A few hours of cooking = A lot of meals to enjoy

I've been as busy as ever this past week. When I look at the calendar and see that I've got things to do each night of a given week, I know that I need to prep ahead or we will be eating fast food every night. And I don't know about you, but fast food always seems like a really good idea at the time and then I eat it and wonder why I've put that junk into my body.

Acme had ground turkey for $1.99 a pound so I stocked up to make a couple hearty recipes that would last me for the week. I also got some frozen raw shrimp from Giant to make a quick meal later in the week (it was on sale, of course). I also stocked up on some ingredients for soup and applesauce to add to the freezer.

Basically, I put in a good couple of hours of cooking and got at least 4 meals out of it. Here was my plan:
  1. Assemble meat mixture for Turkey Meatloaf to bake on Monday night
  2. Make Turkey Bolognese sauce to serve over pasta on Tuesday night
  3. Make Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Soup to put in the freezer for a quick meal sometime
  4. Make low fat Cream of Broccoli Soup to put in the freezer
  5. Make Homemade Applesauce to put in the fridge for the week (a little for the freezer)
I did #1-4 and then got tired and made applesauce on Wednesday night instead. I also need to mention that I will not be sharing the recipe for the low fat cream of broccoli soup because we hated it. I still froze it in hope that maybe my Dad will think it's yummy and the ingredients won't go to waste.

So here is what we ate/will be eating this week:

Monday: Turkey Meatloaf (I halved the recipe and still had plenty)
Tuesday: Turkey Bolognese Sauce over pasta (recipe below)
Wednesday: Meatloaf Sandwiches (I heated up slices of leftover meatloaf with some provolone cheese on top. Then I put them onto ciabatta rolls from the freezer that I defrosted in the toaster oven)
Thursday: Hoisin Glazed Shrimp over Couscous (takes less than 20 minutes to prepare)
Friday: Eat out or Take out
Saturday: Having a small dinner party and serving Island Chicken (with the chicken that I bought and froze when it was on sale)

Voila! I cooked for a couple hours on Sunday and ended up with meals for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday as well as soup and extra bolognese for the freezer. Prepping ahead is so much easier than you think!

Emeril's Turkey Bolognese*
~This hearty sauce makes pasta into a one dish meal~

10 slices turkey bacon (6 oz.), finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 pounds ground turkey (97% lean)
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1 can (14.5 oz.) reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 chopped parsley
  1. In a 5 quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, cook bacon over medium until crisp (10-12 minutes).
  2. Add onion, carrots, and celery; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender (8-10 minutes).
  3. Add turkey and cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink (8-9 minutes).
  4. Add wine and garlic and cook until wine has almost evaporated (10-15 minutes). Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned (7-10 minutes).
  5. Add broth and half and half; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until sauce is thick and creamy (about 30 minutes more). Add parsley.
  6. Spoon over pasta and top with Parmesan cheese or layer in a lasagna. One batch will serve around 8 people.
*This takes some time to make and I found it to be easiest to make it while I was already in the kitchen making other things. Also, it can be made a day or two in advance and it will just get better as it sits in the fridge. You can also freeze it and then thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Recipe taken from the March 2009 edition of Everyday Food Magazine



Last week was a doozy, I'll tell ya...
(I actually had to look up the spelling of "doozy"...you can spell it "doozie", too...I'm sure you don't care and are tired of reading this parenthetical comment)

Things have been hectic, stressful, busy...people have been sick....there has been sadness at the loss of a life...there have been endless papers to grade and endless papers to write for my class...I'm worn out.

My husband is still on a "let's not eat anything exciting" diet and I tried to plan food that wouldn't upset his recovery too much.

Monday: Tri-colored spiral pasta with turkey meatballs

I cooked a double batch of pasta. I took 12 fully cooked turkey meatballs out of the freezer and put them into a saucepan with a jar of marinara sauce. They thaw as the sauce heats up. I combined half the pasta with the meatballs and sauce. The other half of the pasta went into a container in the fridge.

