Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mango-Pineapple Salsa

Wow. Um. Bad week. Really. For several of my friends. I'm gonna take my slip off the stairs, and go say that was child's play and fun compared to what my friends are going thru this week.

I promised I would put up the salsa recipe, so here it is.

Mango-Pineapple Salsa

1 mango, cut up
1/2 pineapple, peeled and cut up (core it if you REALLY wanna)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped fine
2 jalapenos, chopped REALLY fine (to taste, aka if 2 is too much, don't use that much!)
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
juice of 1 or 2 limes
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped fine, seeded if you must
pinch of salt, if you want

Chop it up, mix it up. It's not hard, and it's not rocket science.


Substitute habenero pepper for the jalepeno.
I prefer RED onion, but there wasn't any to be had, so I used yellow onion.
The basic idea is to have a colorful, flavorful salsa there for you to eat.

I apologize for the abruptness of this one, but life is showing me that LIFE is important, and I need to go do some actual LIVING.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Homemade Pico de Gallo

Ok, so, yeah. I had a hankerin' for pico and mango salsa. I'll put the mango salsa recipe up tomorrow, after I make it. But here's this one.

Pico de Gallo, BRAT's WAY

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
5 Roma tomatoes, small dice
1/2 white onion, small dice
1 jalapeno, seeded, VERY small dice
1 tsp salt
1 green bell pepper, small dice
juice of one lime

Chop it all up, mix it all up. Done. Serve with whatever you want. Tonight we are having shrimp, cheese and pico quesadillas.

Comment from City Girl: "This is kind of addictive."

Variations, and what I was GONNA do

Ok, so, I wanted RED onion and RED bell pepper. I highly suggest those. The store didn't have any of either when I went on either of the days I went. Bad store. This wasn't very "hot" at all. The jalapeno wasn't terribly laden with heat. And yes, I did de-seed and de-vein it. You could leave the veins in for some more heat. You can remove the seeds of the tomatoes if you wish. For some visual differences, try using heirloom tomatoes.

This is most excellent fresh, and you don't get that "overcooked" flavor you can get with canned (jarred) pico de gallo. It's easy as heck to do make, and is tasty as well as a fun way to sneak a serving of veggies in to some kids!

Shrimp Quesadillas

14 oz bag of 110 - 140 ct shrimp
flour tortillas
shredded cheese
that homemade pico de gallo up there
some kind of pan lubrication aka fat (butter, coconut oil, olive oil, etc.)

Get every thing all set out, so that you can grab the bits you want quickly. There are two ways to do the quesadillas. The 1 tortilla method or the 2 tortilla method.

1 Tortilla Method
1. Put about 1.5 tsp of fat in the pan. Let it melt/heat up. Lay your tortilla in the pan, then flip it over (not strictly necessary, but tasty).
2. Put shrimp on 1/2 of the tortilla. Sprinkle cheese over shrimp, and pico over cheese.
3. Carefully, fold over the other half of the tortilla and cook until the bottom is nice and golden brown.
4. Carefully flip the tortilla on to it's uncooked side, and cook it till THAT side is golden brown.
5. Place on plate, slice into two or three wedges, enjoy. You can put more pico on top if you wish!

2 Tortilla Method

1. Put about 1.5 tsp of fat in the pan. Let it melt/heat up. Lay your tortilla in the pan, then flip it over (not strictly necessary, but tasty).
2. Put shrimp on tortilla. Sprinkle cheese over shrimp, and pico over cheese.
3. Carefully, place another tortilla on top and cook until the bottom one is nice and golden brown.
4. Carefully flip the tortillas on to the uncooked side, and cook it till THAT side is golden brown.
5. Place on plate, slice into six wedges, enjoy. You can put more pico on top if you wish!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Grilled Beef, Jicama and Apple Salad

Tonight I made a recipe out of Ellie Krieger's cookbook So Easy. I made a couple of changes due to availability and stuff that I had on hand. Here's my version.


1.5 lbs of beef steak (choose cut according to your budget)
Salt & Pepper

1/4 cup [lime]lemon juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 TBSP sugar

1 large jicama (~1.5lbs)
3 Granny Smith Apples
[1/2 cup cilantro leaves]
[2 tsp lime zest]
[1 medium jalapeno, seeded and chopped finely]
3 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts.

1. Season the steak, grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side shooting for medium-rare, or until cooked for your family's preferences. Let rest while you do the rest.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the lime juice, vinegar and sugar together.
3. In a food processor, shred the jicama and apples. Add the shredded jicama and apples to the juice-vinegar mixture. Add the cilantro, jalapeno and zest, and mix all.
4. Slice the steak across the grain into thin 1/4" slices.
5. Mound about 1 1/2 cups of salad on plate, top with 1/4 of the steak, garnish with some cilantro leaves and peanuts.

