Giveaway Alert

I don't often join in on the giveaway fun that many blogs offer. However, I am a huge fan of Nigella Lawson and my friend's blog, Confessions of a Stay at Home Mom, is doing a giveaway of her new book. If you are interested, head on over there and check it out!


Gifts from the Kitchen

I am very familiar with the plate of Christmas cookies or the banana bread that you are often given around the holidays. Not that I don't love cookies and breads...but I get so overloaded with them during the holidays that some of them are sure to go to waste.

I recently learned how to do some "gifts in a jar" from a friend of mine and from a whole pile of books I checked out of the library on the subject. These gifts enable a person to have most of the ingredients to make something, but they can make it whenever they want to instead of having to eat it right away.

Here's the one my friend taught me to make:

Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar

  • Large canning jar (1 quart, I think)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • Scraps of fabric
  • ribbon or twine
  1. Mix together the flour and baking soda and carefully place into the bottom of the jar as the first layer.
  2. Place the brown sugar as the 2nd layer and the white sugar as the 3rd.
  3. Top the white sugar with the quick oats. Then, use the chocolate chips to fill to the top.
  4. Cut out a piece of fabric into a circle and tie onto the top of the jar with ribbon or twine.
  5. Attach the following directions (either handwritten or typed on nice paper)
Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 stick melted butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Empty jar into bowl, stir in butter, 1 beaten egg, and vanilla. Mix well.
Drop on cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Makes 2 dozen cookies.

What I love about this gift is that it's inexpensive and actually useful. When someone is in a pinch they can grab the jar and whip up a treat! Like I said before, there are tons of books on these types of gifts and I plan to try some more. You can do it with soups, special hot chocolate and tea mixes, muffin mixes, breads, and scones.

Go ahead and research some additional recipes and I'll share the good ones that I come across. It really makes a thoughtful and practical gift!



Thanks for visiting even though I didn't post anything for the entire month of November. I could list all the things that have kept me crazy busy over the past many weeks...but I'm not going to. For me, writing this blog is fun. It's something I do that is relaxing and gives me a great deal of gratification. I use it as a resource I want to make my favorite recipes. I use it to share recipes with others. So thanks for stopping by...and thanks for not getting irritated at my inconsistent blogging habits.

Speaking of being thankful...I hosted Thanksgiving last week. It went SO well! Turkeys totally do not stress me out anymore. The first time I made a turkey, I did not give it enough time to thaw in the fridge. The day I was supposed to cook it, I stood in front of the kitchen sink crying while the stupid frozen turkey bobbed up and down in icy water it was supposed to be thawing in. Then when I finally got it thawed, I began to gag when all of the "parts" emerged from the inside of the turkey.

Now I thaw it well in advance. I grab those "parts" (a.k.a. giblets and neck) with bravery and throw them in a saucepan to boil away for the gravy. What a different a few years makes.

I've done a previous post on some Thanksgiving recipes that I enjoy. I thought I would add to that post here. It may be too late for Thanksgiving...but if you're making a turkey for the holidays, here's how I do it.

Ali's Favorite Way to Roast a Turkey*
  • 15 lb - 20 lb turkey
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh sage
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the gizzards and neck and put into a small saucepan filled with water and an onion. Bring to a boil and then simmer for several hours.
  2. Rinse the turkey, inside and out, and then pat dry with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper the inside of the turkey.
  3. Cut the lemon and orange into quarters and stuff inside the turkey. Take a few sprigs of each fresh herb and put aside. Stuff the rest of the herbs into the turkey.
  4. Cut the head of garlic in half crosswise so that the cloves are cut in half. Cut the onion into large pieces and stuff the garlic and onion into the turkey.
  5. Remove the thyme, sage, and rosemary leaves from the stems and chop finely. Mix the herbs into the softened butter.
  6. Gently use your fingers to separate the skin from the breast meat of the turkey. Massage the butter directly onto the meat, under the skin. And yes, I truly "massage" the butter into the meat.
  7. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and place into a roasting pan. Pour some olive oil over the skin and then generously salt and pepper the outside of the turkey. If you have a few bits of fresh herbs left, toss them on too!
  8. Cover up the bird with foil and put in the oven. Depending on the size of the turkey (look it up online) set your timer for a few hours before it's supposed to be done (mine was 20 lb. so I cooked it for about 4 1/2 to 5 hours). A few hours before it's done, go ahead and baste it with some of the pan juices.
  9. About 45 minutes or an hour before it's due to be done, remove the foil so that the skin will brown up (think of the olive oil as tanning oil).
  10. Check the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh. It should be around 165 degrees or the juices should run clear when you pierce it with a knife. Take it out, and cover it with foil. Let it rest for a good 20-30 minutes. It stays hot under the foil and the juices go back into it so that it's nice and moist.
  11. Carve each breast off as one large piece and then slice into thick slices. I think it's so much tastier that way...I just don't like the traditional thin slices as much.
  12. While the turkey is resting, remove the pan drippings from the roasting pan. Strain out the gizzards, neck, and onion from the saucepan. Combine the remaining liquid and the pan drippings into a larger saucepan. Make a mixture of flour and water and whisk into the drippings. Strain several times if there are lumps. My grandmother did this part, so I won't pretend to be an expert on gravy making...but it seemed relatively simple and turned out delicious!
*I am kind of against stuffing the turkey. I know a lot of people do it very successfully...but I feel as though I'd have to cook the turkey long enough to allow the stuffing to get done and meanwhile, the turkey would get dry. Plus, I just love all those aromatics that I use to stuff the turkey.

My sister almost always makes the stuffing for Thanksgiving and tried a different recipes each year. This is the one she tried this year and it turned out great!

