Sunday, March 29, 2009

Where's the Meal Plan?

For the next 15 days, I have no meals planned. Not a single one. For the next three days I'll be preparing for our family vacation. I'm washing, I'm packing, I'm making a list of items that NEED to be in the car when we depart and checking it twice. This also means that I'm trying to get rid of the food in our fridge, not stock it up with leftovers. That's right, we're heading South, Griswold style. The whole fam packed into our mini van, seeing the sights and stopping to visit friends and relatives the whole way down to sunny Florida. Holiday ro-o-o-o-o-o-oad. Let's just hope we don't end up with Aunt Edna strapped to the top of the family roadster.

Don't worry. I won't leave you hanging. I've been typing extra posts this week. Every 2 or 3 days, I'll post something new from the road. They won't all be recipes, but every post will revolve around some aspect of food or life in my kitchen. So keep checking!

In place of the meal plan today, I'm providing the links to 15 delicious recipes that I've made in the last few months. Just click on the link and it'll take you right to the post and recipe!

Spaghetti Pie

Cornbread Stuffed Sweet Peppers

New Mexico Style Pizza or Tostada Pizza (I loved them both so much, I couldn't pick a favorite)

Shrimp and Spinach Risotto

Tater Tot Casserole

Rustic Tortellini Soup

Easy Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken Divan

Blushing Penne

Beef and Noodles

Fettuccine Carbonara

Tortellini alla Panna

and for dessert...

Peanut Butter Pie

Lava Baby Cakes

Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cake

I have wanted to try Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cake for the longest time. There is no way I was baking this recipe for just my family. My husband doesn't really eat sweets and the kids are too little to eat very much. Ah yes, the "burden" to eat that whole cake would fall on my shoulders. And I would. Sweet and rich as it is, I'd probably still find a way to put it away. On my hips...on my thighs... Anyway, I know myself well enough to not bake a whole gooey butter cake just because I want to try a recipe. What I needed was a reason to bake the gooey butter cake. Today that reason arrived in the form of a church potluck dinner. Have you guys been to a potluck? You've gotta love the potluck dinner! Everyone brings their best salad, covered dish, or dessert. I try to save my calories all day before partaking of the smorgasbord that is a church potluck dinner.

One of the ladies sitting at my table this evening confided that she likes to experiment with her potluck dishes. She knows whether or not her experiment turned out well if anyone eats what she brought. If her dish is still full at the end of the dinner, she waits until no one is looking to sweep it off of the table so that no one knows who brought it. I had to laugh.

Well let me tell ya, if you bring this Gooey Butter Cake to your potluck dinner, pitch-in, cook out, or won't have to drag home any leftovers. Bonus points if you take it still warm from the oven. Boy is it ever good!

Let's get started by making the foundation for this cake. You might guess that you'll need some of this:

You'll need some of this too:

Lucky me. I got to brush up on my Spanish while reading the instructions on the cake mix.

Melt the butter in a bowl and then dump in the cake mix and an egg.

Mix well with an electric mixer.

Now, with very clean hands, let's press the dough into the bottom of a buttered 9 X 13 inch pan. My four year old loved having this job.

For the filling you're going to combine another stick of butter (it's called butter cake for a reason, people!) with 8 oz. of cream cheese. I beat until smooth.

You'll also need to add in a pound of powdered sugar, a couple of eggs, and some vanilla. Mix well. It should look about like this when you're finished.

Pour the filling over the cake mixture.

Spread the filling evenly over the cake. I added my own little touch here with some pretty blue and pink sugar sprinkled across the top. I was thinking Easter...

Now into the oven for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. You can just imagine how amazing your house will smell as this bakes. Mouth-watering good.

You know you want to try some...

Here's the recipe:

Gooey Butter Cake

Ingredients & Directions:
1 18 1/4-ounce package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan. Prepare Filling

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 16-ounce box powdered sugar

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar and mix well. Spread over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little gooey.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Ease of preparation: easy

Recipe courtesy Paula Deen and Random House Publishing

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cheeseburger Soup

Tonight's Dinner: Delicious Cheeseburger Soup! This soup is killer! SO GOOD.

Let's get started. First, brown 1/2 lb. of lean ground beef. Remove from the skillet and drain.

Now, melt a tablespoon of butter in the skillet and saute 3/4 cup each of carrots, onion, and celery until tender.

