Beautiful Disasters

Sometimes the best meals come to you when you’re not even thinking about … A few days ago I was getting excited about football season beginning this weekend and in the mix of things I quickly missed Pittsburgh and all of my yinzer friends. Lightbulb, peiorgies and kielbasa! Let’s pay homage to a wonderful city, beautiful friends and family, by eating a yummy meal that can be served with a side of fabulous memories. We love pierogies. LOVE. My husband will think this is silly but when we first started dating, he cooked pierogies a few times and it was ‘his thing’, no one was allowed to help. He’d be so proud of how perfectly they were cooked and would brag all night about dinner, that’s just sort of how he is but I loved watching him cook.

Another bonus for this meal, I can make a double batch and freeze them for a friend who is expecting a baby annnnnny day now (hurry up little one!!). Not all delivered meals have to be casseroles, spaghetti, or lasagna. I mean can you imagine? 5+ nights in a row of essentially the same thing. God Bless people who volunteer to bring meals over (whether there was a loss in the family, a birth, major surgery, etc.) but it’s okay to turn those offers down … I know the meals are meant to be quick and easy to reheat but real meals would be nice. Anyway, who wouldn’t love homemade pierogies and kielbasa?! I know my friend will as she’s a fellow yinzer friend, friends with benefits, HA 😉 !

Let’s take a look at some meals from the last few weeks … I had leftovers *whhhhaaaaat?!* but made sure to revamp them. There is a ‘3 hour tour’ pasta salad, it’s entertaining, just wait. My husband also made a request and over of course I couldn’t pass it up. ENJOY!

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A simple meal, smoked sausages (Oscar Mayer, they are so yummy … and better for you!), green bean salad, and roasted potato wedges.

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Chicken and spinach quesadilla and a corn/grape tomato/lettuce salad with Dijon vinaigrette.

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This was one of my revamped leftover dishes.  I made a slow cooker lasagna the previous week and had plenty leftover, I used it as a side dish and baked a quick chicken Parmesan.

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Here is the original dish – Lasagna Soup … which wasn’t soupy at all … so yeah, don’t let the name freak you out. Oh, I couldn’t find a single bottle of V8, small bottles came in 6 packs and we don’t drink that stuff so I used a can of plain tomato sauce.

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We love our pork chops! This version: honey & Dijon ‘sauce’ is the key component to pretty much everything on the plate. I coated the chop in a nice layer of the sauce, let it sit for an hour. While that was going on I pan-cooked mushrooms, bacon (already baked in the oven), and onions – drizzled more of that sauce and just let it simmer for 20 minutes until the onions were really soft. I added the chop into the pan and cooked everything for another 10 minutes, cover the pan so it steams, less splatter and faster cook time! On to the baked sweet potato which took 2 hours to bake. Really. I let my husband pick them out and of course he picked the most gigantic potatoes. As I sliced them open I went to the fridge and realized we were out of butter. Oops. No biggie, we had cream cheese and honey! Oh it was so good… think about it, what do you add to a sweet potato casserole? Usually cream cheese and brown sugar; we had brown sugar but I didn’t want the grittiness opting for honey instead.

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This is how I do corn when the husband isn’t home to man the grill. Salt, pepper, Old Bay (if you’re not from the East Coast you are truly missing out), and 3 blobs of butter. Loosely wrap each ear of corn in foil and bake for 40 minutes … I think I put the oven to 350.

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Another revamped leftover, quinoa stuffed peppers.  I served the corn with it, usually I cook Spanish rice … so just by changing up the side it appears to be a new meal. So if I didn’t tell you I used quinoa it may look like ground meat; I’ve made this one other time with white quinoa and it’s totally an image thing – using red quinoa made the meal look better, closer to using meat, it’s okay to trick the brain. The color really does help! Back story on the quinoa: we got a cute ‘thank you’ bag from a friend after keeping watch on her house while she and the kiddos were out of town and the red quinoa was included. I mean talk about a thoughtful gift, I’d say she knows us pretty well!