German Stuffing
~This stuffing is a great mix between sweet and savory flavors~
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 6 cups chopped and peeled apples
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup prunes, chopped
  • 1 bag cranberries (fresh, not dried)
  • 16 cups cubed white bread or 2 bags of stuffing
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup turkey or chicken stock
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Saute the celery and onion in skillet until tender. Transfer to a large bowl and add apples, raisins, prunes, cranberries, bread, sugar, and salt.
  3. In a smaller bowl, beat eggs, cider and stock.
  4. Pour over bread mixture and toss lightly. Stuff turkey (if you are doing that) or bake in a casserole dish. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden.
You didn't think I forgot about dessert, did you? I don't really like the texture of pumpkin pie, so I make pumpkin bars instead. They are awesome!

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
~These are so moist and flavorful~

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

  3. To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.

Recipe taken from www.foodnetwork.com and is written by Paula Deen

And last, but certainly not least, is my Aunt Diana's apple pie recipe. She is the master pie maker of the family and I was fortunate enough to have her teach me how to make pie at a young age. Here's the simple recipe for a delicious pie...

Aunt DD's Apple Pie

  • 9-12 Granny Smith apples (depending on the size and depth of your pie plate)
  • Dash/pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Handful of flour
  • Sugar and cinnamon to taste
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup Crisco (shortening)
  • 1/4 cup ice cold water
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Core and slice the apples to about the same size slices. Stir together apples, salt, sugar, handful of flour, sugar and cinnamon until the apples make their own juice.
  3. Combine 2 cups flour, salt, and Crisco in a large bowl. Cut with a pastry blender or two butter knives until the mixture becomes flaky.
  4. Add ice water a tablespoon at a time until it can be formed into a ball.
  5. Knead for a minute or two, and then split in two (patting into two discs). My Aunt doesn't do this...but I refrigerate the discs for about a half hour to let it rest.
  6. Roll out one of the disks until thin and even. Gently fold in half or roll around the pin to transfer it to the pie dish.
  7. Add the apples to the pie dish and put a few small chunks of butter in the apples.
  8. Roll the 2nd crust and place on top of the apples. Crimp to the bottom crust around the edge of the pie. Cut a few slits in the top to let the steam out and brush with a mixture of 1 beaten egg and a few tablespoons of milk or water. Sprinkle with a little sugar to make it sparkle when it's done.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour on a tray (in case it drips over the side of the pie dish). Cover the edges of the pie with foil or a crust cover, if they begin to burn before it's done. I usually check it by sticking a butter knife down through one of the slits to see if the apples are cooked.
I have been blessed with so many wonderful things in my life...I truly have a lot to be thankful for.


In Case You Thought I Disappeared...

The past few months have been....hmmm, how should I say this? INSANE.

I've done fun things (like celebrate my birthday) and not so fun things (like writing a case study for my grad class).

I've mostly been cooking up literacy, math, social studies, and science activities instead of interesting new recipes. What can I say? When you are in charge of teaching the youth of America, you have to prioritize sometimes.

Sure I've been cooking...just not anything new or interesting. I did squeeze in a cooking class and we made some stellar recipes that I'll share in a future post.

I've made some meatloaf, some soup, some pasta favorites...and yes, some chili. But I haven't made anything new or particularly special.

I've been making A LOT of hot beverages thanks to my sweet husband who bought me this for my birthday:

I'm pretty much obsessed with it...it's the gift that keeps on giving. Sometimes when people come over I force them to drink several hot drinks, whether they want to or not.

I carved this pumpkin:

Sonny carved this pumpkin:

We also went to a big Birthday/Masquerade party and had a fabulous time with some of our very best friends:

So even though I've been cooking without a plan, I've been doing some pretty cool stuff. As soon as I shut this computer, I'm going to allow myself an hour to dive into my newest cookbooks before I write some lesson plans. I can only go so long without experimenting in the kitchen!


Bon Appetit!

Yes, this is me in front of Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian

Last weekend we journeyed to Washington D.C. for my cousin's wedding. The wedding was fabulous and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

It was especially fun to get out for the evening after being horribly sick for an entire week. The previous weekend, I woke up with a horrible headache, chills, body pain, and a high fever. I was also coughing like crazy and ended up tearing a muscle between my ribs because of it. What a truly awful week. I went to the doctor twice and missed 5 days of work. I have never missed more than 2 days in a row and I felt so overwhelmed at how much work was waiting for me upon my return. Slowly, but surely, I'm recovering and beginning to catch up on everything I missed.

Seeing the Julia Child exhibit was such a great experience for me. As we all know, I'm a big Julia Child fan. There were a lot of people there because of the movie, Julie and Julia. I was a Julia Child fan long before the movie came out, but it doesn't bother me that there's a sudden surge of interest in her because of the movie. I think it's great that a whole new generation of people can experience the fun of watching The French Chef. In the exhibit there is a TV with a constant loop of clips of Julia doing her various shows and television appearances. People of all ages, from little tiny kids to elderly men and women, were all standing around the TV laughing at Julia's antics. It takes a pretty special person to appeal to such a wide range of people.

After coming back from eating soup for a week straight, I scrambled up some Turkey Chili and then some Spinach and Cheese Lasagna from the leftover chili this week. I'm anxious to try some new recipes in the coming weeks. I feel like I've been pretty disconnected from my kitchen due to sickness and a very hectic schedule.

It's time to channel some Julia Child and get back into the kitchen. Bon Appetit!


Cheddar is Better

I love cheese. I especially love some good sharp cheddar cheese. I used to only like mild cheeses...I didn't know what I was missing. Sharp cheeses have so much flavor and can enhance recipes in ways you wouldn't expect.

A couple weeks ago, we made recipes out of Cabot Vermont Cheddar Cheese in cooking class. Art wanted to test some of the Cabot recipes before using them in a future class. Here's a couple that I just loved. The recipes and pictures are straight from the Cabot website.