Tuesday: Parma Rosa ShrimpThis is very tasty and very simple. My sister used the sauce at a family dinner years ago and I thought it would go so well with shrimp.
  1. I buy a small envelope of a sauce mix called Parma Rosa (it's made by Knorr).
  2. Follow the directions on the package to make the sauce (it takes less than 10 minutes).
  3. I pull some raw shrimp from the freezer (I always buy raw instead of cooked because it's much tastier if you cook it yourself). I heated up some olive oil in a frying pan and put the shrimp in a single layer into the pan. I let it cook for a minute or two and then turn each one...don't overcook them, they will turn rubbery. I promise they will be done after only 3 to 4 minutes total.
  4. I heat up the pasta in the microwave, then combine it with the shrimp and parma rosa sauce. I've even thown a handful of peas from the freezer into the mix. This could not be more quick and delicious.

Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner

I made omelettes and homefies...the recipes can be found here.

Thursday: Random snacks

I planned to make dinner and then collapsed from exhaustion after school. Sonny ate leftovers and I ate cheese melted onto tortilla chips...very gourmet.

Friday: Date Night!

Sonny surprised me with an "Italian" date to Fiorello's for dinner and Wegman's gelato for dessert! Gelato makes my heart happy.

Saturday (today): Slow Cooker Chicken Casserole

I am going to try a new recipe using my crock pot. I got the recipe from one of the blogs I follow. It's called Slow Cooker Chicken Casserole. Check out Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom for other tips and recipes.

*Update: We had this slower cooker chicken casserole for dinner and it turned out great! I will certainly be using this simple recipe again*

I got my new edition of Everyday Food Magazine and see tons of recipes I'm eager to try. I'm searching through the circulars this weeks for deals (and see quite a few deals to be had) and then I'm going to plan my meals. I'll post as soon as I'm done my two papers for my graduate class...which will be never, it seems.


Something Sweet

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I would post three of my favorite sweets to make. I love to bake so much and I've tried tons of recipes. I could list twenty of my favorite dessert recipes...but I won't.

Due to my husband being a bit under the weather, he's been eating lots of bland food this week. I've got a whole bunch of bananas for him and I'm kind of hoping he gets sick of them and leaves a few on the counter. Why, you ask? Because when bananas become overripe...so ripe that the peel is practically black and you think you should throw them away...they are perfect for baking! You could use them for Healthy Banana-Blueberry Muffins or you could use them to make banana bread.

Banana bread is awesome. There is no fancy technique or special ingredients. Pretty much all of the ingredients are things you are likely to have on hand so you can make one on a whim. It takes minutes to throw it together and then you put it in the oven.

Banana Bread*
~Great for breakfast, with lunch, with dinner, or for dessert~

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas, mashed (you can get by with only two)
3/4 cup add-in**
1/2 cup chopped nuts (totally optional. I don't like them so I don't put them in)

  1. Grease/spray a standard loaf pan (approx. 9''x 5''). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. If you are using an electric mixer, put the bananas in the bowl first and mix/mash them thoroughly. If you don't mash them really well, you can get big globs of them throughout the bread instead of them incorporating evenly.
  3. Mix all ingredients together in the bowl thoroughly. If you are including any add-ins, stir them in at the end.
  4. Bake for 45-60 minutes (the time really does vary...start checking it at 45 minutes by inserting a toothpick into the center. Keep adding time until the toothpick comes out clean and it looks brown and finished). Allow to cool in pan for a few minutes and then remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Store by wrapping in foil or plastic wrap and keeping at room temperature.
*This bread freezes beautifully. Just wrap in plastic wrap and foil and freeze. Take it out of the freezer and allow it to thaw at room temperature (overnight is perfect). Pampered Chef sells a bread pan that makes four smaller individual loaves instead of one large one. My sister freezes these separately and pulls one out at a time to serve with dinner or have as a snack.

