Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Comfort Food

This is what we are having for dinner tonight....
Veggie Lasagna...you won't even miss the meat.
Here's my recipe...it starts with the sauce:

2 Tb. olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled & finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2- 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
2 tsp. dried crushed basil
1 Tb. dried crushed parsley
a pinch or 2 of crushed red pepper flakes (about 1/4 tsp.)
Salt & Pepper
1 box "no boil" lasagna noodles
1 small container part skim ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thaw & squeeze out extra moisture
1 container baby Portobello mushrooms (or Cremini),chopped
about 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat your oven to 350. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, carrots & celery to sauce pan. Add salt & pepper to taste, saute veggies until tender, & onions are translucent, about 8-10 minutes.

2. Add both cans of crushed tomatoes to saucepan, stir to combine. Add basil, parsley, & crushed red pepper and a little more salt and pepper. Bring up to a simmer, cover & turn heat down to med-low; stir occasionally.

4. In a medium bowl, mix together ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt & pepper. Set aside.

5. Layer as follows in a 9x13 casserole dish:
**1 cup sauce
**4 noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, 1/2 of your mushrooms & spinach, 1 cup cheese, 1 cup sauce.
**4 noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, 1 1/2 cups sauce
**4 noodles, last of the ricotta mixture, last of the mushrooms and spinach, 1 cup mozzarella, 1 cup sauce.
**4 noodles, the rest of the sauce, the rest of the cheese (add a little more Parmesan if you like)

6. Cover tightly with foil & bake for about 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until bubbly & cheese is golden brown.

7. Allow to cool about 15 minutes before cutting (I was impatient & cut mine a little early...it sets up more if you allow it to cool a little). Enjoy! Serves a lot :).

***you can always add browned ground beef or sausage...substitute where the mushrooms & spinach are added.
***if you don't want to make your own sauce, use 2 regular jars (or 1 large) prepared spaghetti sauce.

Snack Time

This is my kids FAVORITE snack of all time...

Apples with Peanut Butter Dip

Apple Slices
1/3 c. peanut butter
1-2 Tb. honey
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Mix together peanut butter, honey & cinnamon, adding enough honey to loosen the peanut butter up.
Dip apples & enjoy....also good with bananas, celery, crackers...or as a sandwich.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Easy Cheesy

This is a crazy easy recipe...it almost seems to easy to post. But it's so much better than fast food, or microwave food--so next time you are in a pinch try this:

Chicken Quesadillas
1 boneless skinless chicken breast per 2 people
(I used the frozen ones...worked great)
prepared salsa
shredded cheese
flour tortillas
Preheat your oven to 350. Place frozen (or fresh) chicken in a baking dish. Cover each piece with a little of the prepared salsa...you don't want to drown it. Pop in the oven and cook until done...about 20 minutes.
Remove chicken & salsa to a cutting board. Roughly chop the chicken, along with the salsa & mix it up a little bit.
Heat a flat skillet over med-high heat. Heat a tortilla a little, flip over. Add shredded cheese & chicken to one side, fold tortilla over and brown on both sides. Cool slightly & cut into wedges.
See, easy....no more convenience food :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Need a Chocolate Fix?

These are seriously the easiest cookies to make...ever...you've probably seen them before...but if not here you go (I will post a picture a little later...I plan on making some today)...

Chocolate No-Bakes....Two Ways
#1 WITH peanut butter
In a large sauce pan combine:
2 c. sugar
4 T. cocoa powder
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. margarine
Bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, remove from heat and stir in:
1/2 c. peanut butter
3 c. quick oats
1 tsp. vanilla
Working quickly drop spoonfuls of mixture onto waxed paper...allow to cool completely (they set as they cool).
#2 WITHOUT peanut butter
Combine in a large sauce pan:
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. butter
6 T. cocoa powder
Bring to a boil, cook until mixture reaches the soft ball stage (using a candy thermometer @ 240 degrees...don't have a thermometer? Look below for a tip). Remove from heat and add:
a pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups oatmeal
Stir quickly & drop onto waxed paper. Cookies will harden as they cool.
A couple tips:
You can use any type of oatmeal...I like quick oats because the cookies turn out less chewy (since the oats aren't technically getting cooked).
Try crunchy peanut butter...yum :)
To determine if your cocoa mixture is at soft ball stage without a thermometer- get a clear glass of cold water...drip a few drops of the hot cocoa mixture into the water...when it forms into a soft ball at the bottom of the glass it's ready...remove it from the water, it should be soft & flatten out slightly as you hold it. It takes a little practice...but no extra tools required. For more info look here.
Enjoy! & let me know which you like best :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

What's for dinner...last night

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

I thought it was great...so did my husband and daughter...my oldest son wouldn't even try it (that's not a surprise & I wasn't up for a fight last night). A nice bowl of this was our main course & it was more filling than I thought it would be. I did tweak the recipe a little...

1. I added 1 can of Artichoke hearts, roughly chopped (just because I love them & to make the salad more substantial).
2. It calls for 3 Tbs. of halved olives...I thought that was weird (is that like 3 olives??) we like olives so I halved about a handful...maybe a little more. I also added the rest of my 2 oz container of feta...instead of it wasting away in my fridge.
3. I didn't do this, but next time I will :)....slice the pepperoncini peppers, instead of dicing them...they get lost in the salad.

