Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday, Menu-day

Monday again.  We have a few dinners out this week.  It makes menu planning easier.

I found vacuum packed mushroom ravioli at Aldi.  It got me thinking about a dish I used to get at Millennium, a now closed, but fondly remembered restaurant.  Tonight I boiled the ravioli and created a Creamy Baby Bella Sauce.  While the dried ravioli is not nearly as luscious as the hand filled wild mushroom ravioli at Millennium; this sauce is very good:

Creamy Baby Bella Sauce
8 ounces cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups milk
pinch salt

Wash mushrooms under running water*and tumble onto a clean kitchen towel as each one is cleaned.   Snap off stems and discard.  They are edible, but too fibrous to enjoy.  Pat caps dry with towel.  Slice 1/4" thick.

Heat a pan over medium flame.  Add oil and butter.  Swirl to combine.
Add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are tender.

Sprinkle with flour and stir to wet the flour with the oil.  Cook and stir 2 minutes to cook the flour.

Add about half of the milk.  Stir and cook until it starts to thicken, stir in remaining milk.  Cook and stir until it bubbles and thickens.  Stir in a pinch of salt and serve.

Why 2 additions?  If we add all the milk at once it would take a long time for it to come up to a boil and it would thicken oddly.  The flour could become grainy, or worse, lumpy in all that liquid.  Adding it in batches helps create a silky smooth sauce.  There is probably some food chemistry related reason.  I just know it works.

* FOOD MYTH: Washing mushrooms causes them them to soak up water and become rubbery.  FALSE!  Don't believe me?  Ask Alton Brown.  He did an episode of Good Eats where he weighed several piles of mushrooms then cleaned them by various methods and re-weighed them afterwards.  Neither rinsing under running water or soaking in water 5 minutes caused any measurable weight gain.  So wash your mushrooms and avoid grit in your sauce.

This Weeks Menus

Monday  Mushroom Ravioli with Creamy Baby Bella Sauce and Roasted Broccoli

Tuesday  Just Like Thanksgiving Turkey Meatloaf, Mashies, Veg
Note to self: make extra mashies for Wednesday
This is a new-to-me recipe found at  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday  Shepherd's Pie
This uses up leftover mashies from Tuesday and leftover beef tips which I made last week when it was too cold to grill Walt's 'birthday' steaks.

Thursday  Dinner out
Meet the parents.  Our son is newly engaged and we get to meet her parents.  She's such a sweetheart that I'm sure we'll love them.

Friday  Walt is attending a men's event at church - so I'll be free to eat what I like...

Saturday  Dinner with friends

Sunday  Omaha Steaks on the grill, Saddleback Potatoes
Second attempt!  Last week it was too cold to grill those steaks Walt got with a birthday gift card.  We've never indulged in Omaha Steaks before, so we're excited to try them. The anticipation is killing us...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gluten Free Cranberry Chicken and a Couple Kitchen Hints

3 Ingredient Cranberry Chicken

This recipe is so easy and so yummy.  Best of all, it uses ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.

3 Ingredient Cranberry Chicken
4 - 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (14 oz.) can cranberry sauce
1 (1 oz.) envelope dry onion soup mix, check label for gluten

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray the inside of a baking dish with non-stick.  Use the size that fits your quantity of chicken just right.  13x9" for 6, 8x8" for 4 breasts.  You don't want the sauce to burn, which it will if the dish is too big.

Put chicken breasts in a single layer in dish.

Combine cranberry sauce and onion soup mix; pour over chicken.

Cover and put in oven.  Bake 25 minutes, remove cover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until the temperature in the center is 160F (stick it in horizontally).  Let stand 10 minutes before serving. 

Good served with rice to soak up all that yummy sauce.  We had potatoes that looked like tennis balls.  My food styling could use a little help.  Next time, I'll remember to cut open the potato and add butter before taking the picture.

A Couple of Kitchen Hints
Remove seeds with a gravy ladle or ice cream scoop

One scoop and almost all the seeds are out.

Contain messes by putting your cutting board in a rimmed baking sheet
The cutting board in a baking sheet hint will come in very handy come summer.  Think watermelon, tomatoes and other juicy fruits.  No more juice running across the counter and dripping onto the floor!  I use it every time I can tomatoes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

This Week's Menus

I tend to scribble my weekly menu on a sheet of paper.  This can be annoying when I go shopping and forget a key ingredient.  So I've started noting menus on my shopping list.  But then I get home from the grocery store and toss the shopping list in the trash. At the end of the week, I'm scratching my head and wondering WHY I bought cottage cheese.  Maybe this will help.