****What I did differently. The ingredients in [] I didn't have. So I didn't use them. What I did have was lemon juice. I also chopped up 1/2 a large red onion, sauteed that lightly, chopped some green olives and artichoke hearts and layered those over the beef.

****What went wrong. I asked the kids to get out the food processor and the shredder plate. What I didn't check was how they had it set up. So, the jicama ended up more as pulp, as the knife was in the bottom, and the shredder plate was slice side up. My fault, I should have checked it.

****Next time? Shred, not pulp the jicama. This really did need the color of the red onion to be more attractive on the plate. I think that whatever other colorful veggies you have on hand would be great. Carrots, thinly sliced bell peppers, cherry tomatoes. I used the olives and artichoke hearts as a salty counterpoint to the acid and sweetness of the jicama and apples.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kid's Cook, Part Deux

First, let me apologize for the last couple of weeks. A gymnastics accident for City Girl followed by the birth of a goat baby that needs to be bottle-fed has left me scatterbrained for the last couple of weeks.

Second, the kids' second plan and execute meal was assigned for last weekend. The parameters were healthy and tasty. They made use of my Christmas presents. Ellie Krieger's cookbooks.


Spring Rolls
White Bean Dip and homemade bread
Tuscan Chicken and Roast Vegetables
Raspberry Fool

I'll edit in the recipes as soon as I get back home, to the cookbook.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kids Cook.

I homeschool my kids. I made an assignment. Each kid was to plan a menu, develop the shopping list and execute the meal. City Girl is 16, loves to eat nummy food, and loves the farm critters. When they end up on her plate. Farm Girl is 11, loves to eat, and doesn't mind large cows up close and personal.

City Girl's Menu

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Homemade Bread
Bratwurst with Fresh Tomato, Basil and Garlic over Pasta
Cheesecake with Mixed Berry Sauce

Links are to the original recipes.
Here's what we did different, and what we thought should be changed.
Spinach Artichoke Dip. We used homemade bread to dip with (we use the Artisan in 5 base recipe). She used the whole 33 ounce jar of artichoke hearts (I bought them at Sam's). They needed to be in the oven a bit longer to start browning the cheese on top. Almost everything should be a finer chop which may fix the issue of graininess. Otherwise, I think the other option is to use more mayo or cream cheese. We're gonna play around with different recipes.

Brats and Pasta Folks, we hate tomato sauces. (At least, my hubby and I do). The recipe was executed perfectly. Presentation (I shoulda took pics) was awesome. She needs a little work on her chiffonade, but hey, first time for doing it. We used dried herbs as we don't have any available fresh at the moment (except the basil). We used spaghetti instead of angel hair, as it was cheaper. (Any pasta will work). We just used plain Johnsonville brats. She over cooked the brats a bit (hubby doesn't mind). I wanted to like it, I really did. But I really don't like tomato sauces. However, she did it well, and she and Farm Girl really liked it.

Cheesecake We had 2 graham cracker pie crusts on hand. The recipe filled both of them. Make sure you use the bain marie method to cook cheesecake. The crusts got a bit overcooked, which may also have been because the thickness of the cheesecake was a lot less than it would normally be. It tasted great.

Berry Sauce The original was supposed to be strawberries. The strawberries at the store were either moldy or not fully ripe. Off to freezer section we went. So, I had originally requested raspberry sauce, and she couldn't find a recipe that was what she wanted, and the strawberry fit her requirements. I saw the bag of mixed berries, and we made the change right there. Bought some blackberry jam to pump the flavor a bit, and OMG, what a nummy treat. Use this on ice cream, cheesecake, a spoon or whatever.

Farm Girl's Menu

Stuffed Mushrooms
Shepherd's Pie

Stuffed Mushrooms. We used plain button mushrooms for these, and there was not enough space in the caps for the filling. Next time, we'll use bigger mushrooms. Maybe even Portobellos. They were tasty. We didn't measure the seasoning (used Italian seasoning, not thyme) and didn't use nutmeg. We just kinda mixed everything up (including the 'shroom stems). Totally used the recipe as a guideline for ingredients rather than an actual recipe.

Shepherd's Pie Alright, I'll be honest here. We used the recipe as a guideline for the shopping list. Here's what we did.