Creamy Cheddar Spread
~Wonderful with pears and apples~

  • 8 ounces Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar*, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup Cabot Sour Cream (could substitute Greek yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons Cabot Salted Butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or apple juice
  • Large pinch ground mace or nutmeg
  • Pinch ground red pepper (cayenne)
  1. In food processor, combine all ingredients; process until smooth. (Alternatively, use electric mixer to blend ingredients; spread will have coarser texture.) Serve with whole-grain crackers, rounds of French bread or slices of fresh apple and pear.
*Try Cabot Garlic & Herb Cheddar a tasty variation.

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup
~One of my favorite comfor
t foods!~

  • 2 tablespoons Cabot Salted Butter
  • 2 cups peeled and diced boiling potatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups broccoli (chopped florets and thinly sliced stems)
  • 8 ounces Cabot Sharp or Extra Sharp Cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  1. In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add potatoes and onion and cook, stirring, until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes longer.
  3. Gradually stir in chicken broth and milk. Bring to simmer and cook until potatoes are nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli and cook until broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes longer.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
Winter Squash Gratin
~This has a really nice and unusual flavor~

  • 1 1/2 cups Cabot Sharp Cheddar*, grated (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (about 3 slices firm white bread)
  • 2 tablespoons Cabot Salted Butter
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds dry-fleshed winter squash, such as Buttercup, Hubbard or Kabocha, peeled and seeded
  • 3/4-1 cup chicken broth
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine cheese and bread crumbs in bowl and set aside.
  2. In large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and sugar. Stir often until onions are golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in salt, thyme and pepper, then transfer mixture to 1 1/2-quart baking dish.
  3. Cut squash into smaller chunks and cut these chunks into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Add to onions and stir together well.
  4. Pour 3/4 cup of chicken broth evenly over squash. Cover dish tightly with lid or foil and bake for about 70 minutes, or until squash is tender and broth is nearly all absorbed. If squash appears dry, add remaining 1/4 cup broth.
  5. Sprinkle squash with reserved bread crumb mixture. Bake until topping is golden, about 20 minutes longer.
*Or use Cabot Garlic & Herb Cheddar.

Cranberry Apple Cheese Strudel
~This was my absolute favorite recipe of the day~

  • 6 cups sliced tart apples
  • 1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 3/4 cup ground almonds or filberts (hazelnuts)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup trans-fat-free margarine, melted
  • 1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 (16-ounce) package frozen fillo dough, thawed
  • 8 ounces Cabot 75% Reduced Fat Cheddar, very thinly sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease baking sheet and set aside.
  2. In large bowl, combine apples, cranberry sauce, almonds or filberts, sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest; set aside.
  3. In medium skillet over medium heat, combine 1/4 cup of melted margarine and breadcrumbs; cook, stirring, until breadcrumbs are lightly browned; transfer to plate to cool.
  4. To make first strudel, place sheet of fillo on kitchen towel and brush with some of remaining melted margarine. Top with 4 more sheets of fillo, brushing each with more margarine.
  5. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of breadcrumbs evenly over layered fillo. Top with one-fourth of cheese slices.
  6. Top cheese with 5 more layers of margarine-brushed fillo.
  7. Two inches in from short edge of fillo, spoon half of apple mixture in 3-inch-wide strip. Top with another one-fourth of cheese slices.
  8. Using towel to help, roll fillo tightly up around filling (jelly-roll style), brushing exposed bare surface of dough with additional margarine as you roll.
  9. Use towel again to transfer strudel to prepared baking sheet. Brush top of strudel with more margarine and sprinkle with 2 more tablespoons breadcrumbs.
  10. Repeat entire procedure to make second strudel. Transfer seam-side-down to prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until nicely browned. Serve warm.
I'm excited to try these recipes out at home and I think I'll search the website for even more recipes...because I'm pretty much obsessed with cheese.


Girls Only Getaway to the Mountains

For my Aunt Kathy's 50th birthday, we went on a Girls Only trip to the Poconos. It was my Mom, my sister, and my Aunts (Aunt Kathy and Aunt Lori). My Mom's other sister, Aunt Diana couldn't be with us and we missed her terribly. She always brings such joy and laughter to the people around her. She also is a phenomenal cook and baker and would have loved all the things my sister and I created. We will do the trip again, Aunt Diana, and you'll be with us next time!

We had a wonderful time. My Aunts live in Florida and North Carolina, so I don't get to see them that often. It was so much fun to talk until the wee hours of the morning and just hang out with one another. My sister and I decided that we would cook the entire weekend because we don't often get to cook together. She's been cooking long before I started and it was such a special time for us to be in the kitchen side-by-side.

We took pictures of most of the food we made, but they weren't on my camera and I need everybody to email them to me (hint, hint). The house that my Mom's good friend graciously let us use was absolutely unbelievable! I wish I had snapped a picture of the kitchen, because it was divine. But here's what the dining room looked like:

And here's what the view from the main balcony looked like (every bedroom also had it's own balcony):

And without further ado, here was our Menu (some are links and the many can be found in the recipes below)

Friday Evening
Shrimp and Zucchini Tostadas
Spinach and Strawberry Salad
Pear Cardamom Bread

Saturday Morning
Banana Sour Cream Pancakes
Herbed Scrambled Eggs

Saturday Evening
Zesty Ravioli Skillet
Herbed Garlic Bread
Parmesan Roasted Broccoli
Plum Galette

Sunday Morning
Crab and Roasted Red Pepper Strata
Pecan Praline Bacon
Cranberry Lemon Scones
(I used lemon instead of orange)

Fresh Corn Salad
Puppy Chow
Banana Bread

Banana Sour Cream Pancakes
~These have a really unique flavor~

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • unsalted butter
  • 2 ripe bananas, diced, plus extra for serving
  • Pure maple syrup
  1. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, mixing only until combined.
  3. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium low heat until it bubbles. Ladles the pancake batter into the pan to make 3 or 4 pancakes.
  4. Distribute a rounded tbsp of bananas on each pancake.
  5. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes until bubble appear on the top and the underside is nicely browned. Flip the pancakes and then cook for another minute until browned.
  6. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add more butter to the pan, and continue cooking pancakes until all the batter is used.
  7. Serve with sliced bananas, butter and maple syrup.
Recipe taken from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Family Style

Herbed Scrambled Eggs
~These went nicely with the pancakes~

Crack 1 dozen eggs into a large bowl and whisk together with a 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Cook over medium and allow to set a little bit before "scrambling". This gives the eggs a nice texture that is more like folds of eggs instead of lumps. Then add shredded provolone and/or Parmesan cheese while the eggs cook and then sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs such as chives and Italian parsley when they are done cooking.

