Friday, December 31, 2010

January 2010 Menu Plan

Can you believe it's a new year already? Christmas has come and gone so quickly, I'm not even sure it happened. If I didn't have a tiny helicopter buzzing around my head shooting actual missiles at me, I would be inclined to think it hadn't.

I've started thinking about New Year's resolutions. I have never really made any in the past, so this is a new thing this year. I have a couple goals in mind, and while they seem at first glance to be simple, I know it's going to be an uphill battle.

#1 - Get a handle on my housekeeping. Or lack thereof. I am TERRIBLE at it. My house ALWAYS looks like a tornado ripped through it. It has probably been months since I vacuumed the stairs. I have the Fly Lady on tap and I think I am truly ready to let her help me this time.

#2 - Stay the hockey sticks out of Wal-Mart. I can't leave that place without spending two hundred dollars. My goal is one trip per month. Get all household supplies and non-perishable groceries in one trip.

So instead of planning my suppers weekly, I need to plan for the month. Tina does it this way, and I ended up using hers as a template. This turned out to be a little harder than I thought it would, mostly because I kept getting side-tracked. I have a program on my computer that organizes recipes. The problem is that I have recipes scattered over three different computers and/or email accounts.

I will never go paperless. It is beyond my ability. I have to have a hard copy of whatever I am studying in front of me. I simply detest scrolling through computer files. So I bought a photo album (from Wal-Mart) to put a print out of all my favorite recipes. Today, I made sure I had all my recipes in the program and then I printed them on 4 x 6 cards to put in my new cookbook. Even though I have yet to decide on my perfect organizing system, this is so much better. There are recipes I loved that I forgot I had.

Anyway, to make a short story long, I spent about three hours this afternoon making out my January menu plan.

But it is done!

Now I need to make out a grocery list...

January Suppers
Grandma's Goulash & Salad & Fruit
Upside Down Pizza & Salad
PW's Chicken Strips & Potato Salad
Roast Beef & Carrots & Potatoes (SC)
Tuna Salad & Chips
PW's Tomato Cream Pasta & Salad
Beef Stew
Sticky Asian Chicken & Rice & Veggies
Bacon Wrapped Corndogs & Green Beans
Spagetti Tacos & Salad
Pumpkin Soup
Baked Teriyaki Chicken & Rice & Veggies
Chicken Lickin with Noodles (SC)
Ham Salad & Chips
Sloppy Burgers
Sweet and Sour Chicken with Rice (SC)
Chicken and Dumplings (SC)
Meatloaf & Potatoes & Corn
Pizza Burgers
Baked Chicken & Potatoes & Green Beans
Meatball Stone Soup

Snacks and Desserts
Vanilla Pudding
Caramel Chip Bars
Triple Chocolate Mess
Note: SC stands for Slow Cooker. I don't have nearly enough of those.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chicken Strips

On any given day, ask The Boy what he wants for dinner, supper, lunch, snack, breakfast, and he will say "Chicken with Ranch." At least he is branching out from the ketchup.

We have had the frozen chicken strips and nuggets a few times and I really, really don't care for those. Oddly enough, the day I sat down to search for a recipe, the Pioneer Woman had one waiting in my Reader.

Soak your chicken strips in buttermilk for about 15 minutes.
In another bowl, mix flour and your choice of spices. This is what is known as Montreal Chicken. I have no idea why it is called that.
Add about a third a cup of buttermilk and stir it all up.
Dip your soaked chicken strips in your flour mixture.
So they are nice and coated.
Fry in hot oil for just a minute or two.
Don't forget the Ranch.

Click here for Printable Recipe

Chicken Strips
1 package Chicken Breasts, cut into strips
1-½ cup Flour
2 teaspoons Spices Of Your Choosing
Vegetable Oil
Start by rinsing and drying your chicken strips. Next, in a bowl submerge the chicken strips in buttermilk for 15 to 20 minutes.
In another bowl combine about 1 ½ cups flour and 2 to 3 teaspoons of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt (or other seasonings if you prefer). Mix this together well. Next, add about ¼ to ½ cup of buttermilk into the flour mixture and stir lightly with a fork as you add it.
Heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-low to medium heat.
Remove a few of the buttermilk-soaked strips and place them in the flour mixture, turning them over to coat them thoroughly. Place them on a plate. Continue coating chicken strips until they are all ready to cook.
When the oil is sufficiently heated, begin cooking the strips a few at a time. Cook them for about a minute and a half or so on each side. When golden and crispy, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate.
Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Butterscotch Cheesecake

I love cheesecake. And it loves me.

I have been on a cheesecake kick lately, I just can't seem to get enough of it. It's really not difficult to make, it just takes some time. My mom has actually made REAL New York Carnegie Deli Cheesecake before. It apparently IS fairly involved. I might have to get that recipe.