5 lbs ground pork
3 - 4 lbs red potatoes
2 lbs frozen green beans
1/2 large red onion, diced small
1 lb frozen corn kernels
2 small (8oz) cans tomato sauce
1 pound carrots, sliced
Italian seasoning, salt, pepper to taste
6 oz Asiago cheese, grated
as much garlic as you want
about 1/2 cup cream
4 TBSP butter

1. Peel potatoes, dice small (~1/4" to ~3/8" dice, they cook faster). Put in salted water, let come to a boil, and simmer until fork tender.
2. Raise and butcher 1 pig. While potatoes are boiling, grind about 5 pounds of pork. Or, just grab 5 lbs from the meat section of the store. Your choice. Mine's tasty. Takes a bit of space and time, though.
3. Drain potatoes, and put back in pan. Mash them with the cream, butter and 4oz of the Asiago. And as much garlic as you like. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Brown the pork. Salt, pepper and Italian seasoning to taste. Add garlic if you like.
5. In a LARGE bowl, put the meat, frozen veggies, tomato sauce and onion. Mix like the dickens. I suggest starting with the meat and mixing with each individual vegetable, but that's just me. Check seasoning. Yes. Again.
6. Foil or otherwise ensure easier clean up in your large roasting pan. I mean the turkey roaster. There's a HUGE amount of food here. That's by design.
7. Pour meat mixture into pan. Top with potato mixture. Sprinkle remaining Asiago cheese on top. Put it in a 350 degree oven (or whatever, really, it's not fussy) for about 30 minutes or until the cheese and potatoes start to become that lovely goldeny brown color. Yes, the veggies will be crisp. You don't like that? Cook 'em till they are dead before you add them to the meat. They will be hot. I promise.
8. Serve with the other 1/2 of last night's cheesecake as dessert. What? You didn't have cheesecake last night? I'm sorry. My bad. What WERE you thinking?


Well, I've given some examples of how we change things up by providing you the original recipes. Why did I make so dadgummed much Shepherd's Pie? (Cottage Pie for you purists out there. Damn you, Gordon Ramsey.) Because although its easy, it's tedious. And it makes GREAT planned leftovers. You don't want to throw so much in one huge pan? Fine, use a few smaller ones. They may fit in your freezer easier. And we don't actually mind eating the same thing for several days in a row. And we have a crazy ass schedule where we aren't home until 9pm several days of the week (Ok, that's CITY girl's fault. But we love her, so we'll forgive her.) And either way, SHE and her DAD don't get home till then the rest of the week. So, if it just has to get warmed up...BONUS.

Ok, I think I've bent your eyeballs enough today. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Take on Curry Sauce

It's not authentic by any means. Well, it's got all authentic ingredients, and it is totally YUMMY. (Well, we think so.) This is one time that I don't substitute brands for the main ingredient.

1 TBSP your oil of choice
1 TBSP (more or less, to taste) MAE PLOY brand Curry Paste (Yellow, Green, Red, Mussaman, Penang..you choose)
1 can coconut milk
Fish Sauce
Rice Vinegar

Heat oil in a 1 qt saucepan (use what you got, that happens to be what I use). When hot, add curry paste. Saute until fragrant. If the kids can smell it in the living room, it's good. That's about 20 feet away, in our case.

Add small amount, maybe 1/4 of the can of coconut milk. Stir until smooth and bubbly. Add in 1/4 can increments until entire can is incorporated.

Add fish sauce and vinegar. The fish sauce is the Thai equivalent of salt/soy sauce. It's EASY to add more. Impossible to take out if you add to much. The vinegar gives a little wake-up to the taste buds. I add about 1/2 TBSP of each, but seriously, start with 1 tsp and work your way up.


Really, that's not enough?

To make this more authentic, add lemongrass, shrimp paste, some galangal and or ginger. Changing which curry paste you use will make a huge difference in the taste of the resulting sauce.

I personally do NOT use Massuman, Penang or Yellow curry pastes. This is because of a food allergy. Yellow curry for absolute certain has the offensive ingredient. I'm 90% certain the other two, do as well. I like breathing. Said ingredient interrupts the breathing cycle. Namely, the breathing in part.

What do I do with this stuff?

Fix your favorite sausage, rice or spaghetti, and veggie. Top with sauce.
Top ANY roast meat.
Spicy smashered taters.
"Spicy Wice" That's 3 year old-ese for Spice Rice. My youngest LOVES hot stuff.
Wing sauce

We love the stuff, and generally can't get enough.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pizza, My Way

One of our favorite things is pizza. People look at me strangely when I say I make ours from the crust up. Adjust it to fit your family's needs and likes/dislikes.


