Friday, January 29, 2010

Parmesan Croutons

Today I made lunch for my friends Judy and Jody.  We had Sneaky Tomato Soup and these yummy homemade croutons.  Yummy!

5 slices good white sandwich bread
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese
Pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees,  Remove crust from bread and cube.  Toss everything in a bowl and mix together and spread out on baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes or so until browned and cheese is melted.  Cool on a papertowel and serve with soup or salad.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Baked Tacos

Shout out to my friend Kim for this recipe.  Yummy, quick and a crowd pleaser.

Thumbs up from Big Mama and Little Mouths.

Baked Tacos

1 pound prepared taco meat (Can be purchased prepared or made ahead and frozen)
1 Cup of your favorite shredded cheese
2 Tubes of Cresent Rolls

Your favorite toppings:  Lettuce, Tomatos, Sour Cream etc.

Layer Cresent Rolls, meat, cheese and another layer of rolls.  Bake according to roll directions until golden brown and bubbly.  Top with your favorite toppings and serve.

Oh, so good!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fettuccini Al'Mama

Yummy, simple and takes just 10 minutes, fridge to table.  Big Mama and Little Mouths give this dish thumbs up in all areas. 

12 oz. Fettuccini
2 cups cream or half and half
5 Tablespoons butter
2 cloves of garlic
4 oz. (approximately 1 cup) Grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Add salt and pasta.

Melt butter in a large saute pan.  Smack the garlic cloves throw them in with the butter.  Add the cream when the butter is fully melted.  Bring to a simmer.

Reserve a cup of the pasta water and drain when it is cooked your desired tenderness. Take the garlic out of the cream mixture and discard. Dump the pasta into the cream mixture and throw the cheese in and mix.  This is kinda a pain, but it's easiest with tongs.  If it starts to glump up or get too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.  Serve immedately in warmed bowls.  It will glop up if it allows to cool, so eat it quickly.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Little Mouth Shrimp for Shrimps Pasta

I don’t know what’s gotten into me. I’ve been spending too much time at the fish counter, I guess, but I made shrimp tonight. The bigger, Little Mouth love, love, loves shrimp and I love garlic and pasta. The result was this shrimp scampi inspired pasta dish we all loved.

Little Mouth Shrimp for Shrimps Pasta

1 pound of the least expensive shrimp, usually called “cocktail” shrimp

1 head of garlic

½ cup white wine or chicken stock

1 cup clam juice

5 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons butter

1 lemon

1 teaspoon fresh parsley

12 oz. pasta of your choice

Marinate cleaned and devained shrimp in 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic, minced, for 20-30 minutes. Add the rest of the olive oil to pan and sauté two smashed cloves of garlic until the garlic is brown. Discard garlic and remove one tablespoon of the oil. Add shrimp to pan. Cook shrimp until they are no longer translucent and remove from pan. Add the remaining oil and two tablespoons of flour. Whisk over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the white wine. Keep whisking and add the clam juice.

Allow to reduce by half. Lower heat and add the butter and juice of one lemon. Add shrimp back into pan and combine with sauce. Add pasta and reserve a cup of the pasta water in case the sauce gets dry. Toss the pasta in the sauce with the parsley and sever immediately.

Big Mama gives the dish thumbs up for speed and taste. The bigger little mouth loved the shrimp and little, Little Mouth even liked the pasta, sans shrimp.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rockin’ Roasted Vegetable Soup

There’s nothing better on a cold winter day than a hot pot of soup. The only problem is, that I’m not all that fond of veggies. A big pot of Beef Vegetable holds no allure past the smell of it simmering on the stove. However, I learned from my Sneaky Tomato Soup, that you can puree just about anything and it will taste good.

This soup is one inspired again from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, with a twist from what was on sale at Fresh Market this week.

Rockin’ Roasted Vegetable Soup

1 pound carrots

1 pound parsnips

2 large sweet potatoes

1 acorn squash

1 red onion

2 quarts chicken stock

¼ Cup Whipping Cream, half and half or milk (optional)

Garnish with Parmesan Cheese, Crème Fresh or Sour Cream

Peel all vegetables, cut into chunks and place on cookie sheets. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees until veggies look all shrivelly, like when the kids stay in the bath tub too long and are slightly browned. I made these veggies ahead, so I stopped here and refrigerated them until the next day.