This butterscotch recipe intrigued me when I saw it in Taste of Home and it just kept calling to me. The Girl has not stopped requesting it.

Traditionally, you are supposed to bake your cheesecake in a springform pan. The sides of this pan can be loosened and removed so you have beautifully perfect slices of pie. I used to have one, but it is in the stratosphere with the rest of my house, and I never replaced it. I have been baking in a pie plate or a regular 9 x 13 pan with really good results, so I will probably stick with that for now.

Mix up a graham cracker crust. This recipe calls for brown sugar, but I apparently just started mixing up my old stand-by one :) Which ever kind of sugar you decide to use, add in the crushed graham crackers and melted butter.
Mix that well and press into your pie plate (or springform pan) (or 9 x 13) and set aside.
Whisk together the milks and INSTANT butterscotch pudding mix. We are going to let this sit for a few minutes so it just starts to set up.
Beat in 3 (count them, three) packages of room temperature cream cheese. Let your cream cheese set out for a few hours. This makes it so much easier to whip and you end up with a much creamier pie.
Add in 3 lightly beaten eggs. Mix on low until the eggs are just combined with the cheese mixture. We don't want to lose any of that fluffiness.
Pour into your graham cracker crust and bake at 325 for 60-75 minutes.
Let cool and place in the refrigerator overnight.
This is the hard part. The waiting. Knowing that you cannot have what you most desire...
Knowing that tomorrow, you are going to have to have this for breakfast because you can't stand it anymore...
But trust me on this one. Tomorrow, it will be infinitely better. It NEEDS that night time to blend those flavors.

Click here for Printable Recipe

Butterscotch Cheesecake
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup cold 2% milk
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant butterscotch pudding mix
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon Spice Island® Pure Vanilla Extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Place a greased 9-in. springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. square). Securely wrap foil around pan. In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs and sugar; stir in butter. Press onto the bottom of prepared pan. Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 325° for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
In a small bowl, whisk the milks and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in pudding and vanilla. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Pour over crust. Place springform pan in a large baking pan; add 1 in. of hot water to larger pan.
Bake at 325° for 65-75 minutes or until center is almost set and top appears dull. Remove springform pan from water bath. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Garnish with whipped cream and butterscotch candies if desired. Yield: 12 servings.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Butterscotch Pudding

This winter, I remembered my childhood in which pudding was made on a stove. Or maybe I just dreamed that, I don't know. But I've made it my mission to discover home made pudding. I am sooooo glad I did that.

What I have found is that pudding is really simple to make, even if it takes a bit longer than instant. And like so many other things, it is infinitely better than instant, plus, you can have some while it is still warm...mmmmmm....

On low heat, stirring constantly, (we don't want to burn the milk) bring the milk, cornstarch, salt and dark brown sugar to a boil. You could use light brown sugar here, but don't. The dark brown sugar gives a whole other dimension of flavor.
After the milk reaches boiling, cook for one minute. Add a quarter cup of the hot mixture to two egg yolks. Temper those yolks so they don't turn into scrambled eggs in your pudding. Add this back into the milk mixture and cook for one more minute.
Remove from heat and add in two tablespoons real butter and a teaspoon of vanilla. Stir this until the butter is completely melted.
Pour into your fancy garage sale glasses and cool.
This didn't even get to the refrigerator before The Kids got into it. What a wonderful dessert for a cold winter afternoon. My only regret is that I didn't have any whipped cream to add to the top. How does that even happen?

Click here for Printable Recipe

Butterscotch Pudding
1/2 C Dark Brown Sugar
2 T Cornstarch
1 1/2 C Milk
Pinch of Salt
2 Egg Yolks
2 T Butter
1/2 t Vanilla
In a small saucepan, mix together brown sugar, cornstarch, salt and milk. Over low heat, bring mixture to a boil. Cook and stir 1 minute. Temper yolks by quickly stirring in about 1/4 of the boiling mixture. Pour yolk mixture back into hot milk and return to heat. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla until butter is melted. Pour into bowls and let cool.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Homemade Granola

I love Tina's blog. She makes so many things that sound so good to me. I like granola bars, but I have never been tempted to eat granola just as a snack by itself. I can be really dumb sometimes. I have noticed lately I have been drawn to foods that are supposed to be really healthy. This just looked so good that I had to try it.

Melt the butter. I love butter. Butter makes everything better.
Once the butter melts, add in the honey and salt. Heat this until you get a foamy mixture.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the oats, wheat germ, cinnamon, brown sugar and all the other stuff you want in your granola. This is where it gets fun. Like dried fruit? Add in a half a cup. Nuts? What kind? I like almonds, but you might prefer pecans. The spices can be mixed up, too. I occasionally add in a half a teaspoon of nutmeg.
Add in the butter and honey and mix well.
Spread all of that goodness into a baking pan. And bake for about 10 minutes. Watch this closely. You are going for toasted here, and there is a very fine line between toasted and burned.
Let it cool for about 10 minutes. Stir it up and let it cool completely.