~1/4 recipe of the Artisan Bread base recipe
~1/2 cup of mayonnaise
3 to 4 cloves garlic
1 to 1 1/2 TBSP Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix (I buy this in the bulk container)
~1 to 1 1/2 lbs of meat(s) of choice
Assorted vegetables
Shredded cheese (tailor this to match the meat/veggies, but Mozzarella always works in a pinch)

pre-step 1: About an hour or up to several hours before hand, mix the mayonnaise with the Ranch Dressing Mix and the minced garlic (shove it through a press). Cover and let the flavors meld.
1. Roll out the dough into a round shape (or whatever shape your flat baking pan is). I use 15" AND 13" pizza stones by Pampered Chef. It's what I have! Put a little cornmeal on the stone to help prevent sticking (if your stone isn't well seasoned yet).
2. Put the crust in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. This basically starts the cooking process, and makes sure that you don't have a soggy crust.
3. Meanwhile, prepare your toppings. I have used cooked chicken breast, homemade italian meatballs (tiny), bell peppers of all colors, broccoli, onion, olives...you name it.
4. Get the crust out of the oven. Spread the mayo mix on the crust, top with the meat, then the veggies. Cover with cheese. Put it all back in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the chesse is melty and starting to brown a bit.
5. Remove from oven, slice it up, and prepare to welcome the adoring accolades of your family. Really. They will RAVE about this to everyone. I know. I've been there.


What...I didn't give you enough leeway?

Chocolate pizza: Use a chocolate sauce as the "base" sauce, add in flavorings, top with fruit and coconut. It's done when the coconut is starting to get toasty goldeny brown.

Sauces: We use the garlic Mayo sauce because tomato sauce hurts our stomachs. Regular Ranch dressing works in a pinch. But go a head and doctor up some tomato sauce with Italian seasoning and Rosemary for a more traditional Pizza sauce.

Enjoy your Pizza!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Quick...What Is IT?

My family is so damn helpful sometimes. The let me know what they want to eat, and when they want to eat it. They are especially good at this when I ask them what they might like to eat for the next week or so. You feel the sarcasm dripping off these last three sentences, don't you? I thought you might.

So, gee, Mom...what's for dinner? HELLIFIKNOW! But they still expect to get food...So, going through the pantry, here's what I came up with

Spaghetti and sausage with Curry Sauce

20 ounce package of sausage, your choice of flavor. (Just so happened that I had a package of Johnsonville 4 Cheese Italian)
1 can coconut milk
1 TBSP Green Curry Paste
2 tsp Rice Vinegar
2 tsp Fish Sauce (what, you don't have this stuff on hand???? Calm down, keep reading!)
1 TBSP or so oil of choice (Yes, Byn, coconut oil is an EXCELLENT choice here!)
Pasta (however much and whatever kind you want to feed your group)

1. Start cooking the pasta. Boil water, add salt, add the pasta, cook to al dente...that's the usual way of it.
2. When the water starts boiling start cooking the sausages. Nice and brown on all sides. Turn off heat when fully cooked.
3. At the same time IN A DIFFERENT PAN, heat the oil. Add the curry paste when the oil is hot, stirring pretty well constantly. Saute until your husband in the very back of the house can smell it...or about three to four minutes. Lower the heat!
4. Shake that coconut milk before you open it. Add about 1/4 of the can to the curry paste. Stir it well until it starts bubbling. Add another 1/4 can. Stir. Add the rest. Stir. Add in the vinegar and fish sauce.
5. Drain pasta. Slice the sausage thinly.
6. To serve: place pasta on plate, add sausage, top with curry sauce.

Variations and Explanations

Fish sauce is used in Thai cooking in place of salt. I'll spare you the details of how it's made. Rice vinegar is the acid agent I use to put that "zing" in my Asian sauces. You can substitute soy sauce or regular salt (but I wouldn't, Fish sauce is cheap.) And you can use any light colored vinegar. Be sure to start out slow and add more if needed. You can add more, but you can't take it out if you put too much in.

Sausage: There are SO many options here. Cheesy brats, chicken sausage, pork sausage, ACTUAL REAL Chorizo, beef sausage....

Pasta: whole wheat, spaghetti, rotini, shells, bow-tie,

Instead of pasta: rice, mashed potatoes

I highly recommend serving with green beans, or broccoli. YUM.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Stores are Out of Food...

Damn, a whole week late. Guess I'll grab this one today, and figure out what to throw at you guys tomorrow. Sorry, I'm snowbaked, and the animals have been top priority with this crazy weather.

With the blizzard(s) that have smacked Oklahoma in the last two weeks, the store shelves are bare of certain staples. Like milk and eggs and butter. And for the love of dawg: BREAD.....what? There was plenty of the GOOD bread in the bakery, and plenty of bread making ingredients, but that horrible white "just past dough" bread had flown off into the wilds.

Yes, I have a distinct bias against what is laughingly sold in our grocery stores as bread. If you use it to sop up the juice from your roast, it turns into a slimy disgusting mess. For the love of all that is GOOD, peaple, make bread. It's easy, it takes very little time, and it's SO much better.