**Banana bread lends itself to add-ins so well. You could make it really sweet by adding chocolate chips. I love to add frozen blueberries. You could also add your favorite dried fruit, like dried cranberries. If something sounds good to you, add it in!

Lemon Yogurt Cake*
~If you like the flavor of lemon, you will LOVE this cake~

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 eggs
2 tsp grated lemon zest (zest is the yellow "skin" of the lemon)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan (9'' x 5''). Line the bottom with parchment paper and then grease and flour the pan.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, 1 cup of sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla.
  3. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated.
  4. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Meanwhile, cook 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
  6. When the cake is done, let cool for 10 minutes and then place on baking rack over a cookie sheet. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon sugar mixture over it and allow to cool.
  7. For the glaze, combine the confectioners sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.
*As you can see, this cake is not "diet-friendly". It is wonderful for a special occasion because it is incredibly moist and delicious. It also takes a little bit of time and effort to make, so it's not something you would make all the time.

This recipe is from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa At Home

Coeur a la Creme*
~This french dessert is so good that people are amazed every time I make it~

12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
2 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp grated lemon zest
Raspberry and Grand Marnier sauce (see below)
2 half-pints fresh raspberries (optional as a garnish)
  1. Place the cream cheese and confectioners sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for 2 minutes (you can use a hand mixer if you don't have a stand mixer).
  2. Scrape down the beater and bowl with a rubber spatula and change the beater for the whisk attachment (obviously, if you are using a hand mixer you can skip this step).
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the heavy cream, vanilla, and lemon zest and beat on high until the mixture is very thick, like whipped cream.
  4. Line a 7-inch sieve (mesh strainer) or a Coeur a la Cream mold (can be found in specialty kitchen stores or online) with cheesecloth or paper towels so that the ends drape over the sides. Suspend the sieve over a bowl, making sure there is a space between the bottom of the sieve and the bottom of the bowl so that the liquid can drain.
  5. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the cheesecloth or paper towels and fold the ends over the top and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Discard the liquid, unmold the cream on a platter, and drizzle Raspberry and Grand Marnier Sauce around the base. Serve with raspberries and extra sauce.
*This is very rich. A small serving per person is plenty!

Raspberry and Grand Marnier Sauce*

1 half-pint fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
2 tbsp orange-flavored liqueur (Grand Marnier is recommended, but I use Triple Sec and it works just fine)
  1. Place raspberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 4 minutes.
  2. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and the orange liqueur into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth. Chill.
*You can do this with blueberries and blueberry jam, strawberries and strawberry jam...you get the point. Pick your favorite fruity flavor and knock yourself out.

I got this recipe from watching Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. However, I believe it's from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris cookbook.



I had a great plan this week. I needed quick and easy meals because I had something to do after work each day. I had chicken from all the sales to use. I had turkey and shrimp in the freezer. I was good to go. I even had a banana chocolate chip bread in the freezer to thaw and munch on throughout the week.


Sunday: Tortilla Pie
Monday: Chicken Enchiladas
Tuesday: Turkey Chili (from the freezer)
Wednesday: Parma Rosa Shrimp
Thursday: Leftovers or Tacos
Friday: Spice Rubbed Turkey Breast

On Sunday afternoon, I made the tortilla pie and put it aside to heat up for dinner. Then I made a double batch of chicken enchiladas. I froze 4 of them for another week and put 4 in the fridge for Monday's dinner. Then I made a huge batch of chicken gumbo...because, well, I got a little excited with all the chicken sales and bought quite a bit. Plus, gumbo would be perfect to grab from the freezer during a busy week.

Fast forward to Tuesday night. I am in class and I get a text from my husband saying that he's quite sick and needs to go to the ER. He's OK now, but needless to say...we weren't eating chili that night. In fact, I believe I ate fruit snacks and potato chips for dinner.

Due to his illness, Sonny is on the BRAT diet for a few days (Banana, Rice, Applesauce, Toast). Lucky for him, I've had an infatuation with homemade applesauce recently and had plenty in the fridge.