Put veggies in a dutch oven or stock pot and add chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Test and make sure the veggies are very tender…almost falling apart when you poke them with a fork.

Remove from heat and blend with an emersion blender, food processor or traditional blender until smooth.

So yummy. Big Mama gives this soup thumbs up for fix-a-head-ability, nutrition and incognito veggie hiding. Little mouths at least will eat it, even if it is without rave reviews…its veggies, I’ll take it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sorta Sole Meunière

The only fish I have ever cooked before tonight came in sticks.

It's true. For some reason, I have always been afraid to cook fish. The Little Mouths really love it, but if there was more to the preparation than opening the oven and shoving in a pan, I wouldn't do it.

I have prepared several of Julia Child's recipes since I saw Julie and Julia, but not the flagship...the first meal Julia had upon arriving in Paris...Sole Meunière.

Yesterday when the kids were in school, I went to Fresh Market and floated around the store to the classical music with my latte and found myself in front of the fish counter. I took a a deep breath and asked for two fillets of the American version of Dover Sole and left, twenty dollars poorer, but in possession of my very first flounder filets. (There was NO way I was going to cook a whole fish, with a head and everything, like in the movie)

Since I started with filet's I had to improvise but it turned out pretty great. This recipe gets thumbs up from Big Mama for taste and speed of preparation, but it’s expensive and has to go immediately from the pan to the plate.

The Little Mouths gave it a thumbs up but still said they'd rather have fish sticks...:-(

Sorta Sole Meunière

1 pounds of the best fish you can afford (I used Flounder)

4 Tablespoons butter

1/4 cup flour

Salt and pepper

1 Large Lemon

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Season fish filets with salt and pepper. Melt three tablespoons of butter in a pan. Skim off the milk solids and place clarified butter in a separate bowl.

Dredge filets through flour and place in pan with a spoon of the melted, clarified butter. Brown on each side. Remove first batch from heat and place on pre-heated cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven. Add more butter and cook the rest of the filets. Remove the rest of the filets and wipe pan clean of browned flour.

Add any remaining butter to the pan along with the remaining Tablespoon. Melt and swirl in pan until it starts to brown. Add Lemon juice and chopped parsley. Poor over cooked fillets and serve.

Exceptionally yummy and very easy to make.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

SO Yummy, Pork Chops

In my house, as in many homes with small children, we eat a lot of chicken.  And I love chicken, but sometimes it's nice to have a little change of pace.  The reason we each so much chicken, is because the Little Mouths always say pork, in particular is too hard to chew.

And they do have a point.  In an effort to make sure pork is at a safe temporature to eat, we cook it until it resembles the sole of one of the high heals in the back of my closet I hang on to so I don't feel old.  This recipe is the solution to that problem. 

The Little Mouths give this a thumbs up and even asked for seconds.  Big Mama loved it too, and gives it a thumbs up for taste, affordiblilty (you can use less expensive, tougher cuts of pork with this method) and but there's not much to fix ahead and it does take several steps. 

SO Yummy, Pork Chops

Pork chops of your choice
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1-2 cups chicken broth
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk, cream or half and half

Salt and pepper pork chops and dredge them in the flour.  Brown on both sides in a hot pan in Olive Oil, but don't cook though. Tent chops with foil while you are browning the next batch.  Remove and add the chops to the others and cover with the foil. 

Add garlic and saute for a minute.  Deglaze the pan with the wine or broth and stir the little brown bits in the pan into the sauce.  Add the rest of the chicken broth, return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pan and cover.  Cook until the chops are cooked though.  About 10-15 minutes. 

In a sauce pan, melt the butter, then add 2 Tablespoons of flour.  Stir until the roux is a light brown, then remove from heat.  When the chops are done, place them on a platter and cover with foil.  Bring the sauce back up to a bubble and add the roux.  Add a little more chicken stock if the gravy gets too thick.  Reduce heat and add the milk or cream.  I use fat free half and half.  Pour gravy over the chops or serve on the side for dipping.

The Little Mouths are definately dippers. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Smashed Potatoes with Brie

Yummy Yummy Yummy!  I served these with yesterday's recipe and was not disappointed.

I LOVE potatoes of any kind, and these were no exception.  So, so, very good.