Zesty Ravioli Skillet
~Fresh and flavorful!~

  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 6 oz. provolone cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes with onions, undrained
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 package small frozen cheese ravioli
  • Halved grape tomatoes (optional)
  1. Add oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Finely chop the jalapeno and add to the skillet. Cook for 1 minute or until crisp tender. Add garlic to the skillet and cook for 15-20 seconds until fragrant.
  2. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper to the skillet and cook 1-2 minutes until simmering. Add ravioli, stir to coat. Cook, uncovered, 4-5 minutes or until tender.
  3. Stir cream into skillet. Cook, uncovered, 1-2 minutes or until simmering.
  4. Sprinkle spinach over ravioli and cook, covered, 1 minute or until spinach starts to wilt.
  5. Remove from heat and top with cheese. Cover the hot skillet and let stand 1-2 minutes so that the cheese can melt. Garnish with grape tomatoes, if desired.
Recipe taken from The Pampered Chef

Herbed Garlic Bread
~I ate what seemed like 500 pieces of this~

  • 1 loaf of nice crusty Italian bread
  • 1 stick( or maybe a little less depending on how big the loaf is)of butter
  • 3 or 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • dash of garlic salt (optional)
  • a couple tbsp chopped fresh herbs like Italian Parsley and Basil
  • Olive oil
  • Handful of shredded provolone or Parmesan cheese.
Soften some butter and mix some minced garlic in it, you could add some sprinkles of garlic salt as well to add flavor. Spread that on the bread. Then add the chopped herbs. Drizzle with olive oil on top and added shredded provolone and Parmesan cheese. Put it in the broiler and WATCH IT until it gets golden on edges and cheese melts.

Plum Galette
~This recipe was so easy and very impressive~
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling (skip 2 1/2 cups of flour if using ready made pie crust)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (skip if using ready made pie crust)
  • 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar (only need 5 tbsp if using ready made pie crust)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (skip if using ready made pie crust)
  • 1/2 cup ice water (skip if using ready made pie crust)
  • 1/4 cup whole, skin-on almonds, toasted
  • 5 to 6 plums, halved, pitted, and sliced inch thick (keep slices together)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
*I used a Pillsbury ready made pie crust from the refrigerated section and it worked wonderfully*
  1. If you choose to make your own pie crust, follow these directions. In a food processor, combine 2 1/2 cups flour, butter, 1 teaspoon sugar, and salt; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 1/4 cup remaining ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Don't overmix. Remove dough from processor and shape into a disk; wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour.
  2. Here is where I began. Wipe bowl of food processor clean and add almonds, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons flour; pulse until ground to a coarse meal.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness (I didn't have to do this...I just unrolled the ready made crust). Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet (I made it on a stoneware pizza stone); sprinkle almond mixture over dough.
  4. With a spatula, transfer plums to dough; press lightly to fan out, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edge of dough over fruit. Refrigerate 20 minutes.
  5. Brush crust with cream; sprinkle galette with 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until crust is golden and underside is cooked through, about 70 minutes.
We had such an amazing time as a family. There is nothing in the world that makes me happier then sitting down to a table of delicious food with the ones that I love.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Kathy!


Remember me?

I have been absent from this blog of mine because my life has been filled with many many many other things lately. As much as I love blogging, my family and job need to come first.

I've been doing some cooking, but not as much as I would like. I've been mostly throwing convenient meals together before running off to do something or after getting home from an impossibly long day. Sometimes you just go through times like this and then they pass. Let's hope this hectic lifestyle settles down so that I can find time to do the things that relax me once again.

I have several posts in mind with various recipes I've made recently, so I will post them this week. I've been holding off on some of them because I don't have pictures, but I guess that doesn't really matter all that much. I just love posting recipes with pictures so that you can see the wonderfulness!

Here is a simple recipe to hold you over until I get those other posts together (I'm sure you've been waiting with bated breath). This past week, Sonny and I went over to his sister's house and enjoyed a delicious meal with some lovely people.

She asked me to bring a salad and I discussed with my cooking teacher, Art, what I should make. I've never been a huge salad maker, not because I don't like salads, but because I don't really feel I have a knack for putting things together in a salad. I need to get over it and try some new salads because the one I made on Tuesday was awesome. Art gave me wonderful guidance and here is what we came up with:

Spinach Salad with Cheddar, Sauteed Pears, and Pecans
~This is ridiculously simple~

  • 1 8 oz. bag of baby spinach
  • 2 or 3 red pears, cored and sliced thinly (unpeeled)
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter (use the real stuff)
  • 8 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • handful of chopped pecans (or walnuts)
  • handful of dried cranberries
  • handful of golden raisins
  1. Here is what you can do ahead of time: Place the spinach in a large salad bowl and sprinkle with the cheese, pecans, cranberries, and raisins.
  2. Right before serving, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pear slices to the hot butter and saute for a just a few minutes (about 5) so that the pears become softened, but not mushy.
  3. Remove the pears from the pan and add to the salad. Then pour the remaining butter in the pan over the salad (it acts as a dressing).
You may be thinking that butter-dressing is gross, but it's not. It's awesome. And you may be thinking that butter-dressing will make you fat, but it won't. It's only 6 tbsp for a whole big salad that serves at least 4 people.