So I decided to skip the Parma Rosa Shrimp (so simple...will post on it when I make it) and eat leftovers on Wednesday instead. I'm going to use the chili I thawed for my lunch on Thursday and Friday. I'm going to cook the turkey I thawed to make taco meat and then stick it in the fridge until Saturday (when Sonny will likely be OK to eat it). I'm still going to make the spice rubbed turkey breast even if Sonny's not ready to eat it...because I love it.

Ready for the recipes? I thought you might be.

Tortilla Pie*
~We find this hearty enough to stand alone without side dishes~

4 flour tortillas ( 10 inch)
Olive Oil

1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

salt and pepper (I use Kosher salt)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 lb ground beef sirloin (I use ground turkey)

3 garlic cloves, minced
1 package (10 oz) frozen corn kernels
3 cups loose baby spinach (about 5 oz) torn into pieces
2 cups Monterery Jack cheese
cilantro and sour cream to garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use a paring knife to cut the tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan (use the removable bottom as a guide). Oil the bottom and sides of pan. Put tortillas aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until onion has softened, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Stir in tomato paste. Raise heat to medium high and add beef (or turkey) and garlic. Cook, breaking up meat, until no longer pink - 4-6 minutes.
  4. Add corn and spinach, stir until spinach as wilted, about 2 minutes.
  5. Place on tortilla in the prepared pan, top with 1.5 cups meat mixture, then with 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat with two more layers.
  6. Top with last tortilla and a sprinkle of cheese. Bake until top is lightly browned, 15-20 minutes. Run a knife along the edge of the pan and then take the sides off. Cut like a pie and serve.
*Sometimes I make the meat mixture ahead of time, put it in a plastic bag in the fridge and then assemble the pie before dinner to bake. It's also great as leftovers.

Recipe taken from Everyday Food Magazine

Chicken Enchiladas
~Make these ahead and refrigerate/freeze for a great meal on a busy night~

Olive Oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch strips
15 oz. can refried beans
4 oz. can diced green chiles, drained if necessary (typically found near taco fixings)
1/4 cup salsa
Chopped fresh cilantro (or, if you hate cilantro like I do, you can use Italian parsley)
4 (8 inch) flour tortillas (sometimes I use the bigger ones instead)
1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (or any kind of cheese that excites you)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and cook, stirring a few times, until golden brown on all sides (about 5 minutes).
  4. Stir in the refried beans, chiles, and salsa and simmer for 3 minutes to heat through. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro (or parsley).
  5. Arrange tortillas on a flat surface and top each one with an equal amount of the chicken mixture. Roll up the tortillas and place side by side in a shallow baking dish.
  6. Top them with cheese and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden and gooey.
Recipe taken from Robin Miller's Quick Fix Meals

Chicken Gumbo
~You probably have many of these herbs and spices in your pantry~

Olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 black pepper
1 (10 oz) package frozen sliced okra, thawed
2 links andouille sausage or any seasoned cooked sausage, diced
4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cups tomato juice
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onions, celery, and bell pepper and cook, stirring, until softened (about 3 minutes).
  2. Add the chicken and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the thyme, oregano, salt, bay leaves, onion powder, garlic powder, mustard, cayenne, and black pepper. Stir to coat.
  4. Cook for a minute until spices are fragrant. Add okra, sausage, broth, and tomato juice and bring to a simmer.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze.
Recipe taken from Robin Miller's Robin to the Rescue

Spice Rubbed Turkey Breast*

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small boneless, skinless turkey breast half (about 2 pounds)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon (or more)
¾ tsp ground cumin (or more)
Course salt and pepper
½ cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place turkey on a large rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Rub turkey with oil and then sprinkle with the cinnamon and cumin. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast until instant read thermometer inserted in thickest part of turkey registers 165 degrees (30 to 35 minutes). If you don’t have a thermometer, just poke a knife into the turkey and see if the juices run clear.
  4. Let turkey rest 10 minutes (covered with foil to let the juices go back into the meat).
  5. In a small bowl, mix yogurt, lime juice, and a little bit of cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Serve turkey with the sauce.**
*You can easily serve this with roasted vegetables. Just toss the vegetables (carrots, potatoes, zucchini, onions…whatever you like) with some olive oil and minced garlic. Place the turkey breast in the middle of the vegetables and toss them halfway through the cooking process.
**I've actually forgotten to make the sauce before and the turkey is just fine without it. It's a nice thing to serve it with, though.