Wow. I love this. I have been eating yogurt for breakfast simply as an excuse to eat granola. I eat this by the spoonful. I think my husband might be worried. If this isn't good for you, for heaven's sake, don't tell me.

Click here for Printable Recipe

Homemade Granola
3 1/2 Cups Uncooked Old Fashioned Oats
1 stick + 1 tablespoon Butter
1/2 Cup Honey
1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Wheat Germ
1/2 Cup almond pieces
1/2 Cup Almond Slivers
1/2 - 1 Cup Dried Fruit
Melt butter in a 3 - quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the honey and salt and briefly heat with the butter until foamy and bubbly. In a separate bowl mix together the oatmeal, wheat germ, nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon sugar if adding dried fruit add them as well. Turn off the heat and add the oatmeal mixture. Stir until everything is coated. Pour the mixture onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Spread the mixture out evenly and pat down. Bake it at 375° for 10 minutes (watch carefully) It will be a golden brown color. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes using a spatula or flipper slide it under the granola to loosen it a bit so it does not stick. Let cool on the baking sheet about 30 minutes then break into pieces and store in an airtight container

Sunday, December 5, 2010

This Week's Menu

I completely forgot to post my menus for last week. I had them written out, I just never posted them. Not that it mattered, we had so much going on last week that I think I ended up cooking only one night. Oh, well. I tried

Sunday: Chicken and noodles
Monday: Chili, Cinnamon Rolls
Tuesday: Mooshu Sloppy Joes
Wednesday: Dairy Queen
Thursday: Roast Beef, Carrots, Potatoes
Friday: Barbecue Beef Sandwiches

Snacks: Reindeer Brownies

We will also be cooking in the kitchen getting our Holiday Bake Off entries ready. At least The Girl will as part of her 4-H project. If I have time and energy, I will as well. She has her candy and cookie recipes picked out, but I haven't found what I want to try this year. I'm guessing I will be able to find something.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Beef Noodle Bowl

Kraft used to send out a free recipe magazine once every couple months. They don't anymore. I'm sure we can blame the economy for that cut back, but I sure do miss it. I get an email newsletter, but that just isn't the same as leafing through the pages.

This recipe is one of the last ones I cut out. I found it while digging through my fairly large pile of printed and cut out recipes. I showed it to The Girl and she turned up her nose. Lucky for her I had already bought the ingredients.

Cut a pound of sirloin steak into strips and brown this in a little bit of oil.
Meanwhile, cook half a package of fettucine noodles in six cups of boiling water for 8 minutes.
For the last 2 minutes of boiling the pasta, add in 2 cups of broccoli flowers and 2 cups of sliced carrots. I bought these pre-sliced. It was slightly more expensive, but on a Tuesday night, the convenience is totally worth it. Plus they are much prettier than I would have been able to do.
Add in 1/4 cup each of zesty Italian dressing and teriyaki sauce along with 1 teaspoon ground ginger. Stir well and cook this down until the sauce thickens.
Drain the noodles and vegetables and transfer to a (very) large mixing bowl.
Add in the meat mixture and toss together until well blended.
Serve in bowls with or without chopsticks. My kids are really big on the chopsticks right now. This is really, really good. It also serves a lot. The recipe says it makes four servings, but we didn't seem to make a dent in it, even with everyone going back for seconds. We had plenty left over, which was fine because The Girl wanted it for supper the next night. We have also made this two more times.

This is really simple to make, but it does dirty up quite a few dishes. Even if you have a dishwasher, it is a good idea to have someone handy to clean up the pots as you are cooking.
Click here for Printable Recipe

Beef Noodle Bowl
8 oz Fettuccine
2 Cups Broccoli Florets
2 Cups Sliced Carrots
2 tsp Vegetable Oil
1 lb Beef Sirloin Steak, cut into strips
1/4 Cup Zesty Italian Dressing
1/4 Cup Teriyaki Sauce
1 tsp Ground Ginger

Cook pasta as directed on the package, adding broccoli and carrots to the cooking water for the last 2 minutes of the pasta cooking time. Drain pasta mixture. Meanwhile, heat oil in large nonstick skillet. Add meat; cook until browned on all sides, stirring occasionally. Stir in dressing, teriyaki sauce and ginger; cook until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Toss pasta and meat mixtures in large serving bowl.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Gronkle Cake

Have you seen How to Train Your Dragon? If you have a child, know a child or have ever been a child, go buy this movie. This is a direct quote from my mom. We watch this show at least once a day.