Smashed Potatoes with Bre

2 pounds of your favorite potatoes, boiled in salted water and drained.
1/4 milk
1 small wedge of Bre (I got mine marked down)
2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter. 

Simmer crushed garlic with the milk until softened.  Whip with potatoes and add Bre and butter.  Stir  until melted.

These were so good they didn't even need gravy.  Thumbs up from the Little Mouths and Big Mama.  I have also cheated on this recipe and added Brie to the deli redimade garlic mashed.  Equally as good, but more expensive.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chicken on Bagette with Gravy

This is a new recipe for us...a spin on a Rachel Ray recipe I saw last night.  It's a new favorite. 

Pan Seared Chicken on Bagette with Gravy

4 Chicken Breasts
1 bottle garlic and herb marinade or italian dressing
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley (cause I had some that needed to be used up)
Juice from two Lemons
1 Tablespoon Sugar or Honey
2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
Splash of white wine (you can use stock if you want to)
salt and pepper

Marinade chicken in marinade, parsley, lemon juice and sugar for 15-30 minutes.

On high heat, brown chicken breasts until cooked but still moist.  Remove from pan and tent with foil.  Deglaze the pan with the wine (or stock)  In a sauce pan, melt butter and add flour.  Cook for 1 minute.  Add stock and wisk until smooth.  Add mixture to pan juices along with the mustard.  Slice chicken on an angle and return to gravy, adding any accumulated juice that has collected on the plate.  Allow chicken to bubble away in the gravy for a minute or two. 

Serve on a toasted bagette. 

The Little Mouths loved the chicken but ate their bagette separate.  Big Mama give this recipe thumbs up for taste and knows it was worth the extra prep and time.  It still came to the table in under 30 minutes, but it did require constant attension.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Healthier Tator Tot Cassarole

The little mouths just love Tator Tot Casserole and there's not a lot in this world that is less healthy. Layers of ground beef, cream of chicken soup, cheese and tator tots. What's not to love? It is precisely this kind of food that made me a big mama...but I digress.

Last night after I tucked the little mouths in bed--caution, this is not a recipe you can prepare with children WATCHING. I whipped up this alternative version and was pleasantly surprised. I think I like it better than the original.

Healthier Tator Tot Casserole

1 box of frozen diced carrots
1 box froze cauliflower in low fat cheese sauce
1 can Healthy Request cream of chicken soup
1 large shallot or small onion
1 pound ground chicken or turkey
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon white worstishire sauce
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup shredded cheese of any kind
1 small bag of tator tots or enough hash brown patties to cover the top of a 9X13 casserole.

Put frozen carrots and cauliflower in a frying pan with a splash of water. Cover and place on medium heat, stirring occasionally until cooked though. Put in food processor with a steel blade or blender. Add cream of chicken and puree until smooth.

Dice shallot or onion and brown with meat until cooked through and golden brown. Add herbs and sauce. Add soup/veggie mixture to the pan and mix well. Spread in the bottom of a 9X12 casserole. Cover with cheese, then layer the Tater Tots on top.

Bake in a 425-degree oven for 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly or refrigerate or freeze for another day.

Big Mama likes it better than the original.  The chicken is flavorful with seasoning and the pureed veggies give it more sauce.  Thumbs up for fix-ahead ability, taste and nutrition. The little mouths say…Yummy good.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chicken Marsala Burgers

I have really come to love chicken and turkey burgers...but they are somewhat of a blank canvas, begging for flavor.  I'm planning on having a burger recipe about once a week...because there are so many super combinations and because the little mouths will almost always eat a burger.

This burger recipe may be better for for a weekend and not a busy weeknight, becuase there are several steps.  Still one pan, though. 

Chicken Marsala is a favorite of the little mouths and is the number one most requested meal in these parts.  The burgers are OMG good!  Enjoy!

Chicken Marsala Burgers

1 pound ground chicken
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 slices turkey bacon, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1 clove garlic
2 slices white sandwich bread, ground into fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesean
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1/2 cup Chicken stock in a box
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
1Tablespoon Flour

Dice bacon and onion and brown in a large skillet in  half the olive oil.  Tear the bread into one inch pieces and pulse in a food processor until fine. When the onions and bacon are browned, add the garlic and saute for a about a minute.  Add the breadcrumbs and toast until slightly brown.