Recipe taken from Jan/Feb 2009 edition of Everyday Food Magazine


A New Circular to Stalk

I was out to lunch with a few of my friends on Saturday and I mentioned that I was going to run some errands and swing by Acme when I left. I was quite happy with a sale they were having on chicken and was going to get a whole bunch and freeze it.

My one friend mentioned that Genuardi's was having a great sale on chicken. This surprised me because Genuardi's is known for being one of the most expensive grocery stores in our area. I decided to check out their circular (which I never even bother to do because I figure their products are out of my price range) and I was shocked at the sales they are having this week! I have a Genuardi's just a few minutes from my house and it happens to be right next door to a Giant. I went to Genuardi's for their awesome sales and then got the rest of my groceries at Giant.

This week Genuardi's has boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.68 a pound. Acme also has chicken on sale...buy one, get one free (but they are charging more per pound) Acme also does these sales where you get 4 items for $19.99...you can mix and match different meats. I ended up buying 4 two pound packages (about 4 chicken breasts) at Acme and then getting some more chicken at Genuardi's. I use chicken often and always stock up when the prices are low. I won't have to buy chicken for a month now!

Genuardi's also has a whole list of items that are just $1. I got a few packages of cream cheese for a dollar each because I use them in a few appetizer recipes I make...and they are good until July! I also got a few packages of sliced mushrooms for a dollar each because I use them for soup. My favorite item from the $1 section was a 4 pound Shadybrook Farm turkey breast I got for $4 ($1 a pound). Awesome.

Other fun items on sale at Genuardi's. Grapes for $.89 a pound. Pork tenderloins for $2.99 a pound.

Lesson for the day: Even expensive stores can have great sales...check the circulars!!

I'll lay out my plan and recipes for this week in another post. But, just for fun, I'll leave you with a very simple appetizer recipe that my friend, Robyn, gave me. You can use your $1 cream cheese from Genuardi's.

Salsa Dip*
~This is so easy and very tasty~

16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages)
1 or 2 packages of taco seasoning
1 jar salsa
a couple handfuls of lettuce, shredded or torn
2 cups taco or mexican blend cheese
tortilla chips for dipping
  1. Let cream cheese soften a bit on the counter or microwave for just a few seconds.
  2. Use a mixer to combine cream cheese with 1 packet of taco seasoning. I taste it to see if it needs more. I usually use a pack and a half.
  3. Spread cream cheese mixture at the bottom of serving dish. Top with salsa, then lettuce, then cheese. Serve with tortilla chips.
*This is great to bring to a party because you can make it ahead and it doesn't have to be heated.

Plan B

I had some motivation issues this week. I didn't really feel like lesson planning. I didn't really feel like grading papers. I didn't really feel like doing much of anything.

I'm not going to say for a minute that snow days aren't the most wonderful part of being a teacher. However, they kind of mess with my schedule and I get all off track.

I came up with a plan for the week based on the odds and ends of ground turkey, turkey sausage, soup, and chicken in my freezer. I kind of stuck to my plan and kind of didn't.

