Monday, August 31, 2009

Fall is In the Air!

It is finally nice enough outside to turn off the a/c, open the windows, and let the cool breeze flow through the house. This wonderful weather makes me want to stay in and cook, even more so than usual. I'm in the mood for something hearty tonight. Something like homemade chicken pot pie and mashed potatoes. Doesn't that sound good? Yes...

Friday, August 28, 2009

30-Minute Thursday

In preparation for an upcoming half-marathon, my husband and I are following a training plan that requires us to run four days a week. We ran a little later than usual yesterday and were both starving by the time we got home. Fortunately, I had anticipated this and already had an easy Pasta Pomodoro dish planned for dinner. Total time, including prep is only about 30 minutes. We have had this twice now and everyone loves it. Here's the recipe:

1 pkg. angel hair pasta

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. white onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 large roma tomatoes, chopped (about 2 c.)

2 TBSP red wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)

1 can, chicken broth

crushed red pepper

black pepper

2 tbsp fresh basil

1/4 - 1/2 c. parmesan cheese

1. Cook angel hair pasta until al dente (2-4 min.)

2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil.

3. Saute onions and garlic until lightly browned.

4. Add tomatoes, vinegar, and chicken broth; simmer for about 10 min.

5. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper, both to taste.

6. Add fresh basil and simmer another 5 min.

7. To serve, place pasta in bowl, add sauce over top, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

No leftovers at our house!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chocolate Caramel Toffee Cake

My husband and I were watching TV when I casually mentioned that I was thinking of making a dessert for the following night. I asked if he had any preference and his response was, "maybe something with chocolate and whipped cream." Hmmm...okay. The next morning, I'm going through all kinds of dessert recipes: pies, trifles, brownies, etc. Then I remembered the cake with the chocolate and the caramel and the bits of good. So that's what I made yesterday. Here's the recipe:

1 pkg. Devil's Food cake mix

14 oz. can, sweetened condensed milk

1 jar caramel ice cream topping

3 Skor or Heath candy bars, chopped

8 oz. container, Extra Creamy Cool Whip

1. In a 9x13 pan, bake the cake according to package directions. When cake is done, cut several slits across the top of the cake, going almost to the bottom.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping over low heat. Stir gently until blended.

3. Pour mixture over the top of the warm cake, making sure to get it down into the slits.

4. Sprinkle about 2/3 of the toffee candy over the entire cake.

5. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

6. Top with Cool Whip and sprinkle with remaining candy pieces. Serve chilled.

Yes, it's messy but it's good!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Quick and Easy Appetizers

Have you seen these? I bought them for the first time at Whole Foods today.

I will admit right now that I was slightly influenced by the marketing genius of the company's name. Good Wives Hors D'oeuvres. With a name like that, how could I not buy them? Of course I want to be a *good wife*! Who doesn't?! Only a bad one would refuse to serve these cute little appetizers, right?

So anyway, I bought the Spinach and Cheese Flatbreads to serve prior to our salmon dinner. They're described as, "Spinach blended with tomatoes, cheese, and garlic, topped with a swirl of goat cheese, on a mini focaccia bread round," and they couldn't be easier. All you do is pop them in the oven for about 10 min. That's it. And the best part is that they're actually really good. I would even go so far as to say that, considering the fact that they're premade and frozen, they're pretty freakin' awesome! Not cheap though. I paid $10.99 for a box of 12 so it's not an every day kind of thing but it might be good to keep a box in the freezer, just in case you ever need something in a hurry. ;)


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bake Sale!

It is now two weeks before school starts and the *volunteer opportunities* are pouring in from all over. The main office needs people to stuff envelopes, the PTA needs workers for the various Back to School events, and the sports teams are organizing fundraisers. The thing is, if you say yes to absolutely everything, it can get a little overwhelming and feel suspiciously like a full-time job.

That said, I did agree to help out with an upcoming fundraiser for my son's cross country team.
The first fundraiser of the year will be held this weekend and next. It will be a car wash/bake sale. One of my jobs is to bake and package something to be sold this weekend.

