Saturday, April 30, 2011

Speedy Skillet Dinner

Everyone in my family likes the Skillet Stroganoff recipe that Barbara shared. I leave out the sour cream, which makes it more of a "hamburger helper" type dinner, but that's how we like it.

I've worked out ways to do a good amount of the cooking of this dinner ahead of time, which is great for days like today. My choir is singing at the 5:00 Mass tonight, which means that we get home well after 6 and everyone is hungry for dinner right now. They don't want to wait. This can be on the table in 15 minutes if you do everything possible ahead and have your stuff ready to remove from the fridge and pop on the stove the second you get home!

SPEEDY SKILLET DINNER printable version

1 lb. lean ground beef
salt and pepper
1 TBL vegetable oil
1 cup white mushrooms, sliced thin
1 onion, finely chopped (or half a large onion)
3 cups* beef broth
3 TBL* red wine
3 cups* wide egg noodles
2 TBL all-purpose flour
2 TBL butter


In a hot skillet, brown ground beef, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from skillet.

Add oil and cook mushrooms and onion until liquid from mushrooms has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Add broth and the wine, and return beef and accumulated juices to pan. Bring to a simmer.

Remove from the stove and put in a large covered container in the fridge until you're ready to resume cooking.


Melt butter in skillet and stir in flour. Return beef mixture to skillet and bring to a boil. Stir noodles into beef mixture, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until noodles are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with a salad or "steam in a bag" vegetables.

NOTE: You can stretch this recipe by adding extra noodles, broth and wine. Just make sure that you add 1 cup broth and 1 TBL wine for every extra 1 cup noodles.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Winter Sunshine Salad

My cousin Sharon shared this recipe with me. It's pretty to look at and yummy to eat! I'd recommend making the dressing first as it has to be cooked, then cooled, before using.  (I'm not sure what's up with the name of this dish; maybe it's because all of the fresh ingredients are easily available in winter.)

Winter Sunshine Salad
Printable version

from For Goodness Taste by Junior League of Rochester
8 to 10 servings

1 package (10 ounces) frozen French-style green beans
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
1 can (16 ounces) shoe peg or white corn, drained (I used 2 11-oz cans)
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced green or red pepper (I used some of each)
1 jar (2 ounces) diced pimiento, drained (I left this out)

¾ cup vinegar
½ cup salad oil
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 to ½ cup sugar

Steam beans and peas, leaving them tender-crisp. Drain.
In a salad bowl, combine vegetables.
In a saucepan, bring dressing ingredients to a boil. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.
Pour dressing over salad. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

Chicken Pita Sandwiches

This one was inspired by Barbara's take on a Jamie Oliver recipe.  I took the meat off the kebabs, used chicken instead of pork, and omitted the pepper-relish topping.   Delicious!  It's a great dish to make in the summer.

Print this recipe!

8 pita breads
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips

For the marinade:
1 TBL dried mint
1 TBL dried oregano
juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cup olive oil
2 TBL minced garlic from a jar
1 TBL red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

For the tzatziki:
½ a large cucumber
6 oz. Greek yogurt (3/4 cup)
1 TBL minced garlic from a jar
1 heaped tsp dried mint
1 ½ tsp red wine vinegar

Mix marinade ingredients together. Pour over chicken strips in a ziplock bag or container. Marinate several hours.

Meanwhile, make tzatziki by coarsely grating the cucumber into a sieve set up over a bowl. Add a few good pinches of salt, then use your hands to squeeze out as much water as you can. Mix cucumber with other tzatziki ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat a griddle pan over a high heat. Cook the meat on the screaming hot griddle for about 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally until done on all sides. Warm pitas in the oven or in a hot dry pan while chicken cooks.

Put a dollop of tzatziki and the meat on each warmed pita. Serve with raw vegetable slices.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Traveling Vegetables


We're visiting relatives about 1 1/2 hours away on Easter. I have been asked to bring homemade bread (I can do that) and vegetables.

How in the world do I bring a vegetable dish when we're traveling that far? I can put together a raw veg platter, but as for a hot vegetable dish, I'm drawing a blank.

Crock pot is a possibility. But I need ideas!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Menu Plan weeks of April 8-14 and 15-21

Not the most inspired menu plan in the world...

FRIDAY 8: pizza

SATURDAY 9: chicken on the grill, pasta salad, vegetables

SUNDAY 10: we went to the diner.

MONDAY 11: Enchiladas

TUESDAY 12: Chinese buffet

WEDNESDAY 13: Skillet Turkey & Noodles

THURSDAY 14: Spaghetti

FRIDAY 15: French toast & fresh fruit

SATURDAY 16: Chicken caroline, potatoes au gratin, steamed broccoli

SUNDAY 17: "fend for yourself"

MONDAY 18: Barbara's Chicken with Paprika Sauce, noodles

TUESDAY 19: pot roast in the crockpot

WEDNESDAY 20: Paula Deen's Sesame Chicken Strips

THURSDAY 21: Spaghetti

Spices: Rack 'Em Up!

I don't have a spice rack in my kitchen. For one thing, there's no counter space to put one (though I have considered a wall-mounted one, and that's not out of the question.)

For now, I've got them in dollar-store baskets in the cabinets.