This salad was a wonderful thing to make in the fall when the pears are particularly delicious and in season. It also went so nicely with the lovely meal that my sister-in-law made that included chicken cutlets drizzled with a creamy pan sauce and served with roasted potatoes and baked apples.

I absolutely love this time of year because the food is so memory provoking. I can remember eating and smelling apples, pumpkin muffins, soup, and cinnamon throughout the autumns of my childhood.

And let's be honest...the main reason I love fall is because my birthday is in October and when it's my birthday I get to eat cake and open presents.

Happy October!



I did not cook this week. Not one.single.night.

On Monday, we went out to eat at The Olive Garden for my Dad's birthday.

On Tuesday, we ordered pizza while my father-in-law fixed my car.

On Wednesday, Sonny picked up the $6.00 dinners from Wegman's. I ate mine in about 15 minutes before rushing back to work for Back to School night.

On Thursday, I went straight to grad class after work and then straight to Bible study. I ate some grapes and cheddar goldfish in the car on the way there.

On Friday, we ordered take-out because we were absolutely exhausted. We ate it on the couch while watching DVR episodes of Top Chef and Project Runway. Then I went to bed at 10:00...on a Friday night.

Today, we went to a Hawaiian luau. They roasted a pig. The whole pig. It had an apple in its mouth. They hacked the whole thing up and served the shredded meat on hamburger buns. I ate some because I kept telling myself that the pork on my hamburger bun didn't come from the pig that was staring at me with an apple in its mouth. It actually tasted great. So did the cupcakes I brought that were a Barefoot Contessa recipe. Each cupcake had about 8,000,000 calories, but they were delicious. I'll have to share the recipe sometime.

I'd like to say that I'll cook tomorrow...but I just don't know. Lately, I've only been able to do one day at a time. I know I'll be cooking again soon because I can't not cook for very long.

So I confess that I didn't cook at all this week. And, you know what? I'm OK with that.

Doesn't everybody have weeks like that every once in a while?


Straight from the Garden

I haven't been very good at posting all my cooking class adventures, but we've been cooking up some marvelous fare.

A couple weeks ago I actually brought my camera to cooking class and got to take a few pictures of the delicious food we cooked together. Here is a picture of us signaling to Art (our teacher) that we've got everything under control:

We made several dishes from ingredients found in the garden. Here were my particular favorites...

Romas and Goats
~I don't really like the name of this recipe~

  • 1 cup panko*
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 11 oz. goat cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground back pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 Roma (plum) tomoatoes
  • Pesto (somewhat optional...and I often use Classico's ready made pesto)
  1. Stir together panko, Parmesan cheese, parsley, lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Then stir in butter and set aside.
  2. Combine goat cheese, pepper, and sat in a small bowl.
  3. Cut tomatoes in half horizontally and trim a small amount from the rounded edges (this gives them a flat part so that they can stand upright instead of roll around).
  4. Remove the seeds and pulp (we used spoons).
  5. Spoon about 2 tsp goat cheese mixture into each half.
  6. Dip tomato halves, upside down, in breadcrumb mixture, coating generously (if I remember right, we spooned the breadcrumb mixture on top of each tomato).
  7. Place each tomato right side up on an ungreased baking sheet.
  8. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to a serving platter and serve drizzled with pesto.
*Panko are Japanese breadcrumbs. They are large coarse breadcrumbs that are excellent for creating that perfect crispy topping. You can substitute toasted plain breadcrumbs.

Recipe from myrecipes.com

Zucchini Cakes
~A great recipe for using up zucchini~

  • 1 small zucchini, shredded (I do this in my food processor)
  • 1 pouch (6.5 oz.) cornbread mix
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • vegetable oil
  1. Place the shredded zucchini into a microwave bowl and cook on medium for 2 minutes; drain.
  2. Combine zucchini, cornbread mix, egg, and milk. Let stand 5 minutes.
  3. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a pan and drop heaping tablespoons of batter into the hot oil.
  4. Cook 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side. These are good when they are served alongside something with a sauce, as they are very good when dipped into something.
Recipe taken from the September 2009 edition of Woman's Day Magazine

Zucchini Ginger Cupcakes
~These were SO good~

  • 1/3 cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp finely grated fresh orange zest
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (2 medium)
  • 3/4 cup mild olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mild honey
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated fresh orange zest
  1. Put oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin cups with liners.
  2. Pulse crystallized ginger in the food processor until finely ground, then add flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, zest, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Pulse until combined.
  3. Whisk together zucchini, oil, honey, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Then stir in flour mixture until just combined.
  4. Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until tester comes out clean, 20-24 minutes.
  5. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely.
  6. Beat together frosting ingredients with an electric mixer at high speed until combined well and becomes fluffy (3-5 minutes). Frost the tops of cooled cupcakes.
Cooking class is such a great way for me to unwind and spend time with people who love to cook as much as I do. I'm so fortunate to have the opportunity to take these classes! If you are interested, go to www.thekitchenworkshop.com

*Someone recently told me that I should post my pictures in a bigger format..thanks for the great advice :)


A Battle Conquered

*FYI: This is quite a long post. It's also much more personal then I tend to be on this blog. But I think it's an important story to tell. So, here I go...

I've hesitated to write this post. It's not easy to write about and I wouldn't do it if I didn't think that my words could possibly make a difference for somebody out there who is struggling.

I love food. I love making it. I love giving it to people. I love eating it.

It wasn't always that way. I actually grew up as a very picky eater. I enjoyed about 10 things and suffered through anything else I was forced to eat. I hated meat. I wasn't huge on vegetables. I loved grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets in the shape of stars and dinosaurs, alphabet oven fries, and pudding pops. I also loved Ritz crackers.