Monday - 3 Ingredient Cranberry Chicken, rice, roasted broccoli
Tuesday - Warm Leftover Steak Strips on tossed salad, homemade bread
Wednesday - Pastitsio Pie, salad, carrots
Thursday - leftover Cranberry Chicken
Friday - Roast Pork Tenderloin, sweet potatoes, green beans
Heads up: Jewel has Hormel pork tenderloin BOGO through Thursday this week.
Saturday - leftover Pastitsio
Sunday - Beef tenderloin steaks on the grill, saddleback potatoes, carrots
Bought with an Omaha Steaks gift certificate that was a very welcome birthday gift to Walt!  I see another yummy leftover steak salad possibility for later in the week.
Monday - 3 Ingredient Pulled Pork in the CrockpotAsian Coleslaw
Yep - another leftover night!

What's cooking in Your Kitchen?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Two Bean Tamale Pie (Gluten Free, Vegetarian)

Two Bean Tamale Pie

This is a regular on the rotation here as we try to eat vegetarian at least once a week.  It's very quick to put together.  A one pot meal that feeds the two of us very generously twice - that means I only have to reheat one night :).  The flavors and textures are true comfort food.  It's moist, but not saucy.  If you like your casseroles saucy, add another can of V-8.

I found this recipe years ago but don't know where I found it.  I made a few changes until I really liked it.

Preheat your oven to 400F and spray a 2 quart casserole with non-stick. Saute 1 cup chopped sweet bell pepper, 1/2 cup onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic in 1 tablespoon oil.  Add 2 cans of rinsed, drained beans - I use black and great northern, but you can use whatever you have on hand.  Add a 6 ounce can of Spicy V-8 - feel free to swap out with regular V-8 if you're not into spicy.  No V-8?  Use a 8 oz. can of tomato sauce and a pinch of ground red pepper.  Stir in 1/2 tsp. of ground cumin and 1 tsp. Mexican style chili powder (I once bought Indian chili powder by mistake - ouch!) .

Heat it all through, then pour into the casserole you've sprayed.

Mix up a box of Jiffy corn bread* with egg and milk listed on the box; then fold in 1/2 cup shredded colby-jack cheese and 4 tsp. dried cilantro.  Have fresh?  Use 1/4 cup finely chopped.  Don't like cilantro?  Use parsley or leave out if your kids don't like little green flecks in their food.

Spread the batter over the beans and make sure it touches the side of the casserole all around.  Bake at 400F 20 - 25 minutes, until golden.  Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Add a salad or fresh fruit and dinner is on the table.
*Jiffy has gluten.  I use a gluten-free mix made by Bob's Red Mill.  Just get one that makes an 8" pan.

Printable recipe with photo

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Favorite Bread Machine Recipe

This recipe makes 2 loaves of a moist, richly flavored, very high rising bread with a soft texture.  I adapted a recipe found at to better fit my tastes (read that as richer and moister).  The recipe calls it Challah.  Trust me - it's not challah.  But it has a very pleasant faintly eggy flavor.

I like to prepare the dough in my bread machine, then form it into loaves, let it rise again and bake it in the oven.  This recipe originally called for it to be baked in the machine, thereby making one large loaf.  I found that it overflowed the pan when baked in the bread machine.  I solved that by forming into 2 loaves and baking in my oven.  I also like the texture and flavor better.  I think that bread baked in the bread machine has a slight steamed flavor.  It may just be my machine, or it may just be me.  Try it either way.

