Monday, September 7, 2009

Apple Crumb Pie

Apple Crumb Pie
See that caramelized edge? Think apples swimming in caramel under that crumb topping. Let's get cooking, kids!

Here are your basic ingredients. Nothing out of the ordinary, right?

1 store-bought pie crust, defrosted (See the NOTES below)
4-5 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (chunky - not paper-thin)
1/3 C white sugar
2/3 C brown sugar, divided
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp cinnamon (divided)
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp nutmeg (divided)
2 tsp lemon juice
1/3 C + 1 Tbs all-purpose flour
2/3 C oatmeal
1 stick butter, softened

1. Peel, core, and slice the apples. Simplest way to peel, core, and slice an apple: cut that sucker into fourth, slam your knife diagonally at the core to get it out, peel the remaining goodness, and slice, slice, slice. Is there undoubtedly going to be some wastage? Yeah. Will you be spending your entire day peeling and coring? Nope.

2. Combine the sliced apples with 1/3 C sugar, 1/3 C brown sugar, 1 Tbs flour, and 1/4 tsp EACH cinnamon and nutmeg. See that glossy sheen on the bowl? The apples are macerating in the sugars and beginning to create what will mimic some creamy caramel in the pie.

3. Let the apples sit while you go to work on the crumb topping.

4. If you're feeling like the kid needs to be put to work, let him mix the apples a little.

5. Prepare the crumb topping by combining 2/3 C oatmeal, 1/3 C AP flour, 1/8 tsp EACH cinnamon and nutmeg, and 1 stick of softened butter. Some people use a fork or pastry blender. At this point, I toss all utensils aside and mix everything with my sausage-like fingers. You should too; even if you don't have sausage-like fingers.

6. See? A few minutes of crumbling, and this is what you'll see in your stainless steel bowl as well!

7. Add the apples to the defrosted crust, top with the crumb topping, pressing it down a bit into the apples, and bake for 50-60 minutes.

Full recipe without the shots:

Apple Crumb Pie

1 store-bought pie crust, defrosted (See the NOTES below)
4-5 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (chunky - not paper-thin)
1/3 C white sugar
2/3 C brown sugar, divided
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp cinnamon (divided)
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp nutmeg (divided)
2 tsp lemon juice
1/3 C + 1 Tbs all-purpose flour
2/3 C oatmeal
1 stick butter, softened
1. Peel, core, and slice the apples. Simplest way to peel, core, and slice an apple: cut that sucker into fourth, slam your knife diagonally at the core to get it out, peel the remaining goodness, and slice, slice, slice. Is there undoubtedly going to be some wastage? Yeah. Will you be spending your entire day peeling and coring? Nope.

2. Combine the sliced apples with 1/3 C sugar, 1/3 C brown sugar, 1 Tbs flour, and 1/4 tsp EACH cinnamon and nutmeg. The apples will macerate in the sugars, beginning to create what will mimic some creamy caramel in the pie.

3. Let the apples sit while you go to work on the crumb topping.

4. Prepare the crumb topping by combining 2/3 C oatmeal, 1/3 C AP flour, 1/8 tsp EACH cinnamon and nutmeg, and 1 stick of softened butter. Some people use a fork or pastry blender. At this point, I toss all utensils aside and mix everything with my sausage-like fingers. You should too; even if you don't have sausage-like fingers.

5. Add the apples to the defrosted crust, top with the crumb topping, pressing it down a bit into the apples, and bake for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees.

Crust: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know some purists out there won't like that I appear to be advocating for store-bought crust, however, when it means saving some times and/or presenting a recipe that will cause more people to MAKE their own pies than BUY their own pies, I'm ok with this. I do have a pretty good crust recipe you can easily make using some basic ingredients that are thrown into a Tupperware container and mixed by shaking the holy hell out of the container. I'll post it another time. If you're feeling all sorts of Pie Militant, feel free to make your own crust, my brothers and sisters!

: I have made a myriad of apple pies using various apples, but I almost always come home to the Granny Smith when making a pie for someone else. I also do not slice the apples paper-thin because they tend to just disappear as they bake. I like a good chunky apple in my pie.

I have made this very same recipe using Smart Balance with very good results.

Brown sugar:
I PACK it for the crumb topping but merely spoon it loosely when adding it to the apples. You can certainly play with the sugar amounts. I tend to just throw the sugar in when baking pies. When I made this most recent one, I forced myself to measure everything - which just goes against my nature when cooking anything other than bread.

I made this same pie last week using peaches rather than apples.

Add chopped walnuts and golden raisins to the apple mixture to create a more rustic pie.

Serve the pie warm with some aged cheddar that's come to room temperature.