A few other cute items that were included was a Parmesan seasoning, add olive oil and it’s ready for bread to be dipped in it. Oh man it was sooooo good!  This shot glass was hiding as well …
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How fun is that? I’ve used it a few times already … so much easier than measuring spoons. I didn’t have to worry about spilling or pouring too much as I measured. It’s now best friends with my wine glass measuring ‘cup’. Greatly appreciated gifts! There are a few other things that I still need to use but I’m sure they will be yummy and fun!

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This was my husbands request … breakfast for dinner! I jokingly suggested chicken and waffles and husband loved the idea, so there that is.
Here’s the waffle recipe

Beer Waffles

2 cups Original Bisquick™ mix
1 egg
1 1/2 cups regular or nonalcoholic beer (12 oz)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

The beer made the waffles so light and fluffy – usually 1 waffle fills us up but being lighter we scarfed down 2 waffles each! Please don’t judge. You couldn’t really taste the beer, we used Dos Equis which is a very light beer. For the chicken, I covered tenders in panko seasoned with cayenne pepper, not too much though, just enough for a tiny kick of flavor.  DRENCH in your favorite syrup and dinner’s ready!  Not exactly a diabetic friendly dinner but we’re allowed to cheat every now and then. I’m considering this meal for when my husband’s family visits next month, I see this being a crowd-pleaser.

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Tell me this doesn’t look yummy.  It’s a cucumber salsa. Healthy and delish. Easy to prep and even easier to enjoy.  Keep this in your back pocket for game days; nasty, greasy food is typically served up along a riveting football game. Opt for something like this! It looks like avocados but when it hits your taste buds it’ll be light and tangy.  I can’t remember what I served this with, I used it as a side for dinner one night. Yes it’s okay to use a ‘dip’ as a side.

AS PROMISED, the tale of the ‘3 hour tour’ pasta salad.

Friends invited us to their lake house for Labor Day weekend (the same friend who is STILL pregnant 😉 ) … I offered to bring a pasta salad. This wasn’t just any pasta salad, it was inspired by an Italian hoagie. We’re talking red onion, pepperoni, sausage, olives, red wine vinaigrette … the works. After making an early trip to the grocery store I slave over the counter slicing and dicing and boiling 8 cups of pasta:
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I combine everything and let it chill in the fridge:

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Beautiful, right? This is only a half serving, for photo purposes only, lol; aluminum tins don’t look pretty in pictures.

Back to the story, after everything was wrapped and ready to go, the salad was on the corner counter; my husband told me to get the lake house address … I went off to text my friend (my purse was in the car because we were pretty much ready to leave). I send the text and my husband gets in the car, we leave. Surely you know what’s about to happen. 45 minutes later we arrive at the lake house, I start walking to the house and my husband asks “aren’t you going to get the food?” OH SH*T. It was still sitting on the counter!  I got sidetracked, thought my husband would have seen the 10lbs of pasta salad to bring to the car.  Well that’s not what happened at all. He then asked if I wanted him to go back and get the salad, I said “yes” without hesitation, lol! I offered to do it since I forgot it but he’s the best and began his journey to save the salad.  Friends at the house asked if anything would go back in the salad, my response: the cheese, meat, onions …everything that made the salad cost $40. That’s right, I spent $40 on a pasta salad. D’oh. It’s not like we left behind a bag of chips. So he made the 45 min drive home and 45 min drive back to the lake house, hence the newly named ‘3 hour tour’ pasta salad. It was a beautiful ALMOST disaster of the night which is okay because it was delish and all of it went. Well thank goodness … I mean, if it were out of pity then only some of it would have been consumed but not 1 noodle was left.  In the end, I’m glad he went back for the pasta and thankful I have such an awesome husband. LOVE YOU BABE!

