Saturday, May 28, 2011

Luau Chicken

This is modified from a Taste of Home recipe. I didn't want to use it for sandwiches. This cooks in a flash and is a delicious change from other grilled chicken recipes. BONUS: it stays nice and moist.

This recipe is also a great way to use up that last bit of mustard in a jar. When you can't scrape any more mustard out, but there's still some clinging to the sides and bottom, save the mustard jar to make the marinade for this chicken dish. Just dump all ingredients for the marinade into the jar, cover and shake!


Get this recipe with new photos and nutrition info at Cook and Count!

End of May Meal Plan

This will JUST about get me through the end of the month.

Saturday 21:  We had Chicken Parm planned, but I found a great deal on rib-eye steaks (my husband's other favorite!)  Weather was more favorable for grilling on Saturday than it would be on Sunday, so we had steak on the grill, broccoli and Roasted Potatoes with Old Bay.

Sunday 22:  Chicken Parmesan

Monday 23:  Skillet Turkey & Noodles

Tuesday 24:  sick day!

Wednesday 25:  Slow-cooker BBQ pork chops, brown rice, brussels sprouts

Thursday 26:  Spaghetti & meatballs

Friday 27:  Baked flounder with fresh parsley and lemon, cilantro rice, corn on the cob

Saturday 28:  Luau chicken on the grill, seasoned potatoes in the slow cooker

Sunday 29:  Mexican steak

As for next week, I'm still figuring that out.  The kids and I have rehearsals for 4 nights for a church musical event; Middle Sister has choir events on the 2 nights when we don't have church rehearsals.  I've got to put on my thinking cap and make this all work.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Original Recipe: Roasted Potatoes with Old Bay

These roasted potatoes were inspired by Chickie's & Pete's Crab Fries. They're spicy--and really good!

Printable version

6 russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
2 TBL Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
2 TBL olive oil plus 1 TBL for the pan

Preheat oven to 400.  Cover a heavy baking sheet with foil.  Brush with 1 TBL olive oil.  Toss potatoes, seasonings and 2 TBL olive oil in a large bowl.  Pour out onto the prepared pan.  Spread potatoes so that they are in a single layer.  Use a spatula to scrape the rest of the oil and seasonings out of the bowl onto the potatoes.  Bake for 25 minutes at 400, then turn potatoes over and bake another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

Cub Scout Porkalicious End-of-Year Un-Picnic

Another year of Cub Scouts is in the books. And Little Brother only has two more years (more like 1 1/2, really) in Cub Scouts before crossing over to Boy Scouts, so I only have two more end-of-year picnics to cater.

Yesterday we were on Day 6 of the May Mildew-Fest here in New Jersey. The Scouts were supposed to have a cookout, with burgers and hot dogs on the grill, and then camp for the night in the field behind the parish center. When that field turned into a soggy mess and bad weather still threatened, plans to camp out were scrapped. The parents were happy about that; the boys, not so much. What boy has ever let a little mud get in the way of his fun?

With the possibility of thunderstorms, plans to cook on the grill were also scrapped. Fortunately our parish center has a large and fabulously-equipped kitchen, so it was easy enough to come up with a Plan B.

Here's the menu of our Cub Scout Porkalicious End-of-Year Un-Picnic:

  • hot dogs
  • sausage, pepper & onion sandwiches
  • pasta salad
  • tossed salad
  • baked beans
  • potato chips & pretzels
  • cookies
  • watermelon slices
  • Boost*, iced tea and water (5 gallons of each)

*it's a local thing.

We were expecting between 80 and 100 people. I don't know how many showed up but there were a few missing, and a few others we didn't expect.

Here's how I made the sausage, peppers and onions in a Nesco roaster. (Actually, TWO 18-qt. Nesco roasters were needed for this quantity)

12 pounds sweet Italian sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
15 pounds green bell peppers, sliced
10 pounds onions, sliced
Drizzle of olive oil

Line cookie sheets with foil and place sausage pieces on foil, leaving a little space between each. Bake in regular oven for 25 minutes at 350. Larger pieces will take longer!

Layer 2/3 of the onions in the bottom of the roaster. Place all peppers on top of the onions. Place sausage on top of the peppers. Place remaining onions on top of the sausage, drizzle with olive oil and close the roaster. Stir after an hour and turn down to simmer at least another hour until ready to serve.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Birthday Bundt Cake: Chocolate with Caramel Glaze

I'm not much of a cake person. I'd much rather have cookies or pie. But when there's a birthday, there should be cake.

Each Wednesday, we host practice for our church's Folk Group.  It's more comfortable than practicing in church, and people can bring their kids to hang out with my kids.  When there's a birthday, we celebrate with a cake.

I've been on a bundt-cake kick lately, as these are easy to make and serve.  And I've discovered that doctoring up a box cake mix with some pudding and using a glaze rather than frosting makes a cake that even I feel like eating!