Cool the bacon mixture for a few minutes, then add to chicken with the Parmesean Cheese.  Form 4-5 patties and brown in the remaining olive oil on both sides.  Remove the burgers from the pan and tent with foil. 

Deglaze the pan with the Marsala Wine, then add the chicken broth.  Reduce in pan a few moments while you mix butter and flour into a paste in a small bowl.  Add some of the hot broth and mix until disolved.  Return to the saute pan with the rest of the wine/broth mixture.  Add the burgers back to the pan with any meat juices that are on the plate. 

Simmer in sauce, flipping occationally, until the burgers are cooked through and the sauce is thickened.  Serve on rolls or ciabata.  Let leftover pan sauce soak into bread for additional flavor.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Slumber Party Pancakes

The girls at my daughter's sleepover last night pronounced these pancakes, "The Bomb"

Making pancakes isn't my favorite thing to do, but since the little mouths love them so much, I created a recipe that's worth the effort.  I think it's the orange zest that makes the difference.  I actually prefer the lemon, but the Little Mouths say orange all the way.

Slumber Party Pancakes

2 Cups Baking Mix (like Bisquick)
1 1/3 Cup Milk
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 Egg
Zest of a half and orange or lemon

Butter and Syrup, my kids like to dip it out of my fancy Olive Oil bowls.

Don't worry about left over pancake batter.  It can be stored in the frige for a couple of days.  I usually make up all of the pancakes, though, and freeze them between layers of parchment.  A few seconds in the microwave and the Little Mouths have a hot breakfast on a cold morning.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Croque Mama

I LOVE the Barefoot Contessa. I want to be her when I grow up. And I want to be married to Jeffery, but that is a whole different post on how I also love nerdy guys...but I digress.

She has a wonderful recipe for Croque Monsieur and another for Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry. Now, puff pastry has just about got to be the most divine thing I have ever eaten. Layers of BUTTER, what could be better than that?

Croque Mama

1 sheet puff pastry (The Little Mouths prefer cresent rolls)
4 slices thinly sliced baby swiss
4 slices thinly sliced ham
4 slices thinly sliced Provelone
4 slices thinly sliced hard salami
4 slices thinly sliced peperoni
1 egg

Preheat over to 400 degrees.  Cut puff pastry sheet in half and place in shallow baking dish.  Layer all of the meats and cheeses then top with other half.  You can stop here and refrigerate for 1-2 days. 

Beat egg and brush over the top.  Place in oven until crust is golden and cheese has melted, about 10 minutes. 

The Little Mouths give this dish two thumbs up, even if I don't use Creasant Rolls.

Big Mama gives this recipe thumbs up, all around for Easy Cooking, Cost, Taste and fix-ahead-ability.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lasagna, Surprise…I actually like it!

Remember in elementary school when they’d have Chef’s Surprise on the menu and we all got a little scared? Those were always the days I brought my lunch. So it has been with Lasagna night at our house. I skipped it, never made it. However, one of the little mouths had lasagna somewhere and loved it so I was on the hook. Find a recipe that I (and they) would actually enjoy.

Little Mouth, the Lasagna Lover, has a High School Musical cookbook. It has a recipe for Lasagna and she’d been chasing me around the house with it for several days. That recipe called for cottage cheese. However, the sight of those little curds floating around in sauce has always been enough to make my stomach do a flip flop, and not in a good way, like when you’d see your most recent crush across a crowded cafeteria. None of us cared for ricotta cheese in the mixture, so what to do???

I got out my handy, dandy shiny new Cuisinart and whipped the cottage cheese into submission with the steel blade and added a little crushed garlic for flavor. YUM. Reminded me of hummus and you could completely add a few herbs and eat the stuff on pita chips.

Jessica Seinfeld has a cookbook called Deceptively Delicious. I don’t make many of the recipes in there, but it did teach me that you can sneak in a little extra nutrition into everything you make. She is a wiz and weekly cooks and purees scads of fresh veggies and stealthy adds them to her family’s breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This summer when the farmers markets were everywhere, I did cook and freeze quite a bit of squash, etc. but it isn’t something I am going to be able to consistently keep up…then it hit me. There is a source of pureed veggies of every kind. One that has stringent quality and nutrient standards and is in EVERY grocery store. Baby food!

