Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I have trouble following recipes…

So here’s the thing- I love recipes. Reading them, making them up, and using them for inspiration. Problem is, I don’t always do exactly what they say.
Case in point: Lasagna Roll Ups
I looked all over the internet for a recipe for one. They all seemed to call for spinach. While I LOVE spinach, my children do not and even though Jon says he will eat it in a dish, I know it’s not his favorite.
That being said, I wasn’t satisfied with  my search results.
So what did I do?
I came up with a recipe all on my own.

What is wrong with that you ask? Well, nothing really except I’m not good at writing the recipe down for someone else to make it, if I used a little of this and a pinch of that. I’m pretty much flying by the seat of my pants and hoping that it’ll turn out good. Not everyone is comfortable with that method of cooking. Some of you need to be able to follow the recipe to the letter. Me? Not so much. Good thing about what I did is this method is basic. A foundation of sorts. If you use the basic ratio of ricotta cheese, 1 egg, and some cheeses, you can add pretty much whatever else you want to it to make it your own.
So, for your culinary enjoyment, and if you choose to attempt to make these on yourself, I give you….(drum roll please)

Lasagna Roll Ups
Ok, so I browned some ground beef. I happened to brown about 5 lbs worth all at the same time. I browned it with some chopped up garlic.
The reason I tell you this is because I didn’t measure out how much cooked meat I used in the roll ups. See? I told you I made this up as I went along. But lets say for recipe sake, I used 2 lbs of ground beef.
Ok, let’s start over. Tee-hee…
2 lbs. ground beef, browned and drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 lasagna noodles, cooked about 10-11 min. in boiling salted water
1 1/2 cups of whole milk ricotta cheese
garlic salt, salt and pepper
1 cup of shredded parmesan cheese (Im guessing how much I used because I didn’t measure, I just used it throughout and mixed it in the cheese mixture and on top)
1 egg
1 Jar Marinara sauce, your choice
1 Jar Alfredo sauce, your choice
Shredded Mozzarella cheese, about 2 cups, divided
Brown beef, drain. Let cool. Boil water, boil noodles, when cooked, set aside to cool on baking sheet sprayed with a little pam so they don’t stick.

Mix ricotta, garlic salt, salt and pepper, parm. cheese, cooled beef, and 1 egg. Mix until incorporated. Before you add the egg, taste mixture and adjust your seasoning. I liked it heavily flavored with garlic salt, but you can use as little or as much as you like.
Spread about 1 cup or so of alfredo sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 pan. I used a deep metal pan with square sides as my pyrex glass dish was in the fridge with something yucky in it from who knows how long ago! LOL ahem…moving on.
Take on lasagna noodle and lay it out long ways. Sprinkle with a little mozzarella cheese and put a spoonful of the meat and cheese mixture onto the noodle. Rolling the end of the noodle around the beef/cheese mixture, roll up the rest of the length of the noodle. Repeat the same steps until all 12 noodles are filled and put in the bottom of the pan. It should look like this:

Sprinkle with more mozzarella cheese. Spoon marinara sauce over the top of each roll. Top with more mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
lasagna roll ups 2

Cover with foil sprayed with pam, (so the cheese won’t stick) and bake at 375* for about 30 min. I started at 350*, but turned it up half way thru because it wasn’t heating up fast enough. Then I took the foil off and baked it for 15 more minutes to melt the cheese and make sure it was heated through.
oh by the way, this made 12 rolls, and for our family, that means 2 rolls each. If you are one or two people, you could still make the 12 rolls, and freeze the cooked portions for later. Do with it what you will, I know you can do the math. ;o)
Behold the cheesy yumminess that is lasagna rolls.
lasagna roll ups 3 
Like my new tablecloth? Wal-Mart, 4 bucks.

The verdict:
Jon loved them! They were tasty and easy to eat, unlike regular lasagna that oozes out all over the pan when you cut and serve them.
Dan and Lauren ate their 1 piece and along with french bread, they seemed satisfied.
Michael Jon liked the noodle, but not the filling because he heard me say there was a raw egg in it. Oy. Had he not heard that, I think he would have been more willing to like the way it tasted.
I thought they were delish! Easy to eat, easy to prepare given the late start I had to making dinner.
Brenna fell asleep, so we’ll have to ask her another time.
I thought it could have used more sauce on top, but only 1 other thought they could have been saucier. The boys said it was perfect the way it was.
This “recipe” is very forgiving. I ran out of meat with like 5 noodles left, so because I browned up so much at once, I just added more meat and more ricotta cheese and a couple shakes more of garlic salt. Easy peasy!
I think they will freeze well and reheat well also. Don’t you think Leslie?You’ve made them before, and you said they froze well. Chime in Sister!
I hope you try this recipe and let me know how they turn out for you. Remember, you can add thawed and drained spinach, mushrooms, or sautéed onion in the with the browned beef. Don’t feel limited by our bland palates! Go forth and make it your own! I know you can do it!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This is what happens when I’m sick…

I don’t cook.