Here's tonight's edition of the Birthday Bundt Cake:  Chocolate with Caramel Glaze

1 box devil's food cake mix
1 small box INSTANT chocolate pudding mix
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon

Mix and bake as directed on box instructions (for me, it's 50 minutes at 350.)

(I found this one over at Bless Us O Lord)

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 ounce milk
dash of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioners sugar

Melt butter in small saucepan. Add brown sugar and milk. Cook and stir one minute until mixture is smooth*.
Remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients and beat with electric mixer until well blended. Drizzle over cake.

This was only half the original recipe but it still made a very generous amount of glaze!

*DO NOT melt the butter in the microwave, stir everything else in and expect it to get smooth. Ask me how I know this. It still tasted delicious, but was a little on the grainy side.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Takeout You Can Make at Home: Chipotle

Blame it on my college student. He and his friends discovered Chipotle Mexican Grill, where hungry college kids can eat a huge meal for about $8 including a drink. Then he got me hooked on it.

Then I started wondering how I could make it at home. A little Google here, a little help from Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur, and a tried-and-true Pork Carnitas recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking got me to something that's pretty darn close. It satisfied two Chipotle-loving college students, plus three more people, and there's enough left over for at least 4 lunches. I'm guessing this recipe would yield 8 servings, probably for the price of 2 meals at the restaurant. (Not everyone likes beans, so I didn't make too many there. Just double the recipe if you need more).

There are a lot of components to this meal and some need to be made ahead. So I'm listing these in the order of prep.

Pork Carnitas (my kids said the spice wasn't right for Chipotle, but if I ever figure out what spices they use in the Carnitas, I'll just sub them in and use this technique.)


3 medium plum tomatoes (about 1 pound), diced
1/4 cup finely-chopped red onion
2 TBL jalapeno peppers, chopped fine (I used the ones from a jar)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
juice of one lime
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Combine and chill for several hours before serving.
(This was so good and so easy to make! It will be great with tortilla chips too.)


2 12-oz bags frozen corn, thawed
2 TBL jalapeno peppers, chopped fine (I used the ones from a jar)
1/4 to 1/3 cup finely-chopped red onion
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of one lime
salt to taste

Combine in a large bowl. Serve at room temperature.

1 can pinto beans with liquid
1 TBL bacon fat
1/4 tsp oregano

Combine in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed (about 25 minutes). Remove from heat and cover until ready to serve.


1 can black beans with liquid
2 TBL bacon fat
1/4 cup finely-chopped onion
1 heaping TBL minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
dash liquid smoke

Combine in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed (about 25 minutes). Remove from heat and cover until ready to serve.


In a rice cooker, combine:
3 measures long-grain white rice (my rice measure is less than a cup)
water to correspond with 3 rice measures, depends on the cooker manufacturer --I just fill to the line on the cooker
1 TBL butter

When the rice is cooked, stir in 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro and the juice of one fresh lime.

ADD YOUR OWN TOPPINGS: sour cream, guacamole, Cheddar-Jack cheese

For the record, I got the fresh cilantro from my garden!

Secret Recipe Club: Lime Meltaways

When I found out that Amanda is hosting a new monthly fun feature, The Secret Recipe Club, I just had to get in on it.  I love trying new recipes, so this club was tailor-made for me.

The idea here is that you are assigned to visit the blog of another club member.  You can choose any recipe from  that blog, prepare it, and write about it on your own blog.

For me, the hardest part was figuring out which recipe to choose!  When I was sent to visit Sweet as Sugar Cookies, I immediately found five recipes I wanted to try.  I finally had to stop looking and just pick something.  They ALL looked so good--and I bookmarked a bunch to try later.  I've been on a "fresh ingredients" kick lately, so I chose the recipe for Lime Meltaways.  Like blog author Lisa, I'm a fan of any lemon- or lime-flavored cookie or pastry.  I think that these delicious cookies would work with either flavor!

WARNING:  Do not eat these cookies while wearing black!!

Here's the recipe with a couple of small changes that I made.  (Bake temp was not given in the recipe, but the author mentioned that it was a Martha Stewart recipe, so I was able to find the original.  And I adjusted the quantity of lime juice and zest since I only had one lime in the house).

LIME MELTAWAYS (from Martha Stewart via Sweet as Sugar Cookies)

12 Tbsp. salted butter, softened
1 c. powdered sugar, divided (1/3 cup and 2/3 cup)
zest of 1 fresh lime
juice of 1 fresh lime
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch

Cream butter and 1/3 c. sugar until fluffy. Add zest, juice, and vanilla. Beat till fluffy. Add flour and cornstarch. Roll dough into two 1 1/4" diameter logs. Chill 1 hour.

Slice logs into 1/8" thick rounds. Place on baking sheets and bake about 15 min. at 350 until barely golden. Let cool slightly, 8-10 min. Place remaining 2/3 c. sugar in a resealable plastic bag. While still warm, place cookies in the sugar-filled bag and toss to coat.