But, Brat, you have to do all that kneading. And that hurts my wrists (shoulders, little finger). BAH, I say, BAH! The book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day has forever changed that. The basic recipe has been posted on-line in several locations, and I'll post my version here. Let me just say, that if my twelve year old can master this bread, so can you.

Basic Recipe

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast (buy it by the pound folks. really)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups of flour (UNBLEACHED all purpose) Notice, I did NOT say to sift this.

a little cornmeal
2 cups hot water

1. Mix the yeast into the water and add the salt. Use a REALLY BIG bowl. Like Huge.
2. Scoop the flour into your measuring cup using a spoon, and use a knife to level off the top. Add flour cup by cup into the water, and mix it. You may or may not need to use that last 1/2 cup or so. The dough will be much wetter than you are used to. This is fine. By now, you have invested, at most, ten minutes. Or if you are REALLY smart...make the kids do it.
3. Cover the bread and let it sit there and do its thing for a couple of hours. At this point, you can make a loaf, or you can cover it with a lid and put it in the fridge. I'll assume you want to make something now.
4. Flour up your hands. Spread some flour on the top of the bowl of dough, and scoop out the bread. Here's a video that shows how it's done. Form your loaf, and let it sit for 30 to 40 minutes. (Sprinkling cornmeal on the surface where you are resting your loaf is a good idea, but flour will work in a pinch.)
5. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 500F, with your pizza stone inside (middle). And the pan that your water will go into (lower).
6. Slash the top of your loaf artfully. I have not has sticking problems, but I use a regular knife, not a serrated one. Flour the top of the loaf a bit if you are using a serrated knife. Gently move the bread from the board you had it on, into the oven onto your pizza stone (that is on the middle of the oven). Pour the hot water into the pan (sacrifice a cheap roasting pan to the bread gods. Really, it makes that much of a difference).
7. Bake at 450F for 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size loaf you are making, and the composition of said loaf.
8. Remove from oven, allow to cool, slice with a serrated knife (yep, trust me, it's MUCH easier), serve with dinner. Oh, who are we kidding here...if homemade bread survives in your house longer than 5 minutes when made one loaf at a time, you are obviously single. Or at least not attached to the crew I am. The bread usually doesn't have time to get from oven to cutting board before the vultures are circling and ready to drop and devour the entire loaf in 2 minutes.

This bread is crunchy with a great texture, and it makes the whole house smell AWESOME!


I know, I know. This is what you were waiting for. Right? I can hear them now. But BRAT, bread loaves are great, but you can't make hamburger buns, flat bread, garlic sticks (insert your random choice here) at home. Wanna bet?

With the basic recipe, we have made buns for our pulled pork sammiches, flat bread, garlic sticks, rolls, pizza dough and badness knows what else. In the books, there are a LOT more recipes. I don't use them...because I don't own the books. Hey, single income here. The book budget is overrun with home school books.

You don't like white bread. Or don't want to eat it for whatever your reasoning is. Fine, no problem, they wrote Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Me, I just substitute in some whole wheat flour for some of the white flour. If you are making whole wheat bread (no white flour), you probably need some wheat gluten to help it rise.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Oatmeal, My Way

Sorry this late, but I was sick on Friday

Oatmeal. It's a great way to start your day. Warms you up, high fiber, healthy. Boring. WAIT.....It doesn't have to be.

All those high sugar oatmeal packets can be made at home for a fraction of the cost, and without all the sugar.

The recipe on the back of the oatmeal can says: 1/2 c oatmeal, 1 cup water, and some sugar. No. No. No. and NO!

Oatmeal, Unboring

1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup milk, almond milk, soy milk or another milk substitute (TRUST ME!)
1/4 cup dried fruit
1/4 cup flaked coconut (unsweetened is healthier, if you have sweetened, you don't need any other sweetner)
1 - 3 tsp of your favorite sweetening agent

Here's how I do it. In a small pan on put the milk and the oatmeal. Warm up and cook until it is the consistency YOU like. I like mine somewhat runny, not thick enough to stand a spoon in. Pour into your bowl, add the fruit, coconut, and sweetener if needed. Stir it up, and enjoy a nice warm breakfast.

I have used raisins, dried cranberries, and blueberries. I like the coconut, you don't have to use it, if you don't want to. Like I said, I don't need to use any kid of sweetener if I use coconut.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Turkey Stuffed Pasta Shells with Homemade Alfredo Sauce and Steamed Broccoli

I wanted to give my crew a treat. I've done variations on this a few times.