Here was the original plan for this week:

Monday: Prosciutto and Pesto Panini with Soup
Tuesday: Spinach-Cheese Casserole with Sausage
Wednesday: Humble Shepherd's Pie
Thursday: Chicken bites with Apricot Mustard Sauce
Friday: Kung Pao Chicken over couscous
Saturday: Eat out
Sunday: Family Dinner (Mexican dishes)

I started off fine because I pre-made the Spinach-Cheese Casserole and Humble Shepherd's Pie mixture on Sunday. But the end of the week got a bit mixed up. Here's what actually happened this week:

Monday: Prosciutto and Pesto Panini with Soup
Tuesday: Spinach-Cheese Casserole with Sausage
Wednesday: Humble Shepherd's Pie
Thursday: Prosciutto and Pesto Panini with Soup again
Friday: Wegman's Bake at Home Pizza
Saturday: Kung Pao Chicken
Sunday: Family dinner canceled due to my poor sister's bad cold. Made an assortment of food items instead.

My point is that I almost always have a plan, but I don't always stick to the plan. And that's OK. I sometimes need to just make something that works with my schedule and how I'm feeling.

Prosciutto and Pesto Panini*
~I serve this delicious sandwich with Roasted Red Pepper soup that I have in the freezer~

1 loaf ciabatta (I buy individual rolls and then freeze them...they are perfect for this)
1/3 cup pesto (I buy Classico)
1/3 lb Prosciutto, thinly sliced

1 roasted red bell pepper, cut into strips (from a jar)
1/4 lb fontina cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 cup baby arugula or basil
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

  1. Preheat a grill pan or skillet over medium high heat. Or heat a panini press if you have one.
  2. Slice the ciabatta horizontally and remove a bit of the soft interior.
  3. Spread one cut side of ciabatta with the pesto and the other side with olive oil.
  4. Layer one side of the ciabatta with prosciutto, red pepper, and basil (or arugula). Top with cheese.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Top with remaining bread.
  6. Brush the top and bottom of the sandwich with olive oil and place on the grill pan or panini press. If using a grill pan, use the weight of a heavy skillet or pan to press the panini. Grill 3 or 4 minutes on each side until golden and cheese is melted.
  7. Cut into quarters and serve with soup for dipping
*I had plenty of the ingredients left over to make these again later in the week. They are yummy enough to have twice in a week!

Recipe taken from Everyday Food Magazine

Spinach-Cheese Pasta Casserole with Turkey Sausage*

8 oz. uncooked pasta shells
4 links of sweet turkey sausage
2 eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 jar (26 oz.) marinara sauce
1 tsp salt
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray small casserole with nonstick cooking spray (I use a 1 1/2 quart round corningware dish).
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain.
  3. Heat some olive oil in a skillet and cook the turkey sausage, breaking it up as it cooks. Cook it until it's no longer pink.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk eggs in a large bowl until blended. Add ricotta and spinach to eggs and stir until combined.
  5. Stir in pasta, marinara sauce, sausage, and salt until pasta is well coated. Pour into prepared dish.
  6. Sprinkle mozzarella and parmesan evenly over casserole. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more or until hot and bubbly.
*I usually make this several days ahead of time by assembling the entire casserole and keeping it in the fridge until I'm ready to bake it.

Humble Shepherd's Pie*
I found this recipe online last year around St. Patrick's Day. I was trying to make an Irish themed meal without using beef. I wish I could remember where I found it so that I could give credit where credit is due, but I have no idea.

I also wanted to mention a couple of things about this recipe. You can use instant mashed potatoes instead of making them from scratch. I often do that to save time. Also, the spices used to flavor the turkey are totally up to you. I have played around with a couple different things and found I like the ones below the best.

2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1 1/2 inches thick
6 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1 cup milk
salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
garlic, paprika, Italian seasoning (Mrs. Dash is great)
2 (1 oz.) packages instand chicken gravy mix
1 cup water
1 (16 oz.) package frozen peas and carrots, thawed
2 cups shredded cheese (chedder is good)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a medium baking dish.
  2. Cover potatoes with water in a saucepan and boil for 20 to 30 minutes, or until fork tender.
  3. Drain and beat potatoes until smooth with a mixer. Add butter, milk, salt, and pepper.
  4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook and stir turkey and onion unitl turkey is fully cooked. Add garlic and seasonings.
  5. Add gravy mix and water, stirring often until gravy is thick and bubbly. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Add turkey mixture to bottom of baking dish. Next, layer peas and carrots on top. Cover with mashed potatoes and then a layer of cheese on the top.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until cheese is melted and dish is heated through.
*I often prepare the turkey mixture ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. To finish it off, I layer the turkey mixture, then frozen veggies, then instant mashed potatoes. Because the turkey is already cooked and seasoned, the dish comes together in minutes on a busy weeknight.