Okay, busted. I didn't actually throw my slow cooker out the window after I made Crock Pot Lasagna. I didn't want to do it, but I needed to be away from home in the hours prior to dinner. Rather than rush in and try to chop, dice, and saute...I decided to give the old crock pot one more stop on her farewell tour. If you are making this according to the recipe, this is where you'd add the broth, potatoes, ground beef, basil and parsley to the veggies to and bring it to a boil. Then cover and simmer 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are tender. The crock pot version is basically the same, it just bought me some time. I put it on just before I left home on the 10 hour setting. Should be fine, right? Wrong. My crock pot hates me. My husband called about halfway through my second errand to ask, "What's going on with the stuff in the crock pot? It's boiling pretty hard." Great. I'd been gone for less than 2 hours. I sighed."Just unplug it. I'll be home soon."

Home again, I executed the next step. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet and stir until smooth.

Add the butter and flour mixture to the soup. Cook and stir for a couple of minutes until slightly thickened.

Now for the "cheese". I cut up 8 oz. of Velveeta. I cut the fat a little by using the 2% milk Velveeta.

Add the cheese, milk (I used non-fat), and salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the cheese is melted, then remove from heat and add 1/4 cup of sour cream (I used low fat). In my rush to get dinner on the table, I forgot to take a picture of this step.

Ladle it up into bowls. Mmmm. Cheesy.

I decided to play up this soup's name with my garnish. I topped mine with a swirl of ketchup, sliced onion, and pickles. I also toasted some hamburger buns for sopping.

Cheeseburger Soup from Taste of Home

1/2 pound ground beef
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups diced peeled potatoes (1-3/4 pounds)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups (8 ounces) process cheese (Velveeta)
1-1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup sour cream

In a 3-qt. saucepan, brown beef; drain and set aside. In the same saucepan, saute
onion, carrots, celery, basil and parsley in 1 tablespoon butter until vegetables
are tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth, potatoes and beef; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt remaining butter. Add flour; cook and stir
for 3-5 minutes or until bubbly. Add to soup; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for
2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add cheese, milk, salt and pepper; cook and stir
until cheese melts. Remove from the heat; blend in sour cream.

Yield: 8 servings (2-1/4 quarts).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Asian Style Peanut Chicken Pasta

The inspiration for tonight's dinner came from a microwave dinner:

I really enjoy the "zesty peanut sauce" as Smart Ones describes this entree served over rice noodles. I set out to create my own. This turned out to be a quick, easy, and delicious meal that was popular with the whole family.

I started out by stir frying about a pound of cut up boneless skinless chicken breast.

While the chicken cooked I worked on my sauce. You'll need low fat peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, garlic, a little ginger, and some cornstarch and water. In a bowl, combine the cornstarch and water first, then add in the other ingredients and stir until they are mixed.

Once the chicken was no longer pink, I removed it to a covered bowl to keep it warm. Then I sliced half an onion and a carrot and stir fried them until tender. I used a little salt to season both the chicken and the veggies.

When the onion and carrot are tender crisp, add in the sauce. Bring it to a boil and cook until the sauce is thickened.

Return the chicken to the mixture and stir.

Now add in about half a box of cooked linguine.

I think that the linguine was better with this recipe. It certainly made the dish appear more like the original.

That said, I really liked the rice noodles too. I decided to try some each way. These were the rice noodles that my local grocery had in stock.

A little different than the wider version used in the Smart Ones Thai Style Chicken and Rice Noodles. My four year old preferred the rice noodles. They certainly were more messy than the linguine. Stretchy and stringy, they went on forever when you pulled them from the bowl with a fork. They were probably more fun for a four year old to the very least more challenging. That's my kid. She never wants to do anything the "easy way". Here it is with the rice noodles:

I prefer a little more "heat" than this dish offered. Then next time I make it, I'll probably add some red pepper flakes to the sauce.

Asian Style Peanut Chicken Pasta

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces
8 oz. linguine or rice noodles, cooked according to package directions
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into 1-1/2" pieces
1/2 large onion, sliced
1 T. oil for cooking
salt to taste
2 t. cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup reduced fat peanut butter
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. red pepper flakes or to taste
pinch of ground ginger or fresh grated ginger root

Cook pasta according to package directions. In a skillet, cook chicken in oil until no longer pink. Remove to a covered bowl to keep warm. Add the carrot and onion to the skillet and stir fry until tender crisp. Mix sauce ingredients in a bowl, combining the cornstarch and water first. Add the sauce to the vegetables in the skillet. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Return the chicken to the skillet. Stir. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss until coated.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Enchilada Casserole with Guest Cook Angie

My little sis Angie is filling in for me as the guest cook again tonight. And not a moment too soon... yesterday my friend Staycie, who brought you Mexican Lasagna, asked if I'd like to join her at The Eagles concert tonight. So while I'm swaying along to "Desperado" and "Hotel California" and my husband is likely driving the children through McDonald's, I'll leave all of you to "Take It Easy" and enjoy my sister's cookin'. I've got a "Peaceful Easy Feeling" that her Enchilada Casserole won't let you down.