Bread Machine Challah
3/4 cup warm water
1 egg, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
3 tablespoons butter, cut into pats
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Add ingredients to your bread machine in order suggested by the manufacturer.  If you can't find them, place wet ingredients in machine: water, egg, egg yolks and butter.
In a bowl, combine dry ingredients: flour, sugar, salt and yeast.  Stir to combine.
Add to machine on top of wet ingredients; don't stir.  Set the machine to dough cycle, 2 lb. loaf and start the machine.
Peek inside to be sure the blade is moving the ingredients about.  Set a timer for 5 minutes.
When the timer goes off, use a spatula to scrape in any flour that isn't mixed into the dough.  It will not look like dough.  It should look too wet, but not soupy. If it looks soupy, add up to 2 tablespoons additional flour. If the dough looks a little dry (very firm ball of dough wrapped around the dough blade) add additional water - up to 2 tablespoons.
Don't agonize over it, neither will kill the bread.  Not enough flour and the bread will be flat and dense.  Too much flour and it will be dry and tough.  Either way it's edible.  Remember that's what bread pudding, bread crumbs and french toast are for.  Keep making bread and within 3 or 4 runs you will figure out how it's supposed to look when it first is mixed.  Then it's easy-peasy from then on out.
It should take somewhere around and hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours before the dough is ready - so take note of when you need to be home and be SURE to be there.
Spray 2 loaf pans with cooking oil. Spray 2 pieces of plastic wrap with oil and set aside.
When the machine sounds it's end of cycle beep, beep, beep - flour your clean dry counter top and dump out the dough.  Fish out the paddle and put it aside to wash.  Remove your rings to a safe place and flour your hands.  Pat out air bubbles in the dough. and form it into a flat rough rectangle.  Being mindful of your counter top, cut the dough into two equal pieces.  Roll one piece like a jelly roll starting at a short side.  Pinch the ends and tuck them under; place seam side down in pan.  Repeat with the other piece of dough.
Cover each pan with a piece of prepared plastic wrap and set in warm spot to rise.  Allow to rise until it is about 1" above the top of the pan, about 45 minutes.  After 30 minutes, start preheating your oven to 350F, so it's ready when the dough is ready.
Remove plastic wrap and place into preheated oven.  Bake 30 - 40 minutes or until tops are browned and loaves sound hollow when you knock on them.
Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to come to room temperature before slicing.  I slice one loaf and place it into a gallon size zip top bag and store it at room temperature.  The second loaf is also cooled to room temperature, then placed, unsliced in a zip top bag and frozen until needed.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Gluten-Free Warm Roasted Chicken Salad with Brown Rice Pasta

Tonight I Cleared Out the Fridge for Dinner

We had some veggies that were beginning to look a little "aged" so I roasted them with chicken breast and made this very satisfying Warm Roasted Chicken Salad with Whole Wheat Penne.  It's my adaptation of Dr. Oz's Warm Chicken-Orzo Salad recipe and very healthy.
Warm Roasted Chicken Salad with Whole Wheat Penne
I managed to improve on Dr. Oz's nutritional counts by eliminating the goat cheese and swapping the orzo for whole wheat pasta, lowering the Total calories to 360 per serving (Dr. Oz's: 420),  total carbs to 36.7g (Dr. Oz's: 41g), fat to 10.5g (Dr. Oz's: 14g), total cholesterol to 72.6mg (Dr. Oz's: 79mg).  He did better on sodium, because I salt my pasta water.  Leave it out and reduce the sodium to 325 mg.

Warm Roasted Chicken Salad with Brown Rice Penne

Adapted from Dr. Oz’s Warm Chicken-Orzo Salad
4 Servings
30 minutes

1 pint grape tomatoes, rinsed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into ½” chunks
4 ribs celery, cut into sticks, then ½” pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
¼ teaspoon dried oregano, divided use
1 teaspoon salt, divided use
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 ½ cups brown rice penne pasta
2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice

Preheat oven to 450F.
Heat water to cook pasta.
On one side of an 18x12” jelly roll pan, toss vegetables with garlic, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/8 teaspoon each oregano, black pepper and salt.  Spread in an even layer.
Cut chicken breasts in half like a book, making 2 cutlets of each; then cut into 1” chunks.
On the other side of the same jelly roll pan, toss chicken with 1 tablespoon oil and 1/8 teaspoon each lemon pepper, oregano and salt.  Spread in an even layer.
Roast 15 minutes or until chicken is done (160F).
When pasta water comes to a boil, add ½ teaspoon salt and cook pasta following label directions while chicken and vegetables roast.  Drain and put into a heatproof bowl large enough to hold pasta, chicken and vegetables.
When chicken and vegetables are done, add them and their juices to the bowl with pasta.
Add lemon juice and toss well.
Divide onto 4 serving plates.

Printable recipe for Warm Roasted Chicken Salad with Whole Wheat Pasta, substitute brown rice pasta to make it gluten-free.