Monday, February 28, 2011

Taco Taco Taco

The last time I made Enchiladas, I was thinking how good the meat-and-Rotel mixture would taste as a soft taco.

3/4 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, chopped fine
1/4 teaspoon adobo without pepper
1/4 tsp pepper
1 can (10-oz) Rotel

Brown ground beef, onion, adobo and pepper in skillet. Drain. Stir in the Rotel.  Simmer 10 minutes and serve with your favorite taco fixings.

No "taco seasoning" required!  It's not a traditional taco, but it's really good.

For a party:  Triple the recipe.  Cook as described above.  After stirring in the Rotel, transfer to a slow cooker.  Cook on "Low" for an hour and then switch to "Warm" if you have that setting.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cub Scout Blue & Gold Dinner

For the second year in a row, I'm catering the Cub Scout Blue & Gold Dinner. No, I'm not a caterer--I'm just Mrs. Cubmaster. But I certainly know how to make spaghetti and meatballs, and that's what we're having. It's easy, it's kid-friendly, and you can get some of it done ahead of time.

I was kicking myself earlier this week because I didn't save the papers last year where I calculated how much of everything I would need. Last year we had about 65 people at the Blue & Gold. Today we're expecting 103. Fortunately our parish center, where we host this event, has a fully-equipped kitchen, but there is stuff that I make sure to bring with me. I already spoke to the business manager and she offered us the use of certain staples like salt & pepper, sugar, tea bags, so we saved money there.

Little Brother has two more years in Cub Scouts, so I figured it would be a good idea to write down what--and how much--we used, to make it easier for next year.

We've also learned from some mistakes. Last year we made this dinner "semi-potluck." I made the spaghetti and meatballs. We bought the bread at a local bakery--their bread is amazing AND they give us a special price because we're a Scout troop. And we divided the rest among the Cub Scouts. One den brought beverages, another brought salad, two more brought desserts, and I can't remember what the last assignment was. That semi-potluck thing didn't work out well at all. We ran out of salad with the first 20 people, and I had to send my teenagers to ShopRite to get more soda.

This year we decided to charge $3 per person for the dinner, and each family was to bring a dessert to share. That $3 per person would cover the rest of it.

How did I do on budget this year? Well, I've spent about $300 and didn't even get to the bakery yet. I'll be a little over budget, but I had to buy things like plastic forks--those come in a box of 400 or so; we'll have forks for the next few events. I'm not going to ask the Scouts to give me back more than we take in, so the rest will just be a donation.

I worry a bit about quantity since last year we had quite a few "walk-ins."  So I want to make sure I have extra food on hand just in case.  I'll keep a few pounds of uncooked pasta ready to go in case we need to quickly make more.

A note about pasta:  I say "spaghetti" but I'm really serving penne.  It's much easier for young kids to handle this shape, and it's easier for the cooks as well (spaghetti sometimes slides through the colander holes when you drain it and makes a mess in the sink).

20 pounds of meat gets you about 320 meatballs.  Yes, I rolled 320 meatballs last night.  Little Brother helped a bit.  I made him wear gloves!  He loved it--he was busy squishing and mixing the meatballs, saying "This is SO 'Dirty Jobs'!"  TheDad got home when we had about 3 pounds of mix to go, so he helped with the last bit as well.

Here's my shopping list:
24 pounds pasta, which may not be enough, so I'm going to get 4 or 5 more pounds just in case
20 lb. ground beef (80% lean)
92-oz. bread crumbs (I have about 2 cups left)
20 eggs (I donated these)
1 110-oz can tomato paste
12 28-oz cans tomato puree
12 29-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 bottle each "dollar section spices"--garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, crushed red pepper, oregano, basil (I expect to only have crushed red pepper left after I make the sauce)
24 oz olive oil
large can of Kraft parmesan cheese
12 lb. bagged salad
3 large seedless cucumbers
3 pints grape tomatoes
1 large bag croutons
4 pints ranch dressing
4 pints Italian dressing

Here's my nonfoods list:
tablecloths for round tables--a BIG expense; these things are $3 EACH!
heavy-duty paper plates (we like Chinet)
cake plates
bowls for salad
table napkins (2 bags of 250)
roll of paper towels
extension cords--heavy duty (all that I can round up!)
kitchen sponge (I like to bring a fresh one since the ones in the kitchen are usually icky)
dish soap (just in case--there will most likely be some there)
my apron
oven mitts
masking tape
index cards (for labeling which coffeepot has decaf, among other things)
Sterno for chafing dishes

2 lb. coffee (not sure how much I will actually use)
2 lb. decaf
1 38-qt iced tea mix
2 gallons Boost (a local favorite--this will make 10 gallons)
ice water will also be available
hot tea (the parish center has tea bags so I don't have to bring any)
4 qts. half & half

Here's the proportions for making meatballs:
For each 1 lb. of ground beef (or meatloaf mix), add:
1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp basil

That will get you about 16 golf-ball size meatballs.  Place on a baking sheet, allowing some room in between.  I cover the sheet in foil for easy cleanup!  Bake 20 minutes at 400.