I use the large “Junior” jars and it works great. It often gives the dish a little extra flavor and more than one guest has questioned what that little extra “something” is…but I’m not telling!

Lasagna, Surprise…I actually like it!

1 pound ground beef, sausage or meat substitute
1 jar tomato sauce
1 large jar pureed carrots (Junior Baby Food)
2 cups cottage cheese (I used reduced fat)
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 cups mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese
6 large lasagna noodles or 12 of the smaller, no cook ones

If you are using regular lasagna noodles, boil water and prepare them to the package directions. Careful to not overcook or they will be mushy.

While the ground beef is browning in a saute’ pan over medium heat, put the cottage cheese in a blender or food processor with the garlic. Puree until smooth and slightly fluffy. Remove the ground beef from heat and drain well. Add 2/3’s of the tomato sauce and pureed carrots and mix.

Add the reserved 1/3 of the sauce to the bottom of a 9 X 13 baking dish (or use two square ones and freeze half) then add the first row of noodles.

Now comes the tricky part. Every last recipe I have read for lasagna calls for the rest of the ingredients to be layered in the pan. Now, I know I have the dexterity of a one armed paperhanger, but I have never managed to be able to “layer” all of these sticky ingredients. If you can…do that now. If you’re like me, mix the cottage cheese mixture, 2/3’s of the mozzarella cheese and the 2/3’s meat/sauce mixture in a big bowl and put half of that on top of the noodles. Add another row of noodles and repeat with the rest of the glop you have left in the bowl. Add another row of noodles and top those with the rest of the meat sauce followed by the rest of the mozzarella cheese and the parmesan cheese.

Cover the pan with foil. Now you can do one of three things. Freeze, Refrigerate, or cook at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to brown the cheese for 10 more minutes. If the cheese isn’t browning well, flip on the broiler for the last few minutes, but watch closely. My kids won’t touch it if it looks “burned.”

The Little Mouths are split on this one. One thumbs up, one down.

Big Mama gives this recipe thumbs up, all around for fix-ahead-ability, Cost and Taste with an honorable mention for Easy Cooking.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Easy Peasy Beef Stroganoff

I love this recipe and I've been making it in some form for 20 years. It is so versatile you can add or subtract just about anything and it still tastes great.

It is good made with beef strips or ground beef, as my kids prefer. You can add carrots, as well as mushrooms and peas or leave them all our and serve on the side or with a nice green salad. You can jazz it up by adding some fresh thyme or serve it over rice instead of noodles.

The Little Mouths give this dish two thumbs up if I make it with ground beef, and pick of the beef if I make it with pieces of beef.

Big Mama gives this recipe thumbs up, all around for Easy Cooking, Cost and Taste with an honorable mention for fix-ahead-ability.

Easy Peasy Beef Stroganoff

1 pound ground beef or beef stew meat or beef for stir fry
2 Tbsp. All purpose flour
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
2 cups beef stock
1 can cream of mushroom or cream of onion soup
1 small can of mushrooms or 8 oz. fresh mushrooms.
1 box or small bag of frozen peas (optional)
1 cup sour cream (Reduced Fat works great)
12 oz. egg noodles
Salt and Pepper

Fill a large pot with cold water and 1 teaspoon salt and put on to boil.

Dice onion and cook in Olive Oil, over medium high heat, until just starting to brown. Add minced Garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Toss beef in flour and brown on high/medium-high heat until browned on all sides. Remove beef and add fresh mushrooms and sauté until browned. If you are using canned mushrooms, just add to the beef. When the mushrooms are browned add beef back into the skillet. Deglaze the pan with beef stock and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes to reduce. Add the can of cream soup and mix well. Allow mixture to simmer until it coats the back of your spatula and is a good consistency to stick to the noodles. If it gets too thick, don’t worry. You can add more beef stock, a little of the starchy cooking liquid from the noodles or even a bit of milk. Add the peas so they can warm through while the sauce reduces.

Stop here and freeze or keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

While you are waiting for your sauce to reduce, prepare egg noodles to package directions. At the last minute, mix half of the sour cream into the sauce mixture.

Serve over noodles and garnish with a dollop of sour cream on top.
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