If you tuned in last year about this time, you will know that I asked The Boy what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday. His answer was "a Wonder Pets tate." You would think that I would have learned my lesson with that one, but again this year, I asked. At first he wanted another Wonder Pets cake. This was quickly vetoed and we spent quite a bit of time looking up cakes on the web. If you have never done this, I highly recommend it. There are some amazing cake decorators out there.

We eventually ended up finding several HtTYD cakes, many of which involved fondant. I'm not a big fan of fondant, mainly because it doesn't taste very good. Frosting is where it's at for me when it comes to decorating. Mind you, I didn't say I was good at it, I just prefer it.

So after many days of changing his mind, The Boy decided on a purple Gronkle. For the uninitiated, this is a Gronkle.
You will notice that Gronkles are actually green. When McDonald's had dragons in their Happy Meals, the Gronkle was purple. I'm not sure why. So a purple Gronkle it is. I was actually relieved. Of all the dragons in the movie, I truly believe the Gronkle would be the easiest to build.

Start by baking your cakes. I ended up with two batches and was actually thinking I wouldn't have enough. But if done correctly (and in this department, I was extremely lucky), two should suffice. The trick here is to bake your pieces in the correct sizes to begin with so you won't have much in the way of rough edges to frost. This is not a fun undertaking and should be avoided at all costs. Look around your kitchen, you probably have something that will work. I have a set of Pyrex mixing bowls. The incredible thing about Pyrex is that those bowls can double as a baking dish if you need them to. Most of them cannot be heated on the stovetop or in a broiler, but just baking works out just fine.

It is a good idea to do all the baking the evening before. This way, the cakes will be completely cool when you are ready to work with them.

Once they are cooled, we can start putting our dragon together. This is also a good time to turn the movie on so The Boy doesn't try to "help make a purple Drontle tate." We're still working on some of our consonant sounds.
This is a shot of my baked cakes. The yellow cake in the top left was baked using a regular baking pan filled about a third full. This is going to be the base of the body. Below that was baked in my round Pyrex casserole dish filled about half full and will form the top of the head. The two chocolate cakes were baked in regular cake pans, about half full. One will become the top of the body and the other will be the bottom of the head. The four yellows in the middle are regular cupcakes, with four mini cupcakes right next to them. These will become legs. The rounded cake right next to the minis was baked in myPyrex mixing bowl filled about half full. And the last cake was baked in a ramekin. Both of these will form the tail.
Start with the head. Slice just a little bit off the back to make a flat edge.
Take the chocolate piece and place it in between the two layers to form an open mouth.
Slice a little bit off the front of the two body layers. Place the flat edge of the body up against the flat edge of the head.
Take the bigger of the smaller cakes and cut out a slightly rounded edge that will fit up against the edge of the body where you want the tail.
Take the remaining small cake and cut out a small slice to finish up the end of the tail.
So here we have the structure of the body.
Now we are going to form the legs. Even out the tops of the cupcakes. Just slice the tops off a little bit form a flat top.
Do the same thing with the mini cupcakes.
Put a mini cupcake on top of one of the regular cupcakes. Arrange them where the legs of a dragon should of course go.
Now we are starting to look like a dragon.
This is a pretty good time to call in quality control. It's a good thing, too, because I forgot the Gronkle's horn.
Find one of your scrap pieces and form a little horn. You might also notice here that I somehow sliced off the front of the head. I did NOT mean to do that and I will put it back on before I frost it.
Frost your cake. Pick a color, any color. It is really difficult to get a dark purple frosting, but The Boy said it was fine. I also added on a piece of the chocolate edge to use as a place to hold up the eyes.
The eyes are powdered donuts stuck into the frosting. The really great thing about frosting a Gronkle cake is that it is a dragon. Dragons have scales. So the frosting doesn't have to be smooth. Actually, you want a pretty rough frosting job.
So here he is frosted.
Now, Gronkles have spots. Big ones and little ones. Jeff has been inhaling Maple Nut Goodies since he decided to quit chewing. These were perfect.
For the little spots, The Boy added in peanut butter chips. Looking at it now, I would be sure we put the chips upside down.
Now the wings were a challenge. Fruit Roll-ups fanned in between pretzel sticks work pretty well. This is not as simple as it seems. Fruit Roll-ups are really sticky. Luckily, I had children in the house to eat up the scraps. These are also a good thing to put on right before serving so they don't fall off the cake.
The Boy came back and was extremely concerned that the Gronkle didn't have toenails. Slide in four Maple Nut Goodies on each foot to fix this inaccuracy.
Now the teeth. These are sliced up Andes mints. Add a little bit of frosting along the bottom of the mouth and stick the mints in there so they stand up. I didn't even try to add them to the top, because I knew they would fall out.
You don't even notice, do you?
This took awhile. All told, I think I clocked in four hours, including the baking of the cakes. It was a lot easier than the Wonder Pets cake, that's for sure.
And again, totally worth it :)