Here's how I keep the pasta hot:
Cook pasta as usual. Pour a couple of TBL oil in the bottom of chafing-dish pans. Place cooked pasta in pans. Pour a little more oil over the top, toss, and cover. Keep warm in warm (200 degrees) oven or over chafing dish.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Play Time!

It's going to get crazy for the next 6 weeks: it's spring musical time at my daughter's high school. Even though I only have one child in high school, two of my children are participating in the musical. The school is doing The Wizard of Oz, and they've welcomed about 20 elementary-school students to perform as well as the 95 high-school students who are in the play.

My daughter also runs track, so she gets home around 5. She has to be back at school for play practice from 6:30 to 9, along with her little brother. Normally we don't eat dinner much before 6:30 because of my husband's work schedule and long commute.

So we'll have to do some shuffling around here. The slow cooker is going to be my best friend on play-practice nights, and it's a good bet that I'll have to keep a plate of dinner warm for Dad, since the kids have to eat before play practice. It's a good thing that the high school is only 5 minutes away. During Tech Week, the cast and crew arrives at 5 and the Stage Mothers provide dinner for them. I'll be a Stage Mother this year and am looking forward to that.

My reward for spending a chunk of my evenings shuttling my kids back and forth to school is that it's going to be nice and quiet around here for a couple of hours each evening. Ahhhhh!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cookie Carnival: Vanilla Shortbread

My friend Tami hosts the Cookie Carnival each month, and it looked like a lot of fun--so I decided to play along too. It's easy to do; you just contact Tami and she'll send you the two recipes chosen for the month. Then you bake, photograph, taste-test and post about it!

I chose the Vanilla Shortbread Hearts recipe because the other recipe contained ingredients that I didn't already have around the house!

The cookies turned out delicious, but they were really work-intensive. I love cookies, but I don't like doing cut-out cookies. I'm a "drop and go" kind of girl when it comes to cookies.

I made two changes to the recipe, neither one of which really makes a big difference in the outcome. I couldn't get raspberry jam so I used blackberry. And I couldn't find my tiny heart-shaped cookie cutter, so I made vanilla shortbread stars instead.

I think that 13 minutes might be a little too long to bake these. I'd recommend checking them after 11 minutes.

All in all, they tasted good, but I doubt I'll make them again. These are not a cookie my kids would want to eat.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Honey Mustard Pork Chops

Here's an easy way to make juicy baked pork chops. Since you bake them in a foil packet, clean-up is really easy.


4 center-cut boneless pork chops (you can use bone-in but add at least 10 minutes to cooking time)
1 TBL olive oil
2 TBL honey mustard
Garlic powder
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 350.
Line a 9X13 baking pan with foil, leaving enough overlap so you can close the foil over the top of the pan.
Brush the bottom of the lined pan with olive oil. Place pork chops in a single layer in the pan.
Spread honey mustard over the top of the pork chops. Sprinkle garlic powder and pepper on each.
Top the pork chops with the sliced onions.
Close the foil so the pan is covered tightly.
Bake 45 minutes.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Super Pizza Bites

On Super Bowl Sunday, we tried Tami's recipe for Pizza Bites.

I changed it up a bit, since I don't have refrigerated pizza dough around. I also added pepperoni to some. Here's how I made them:

1 cup water
1 1/2 tbl butter or olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups bread flour
2 1/2 tsp yeast

Place in the bread machine and use the dough cycle. At the end of the cycle, remove the dough to a floured surface. Allow it to rest 10 minutes before rolling it out into a large rectangle.

Cut the dough into squares (I got about 28 squares out of this batch of dough) and put a slice of pepperoni on each. Top with a bit of shredded cheese. Tami used sliced mozzarella sticks, which was a good idea. In the future I think I will just buy a block of mozzarella and cut it into small cubes. Pick up each square and "bundle it up" so that the seams are all closed. Place seam-side down into an oiled cake pan.