Now if you want to make this a side dish & want something easy to go with it...Try this:

Double the balsamic vinaigrette in the recipe, set aside 1/2 for your salad. Marinate boneless, skinless chicken breasts (however many your family will eat)for at least 1/2 an hour...longer if you can. Remove from marinade, pat dry. Grill (which is always yummy) or sear in a little hot olive oil in a oven proof skillet, when golden on the first side, flip over & put whole pan in a preheated 350 oven until cooked through. When the chicken is done, slice and add to your salad, or serve alongside.

Give it a try & let me know what you think :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Soda Bread & Shamrock Cookies

This year St. Patrick's Day kinda snuck up on me....So as I was running around getting the kids dressed in green, I decided I would make some Irish Soda Bread & shamrock shaped cookies to acknowledge the holiday.
This is my Mom's Irish Soda Bread recipe... She is very Irish...which makes me Irish too :). Visit her blog to see just how Irish she is :)...Anna Clo't & Me. It's a simple recipe & makes a bit of a mess...but is so worth it :)
4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
2 c. buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450. Using your hands mix together dry ingredients. Add buttermilk and mix until just combined. Pour onto a lightly floured surface and gently kneed (as you would biscuits) you don't want to make a stiff dough. Shape into a round loaf and place on a lightly floured baking sheet. Using a sharp knife cut and X into the top. Place in the oven, near the top and bake for 30-45 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and immediately wrap in a clean tea towel to cool.
I like plain soda bread...if you like yours with raisins and caraway seeds here's Martha's recipe.

These technically don't have anything to do with Ireland...except the shape...and that they are fun St. Patty's Day treat to make with your kids. Shamrock Cookies are a spin-off of a simple spritz cookie...if you want to make them another time, just omit or change the shape, food coloring & sugar crystals (of course) :)
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. + 2 Tb. powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. flour
scant 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
**green food coloring
**green sugar crystals (or sanding sugar)
Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and cream cheese, add powdered sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg yolk & vanilla, mix well. Add flour and salt & mix to combine. Add food coloring, mix until color is uniform.
Load dough into your cookie press & press onto a ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sugar & bake for about 8 minutes until very lightly golden around edges. Cool a few minutes on the cookie sheets & transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Stuffed French Toast

We eat breakfast for dinner about once a week...it's quick & easy, plus I'm not a morning person...so this is the one chance the kids have for real breakfast food :) They L O V E stuffed french toast & it is so easy to make variations, that we have never had it the same way twice. Here is the strawberry version...

1 loaf french bread, thinly sliced
1 container frozen strawberries (I used pre-sliced)
1 bar cream cheese, softened
2 Tb. strawberry jam
4 eggs
2 tsp. sugar
a splash of vanilla
1. Mix together cream cheese & strawberry jam, set aside.
2. In a small sauce pan heat frozen strawberries...if you have the unsweetened kind, add sugar to taste. After heated through simmer until ready to top french toast.
3. Spread a small amount of the cream cheese mixture onto a slice of the french bread, top with another to make a sandwich. Repeat with remaining french bread.
4. Mix eggs, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla until well mixed (mixing the cinnamon in before adding the milk keeps it from floating to the top). Add a splash of milk and mix to make a french toast batter.
5. Dip sandwiches into egg mixture and onto a preheated, greased griddle. Cook on each side until golden brown.
6. Top with the warm strawberries and a dusting of powdered sugar if you like.
Now for the variations...go back to the basics...start with:
sliced french bread
cream cheese
french toast batter ingredients
& add for...
Apple or Peach
* Stir 1 tsp. cinnamon & 1 TB brown sugar into cream cheese.
*Saute 3 or 4 peeled, thinly sliced apples or peaches, in about 1 Tb. butter. Add 1 tsp. cinnamon and 2 tablespoons brown sugar (to taste). Cook until soft.
* Spread cream cheese mixture onto bread & layer with cooked apples & top with second slice of bread.
*add to cream cheese zest of two oranges, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 2 tsp. sugar & a little orange juice.
*you can make an orange syrup..but I warn you it is very sweet :)
in a small saucepan heat together 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water, heat until boiling & sugar is completely dissolved (simple syrup). Add orange segments (look here to learn how to segment an orange)from your zested oranges, and zest and segments from an addition orange. Add a little cinnamon & heat until the oranges begin to fall apart...you can mash them up a little if you like.



I started this blog to share my love of cooking, baking & well, food (good food). I will share recipes I come across, some I come up with & any great tips I find along the way...hoping that you will be able to create & use them in your own kitchen.

I started baking as a girl making snicker doodles, over and over...and chocolate no-bake cookies. By the time I graduated high school, I debated between art school & culinary school (which neither worked out) & after a little schooling toward art education, I was married. Soon my family was started & I became what I love to be, a mom & a homemaker. My cooking has evolved over the past 10 1/2 years, becoming more and more from scratch...and I am happy to say, there isn't a lot we eat from a box or the freezer section anymore. There are things I have yet to try to make...like fresh pasta (which I hope to attempt this year) or seafood (now that we live next to the water, that will change). I hope you find something you like & I always love to hear you comments!

If you don't know me from my other blog...you can look here for great party ideas and more recipes... Anticipation

And to my family: this is the closest I can come to cooking for you...since we live with almost the whole country between us...so until summer--enjoy!

Where the title came from :)...
When I was a little girl, after church on Sunday we would all ask mom what was for dinner....she would reply "Faith and Air Dumplings"...which we all hated to hear...and of course was never true (but now is a little family joke)... :)