Whipped cream? If you must, please make your own. Please? I beg of you.
My Pack Mule and Butter loved the peach one I made last week. This very pie you see here was brought to a friend's house. While I didn't taste it, people said it was delicious goodness.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Potato-Cheese Casserole

A casserole, at least in my world, needs to have some cheese. Please don't talk to me about gut-clogging fat. Just eat in moderation, ok, folks? In addition, this particular bit of goodness is EASY. I'm talking stupid easy. Simplicity at its best.

You can throw this sucker together when you get home from work and are debating whether or not to sell your children to the highest bidder because they won't do their homework but WILL argue with each other incessantly. Or. Just for kicks, throw it together in 10 minutes or less before leaving for work and let it sit in the fridge while you're at work - knowing that you're halfway to dinner before even leaving work.

Good. Now take a look at this.

The finished product is cheesy goodness.

Potato-Cheese Casserole

1 20oz package of pre-shredded fresh potatoes
1 1/2 C shredded cheese, divided
3/4 C low-fat sour cream
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 c green onions, thinly sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8X8 or similar size pan with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Combine potatoes, 1C cheese, sour cream, seasonings, and green onions in a bowl.

3. Spread the potato mixture in the pan and top with the remaining 1/2 C cheese

4. Bake for 45 minutes until bubbly and golden brown on top. Be sure to keep an eye on the dish the first time you make it because oven times vary. If yours browns the cheese too quickly, cover the pan with foil and uncover for the last 15 minutes.


Potatoes: This recipe is based on using the PLAIN potatoes. The freshly-shredded potatoes can also be purchased with "Southwestern spices." I used these in the original recipe and omitted the salt and pepper. The spices were JUST RIGHT without having to adjust anything.

Cheese: I used Monterey Jack because I adore how it melts and becomes ultra-creamy. Cheddar fan? Go ahead. Cheese is cheese. Use what you like!

Additions: Chop 1/4 C each of onion and green or red pepper and add to the mixture. Finely chop fresh mushrooms to add a different texture to the casserole.


The Pack Mule was digging on the casserole. He is a potato whore and will eat them any way I fix them. I made this casserole on a day when my house was under attack from a bunch of neighborhood boys who would pop into the kitchen every five minutes asking for lemonade or a snack. I served the potatoes with grilled sirloin steaks for the Pack Mule and crab legs for me. We loved the spicy nature of the dish since I used the preseasoned Southwestern potatoes, but Butter wouldn't touch it because of the aroma of the hot peppers.

Could I have shredded my own and added my own spices? Sure. But this is simple stuff. I'm approaching D-Day with my work schedule and am willing to take a bullet from the "I Cannot Believe You Bought Prepared Stuff!" people.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Country White Bread

I have been playing with bread of different types over the past couple of months. Some have been wonderful while others have fallen short. Today I wanted to challenge myself to make a loaf without using someone else's recipe. I know...could go either way, right? Well, this one turned out AMAZINGLY well. I classify myself as a "recently-deflowered-yeast virgin." Yes. Me.

Yet, I attempted a yeast recipe today that came from my own damn head; of course it DID rely on the experiences I've had this summer. I started this bread this morning, and by the early afternoon, the loaf was completely baked and cooling on top of the stove. There were neighbor kids who'd recently descended on my home who were walking past the bread with hope gleaming in their eyes. Only one had the guts to ask for a slice before I'd taken one for anyone in my family. Good for him. I like a kid with courage! He waited until the other kids were elsewhere, stole into my kitchen realm, and politely asked for a slice. I left the end piece on the cutting board because most kids loathe the heel of the bread. Fine. He ate the slice I handed over, took the heel, and then sought me out in my home office to ask for another slice.

This is THE loaf. The crust had a bite to it, and there was a hefty crumb to the dough itself. By the end of the day, the bread was gone. Extinct. Butter got ONE slice. My Pack Mule and I shared one piece. Every other slice fed that herd of boys in my yard and home. Very good times!

Country White Bread

8 oz warm water (90 - 1oo degrees), divided
2 1/2 tsp bread machine/fast-rise yeast
2 Tbs honey
2 3/4 C bread flour + scant amount for kneading
2 Tbs dry milk
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs oil


  1. In a small bowl combine the yeast, honey, and 1/2 C warm water. Allow to sit for 8-10 so the yeast can proof. After that time span, the bowl should look puffy and bubbly. If not, try this again. You must see growth in size and bubbles.
  2. In a large bowl combine the flour, remaining water, dry milk, salt, and oil. The mixture will be crumbly and very dry.
  3. Add the proofed yeast mixture to the large bowl and combine.
  4. Transfer dough to a floured board and knead for 10-15 minutes adding minimal amounts of additional flour to avoid sticking.
  5. After kneading, form the dough into a ball, coat it in oil, and put it in a bowl. Let the dough rest for approximately an hour in a draft-free area.
  6. After the dough's risen, punch it down and knead again for 5 minutes.
  7. Shape the dough into a loaf of sorts and add to a loaf pan. Put the pan in a draft-free location and allow to rise a second time for 30 minutes
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the loaf for 35-45 minutes - until golden brown
  9. Allow to rest and cool before cutting. Hot bread from the oven will shred and bunch up easily if cut before being allowed to cool.