2 turkey thighs (it's what I had, ok? 2 pounds of turkey meat or chicken meat is fine)
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1 box jumbo pasta shells
1 lb frozen broccoli
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 red onion, finely diced
2 cups heavy cream
1 stick butter
5 oz Parmesan cheese
8 ounces Mozzarella cheese
8 ounces cream cheese
1 TBSP olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 eggs

1. Sprinkle thighs with lemon pepper and roast in a 350 degree oven till done. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
2. Remove skin from thighs, discard. Strip meat off of thighs. It's ok. There will be enough, I promise. Chop the meat up finely.
3. Chop red onion and bell pepper very finely. (I used red to add some color to this dish.)
4. Saute the onion in about 1 TBSP of olive oil (or coconut oil, or whatever)
5. In a mixing bowl, beat 1 package of cream cheese until soft. Beat in two eggs. Add in about 4 ounces of mozzarella. Add in onion, bell pepper and turkey. This is your pasta shell stuffing.
6. Cook shells according to package directions. Drain and let cool until you can handle them. You can rinse them in cold water to help cool them faster
7. Stuff the shells with the turkey mix. Place in a 9x13 pan (or whatever you have).
8. Make the sauce. Melt the butter. Add the cream and heat. Do NOT BOIL. Add the Parmesan cheese, a little at a time, and stir as the cheese melts. When the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, turn off the heat.
9. Spoon sauce over the shells. Top with mushrooms, and the rest of the mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 until melty and yummy looking.
10. While you are baking the shells, steam the broccoli. (I cheat and use the microwave...dump bag of broccoli into microwave safe cooking implement. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes.)
11. Serve. Sit back and bask in the complements. I did.

I made this Wednesday night (January 19, 2011). I used a 12 ounce box of shells. I had shells left over, (aka, not enough filling). I gave the extra to my pigs, but, you could just fix half a box or so. This did twenty-eight shells. Enough for dinner for four and lunch the next day.

Familial reviews:
Hubby: TWO thumbs up
Gymnast: Ya'll should be jealous. VERY JEALOUS
Monkey: It's VERY good and delicious.


Wow, that's a LOT of cheese, cream, FAT! Yeah, we like it that way. There are a couple of ways to approach this.

1. Ricotta cheese is WHEY better than cream cheese in the calories and fat department. I couldn't resist, sorry. (1 cup of ricotta has 342 calories, 177 from fat and 1 cup of cream cheese has 810 calories and 728 from fat according to the Calorie Count Recipe Analyzer tool.

2. Use some other sauce than Alfredo.

3. IT'S A TREAT. We don't eat this often. Which is a good thing, I'm sure.

3. Use low fat mozzarella and cream cheese.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

BONUS: Can the Kat Cook In A Hotel Room?

Last weekend we were off to Kansas City, MO for a gymnastics meet. Money was an issue, and we were meeting friends in Joplin on Sunday for lunch. Ok..guess I cook something there. But HOLY BEANS...what in the world am I gonna do?? I need to be able to do it all in one pot or pan because Lady knows I don't wanna clean up a bunch of pans at the Motel 6.

Brat's Hotel Hash

2 lbs of Ground Beef
2 lbs of Yukon Gold Potatoes, 1/4" dice
2 packages of Lawry's Taco Seasoning
1 yellow onion, finely diced (or 2 small vidalias)

I bought the potatoes, and seasoning there. Sent Hubby to QT for salt and utensils (we appear to forget forks, a lot.) I diced up the potatoes and onion very small, because I didn't want to be waiting till midnight to eat. And I was using a Coleman Camp Stove to cook on. Yes. In the Motel 6.

Now, normally, I'd saute the onions, then the potatoes, all while the meat was browning...but see above. One. Pot.

Sooooooo.....Brown the meat first. I need the fat to make sure nothing sticks to my super sized pan (HUGE skillet). When meat is mostly brown, toss in onions. Add seasonings and potatoes. Cover and let simmer away. Don't have your heat up way high on the campstove...it will burn the bit in the middle. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender. Serve it up, sit on hotel beds eating and wondering how the heck you actually managed to feed four people in a hotel room. And they LIKED it.

Home Hash

2 lbs ground meat
2 lbs potatoes, 1/2" dice
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 TBSP oil of your choice
seasonings of your choice
shredded cheese, sour cream

1. Saute the onion till it's translucent-y.
2. In a separate pan, heat the oil. Add potatoes, and cook them till they start their golden-y brown thing.
3. When onions are done, remove from pan, add meat, and brown it. Toss in seasonings. Add onions. Simmer to let tastes meld.
4. When potatoes are crispy-ish, add to the hash. Mix well, serve topped with cheese and sour cream if you want.

You can add any variety of veggies here. I see corn, carrots, celery, tomatoes, .... yeah ANY veggies. It is fairly quick.

One option for the potatoes: Boil 'em till mostly done, drain, dry. Then crisp them up in a bit of oil.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Potato Salad? Versatile? OH YES!