I planned out my meals for the whole month. I think I’ve only executed 2 or 3 of those meals.

I’m feeling somewhat better thanks to anti-biotics and LOTS of rest. Rest is nice sometimes, but eating out fast food all the time, not so much.

Tonight, my hubby wasn’t feeling so well, (he accidentally took 2- TWO- Benadryl tablets hoping it would help his sinuses and all it did was knock him out) so I couldn’t just expect him to go and get our usual Sunday meal out. Oh, did I mention I’m spoiled? Yeah…let’s not go there.

So anywhoo…

I whipped up a yummy meal of salmon filets, rice pilaf, and mixed veggies. Oh, I made a dilled mustard butter sauce to put on the salmon. So yum! I love pan seared salmon with some sort of sauce (usually with dill because I love the two flavors together).

I try to keep staples in the pantry for quick meal sides and I always have some sort of frozen veggies on hand.
For next week, I’ve taken another look at the menu and it looks like we’re on for some

Sloppy Joe’s with Mac N Cheese

Somewhere in there I need to get in some salads for lunch and a workout or 7. It’s so hard to change your eating habits when you live with 5 other people. Four of those people are under the age of 15 and more often than not dictate what our meals are. I try to provide lots of variety, but if I was as adventurous as I would like to be, I would have some protesters on my hands! :o)  Besides, I don’t think my family wants to eat Mexican food every night!

What are you going to make this week??

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tortilla Soup and what not...

Can you tell I like easy cooking? Can you tell I like lots of flavor without a lot of work?

Nothing is easier  or more flavorful than opening a couple of cans from the pantry that you keep on hand to make a super yummy (I'm a word smith I know!) bowl of soup. 

One of the easiest tortilla soup recipes I've stolen and adapted just got tastier thanks to my homemade salsa recipe!   I dare you to try it and not thank me later! It's so good and super easy to make. Did I mention it was easy?

Ready? Set? Thank me later!!

 Angie's Homemade Tortilla Soup

  • 2 large ladles of Angie's Homemade Salsa
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 can chicken breast in water, do not drain
  • 1 can black beans, use 1-2 tablespoons, undrained
  • 1 sm. can sliced black olives, to taste
  • shredded monterey jack cheese
  • tortilla chips crushed, or white corn tortilla (1) folded in 4th, and cut into small strips
  • Feel free to add any other garnishes to the soup like, avacado or sour cream. 
Dump all ingredients into sauce pan, or bowl for microwave and heat until hot. Garnish with shredded cheese. The end.

See?? I told you it would be easy!! And guess what???!!! 

My girls ate it even tho it had "stuff" in it!! (You know, the same stuff they won't eat on a tortilla chips!)

Stay tuned for a White Chicken Chili  recipe using my homemade salsa that'll blow your socks off!! 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The best salsa EVER!!

I make a mean salsa. Ask my kids. They LOVE it! Well, they LOVE the taste of it. They don’t actually eat the chunks of salsa, they dip their chips into it and shake off the “chunks” so that just the chip is flavored with it. As you can imagine, the salsa gets “dry” after all that dipping. Sometimes I add extra water so that its very loose so my kids can still “eat” it and not siphon all the liquid out. 
All that to say, I LOVE my salsa recipe. It’s very easy. It’s almost the same as Pioneer Woman Cooks’ recipe here, but not quite. Go take a look at her recipe with pictures (a food photog I am not!) and see how she does it. If you have a food processer you can use that, but I don’t, so I use my blender. I really need a new one! (Hint, hint!!) I don’t use cumin in my version, but the concept of her recipe and mine are the same. I created mine all by myself. I’m so proud! Mine’s a little different and it reminds me of my favorite restaurant salsa Cristina’s here in Texas. I ate an obscene amount of it over Christmas break in 2008 and vowed I wouldn’t pay 20 dollars for chips and salsa ever again.

Angie’s Homemade Salsa

Put the ingredients in a blender in the order you see below.

After the first 4 ingredients are in the blender, (onion, garlic,cilantro,salsa casera) pulse until almost smooth. If it gets bound up in the blender like mine does, then add some of the tomatoes to get it going. We want all the pieces the same size, so basically just short of pureed. Then add the rest of tomatoes and pulse again a couple of times.
This is the point that I taste and adjust my seasonings. Usually don’t though, it’s always just right. At the end is where I add salt and pepper and lime juice.
Then it’s ready to serve! Easy, take me less than 5 minutes to make and everyone loves it! Keeps in the fridge for about 3 days, but never really makes it that long.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

1/4  medium yellow onion, diced
1-2 garlic cloves peeled, depending on how much you love garlic
1 bunch of cilantro, rinsed and patted dry , about a cup
1 small can of Salsa Casera -found in the Mexican aisle of the grocery store and looks like this: 
salsa casera

It’s a little on the hot side if you use the whole can, but if you use just 1 to 2 Tablespoons to start out with, you can add more as you go for more flavor and heat. (I’m a wimp, so I don’t use a whole lot unless I’m making a very large batch.)