I didn't like to cook or even be in the kitchen when someone else was cooking. One time my Mom tried to get me to peel shrimp and I started to cry while I was doing it. They were so cold and slimy. I started gagging. Another time I tried making chicken and was so overwhelmed with how gross it was, I put plastic bags on my hands in order to touch it.

My weirdness about food wasn't just that it smelled and tasted and felt strange. My biggest issue was that...it was food.

When I was in sixth grade I suddenly became aware that my body wasn't the same as the girl who sat next to me. She was small framed and tiny. I wasn't fat, but I wasn't skinny. I started to feel "big" when I compared myself to others. The thought started following me everywhere I went. I would walk by windows and catch my reflection. "Why are you so big?" I would ask myself.

I started to cut back. At first, it was a good thing. Maybe a bowl of ice cream after dinner each night is not always the best idea. I was making healthy choices. I lost some weight and people responded.

"Look at you!" they'd say. "You are growing up to be such a pretty young lady". "You are growing so tall and thin...you look great!" There was nothing wrong with these compliments...but I interpreted them as: The smaller you get, the better you look.

I started cutting back more. And then I would cut back a little bit more. Pretty soon, I was watching every bite that went into my mouth. Food was bad.

As I began high school, it became a bit more intense. People around me were noticing that I was funny about eating and I started to feel defensive. I was paranoid that someone was going to make me stop dieting. My family started asking questions and I finally decided to re-work my game plan. That's when I started throwing up. It was perfect. I could eat whatever I wanted and then get rid of it. Everyone saw me eat, I got to enjoy junk foods, and my body didn't have to digest them.

I used to visualize the food going to different parts of my body. I became obsessed with getting rid of it before it reached my thighs, and stomach, and hips.

The secrecy and control were really addicting. It appealed to my ambitious personality. I'm very goal oriented and love working toward the completion of tasks. This fit me perfectly. I could set weight goals or track my calorie intake. Once I reached the goal, I would set a new one. I was never satisfied.

In the spring time of my freshman year in high school, I broke. I was getting overwhelmed by it all. I felt weak and faint all the time. My stomach hurt. I had terrible heartburn. I decided it was time to come clean. I told my parents that I needed help and I began an outpatient program at an eating disorder facility in Philadelphia.

My dear father drove me all the way into the city every morning and then turned around and went to work. Even though I was the one who told them I needed to go somewhere, I started resenting them. I wouldn't speak to him the entire way and would often barely mutter a goodbye before getting out of the car. I had all these emotions, and I couldn't sort them out.

When I got there, I had to take off all my clothes to get weighed so that I couldn't trick them by putting rocks in my pockets. We had to eat a certain number of calories each day or they made us drink protein drinks. If you refused to drink a protein drink, you would get a feeding tube. I drank the drinks.

If bread and butter were part of your meal, you had to use all the butter. That means if you didn't use the whole slab on your bread...you had to eat it. They let you have some control over what you ate because you could pick from a list. Each week, they upped your calories. Whenever I went to the bathroom, someone had to watch me.

Most of the people there were inpatient. I was lucky to be outpatient because most of them seemed miserable. There was a young girl named Emma. She was about 13 years old. She was very sick. She cut her arms and always found ways to trick them and get away with eating less. There was a pregnant women who was skin and bones. Her husband had her court ordered to be in the program. She was so sick that she couldn't see how much danger her baby was in because she refused to eat. There was an older woman who had abused laxatives for 20 years. She had to get multiple surgeries in an effort to help her regain the ability to go to the bathroom. There was a woman there who overate. She couldn't control her eating and weighed several hundred pounds.

The facility wasn't a bad place. It sounds scary, but they were trying to help me. Sometimes breaking the habits of an eating disorder can be kind of like detoxing. I had to re-learn how to eat and digest. I would feel bloated and sick after eating because I couldn't throw up. When I couldn't finish my meals, I would cry the entire time I swallowed down the protein drinks.

During the day I would go to individual therapy sessions, group therapy discussions, and various activities. We did art, music, and drama therapy. We had to meet with the dietitian. At the end of the program we had to design a healthy meal and cook it ourselves. We made tacos. I remember it vividly. When I was released from the program, they gave me this piece of paper with a big flower on it. The women in the program all wrote words of congratulations and encouragement on the petals.

I went back to high school and faced my peers. They knew where I had been and I was embarrassed. I began acting out my frustrations by drinking and smoking. I was soon found out by my parents and they intervened. I met with a counselor and began to make progress.

Throughout the next 7 years, I relapsed 3 times. The last time was in my sophomore year of college when I dropped over 20 pounds in 4 weeks.

I can't really remember when I decided that enough was enough. I wish I could remember if there was a moment that I just decided to stop. What I do remember is the moment I decided not to start again.

Two years ago I took a medication that ended up causing some weight gain. I was becoming more and more unhappy with my body and started feeling those old temptations rise up within me. And then I remember thinking to myself...no. No more. I had a husband and family who loved me just as I was. I had a classroom full of little girls who looked up to me as their teacher...their role model. I realized that God loved me and didn't want me to do this to myself.

I made an appointment and went to the doctor. I asked him to guide me in how to lose my unwanted pounds in a healthy way. And then I began to eat healthier. I watched my portions. I lost a few pounds here...and few pounds there. Over time, I gradually shed my unwanted weight.

In the meanwhile, I learned to cook. I discovered new foods and new ways to eat them. I took cooking classes and found out that making food was something I was good at. The girl who used to hate food loved to cook! My family still marvels at the irony of it all. They would never have guessed it would turn out this way. My parents come over for dinner and I'm slapping all sorts of slimy things around my kitchen in an attempt to make a delicious meal. No more baggies on the hands...no more crying...and no more gagging!

I don't just love to cook...I have a true passion for it. Making and eating delicious foods is one of the biggest pleasures in my life. It's the way I unwind after a long day. It allows me to have time that is all my own. I don't have to talk to anyone and nobody is talking to me. I can just be quiet with my thoughts and use my creativity to create something to be enjoyed. Cooking is the way that I show my love for people.

