all the time. I was able to use Barilla Plus elbow noodles to get in some of my whole grains for the week. Barilla happens to be my preferred pasta, but use whichever you choose. Whole wheat pasta is not as gritty as it used to be, so feel free to use it under sauces. It does have a little different taste, but it isn't big enough to notice as being a bad taste. I used mild cheddar and thought that the sharp cheddar would make it taste more like traditional mac n cheese in a box. Next time I make it, it will be with the strong cheese.

Flavor Rating: Great, the cheese makes the difference, use stronger cheese or you might be tasting the flour.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, be sure to keep stirring the milk mixture so it doesn't burn; you can tell when it has thickened.