 

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cheap cheap cheap eats

I’m all about cheap eats and recreating dishes I see on menus, for waaaaaaaay less.  With returning from vacation and a few inspirations I decided to make our final Lenten meal a special one. Considering my husband will be working on Easter, why not splurge on a dinner I know he’ll be able to actually enjoy fresh.  I say ‘splurge’ in the sense that it’s not a dish I’d typically cook; just a touch of fancy. It was definitely not a splurge on my budget, which I’m sure anyone would appreciate.

My inspiration: Salmon Niçoise Salad … I know it sounds fancy but it’s quite simple. I saw this on 2 different menus while in Palm Springs, CA. Now, the spinach salad alone (some versions are a dark green leaf or spinach, doesn’t matter) was $10, if you wanted to add salmon it was an extra $10. I mean, what a rip off! I can buy 3-4 bags of spinach for $10 … yes salmon can be pricey especially if it’s fresh, but I’d be more content with it only being an $8 surcharge.  Anyway, I wanted to create my own version on a smaller budget. Needless to say mine was $6 per serving … that’s $12 for the two of us. HELLO! I just saved $28 🙂 .

On to my version: I didn’t like how the salmon filets were looking on my grocery trip and then I eyed tuna steaks. They were frozen which is a great way to save and only $6 for 2!

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No it doesn’t look exactly like the Nicoise Salad but again, it’s my version! We wanted baked potatoes so instead of incorporating them into the salad, it became a side.

Tuna marinade: EVOO, honey, dijon, parsley. Let it sit for 30 min or more (S & P both sides of the steak!)
Salad dressing: red wine vinegar, EVOO, dijon, pepper
I kept similar flavors from the original but after finding so many versions of this recipe, I took ingredients from a few and combined them – it turned out quite nicely!
Baked potato: butter, cheese, S & P (really, did you need me to explain that to you?)

I grilled the tuna on my George Foreman, they only need 4 minutes to cook – no sense in heating up the grill for that.  Let them sit for 5-10 minutes OFF of the grill so it can cook all of the way through without making the center too tough.

Man this was the best idea ever and I’m so glad the salmon looked sad at the store. It’s okay to improvise if you can’t find an ingredient, find something in the same family and you’ll be just fine.

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Here are a few other creations from this week:
Lasagna – ground turkey, mushrooms, cheese, onions, DONE.
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Josh’s famous chili:
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Annnnd Feta/Spinach Chicken Sausages with spicy black bean patties

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So there you go, a few new recipes. Try them out & let me know how they go!

 

what happens in Vegas …

Sous Chef Geno has been getting the royal treatment lately.  He got into some trash (not our doing or fault… don’t get me started, I have the issue under control and have spoke to the appropriate people) and hasn’t been feeling or acting like himself. 3 trips later [to the vet] and slowly his usual cuteness is returning. The royal treatment per meal: 2 spoon fulls of pumpkin pie filling, 1 tummy ache pill, 1 steroid, and 1 pro-biotic … plus us having the pleasure of watching him go to the bathroom. I know I know, this is close to TMI (especially for a food blog) but I started off mentioning all of this because a dog eating trash and getting sick was similar to us eating crap … resulting in not feeling well. Could it be a metaphor for life? Maybe. STOP EATING TRASH! What’s that saying… you are what you eat? I think it totally holds true.

<end rant>

So I’m home from Vegas and I’ll tell you what, I went against everything I’ve been working hard at since last year – eating right, not eating as much, etc. I did manage to not snack although it was tempting. You’re on vacation and you think “I can cheat”. DON’T DO IT. You’ll thank me later! I cheated, big time. I had fast food, sweets, soda, and mega-carbs. You name it, I ate it. Boy did my stomach hate me (maybe I could have used some of Geno’s pills.. JUST KIDDING. Chill). It was all so delish though! Geeze did I miss the flavor of grease and the sweetness of real sugar. Then again, I ended up with massive headaches and my guilt kicking in. The next vacation I really do need to stick to my new eating habits, not feeling well for 4 days while I was supposed to be enjoying time off, was definitely not worth it. Listen, in moderation I think all of things are okay but not jammed packed, back to back for each meal, 4 days straight.