: If your yeast doesn't proof, try it again. Your water could have been too hot or too cold. Additionally, your yeast could be bad.
Flour: I chose to use bread flour for this one because I love the consistency of it.
Oil: I used canola. I also poured a scant amount into the bowl and then rolled the dough into before allowing time for the first rise. Nothing is worse than dough that sticks to the bowl when it's rising. Hence, oiling the BOWL.

After the second rise. (See that glimpse of maters behind the bread? They came from MY mater plant. *preening*)

After baking in the oven.

Like I said, the neighbor kids scarfed this bread in record time. The Pack Mule LOVES bread. He would live on bread alone if given the opportunity. And this bread? He was digging it. Butter? The kid. Not the delicious fatty stuff. He took a plain slice and savored it. Not one of the kids asked for butter, jam, peanut butter, or any other condiment. The bread alone was plenty to satisfy. Coming from someone who has been deathly afraid of yeast, this was a VERY simple recipe. I can also attest to the fact that kids love kneading the bread.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Soyrizo and Beans

Batten down the hatches.I have "invented" a new recipe with SOY. No meat here, kids. Nope. You can always throw in something from a cloven hoof if you feel the need, but I don't think it's necessary here.

29oz can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 package of Soyrizo (look for it in the produce section with the tofu, egg roll wrappers, etc.)
1 cup salsa - I used Newman's own.
1 cup Sofrito (made by Goya - a mixture of tomatoes, onions, green peppers, garlic, and cilantro)

Tortillas and/or rice
Fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and chopped onion
Shredded cheese of your choice

1. Remove the Soyrizo from the plastic casing and saute until heated through, browned, and slightly crispy.
2. Add the Sofrito and salsa and mix thoroughly.
3. Add the humongous amount of beans.
4. Allow to heat through completely.

You'll notice the shortage of "fresh" vegetables here. There are plenty of tomatoes, onions, and garlic in the salsa and sofrito. If you want to beef up the veggies. Go for it. I didn't feel the need. Obviously.

"What ARE these things she's talking about?" Here. Take a gander at the pics. You can easily find these items in your everyday grocery store.

Serve over rice (white, brown, or some made with Sazon!) or in warmed flour tortillas with shredded sharp cheddar or monterey jack, low-fat sour cream, and fresh cilantro.
I know there are some of you out there who can't stomach the "soapy" taste you get when eating cilantro. If that's you, chop up some fresh parsley. Nothing says loving like fresh herbs. I ate this in the tortilla and folded it up burrito style.

You NEED meat? Add some meat. Real chorizo, ground beef, tips, whatever. My only caution is that if you're going to use anything other than chorizo or another kind of sausage is to SEASON the meat before searing and cooking. I'd say salt, pepper, ground ancho chiles or plain old chile.

I fed this to my husband who states that a meal is not a meal unless there is something that's come from a cloven hoof. He had NO IDEA the chorizo was actually soy and will NEVER find out!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies (adapted from )

Sweet Mother of God. You must make these brownies. Get thee to a farmer’s market, snatch up some zucchini, and BAKE, DAMMIT! Just listen to me and take a gander at the pics. I know throwing a vegetable into a chocolate chunk of love seems like a travesty of all that is gooey, chocolate, and comforting. BUT trust me. I may not be as big as I used to be, but I still categorize myself as a Big Girl. If you trust nothing else, trust the food that comes from this Big Girl’s kitchen. I will certainly make these once my son starts preschool this fall. I see a lunchbox treat in the making!
Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

5 oz bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 egg
1 C granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 C all-purpose flour or oat flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini, (about 1 large zucchini)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
Non-stick cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 8×8-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place chocolate in microwave (30 seconds to 1 minute) until melted. Cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, egg, sugar, vanilla and melted chocolate until well blended.
  4. Stir in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Fold in the zucchini and nuts and spread evenly into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the pan. Cool completely in the pan and cut into squares. Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. Makes 12, 1.5 ounce brownies


Chocolate: I made this on a spur of the moment and had to accept that Wal-Mart only has so much to offer in regards to chocolate. Those in the chocolate world may cringe, but the best I could do was one of those super-size Hershey Special Dark bars. I used my handy 10-inch butcher knife to chop it up.