Kung Pao Chicken
~This is one of my all time favorite recipes; I serve it over couscous~

1 tbsp canola oil, divided
4 cups broccoli florets (I prefer fresh over frozen for this recipe)
1 tbsp fresh ginger, divided
2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp coarsely chopped peanuts
  1. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add broccoli and 2 tsp ginger to pan; saute 1 minute.
  2. Add water. Cover; cook 2 minutes or until broccoli is crisp tender. Remove broccoli from pan and keep warm.
  3. Heat remaining 2 tsp oil in pan. Add remaining 1 tsp ginger, crushed red pepper, and chicken. Cook 4 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned, stirring frequently.
  4. Combine broth and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl, and stir with a whisk. Add broth mixture to pan and cook 1 minute or until mixture thickens. Stir constantly.
  5. Return broccoli mixture to pan and toss to coat. Sprinkle with peanuts and pour over couscous.
Recipe learned at The Kitchen Workshop


Applesauce Therapy

I had a major case of the "Mondays" today. My stomach hurt, my back hurt, I was tired and had to write one million lesson plans. The kids were tired and cranky because they were allowed to stay up too late watching the Super Bowl. All in all, I was in need of a pick-me-up once the day was through. So what did I do, you ask?

Make applesauce, of course! I drove over to Produce Junction after school and bought 20 apples for $5. (I also may or may not have stopped at a drive through for some french fries...but before you judge me, I have not eaten french fries in a really long time and they are my favorite junk food. I love them with my whole heart.)

I've always derived a great deal of comfort from applesauce. We didn't make our own when I was growing up, but my Mom would heat it up and serve it with dinner quite a bit and it was always on hand for when I didn't feel well. My great Aunt Frannie made it from scratch and I would eat it at her house when we'd visit.

I came across a recipe for homemade applesauce in one of my Ina Garten cookbooks this past weekend and kind of did my own thing with it. She had all sorts of zests and juices going on in her recipe and I didn't really have much more than a bag of apples on hand. So on Sunday, I gave it a go and liked the results. I only had a few apples, so I didn't make much. I also thought it would be fun to put massive amounts of brown sugar in the pot and it came out much too sweet. So I tried again tonight and got it right!

Easy Homemade Applesauce

6 to 9 Granny Smith apples
6 to 9 McIntosh apples
3/4 stick of butter
between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of brown sugar (depending on the amount of apples)
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp allspice
1/4 cup orange juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel all the apples and core them. Cut them into quarters and throw them into an oven safe pot that has a tight fitting lid or a dutch oven.
  3. Ina Garten says to throw one or two of the red peels into the apples to make the applesauce have a rosy color. I didn't do this yesterday and then tried it tonight. I can't say I was overwhelmed by the rosiness of it all, but I guess it tinted it a bit.
  4. Cut up the 3/4 stick of butter and add to the apples.
  5. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice to the apples. Then pour the orange juice into the pot. Give the whole thing a toss with a spoon to mix it up.
  6. Put the lid on the pot and place in the oven. Bake for a good hour and then check it. The apples should start to break down when you stir them with a spoon. If they don't seem mushy enough, give it another 15 minutes.
  7. Take the pot out of the oven and stir with a spoon to mash the applesauce to the desired consistancy. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold. It keeps for several weeks in the fridge, but you can freeze it as well.
Sitting with a bowl of warm homemade applesauce is exactly the therapy I needed tonight. It cost me $5 to make a large enough batch to keep some in the fridge for this week and to freeze a bunch for future therapy sessions.