Okay, okay – I’ll give you menu for this past week.  Thank you for sitting through my venting.

Tuesday- Zucchini Lasagna.
“When you said zucchini lasagna I didn’t know you meant no noddles” Josh. Who didn’t listen when I explained that this zucchini lasagna used NO NODDLES; the zucchini becomes the layer separation. Which also means he took too much insulin because he thought there’d be a lot of carbs. I did serve garlic bread though to help balance veggies vs. carbs but it wasn’t enough; he went hunting in the fridge for more food. MEN! 😉

This is not a vegetarian lasagna, it calls for ground beef (I used turkey). I’m sure you could remove the meat because there are a ton of veggies in it, or just double what the recipe says and there will plenty of “sauce” to add between the layers.

My dish did not come out as pretty as the allrecipes.com post, of course. It’s incredibly messy but it was sooooooo good! Bit of a change to the recipe: I forgot the thaw the spinach so it didn’t get added. Oh well. I honestly ran out of stacking space so it worked in my favor (Take out the meat and use spinach? You’d have the room for it). I think next time I might grill the zucchini (on the g.f.), the dish needed structure which stiffer/thicker noodles typically provide. By grilling, I’d think that it’d firm the veggies, giving it more structure instead of just slopping onto my plate.

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Wednesday was a slow cooker repeat, our favorite enchilada meal. I used baby shrimp this time around – so good! I love that recipe, it’s the easiest and tastiest. I didn’t double it, just made enough for one night. Thursday had shrimp planned again and I didn’t want insane leftovers of shrimp dishes although my husband wouldn’t care. He’s my garbage disposal after all!

Thursday brought on a new recipe via Paula Deen which we all know means there was a TON of butter in the recipe. I cut it by half and you wouldn’t know the difference (my arteries did and thanked me).  This was my best creation yet. I’m still trying to figure out the correct amount of s & p to use; I know that sounds ridiculous but I honestly can’t get it right! It’s either too much and I feel like I’m licking a brick of salt or there’s not enough and I may as well be eating cardboard. Cooking takes work on balancing spices, keep at it and one day, voila, success! I wanted to go back for seconds but I knew better. ImageImageImage

To make eating easier, I cut all of the shrimp tails off PRIOR to cooking. I don’t feel like working for my meal … either way I’d cut them, may as well do it before I sit down. On top of the called for ingredients I added my last zucchini, rather use it than toss it! You can add any veggie to this, at least that’s my opinion. We have leftovers which I’ll be enjoying tonight – Josh is off to Austin for a JROTC competition, only 1 night so he won’t get to enjoy that weird city (so many great food options out there!). 

That’s my week, feel free to wear it [the recipes] out! Bonus: my tummy is almost back to normal. I think my body absorbed more than I thought…

P.S. that enchilada recipe was my first pin on Pinterest … what was yours? Comment below! Also, how many of you actually make the things you pin? Sure, I have my “one day” kind of board, like artwork I’d love to create or furniture I’d love to own … but I stay true to my “yum-o” board. I’ve cooked almost everything pinned.

Don’t forget my IG food tags #kitchentails to see my current cooking adventures!!

 

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Another lasagna in the books … very different from any I’ve ever made before. 

This one had a cottage cheese filling/sauce so how could I say ‘no’ to Josh’s favorite snack item? Cottage cheese is a great super food for diabetics. He eats it by the container which grossed me out at first but now I know to buy it weekly.  I’ve taken a liking to it as well. 

This is the second recipe I’ve made that called for cottage cheese as a major ingredient, if you remember Moussaka … (something passed down from my mom).  

Okay this lasagna is so easy, Josh helped cook the veggies while I boiled the noodles & chopped different ingredients. I’m telling you, a duo is really helpful when trying to rush dinner and have it finished by the time friends arrive *permanently* from Vegas.  Our friends finally arrived last night after a horrendous 3 day drive – we’re talking 3 blown tires on a Uhaul along stretches of highway where there weren’t any exits in sight.  As soon as they walked in the door, a beer met their hands in minutes. We treat our guests right.  So they’re staying with us until they find a super hip loft in downtown SA. We love having them here!!!! 