I'm thinking of maybe Rice Krispie treats or sugar cookies.....something easy. ;)

It seems like so many *bake sales* now consist mostly of pre-packaged stuff from the grocery store bakery and that just seems tacky to me. Aren't all of the homemade goodies supposed to be the big allure of the bake sale?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cherry Chocolate Cake

I've been having a cherry craving lately and today it collided with my ongoing craving for chocolate. I decided that I needed both. Long story short, we're having Cherry Chocolate Cake for dessert tonight. It's ridiculously easy to make. This is all you need:

1 box of Devil's Food cake mix

2 eggs

1 can of cherry pie filling

1tsp. almond extract

This is all you do:

1. Gently mix all ingredients together with a spoon (not a mixer as this will destroy the cherries)

2. Pour into a prepared bundt pan.

3. Bake at 350* for about 35 min. Cool about 10 min. in pan before turning out onto a wire rack.

4. When the cake has cooled completely, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

*Chocolate frosting drizzled over the top is good too.

If you look close, you can see the big chunks of cherry in the cake!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Baked Ravioli Ratatouille

We like to have vegetarian dinners at least twice a week. Last night we tried out a variation on ratatouille and it was delicious! The flavors of the vegetables and spices were very complementary and the aroma was fantastic. We will definitely be having this one again:

1 TBSP olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 c. eggplant, diced
2 c. zucchini, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 TBSP dried basil
1 TBSP dried parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
9 oz. pkg. fresh cheese ravioli
1 c. shredded mozzarella

1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add garlic, onion, and eggplant. Stir over medium heat about 8-10 min., until veggies are softened.

2. Add zucchini, bell pepper, tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 20 min.

3. Meanwhile, cook the ravioli according to the directions on the package. Drain and spread in a large, prepared baking pan.

4. Pour hot veggies over raviolis and sprinkle with mozzarella.

5. Bake at 350* for about 20 min., until cheese is melted and it looks like this:
Served with a spinach salad. So good!

Our Favorite Banana Bread

I have tried alot of banana bread recipes over the years. Some were good, some were not so good. I had just about given up on finding a really great recipe for using up all those old bananas that we always seem to have lying around, until I found one that is consistently delicious every single time. Here's what you need:

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. real butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
6 or 7 overripe bananas, mashed
chopped nuts, 1/2 - 1 c. - optional

1. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.

2. Using a mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and bananas until well blended.

3. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture, until everything is evenly moist. Stir in the nuts.

4. Grease and flour, or spray, a loaf pan and add the batter.

5. Bake at 350* for an hour, give or take about 5 minutes.

6. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

* I don't know why but banana bread always seems to taste better the next day. That's just my observation and not one that prevents us from eating it the same day at all.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sign of the Times

This is a little embarrassing, but here goes: I was making batter for banana bread and everything was going along just fine. Until I got to the step in which the batter is poured into a *prepared pan*. So far, so good until I reach for my handy can of cooking spray with flour built right in only to find that it won't spray at all. It's completely clogged! I run the nozzle under hot water because I read somewhere that that's the thing to do in these situations, but it didn't work. So there I am in the kitchen, on the verge of what feels a little like panic, trying to figure out what to do. Do I run to the store? Do I dump the batter and just forget the whole thing? is where the flash of brilliance comes I do it the old fashioned way? Remember when we used to actually butter and flour pans as opposed to just spraying them? It's sad really that this was the last option to occur to me. So anyway, that's what I did and, sure enough, it worked just as well as it did back in the old days.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cooking and Cleaning

I'm thinking tonight will be a "Clean Out the Fridge" night, of sorts. The leftovers are out of control and I really can't stand the thought of throwing out so much good food, which is exactly what will happen if this goes on too long. I am amazed every time one of the kids stands in front of the open refrigerator and exclaims that there is "nothing to eat". Just for the record, this is completely untrue except in the minds teenage boys who, given the option, would eat microwave junk every day of their lives. So for tonight's dinner, everyone can choose between spaghetti and meatballs, Greek chicken salad in pitas, and shredded barbeque chicken sandwiches. Everyone gets fed and the refrigerator gets cleaned out. Sounds like a good plan to me!


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