So, I discovered something. Potato salad does NOT have to be that plain old potato, mayo, mustard, with little variation your Great Aunt Ida said was the ONLY way to make potato salad. Guess what, we can make it tons of ways, and it will never taste the same twice. You can feed your family potato salad for a whole two weeks when potatoes were on sale, but not much else was. And they will not eat the same thing twice...unless there's one they REALLY like and beg you to make it again.

First lets talk tater. So, there's this "thing" that you should use a certain type of potatoes for potato salads, or this potato is better for salad and that potato is best for fries. Frankly, taters...are taters. Yes some are more waxy, some are red, some are mealy, some are blue (yes, blue). And yes, some may serve one purpose or other better than another variety. HOWEVER, they all mash, they all fry, and they all boil.

This week, I'll give you my basic tater salad, and few ways to switch it up. Sometime soon, I'll go over other ways to make it different.

Brat's Basic Tater Salad

1 1/2 lbs potatoes (I really don't care what you use), diced 1/3" to 1/2" dice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 stalks celery (leaves, too), sliced thin
1 to 2 cups baby carrots, sliced
several slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

1. Fill a LARGE pot with cold water, add a goodly amount of salt, and put it on the stove to heat up. Since your taters are already diced, toss them in now. They are diced already, right?

2. Since the taters weren't diced, do that. Then dump the whole schmear (yes, that's the technical term) in the pot at the same time, being careful, because now that water is getting warmish, and you don't want it splashing on you.

3. Cook them thar taters till they are fork tender. That means the fork just slides right in and out. Drain them into a colander. My trick here: put the pot back on the stove over the flame (you have a gas stove, right?) and put the drained potatoes back in. Stir them very carefully for about 20 to 30 seconds. This finished the drying of the taters. You can turn off the stove now.

4. Let the potatoes cool. Or not. Your choice. While the taters are cookin' and coolin', make sure your bacon is cooked, and your celery and carrots are ready.

5. Put your potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add mayo, veggies and bacon and stir gently to mix it all up. Check seasoning and serve.

Ok, we use this as a meal. And that hardly looks like enough protein. I know. Solve this: couple cans of tuna, couple of chicken breasts, 2 ounces of ham per person. Whatever. I've used all of the above AND roast pork, beef, turkey, lamb.

Remember, this is my BASIC potato salad. We could have a whole YEAR on just potato salad, but that you wouldn't want, so we won't, but I'll come back to the basic potato salad in a few weeks.

Another thing: wherever it says "Potato" Salad, one can use PASTA (in MY recipes, anyway) or RICE. So, now you have three recipes for the price of one. As I've said before starch is a filler in my house.

A word on cleaner eating: I'm trying. Really, I am. Substitute homemade mayonnaise made from ingredients you trust (seriously, egg yolks, oil, mustard, lemon juice--OK, I'll get the recipe together, just not right now); use whole wheat pasta (or make your own); use whatever rice works for you (brown rice is yummy, just sayin'). However sometimes your food budget for the week is $20. (And you gotta have coffee, you do NOT want to meet me if I am coffee-less). So, sometimes, you gotta eat the cheap stuff. I'll keep putting up all the options, just so the bases are (mostly) covered.

Another word on potato skins. In potato salad, some potatoes don't necessarily need to be peeled. Those with thin skins, like Yukon Gold and Red Norland have thin skins (and pretty too) and that doesn't interfere with the whole experience. Others, like Russet, have a thick skin which just doesn't work (for me in potato salad). Those, you can (and IMO should) peel BEFORE they take that hot water bath.

Friday, January 7, 2011

First Friday: Oh Crap, What's in the Freezer?

Alrighty then....so, it's Thursday night, payday isn't till Monday, you have an out of state weekend coming up, so you can't have hubby pick anything up as he comes home, and you got in a wreck last night, so you can't stand comfortably? What's a gal to do? Set the kid free on the kitchen, of course. Oh, and this is probably enough for at least 1 dinner and 1 lunch, if not a 2nd dinner for our family of four (but hubby counts as about 3).

Basically, I got the meat out, and told her to use the tots. She scoured the spices and the fridge, and came up with the meal. Home-school exercise...of course. And a lesson in thinking on the fly...

Krystal's Tater Tots and Ground Beef

3 lbs of home raised ground beef (ok, if you don't have that, I guess you can buy some or use something else, like turkey)
kosher salt
1/2 large can of Ranch Style Beans (because SOMEONE had eaten 1/2 a can and I was cleaning out the fridge)
4 ounces of shredded cheddar (is what we had left)
"some" Old Bay Seasoning
"some" Worcestershire Sauce

1/2 bag of tater tots (this was a LARGE bag)

Brown beef. Drain if necessary. Add spices, and beans. Let simmer for about 15 minutes to meld flavors.