Almost step by step pictures:

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Have to throw in a photo of Sous Chef Geno … so cute sticking his tongue out 🙂

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Poor Mickey was so confused with the hustle & bustle happening in the kitchen.

Since none of my casserole dishes are big enough, we actually had extra ingredients to make not only the large lasagna you see in the pictures but also a small meatloaf size lasagna.  I think it’s time I have a sufficient casserole dish that can hold a bit more.

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Lasagna + ricotta stuffed chicken parm = bonus Italiano week!

I had most of the ingredients to make both dishes and since I’m all about using what you already have, it was the obvious choice to put them on the menu last week.  I only needed to buy chicken breasts and ricotta cheese; cheap shopping trip!

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But of course, this is a recipe promoted by Martha Stewart – the dishes are easy, only call for a few ingredients, and are seriously fool proof … perfect for a beginner cook!  I cut the ingredients down for a smaller lasagna (we still had leftovers!), just for 2 people.

I had 2 sweet Italian sausages leftover from the spaghetti bake. I had lasagna noodles leftover from the slow cooker [lasagna] attempt. We always have plenty of sliced cheese options in our fridge, I’m telling you- we love cheese. I typically have 1 or 2 jars of marinara sauce in the pantry, never know when it will be a spaghetti kind of night. Ok, easy peasy, it’ll take you maybe 15 minutes to prep the lasagna and 40 minutes to bake it.

Having friends over? Make the original recipe, it’ll definitely be a crowd-pleaser.

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Josh requested garlic bread as a side but to mix it up I found garlic knots which were super squishy and nice change from the usual “Texas Toast”.  Oh and that’s me as “quality control” to ensure the cheese was indeed delicious.  Approved.  I added a picture of the counter to show you I am not the neatest of cooks; feel free to make a mess while you’re cooking – I don’t have assistants cleaning up behind me like they do on TV shows. So if you’re wondering why Giada’s kitchen is so CLEAN … she has minions doing all the dirty work during commercial breaks.  I do have an amazing husband who cleans up after dinner though. God bless. If he ever complains, I remind him that scrumdiddlyumptious dishes mean a not so tidy kitchen as the end result.  If he wants an easy clean up, he won’t get a fulfilling meal. HA!

BTW: the lasagna picture from the recipe website looks a little deflated. I made thick layers to give it more appealing finished look.

 

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Originally on the menu was plain old chicken parm.  It’s becoming one of our favorites around here and I’m making it about every other week … so to change it up and use the leftover ricotta, I figured – ricotta stuffed chicken parm. Best idea ever! I butterflied the chicken breasts, breaded both sides, and spooned on the ricotta. Bake time is the same, it came out bubbly and oozing with cheese.   This became a fancy-pants lunch since it was intended for dinner the night before (we had date night to Ruby Tuesday’s); I didn’t want the ricotta going bad so why not make a decent lunch.  Plus Josh was heading out for the weekend for work … sent him off with a full belly 🙂 .

If you’re wondering about my nifty dredging set up – Pampered Chef! I just got it the other week and was excited to put it to use. It’s the simple things! They clip together and are dishwasher/microwave safe.  Possibilities are endless: chocolate covered strawberries, deep fry station, sundae toppings, whatever!

Go ahead, clog your arteries!

I love waking up on a Saturday and realizing we have nothing planned for the day. I can enjoy my coffee (BONUS: finish it before it gets cold); I flip between HGTV and cooking channels; and figure out what this week will bring in yummy dinner delights. My plan for repeating dinners has been great, I remember the recipes and already have the pantry ingredients which means less time at the grocery store. I guess I need to update you on a few days, of course all very hectic!