Would I do anything different next time?  I'd probably not shake the cookies in a bag with the sugar to coat them.  Even with only putting in a few cookies at a time, I wound up with a lot of crumbled cookies.  Of course, I ate them anyway--they were still very delicious!  I'll probably just sift powdered sugar over the cookies next time.  And I wished that I had been more careful to shape the logs; mine were kind of flat on one side, so my cookies were a bit misshapen.  Either that, or I'll square them off so I can say they're square on purpose!

This was a lot of fun and I'll definitely play along again next time.  If you're a fan of lemon or lime, you'll love these cookies; they just melt in your mouth and were super easy to make.

Visit the other blogs in the Secret Recipe Club!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Upcoming Meal Plan: Just Me and the Kids Week

When my husband's on a business trip, some of our regular menu routines change.  They used to change even more, but now his schedule at work has shifted a bit and he misses dinner with the family more often than not these days.  It's not a situation we're thrilled with, but it's the one we live with right now, and I try to make the best of it on the days when he IS able to join us at mealtime by having something he especially likes.

Last night, unfortunately, that didn't work out--and I had to be the gatekeeper over the skillet of Rainbow Stir Fry before the hungry teenagers ate all of Dad's dinner!  (This is such a yummy, quick dish.  I put snow pea pods in it instead of the peas listed in my recipe.  This kind of dish is pretty forgiving that way.)

This week, we'll eat earlier, and a bit differently.  I gave myself one "fast food" night as a break from it all.  We'll see what the kids lobby for that day.

SATURDAY:  TheDad and Little Brother are on a Cub Scout outing.  The rest of us will eat hot dogs or chili with rice (from the freezer) and miscellaneous leftover side dishes.  It's pretty much "Raid the Fridge" night for me and the 2 teenagers.

SUNDAY:  We're going to the diner after church before TheDad leaves on his trip.  Dinner will be Chicken Pitas.

MONDAY:  Pork carnitas, "Chipotle" style.  I've found some copycat recipes for the rice, corn relish, and pinto beans.  If it's a success, I'll post it.

TUESDAY:  Fast-food night.  Halfway point of Mom Flies Solo Week!

WEDNESDAY:  Breakfast for dinner:  French toast, bacon, and fresh fruit.

THURSDAY:  Spaghetti and meatballs.  Of course.  What else would we eat on a Thursday?

FRIDAY:  Cub Scout crossover ceremony and picnic.  Burgers and hot dogs, maybe a giant roaster oven of baked beans if I am so moved, some pasta salad and tossed salad, chips and dessert.  We keep it easy at these events.  I'm still waiting on the number attending so I can get started planning this meal, since the shopping and non-grill cooking/food prep is on me.

SATURDAY:  Chicken parmesan--my husband's favorite dish.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Little Red Wagon

I'm always so tempted by recipes that call for fresh herbs. But buying expensive fresh herbs in the grocery store--only to use about 1/4 of the package--seems so wasteful to me. So even though I am an absolutely terrible gardener, I'd been thinking for a while that I'd like to have a little herb garden.

This rusty old wagon has been sitting in our shed for quite a while. It used to belong to my husband when he was a kid, and my father-in-law had brought it here for our kids. But they're from the age of "plastic is better" and they already had a big plastic wagon. That little red wagon just sat around, useless.

I figured that it would make a great place for a small container garden. If bad weather is predicted, I can just pick up the handle and wheel it into the garage or back porch. Right now I have it in a sunny spot right near the front door.

My neighbor had a ton of mint taking over her garden, so she offered me a sturdy mint plant to get started. I separated that from the other herbs that are in the same box.

Here's what else I planted (besides the mint):

  • cilantro
  • dill
  • thyme
  • flat-leaf parsley
  • oregano
  • basil

I'm already thinking ahead; if I can manage to keep this garden without killing it, I want to get a little rosemary tree (shrub, bush, what do you call a rosemary?) I could keep it in a pot outside until it gets cold, then bring it in and keep it in the house for the winter.

Besides the friendly advice from my neighbor, I got a lot of courage and information from this little book: Get Your Hands Dirty by Jeanne Grunert. It's written for people like me--beginning gardeners, who might even think they have a "black thumb."

My next project:  I'm thinking optimistically that my herb garden will thrive and I'll have more than I need.  So I'll have to learn all about how to save/freeze/dry these herbs for winter.  The idea is to make back my investment (about $50 for 6 plants, 2 window boxes, 1 bag potting soil, 1 watering can).  I figure that if I use fresh herbs 20 times, I'll have reached that goal.  Anything beyond that is a freebie!

Monday, May 09, 2011


See what happens when I hang a whiteboard on the fridge and encourage the kids to write down stuff we need from the store?

A certain Simon & Garfunkel fan felt the need to amend my list. For the record, I've got plenty of parsley, sage, and even rosemary.


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