2 TBL melted butter
1 TBL Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder

Brush butter over tops of the pizza bites. Sprinkle seasoning and garlic on top.

Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Pizza bites should be lightly brown.

Serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping.

A Whole Pan of Tea

My neighbor has this lovely wooden box in which she keeps tea bags. Her dad made it for her, and it's a beautiful storage space.

I like to keep a variety of tea around as well, but I don't have a lovely wooden box to keep it in. And a wooden box wouldn't necessarily work for me; because some of the tea I enjoy comes in untagged, unwrapped bags, I'd have a lovely wooden box full of Mystery Tea if I just dumped it all in there.

How would I be able to tell the Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger from the Bewley's Irish Breakfast?

I have a couple of glass jars on my counter where I keep black tea. The small jar is for decaf tea and the larger one is for regular. Only unflavored black tea goes in these jars, so it doesn't matter if brands are mixed up.

Beyond that, my cabinet was getting overrun with boxes of delicious-flavored tea bags. Chai, Zinger, and Bengal Spice boxes were everywhere. And being short vertically challenged, I had a hard time reaching the tea that was on the back of even the lowest shelf.

So I found a way to repurpose a baking pan. A 9X13 baking pan is the perfect size to hold several boxes of tea. I've got plenty of 9X13 pans in varying conditions--so I used one that's a little past its prime, a little scratched and battered, to hold my tea bags. Tea bags don't care if the pan is no longer completely "nonstick." I can keep my tea-bag pan on the second shelf or even the top shelf; when I want a cup of tea, all I have to do is reach up and slide the whole pan out. It's neat. It's tidy. It didn't cost me anything. Win!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Menu Plan February 2011

Tuesday 1: Father Leo's fajitas from Grace Before Meals cookbook, tater tots & salad.

Wednesday 2: Melt in your mouth braised & barbecued chicken, Irish potatoes. I'm the only one who seemed to like the potatoes, and I cut the dill about in half. That was a LOT of dill. I liked the method of cooking them, though!

Thursday 3: Spaghetti.

Friday 4: Pizza.

Saturday 5: Swiss Chicken Melt, rice.

SUPER BOWL Sunday 6: Chicken Enchilada Soup with cornbread for dinner. Game snack: Pizza Bites (plain and pepperoni)

Monday 7: Pot roast

Tuesday 8: Skillet Stroganoff

Wednesday 9: Honey garlic chicken with orzo

Thursday 10: Spaghetti

Friday 11: Spicy Citrus Tilapia, roasted potatoes

Saturday 12: Honey pork chops

Sunday 13: we ate out with the kids.

Monday 14: Japanese Hibachi food, at a restaurant for Valentine's Day

Tuesday 15: Chick-Fil-A for a school fund-raiser

Wednesday 16: Back to home-cooked food! I made arroz con pollo. I'll still need to tweak this recipe before I post it--it "needed something."

Thursday 17: Beef paysanne over noodles.

Friday 18: Shrimp Scampi with linguine

Saturday 19: Boy Scout spaghetti dinner

Sunday 20: Lidia's chicken and potatoes

Monday 21:  Italian Veal Stew

Tuesday 22: Chicken Piccata Bites, rice

Wednesday 23: Spaghetti

Thursday 24: Skillet Stroganoff

Friday 25: Baked flounder

Saturday 26: Cub Scout Blue & Gold Dinner

Sunday 27: Roast chicken

Monday 28: Tacos

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Pepperoni Bread

Make the dough in your bread machine, then fill, roll, rise and bake!

1 cup water
1 1/2 tbl butter or olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups bread flour
2 1/2 tsp yeast

1/2 lb. pepperoni, sliced thin
1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Use the dough cycle of the bread machine, and put in the ingredients in the order recommended by the manufacturer.

Remove dough; cover and let it rest 10 minutes. Then roll it out on a floured surface into a large rectangle.

Sprinkle with: 1 cup mozzarella cheese

Spread a generous layer of pepperoni over the bread. Make sure that cheese and pepperoni are not too close to the edges. Leave 1/2 inch margin all around.

Roll tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch the seam closed, and the ends as well. Place on a foil-covered baking sheet. (The foil is important in case the bread springs a leak.) Cut a few slashes in the top.

Cover and let the bread rise 30 to 45 minutes.

Bake 35 minutes at 350. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

Print this recipe!


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