1 large can  or two regular cans of diced tomatoes in juice
the juice of half a lime
salt and pepper to taste

And that’s it!

It’s so good daughter #2’s friends beg her to bring them some in exchange for other goodies. I am seriously thinking about giving them some for the holidays. Can you picture it? A jar of salsa with a tag that says, “You are one spicy Valentine!” Cute, huh?
You can do so much with the salsa too! We like it on eggs, in Chicken Enchiladas, tacos, soup, and anything else you can think of!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tasty and Easy is the name of the game…

My sister was kind enough to guest post on Saturday! Thank you Sister!! I like the simple format she used; recipe links and then her take on it and how it turned out. I tend to want to do everything BIG and grand. I need to get real (keepin' it real for myself is hard to do, I guess!) and make it easy to post all the yummy wonderful tastes that I come across! So...let's get started shall we??

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies* *other pb cookie variations

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ok, so the first recipe is for the Teriyaki Meatballs. O.M.G. My kids adored these and have already asked for them again. They even suggested that I make these in the crock pot and take them to our annual Superbowl party to serve as an appetizer! Smart kids these ones are! Very easy to make and very yummy.
I went a slightly different route in that I heated my meatballs by putting them in the skillet with some water and heated them thru similar to the way Rachael Ray browns bratwurst:

Place sausages in a cast iron skillet, add 1/2-inch of water and a drizzle of oil. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let the sausages heat through as the water evaporates. Shake pan and let the casings crisp up until they burst, 3 to 4 minutes, and are golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.
The method is the same even if I didn’t cook the same thing. The point is to heat the meat through and brown it after the water evaporates. The meatballs will give off their own fat, so no need to add oil to the water.
After the meatballs were browned and heated through, I added the sauce and heated until the glaze was hot. I added pineapple, but no veggies because my kids like to make my life hard. Next time I think I’ll add them and they can pick them out! Wouldn’t the meatballs also taste good with a sweet and sour sauce? Try it and let me know! 

Ultimate Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff-
Ultimate Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff or UCPBS for short had to be the best thing I’ve made in a really long time. I wanted to drink the broth! I’m not kidding. I told all of Facebook that I couldn’t stop tasting it. I wasn’t joking either. I wanted to just pour it in a cup and drink it. So good!! And so easy!!

I did not add the onions, because well, my children. They like the taste of onions, but not the pieces. I know! I should just make them pick it out, but they would have broken down too much and mixed in with the meat and sauce. Better to err on the side of caution I say and on the side of my sanity!

The gravy was exceptional and I think the next time I make it, I will omit the sour cream and just serve the meat and gravy over rice. That’s my Sister’s favorite way to eat CP roast. I can see why! 

Monterey Chicken Quesadillas-
The Monterey Chicken Quesadillas were as easy as the recipe suggests. I used bacon pieces in the little bag already pre-cooked. Enough bacon for my family of six was more than I wanted to deal with that night. It worked well for the recipe. Everything else was the same except you guessed it! ONIONS!! I think I will make some for myself and my husband the next time. They were very well received by all but MJ, my youngest who didn’t like the bbq sauce, so for his, I will leave it out next time. Easy enough to adapt for each person’s tastes since you have to assemble each one to cook it anyway. 

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies* *other pb cookie variations-
I don’t have a recipe link for these cookies. I don’t remember where I found them either. I think this summer I saw it on TV or something? I don’t know.  All I know is they are good!!

peanut butter cookiesHow can you not want to eat these?

Basic recipe is this:
1 tube of ready made peanut butter cookie dough
1 bag of miniature peanut butter cups, unwrapped
mini muffin pan
Heat the oven to 350* and use a small cookie scoop to fill mini muffin tins with dough. I took the scoop of dough and rolled it in my hands to make a ball so they were all uniform. Bake for about 11 min. When done, remove from oven and push 1 peanut butter cup into the center of each cookie. Wait 2 min. and carefully remove cookies from pan and transfer to cooling rack. Finish with remaining dough.
PB cups will be melted and liquid after you push them in, see how shiny the bottom right cookie in the above picture is? They are ready to eat when the surface of the chocolate is no longer shiny.
If you MUST speed up the process, you can transfer them into the fridge to harden, but they are better when they cool at room temp.  
Click on the link above for variations on peanut butter cookies.
These recipes are all easy easy easy. The Glazed Lemon Bread recipe below seems easy for me, but is a little more involved than just throwing some ingredients in a pot or pan. It looks so darn good that I really need to hurry up and make it so I can stop drooling!

See for yourself and tell me you don’t want to make it, I dare ya!