Meanwhile utilize the really cool deep fryer mom got. And fry the tots. (Mom: ok, you can bake the tots. Really. You can. But I wasn't cooking...back hurting, remember?)

To serve, put tots on plate, put beef mixture on tots, put cheese on it all.

Mom and Dad both wanted seconds. Mom did not have seconds. Dad finished off the cooked tots. See, I have will power.

As you can see, she's learning to cook from me. When asked how much of what she put in, she answered "a little of this, a little of that."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Over the next few weeks, I plan on implementing several changes. The base one of these, the basic look has gone into effect. Yes, I'm a black and red kind of gal. I may be migrating to WordPress, as I like the offerings for the way I can make things look over there MUCH more than I do at Blogger.

I'm working on this week's Friday recipe, so stay tuned.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I'm So Lazy...New Year, Time to Bring This Back

My very good friend Byn made a commitment to her friends in internet-land to put up 365 clean eating recipes this year. I love you Byn, and I'm going to steal all of them; but, I am committing to 52 recipes. That's right folks, the Friday recipe is back (or will be, on Friday).

So, with this renewed enthusiasm, here's a bonus recipe for this week.

Lunch Chicken Wraps

1 lb chicken breast meat (I prefer home raised, or organic)
dash of salt and pepper seasoning of choice (depending on the day I like lemon pepper, Montreal, ranch dressing mix)
1 tbsp of oil (your choice: canola, vegetable, butter, EVOO)
Several leaves of your choice of lettuce (if you REALLY want that icky iceberg stuff, well oooooooookkkkkk, me, I like Bibb, or any red lettuce)
Baby spinach leaves
3 or 4 shredded carrots
1 bell pepper (Green, Red, Yellow, Orange, Purple, White your choice)
4 whole wheat burrito sized tortillas (or, you know, any wrap or pita you like)
Condiment of choice

pre-Step 1. Flatten your chicken boobs. Really. Use a pan, a meat mallet, a rolling pin, a clean shoe (make sure that your chicken is INSIDE A PLASTIC BAG if you go this far). Evening out the thickness makes the chicken cook evenly, and seriously decreasing the thickness helps it cook faster. Plus, you can take out your frustrations on the meat, and no one gets hurt or goes to jail.

1. Sprinkle your chicken with your seasoning. If you just do it on the side facing you, when you plop it into the pan (I use tongs, or a fork), then you can sprinkle the bottom side (which is now conveniently on top).

2. Heat your skillet, and add your choice of pan lubricant. Really, it's up to you. But something is needed, because chicken that is stuck is not that fun.

3. When your pan and it's lubricant are hot enough, (you could do the water sizzles when it hits test, but ..... you all are smart people, right?) carefully lay your chicken breast seasoned side down into the pan and season the 2nd side (see, I told you!)

4. Flip when chicken is lightly browned on the bottom (~3 or so minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken). This is where I cover the whole pan with a lid. Less heat escapes, and allows my chicken to cook through more quickly.

5. When chicken is done (there's that pesky thermometer test, the finger test, the cut into it-does it bleed test), remove it from the pan and allow to cool slightly.

6. Meanwhile, shred carrots, rough chop lettuce and spinach (or don't, either way is fine), slice your bell pepper thinly.

7. Slice your chicken very thinly. (It goes a LOT further that way. Don't ask me why. I cook up three breasts and plunk them on plates, people are still hungry. I slice those same three, and all of a sudden, ZOMG, I'm stuffed...and there's about 1/3 of the breast still on the plate.)

8. Lay out your wrap on your assembly surface. Spread it with your condiment of choice (herby cream cheese, mayo, Chipotle-mayo, Aoili (which is fancy for garlic flavored mayo). Lay on some chicken, top with the veggies. You could toss on som shredded cheese at this point, too. Roll it up, and place it seam side down on the plate if serving immediately. You can stick a toothpick in it. You can wrap it in plastic wrap or foil or whatever your conscience will allow you to do. Repeat for the other 3 wraps.

Variations: (Oh, COME ON, you were expecting this part)

Use some other meat. Left over roast beef, ham, turkey. Whatever.
Use arugula. YUM, spicy
Use some other veggies. I use carrots and colorful bell peppers to colorize my families palate. Really, eat the different color families in veggies, to get a better all around nutrition profile.
Any spreadable condiment is fair game.
Eat them for dinner.
Add scrambled eggs, and KAPOW, breakfast on the run. (You can do as much or as little as you want the night before. Zap 'em in the nuker ... or in the oven ... (again, go by your own conscience) and BOOM, out you go with a healthy, nutritious and filling breakfast.