Tuesday actually wasn’t too bad but I got mad when I realized I purchased “sub” rolls instead of the normal “slider” rolls for my Hawaiian Ham & Swiss Sandwiches.  You know what, it actually turned out for the better.  It was so messy when I made it the first time, the lunch meat slid all over the place and cheese became a slimy mess; don’t let that scare you – it was and still is my favorite sandwich for dinner. The sub rolls made it easier to fit the meat and cheese perfectly.  This time around to make it a bit less messy (and better for you), I didn’t add butter to the mustard/Worcestershire sauce.   Josh and I agreed that we didn’t miss the butter; I sauteed onions, honey mustard (I don’t care for Dijon mustard), and Worcestershire  – it turned out great. When everything was ready to go in the oven I stuck toothpicks in each sandwich just to ensure they’d stay together. Since the bread was dry from not using butter, I had to cover the dish with foil about half way through so the bread wouldn’t burn. I made a side salad to accompany the sandwiches and dinner was served. Easy!

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my changes: no butter in mustard/Worcestershire sauce; used ham and turkey lunch meat

On to Wednesday … I prepped lasagna rolls before lessons even started; this is a perfect dish that you can keep in the fridge until dinnertime.  If you love lasagna but don’t love the cooking time, opt for these rolls.  You’ll get the same dish in about half the time. You can make it as healthy as you’d like; spinach is a super food for Josh so I added more than what the recipe called for.  I always purchase the fat free, low fat, or light versions of the called for ingredients or you can purchase the fatty stuff and feel your arteries clog as you eat; just sayin’.  I’ve made it in the past adding diced mushrooms; I’m guessing whatever you’d layer a lasagna with, you can add it “diced” to the ricotta mixture.  Again, served a side salad; another easy dinner.

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Thursday I was treated to dinner with one of my piano families. I hate losing students to a military move but am thankful for Skype; I’ll be able to teach her even being in a different time zone.

Josh was left to fend for himself… he managed to survive.

FRIDAY, FRIDAY, GOTTA GET DOWN ON FRIDAY! (You’re welcome) If my blog becomes as popular as Rebecca Black, my life will be complete. Seriously. 😉
Mexican Stuffed Peppers – a new recipe, but who doesn’t love stuffed peppers?! I about died when I purchased stupid quinoa, that crap is expensive! $*#^&$^^%&!!!!  Rice would have made the dish “heavy” (and technically unhealthy) so in my opinion, pay for the quinoa because it was worth it. Also for two people I could have cut the quinoa in half, 1 cup of uncooked quinoa made a butt load of leftovers which I will use on Sunday 🙂 Josh was actually left to prepare most of the dish while I taught lessons, I chopped everything and wrote on a note pad what he needed to do. He sent a text to inform me of the amount of cooked quinoa … I had to quickly text back that he should save it (didn’t need another cheesy chicken debacle, lol). To spice it up a bit, we used 1 can of mild enchilada sauce and 1 can of medium… yeah, too spicy for me!  I have weak taste buds but I know Josh loves spicy food so I tried it for him; I could only eat one pepper. I’ll stick to mild sauce only and maybe heat a small sauce pan with medium sauce then spoon it over his peppers next time. Half way through eating Josh realized it was a meatless meal and then I reminded him of the lasagna rolls… also meatless.  He was impressed that I could find such tasty recipes sans meat, that didn’t leave him hungry afterwards.

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Remember the diabetic dessert I wrote about the other day? It was a huge success; we both love it.  Since a.f.c. is so sugary, it balanced out the other ingredients that were f.f. or s.f.; you wouldn’t think it was a “diet” dessert.  Josh checked his sugars before eating a small square, it was 88 so he took 2 units of insulin to be safe (every 15g of carbs = 1 unit of insulin); after eating the dessert he checked it again and it was only 105! For those of you not having to live a diabetic life style, he could have taken only 1 unit of insulin to balance out this dessert.  This means the dessert isn’t really all that “bad” for you. So eat up and enjoy a no-bake cherry cake (one square per day, don’t be greedy) 🙂

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