I named this post "A Battle Conquered" because I truly feel that this battle has been won. I have no desire to treat my body that way ever again. I want to honor and protect the body God has given me. I want to be healthy and happy. I want to have healthy and happy children someday.

Just because I have conquered this battle, doesn't mean that the journey is over. I am forever on a quest to take care of myself and make good choices...sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't.

The difference is...when I catch a glimpse of my reflection I think, "You're not perfect...you never will be. But you are worthy of being loved and accepted...just as you are."

*If you, or someone you know, is struggling with an eating disorder...please reach out for help. It's not hopeless. Talk to someone you trust or email me at cookingwithaplan@gmail.com


Two New Recipes and Two Old Faithfuls

I could not have been more pleased with my meal plan for this week. I decided to make my old faithful Turkey Chili recipe that I use alot in the winter. I know that chili tends to be something people make when it's cold out...but the way I look at it, we eat lots of hot meals in the summer, so what's the big deal?

I also used two new recipes that I got from a very good friend of mine who happens to be a fabulous cook and hostess. She invited a bunch of us gals over for a pedicure party. We sat around in a circle outside and ate tons of delicious food while soaking and pampering our feet. How clever is she to think of such a fun get together? Here's a picture of all of us (courtesy of her wonderful husband, who selflessly babysat while we gabbed the night away):

Here was my plan this week:

Monday: Turkey Chili with sour cream, scallions, and tortilla chips

Tuesday: Spinach and Cheese Lasagna (using leftovers!)

Wednesday: Thai Chicken Salad

Thursday: Leftover Lasagna and some Fresh Corn Salad for munching

Friday: Chinese Take-out :)

Saturday: We were invited to a party, so I got another night off of cooking

*Warning: There are several paragraphs below describing how I planned out and cooked my meals...don't be overwhelmed...I just went in to detail to show you how easy it is to do things ahead*

This plan worked perfectly. On Sunday night, I came home from cooking class and threw together a big pot of the Turkey Chili while watching Mad Men with one of my favorite friends. (What is Mad Men, you ask? Well, it's only the best show ever that airs on Sunday nights on AMC) You might think I'm crazy for cooking after going to a three hour cooking class...and that may be true...but this chili is so easy to make that it takes me no time at all. I just put the ingredients together and let it simmer on the stove while I watch TV.

The Turkey Chili was ready for me after quite a long day at work on Monday. After dinner was cleaned up and I had gotten a chance to relax for a little bit, I headed back into the kitchen to make the lasagna for Tuesday. I would hardly call this cooking as it literally took me 10 minutes to make. The recipe uses leftover Turkey Chili as the meat. All I did was mix some ricotta cheese with some spinach and layer the whole thing up with no boil lasagna noodles. I popped a lid on the casserole dish and into the fridge it went until Tuesday.

After making the lasagna, I poured a smidge of olive oil over some boneless skinless chicken breasts, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and put them into a 350 degree oven. While my husband and I watched TV, they roasted for about 25-30 minutes. I took them out of the oven, let them cook and popped them into the fridge as well.

Tuesday night I got home late and my husband had already put the lasagna into the oven. Ahhh, the joys of planning ahead.

On Wednesday, I took out the roasted chicken breasts from Monday night and shredded them for the chicken salad. With the roasting out of the way, the meal came together very quickly (I would say no more than 15 minutes). Part of the prep for making the chicken salad is to blanch some asparagus. Since I had a pot of water already boiling for that, I went ahead and cooked the corn right after I was done cooking the asparagus. Now I already had the most time consuming part of the Fresh Corn Salad done.

Because dinner was so simple, I went ahead and threw the Fresh Corn Salad together and then called it a night. On Thursday, we ate leftover lasagna and also munched on some Fresh Corn Salad with leftover tortilla chips from Monday's chili.

Without further ado...here are the recipes that my dear friend sent me. They are from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

Fresh Corn Salad
~I was pretty much obsessed with this after my first bite~

*Fresh Corn is important - do not substitute frozen or canned.*
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Jalapeno chili, stemmed, seeded, and minced (you can leave this out, if you don't like spice)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 8 ears fresh corn, husks & silk removed (I used 6)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved, or whatever tomatoes you have on hand (I used a couple large tomatoes that I chopped)
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed
  • 6 scallions (green onions), sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro (I didn't use this because I don't like cilantro...don't hate me, I know everyone seems to like cilantro. But even the smell of it turns my stomach.)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. For the dressing: Shake all of the dressing ingredients together in a jar with a tight-fitting lid (or a plastic container or plastic baggie).
  2. Cook the corn in a big pot of boiling water until tender (5-7 minutes). Drain and rinse under cold water. Cut kernels from cob with a paring knife into a large bowl.
  3. Add tomatoes, beans, scallions, cilantro, and dressing and toss. Season with S&P to taste & serve.
*This salad can be made a day in advance.

Thai Chicken Salad
~This keeps well to bring for lunch the next day~

Chicken Mixture:
  • 8 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (or you can use skinless/boneless breasts like I did)*
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 pound asparagus, ends removed, cut into thirds diagonally
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
  • 4 scallions, white and green parts, sliced diagonally
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds (just toss them around in a dry frying pan over medium heat)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp dark sesame oil (I used the regular stuff)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Put the chicken in a pan and rub each breast with olive oil.
  3. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes(more like 25-30 for boneless), or until internal temp is 160. Set aside until cool enough to handle.(Remember, I did this a couple nights ahead of time to save time).
  4. Remove the meat from bone, discard skin, and shred the chicken. (this is obviously if you decide to use bone-in chicken)
  5. Blanch the asparagus in a pot of boiling salted water for 3-5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain.
  6. Cut the peppers into strips, same size as the asparagus.
  7. Combine the shredded chicken, asparagus, and peppers in a large bowl.
  8. Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the chicken mixture.
  9. Add the scallions and sesame seeds and season to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.
* This recipe serves 12...so I obviously didn't want to make that much for the two of us. I halved it by using 4 chicken breasts, but used the same amount of peppers, scallions, and asparagus because I love all those things. Then I kind of forgot that I halved it when I made the dressing, and ended up having some left over which I used as a salad dressing for my lunch the next day.