I tied index cards to the baskets so I can see at a glance what spices are in which basket. That saves a lot of time when I'm gathering stuff up to cook. I don't even have them all in the same cabinet, but I think I'm going to rework that so that they're all together. (As long as I don't move my husband's coffee, no one around here cares where I put stuff in the kitchen).

I do have a couple of big containers (parsley, oregano, basil and cinnamon) on other shelves because they're too large for those baskets.

It's not the prettiest solution, but it works for now. Where do you keep your spices?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spice It Up

I was flipping through a back issue of Real Simple (which should more appropriately be titled Real Expensive) when I came to an article about how someone reorganized her kitchen. Since I'm working with a 10 X 11-foot space myself, I'm always interested in articles like that.

One of the "trouble areas" was the homeowner's spice pantry. If I had a separate little cabinet just for spices, no one would be touching it. There's never enough room for spices. But it was clear that either magazine editors or kitchen designers are not cooks, because it was mentioned that the homeowner had 23 spices. Evidently, 23 was too much.

Are they kidding me? That's not the half of what I have in my kitchen, in various baskets. In fact, I counted them all, and I've got 49 spices (not including a couple of jars of homemade spice mixes like Pumpkin Pie Mix, Taco Mix and Italian Mix.) Wait, make that 50--I forgot to count the box of Bell's Poultry Seasoning that's sitting on my kitchen windowsill.

I imagine that anyone who reads this blog also enjoys cooking. How many spices do you have? Would 23 be too much?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Ultimate Compliment

We were supposed to have Enchiladas tonight.

But TheDad decided that he wanted to go to the diner instead. And Middle Sister had gone to a friend's house.

TheDad mentioned, at dinner, that Middle Sister was waffling about whether she should even go to her friend's house, because she'd miss the enchiladas I was planning to make for dinner.

I took out my cell phone after we left the diner to let Middle Sister know that she had not missed enchiladas. Tomorrow, after all, is another day.

Now that's a compliment--that a kid thinks twice about visiting a friend because a favorite meal is going to be served at home.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Menu Plan week of April 1-7

Friday 1: Crab Mac 'n Cheese

Saturday 2: Leftovers

Sunday 3: Cast party after the school play

Monday 4: Lemon Mushroom Herb Chicken, rice, corn. I did the chicken in bite-size pieces this time and it was fabulous!

Tuesday 5: Skillet Beef & Noodles (we skip the sour cream & lemon in this stroganoff recipe)

Wednesday 6: Pork Roast with Orange Pan Sauce, red potatoes and carrots

Thursday 7: Spaghetti & meatballs

Mac 'n Cheese with Crab

Inspired by a recipe by The Barefoot Contessa, this is my low-rent but very delicious version!

See the whole recipe and nutrition facts at Cook and Count!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Product Review: Purex Complete with Zout

I've been a fan of both Purex laundry detergent and Zout pre-treater for years.  Little Brother is nine years old and it doesn't look like he's going to be giving up his messy ways anytime soon.
When you're this muddy, you know it's been a good day.
I was happy to try new Purex Complete with Zout.  It's got detergent and stain remover in one!  And since I'm fragrance-sensitive, I tried the "free and clear" version of this product.  (It also comes in Fresh Morning Burst scent).

This detergent is designed to work in ALL washing machines, regular and high-efficiency.  And my experience proves that it does work.  It took care of the muddy knees of Little Brother's school uniform pants as well as food drips (chocolate ice cream and tomato sauce were no match for this detergent.)

I also tried it as a pre-treater on a few stains I thought would require extra attention.  I poured a little bit of Purex Complete with Zout directly on the stains, rubbed it in, let it sit a few minutes and then washed as usual.  Success!

You don't have to buy expensive detergent to get great results.  Purex works great on the stains my family dishes out.

Disclaimer:  This post is part of the Purex Insiders Blogging program.  I received a full-size bottle of Purex Complete with Zout, but no other compensation, for the purposes of this post.  The opinions expressed in this post are my own, and this is a product that I continue to use in my home.

Friday, April 01, 2011

April Fool's Day Lunchbox Surprise

I got this idea from a Family Fun article.

Your kids will think it's an ordinary bag of cheese puffs...
but when they open the bag, they'll discover:

baby carrots!

All you need to pull this off is:
individual-serving-size bags of cheese puffs
baby carrots (about 6 for each bag you're making)
glue stick
slip of paper with the note:  "April Fool!"

Open the snack bags carefully.  Dump the contents of the cheese-puff bags into a sandwich bag.  No sense wasting a perfectly delicious snack!  Use a damp paper towel to pick up any crumbs left in the bag.  Add about 6 baby carrots--and don't forget the note!   Then run the glue stick along the very top inner edge of the bag.  Press to seal, and pack in the lunchbox!

I wish I'd be able to be there when my kids find these.

UPDATE:  My daughter just found hers when she opened her lunch.  I got a text message:  "Mom this is just gross.  I mean carrots?  In cheesecrunchy bag?"  (For the record, she likes carrots.  It's not like I put in her most un-favorite food ever.)  She's threatening revenge.
And Little Brother never noticed:  he gave his snack to another kid who had forgotten to bring a snack.  And she never said a word.  (Kind of disappointing, really!)


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