Alright, I'm turning it over to Angie now, 'cause "I'm Already Gone".

This is one of my favorite Mexican dishes! I make it frequently in our house, it’s quick, simple and oh so yummy! I got this recipe from my best friend’s mom when I went to college. She used to have “Mexican Night” for her family and since her daughter was going to be living with me at Purdue she thought she needed to pass the recipe on to me! I changed it around a little bit to make it even tastier!

Brown 1 pound of hamburger.

After browning ground beef, prepare according to taco seasoning directions.

Spread refried beans on the bottom of the taco shell.

Top with taco meat.

Repeat with all taco shells and lay in a 13x9 baking dish.

Mix tomato soup, cream of mushroom soup and enchilada sauce together in small bowl.

Pour over taco shells.

Sprinkle with Mexican blend cheese. Then bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes, serve with refried beans, sour cream, salsa, chips… this is where you can get creative!

Enchilada Casserole
1 pound ground beef
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 can refried beans
1 package hard corn taco shells
1 can tomato soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can red enchilada sauce
1 cup Mexican blend cheese.

Prepare taco meat, spread refried beans on the bottom of the taco shell, top with taco meat. Lay in a 9x13 pan. Mix soups and enchilada sauces together, spread over the top of the taco shells. Cover with cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Enjoy!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bacony Chicken and Rice Bake

This recipe comes from Mary at Deep South Dish. I love her blog! Absolutely mouth watering Southern and Cajun food. Not only do I enjoy her recipes, but I feel like I'm getting an education in Cajun cuisine with posts about how to make a dark roux, gumbos and takes me to another place! She also makes a fabulous fried chicken...and catfish for that matter. When I saw her post about this Bacony Chicken and Rice bake I knew it was going in my recipe queue. It was fun to make. With my recent struggles with my crock pot, this recipe had a crock pot feel, only it really was no fuss! This recipe is definitely a keeper.

You begin with lining the bottom of a 9X9 baking pan with bacon. This recipe made the perfect amount of food for two adults, 2- 4 year olds, and a one year old, with a little rice to spare. If you're cooking for a larger crowd you could double it and use a larger baking dish.

Now top the bacon with a cup of uncooked rice. I used brown, it's my favorite.

Next, arrange your chicken pieces on top of the rice. Mary used chicken thighs. I had a couple of breast halves thawed. Go ahead and leave the skin on. You can peel it off before you eat it.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper, paprika, and Cajun seasoning. Mary uses Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning. You'll find the link on her blog. I used a variety that I picked up at my local supermarket.

Now mix a can of cream of chicken soup with water and season with garlic salt, nutmeg, oregano, and parsley.

Pour the soup mixture over the chicken and then cover the dish tightly with foil. Bake at 300 degrees for 2 hours.

It turns out just perfect! Tender, juicy chicken. Delicious, perfectly cooked and seasoned rice. It was absolutely amazing. Everyone loved it!

My 4 year old had a friend over for dinner this evening. I learned a lesson the last time I cooked for these two. One doesn't like one thing, the other doesn't like another. Opinions are voiced. Forces are joined...and nothing gets eaten. I was a step ahead of them here. I told them that I cooked them a special, fancy dinner just for them. I made up a whole story about the celebration. I told them to be part of the celebration they had to wear lots of beads to dinner and use their best manners because it was extra fancy. Then I lit a candle and arranged the chicken and rice and vegetables into this:

They ate every bit, asked for more chicken, and then made a pretty good dent in the bacon that lined the bottom of the baking dish. Oh yeah. I rock.

Here's the recipe from Mary's blog

Bacony Chicken & Rice Bake
Adapted from Sweet Potato Queens' Big-Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner)
Posted at

4 slices of bacon, cut in half
1 cup of uncooked rice
4 chicken thighs
Couple pinches of Kosher salt, or to taste
8 turns of the pepper grinder
Couple shakes of paprika
Couple dashes of Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 cup of water
Sprinkle of garlic salt
Pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of oregano
Small palmful of dried parsley

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Cut 4 slices of bacon in half and layer them on the bottom of a 9 x 9 inch baking dish. Pour the rice on top. Add the chicken over the rice and season with the salt, pepper, paprika, and Cajun seasoning. In a separate bowl add the cream of chicken soup, water, garlic salt, nutmeg, oregano, and parsley and whisk together well. Pour over the chicken. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 300 degrees for 2 hours without peeking at it!
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