Not only did we have a great dinner each night this week, but we also had plenty of leftovers for us to bring for lunch. The grocery bill came to about $80, but that included daily essentials that we were out of (milk, orange juice, bread, toilet paper...) and some ingredients that were on sale and could be used in future meals (Buy one, get one free frozen shrimp...yes, please!).

I hope you are enjoying the last few days of summer!

*P.S. I don't know why the chicken salad recipe is written in black and the rest of this post is normal...sometimes blogger and I don't get along.*


Easy Meals for a Busy Week

This past week, I felt a little bit like this:

As I said in a previous post, this week was my first week of school. Teaching 2nd grade can be pretty tiring, so I needed easy and delicious meals to whip up each night.

I turned to Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2008 and found some fabulous recipes. All three recipes in this post are from that cookbook. Cooking Light continues to impress me with their easy and healthy recipes.

I made the following menu:

Monday - Spiced Salmon with Mustard Sauce and Sauteed Spinach in Butter
Tuesday - Apricot Turkey Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce, Oven Fries, and Salad
Wednesday - Left Over Burgers and Salad
Thursday - Turkey Tacos
Friday - Date Night Out
Saturday - Stir-Fried Shrimp with Spicy Orange Sauce over Brown Rice

My plan was pretty simple. The salmon came together in a snap on Monday night and didn't need any prepping ahead. The turkey burger meal was also fast and easy, so I threw it together when I got home from work.

While the burgers were cooking, I cooked up the turkey meat for the tacos on Thursday and popped it in the fridge. This was also cost-effective because I bought the family pack (3 lbs) of ground turkey, which is less expensive per lb. I used 1 1/2 lbs for the burgers and 1 1/2 lbs for the tacos.

I had a girls night to go to on Wednesday, so my husband enjoyed left over burgers since the recipe yielded 7 burgers. We even had enough to each bring a burger for lunch! On Thursday night, the tacos were ready to assemble.

On Friday night we went out to a favorite local diner that is inside a small airport. As you eat, you can watch planes land and take off. It's not a very glamorous place, but I find it so romantic. We were there over sunset and got to watch the plans take off into a pink and yellow sky.

My desire is to get all sorts of things done today, so tonight I plan to quickly thaw some frozen shrimp and put the meal together fast! I think that some instant brown rice will round the meal out well. I'll have to update you to tell you what I think of the recipe. We'll head to the movies after dinner for Date #2. My husband likes to take me on dates when I have long and tiring weeks...I'm a pretty lucky girl!

**Update: The Spicy Orange Shrimp was SO delicious. It took minutes to make and my husband and I enjoyed it very much!**

Spiced Salmon with Mustard Sauce*
~This was so easy, it didn't even feel like I was cooking!~
(We were so hungry that I forgot to take a picture of this one!)
  • 2 tsp whole-grain mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 (6 oz.) Salmon fillets
  • Cooking spray
  1. Preheat the broiler
  2. Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a fork.
  3. Rub mustard mixture evenly over fillets. Place fillets, skin sides down**, on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
  4. Broil 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
*I served this with one bag of baby spinach that I sauteed in 2 tbsp of butter until it was wilted. I sprinkled a little Parmesan cheese on it and it went well with the salmon.

**I actually removed the skin beforehand. You can remove it afterward or eat it with the skin. I always take it off, though. I think it's a mental thing...the skin just creeps me out.

Apricot Turkey Burgers*
~These are a fresh take on the typical turkey burger~

  • 3/4 cup drained canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/3 cup minced shallots
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
  • cooking spray
  • 6 multi-grain hamburger buns
  • Tzatziki sauce (I got mine from Trader Joe's...although, you can make it yourself)
  1. Prepare the grill or grill pan.
  2. Place chickpeas in a food processor, pulse 3 times or until chopped. Combine chickpeas, apricots, and next 7 ingredients.
  3. Divide mixture into 6 equal portions (I actually had enough to make 7), shaping each into a 1/2 inch thick patty.
  4. Place patties on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 6 minutes on each side or until a thermometer registers 165 degrees. Remove from grill and let stand for 5 minutes.
  5. Serve burgers on hamburger buns topped with Tzatziki sauce and tomatoes (if desired).
*I serve these with oven fries. To make them, I sliced up 1 large potato into thing even pieces. I tossed them with olive oil and placed in a single layer on a sheet pan. I sprinkled them with kosher salt and some Moroccan seasoning (since I thought it would go well with this particular meal...you can season them however you wish). They take about 20-25 minutes to crisp up in a 425 degree oven.

I made a little salad for the side by combining mixed greens, sliced English cucumber, dried cranberries, chickpeas, and Tzatziki sauce.

Stir-Fried Shrimp with Spicy Orange Sauce*
~This was easy and delicious!~

  • 1 1/2 lbs peeled and deveined large shrimp
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (I will use Simply Orange juice because I don't have fresh)
  • 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chile paste with garlic
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions (scallions)
  1. Place shrimp in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with cornstarch, toss well to coat and then set aside.
  2. Combine juice and the next 4 ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic to pan; stir-fry 15 seconds or until fragrant.
  4. Add shrimp mixture and stir-fry 3 minutes. Add juice mixture and onions; cook 2 minutes or until sauce is thick and shrimp are done, stirring frequently. Serve immediately.
*I plan to serve this up over brown rice.

If I didn't come up with an easy and attainable plan to get meals on the table, I would've been tempted to grab pizza or fast food this week. The first week of school is always grueling, so cooking with a plan was a must!