Flavoring: The original recipe called for cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. I have a tough time stomaching the taste of cinnamon outside of a few recipes. I don’t even want to discuss pumpkin pie spice. This one? I couldn’t make myself put in either spice. I’m sure if you’re a lover of all that’s cinnamon, you’ll like one, the other, or both. The Skinny Chef called for 1 tsp of that stuff.

Batter: Not unlike the zucchini fritters also adapted from the Skinny Chef, this batter will be unbelievably dry and tough until you add the shredded zucchini. Do NOT despair and do NOT add any other moisture. And for all that’s holy USE YOUR HANDS to combine the batter with the zucchini. It’ll be messy but so much easier and “mother earth” than using some new-fangled spoon thing.

Zucchini: This lovely stuff adds so much moisture to the brownies. No cake-like texture in THIS recipe! No no no! And fiber. My brothers and sisters, you can eat these suckers with the knowledge that you’re getting some FIBER. For real. Amazing stuff, I tell ya.

Nuts: I didn’t put any in here because the kid gets ookey about what he calls “creepy” textures. Yeah. He’s four and uses the word “creepy” to describe things. Just roll with it. That’s what I do.

Cook time: I must confess that I only cooked these for 20 minutes and liked the texture of what came out of my oven. Some people are zealots when following a recipe. I follow my gut.

Change up the nuts or leave them out.
Add chunks of chocolate.

Both the husband and the kid were salivating when I pulled these suckers out of the oven. I used the oven timer because we were eating dinner while they were cooking. When the beeper went off, my son flew into the kitchen. Note: He hadn't eaten his dinner and was summarily sent back after being allowed to inhale all that is chocolate and top-secret zucchini. I didn't tell him these suckers had vegetables in them and never will!

Zucchini Fritters

I found this recipe on a night when I knew I wanted to use some zucchini I'd picked up at the farmer's market. I'd purposely chosen some of the larger ones because they were cheaper and could be easily used in a recipe calling for shredded zucchini. I have this "thing" about cooked zucchini: I can only eat it in small chunks, shredded, or grilled. The high water content makes it feel gross in my mouth if it's in large pieces.

Needless to say, I went in to the afternoon planning for the evening meal with "shredded zucchini on my mind. This lovely and so very simple dish is adapted from the Skinny Chef. I've seen other adaptations and ideas on blogs and other sites over the years but viewing a recipe that I was certain I'd like on a site that has "skinny" in its title made me try it.

Zucchini Fritters (adapted from )

3 C zucchini, shredded

1 egg lightly beaten

1/2 cup grated reduced-fat Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8-1/4 tsp nutmeg

scant 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Combine all of the ingredients except for the zucchini in a large bowl.
2. Whisk to form a batter, removing large lumps, about 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the grated zucchini it to the bowl. The moisture from the zucchini will produce a batter. Use your HANDS in this one. Stirring with a spoon is just not something I normally do. I’m a hands-on chick. Try it. You’ll like it. And the consistency once you add that zucchini? Goopy goodness. If you have kids who won’t fling this stuff around your kitchen, let ‘em get down and dirty with this stuff. They’ll love you as much as my kid does!
4. Use the batter immediately.
5. Heat olive or canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Using a 1/4-cup measure, pour out 3-4 cakes. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Drain on paper towel

Serves 2-4.


Moisture: Please believe me when I say you should NOT add any extra moisture to this recipe. When you see how dry and crumbly the batter will be before adding the shredded zucchini, you’ll be hard-pressed to not dump in some water or milk. DO NOT do this.

Mixing: Use your hands. But for all that’s holy, will you PLEASE remember to take off your rings before you do this? I never remember to take off my wedding rings and always get chunks of zucchini and soupy batter stuck under the diamonds. Learn from the error of my ways. Someone should.


I’ve doubled the recipe and used ½ Parm and ½ mozzarella with good results. I don’t recommend using a cheese with a high moisture content (fresh mozzarella) because the batter and resulting fritters will likely be very soupy. You want crunch with these babies.Serve hot or at room temperature. These will be great on a buffet because they retain their quality really well. If serving them as an appetizer, I’d recommend using a tablespoon measure for each fritter.


The husband LOVED these things. Loved them. The kid? Not so much. He knew they were “fried” and heard daddy raving about them but wouldn’t touch them. His loss is my gain.

Tuna Melts

As a general rule, I am not a fan or tuna or mayo. However, once or twice a year, I get a craving for tuna fish sandwiches – and especially like a tuna melt. The OCD weirdo in me will NOT eat tuna salad of any sort unless it’s been prepared in my own kitchen. I don’t care where you take me – high-class, low-class – I’m not eating it unless I’ve prepared it. This shocks a lot of people who’ve seen me eating in plenty a greasy spoon.

This fear of the unknown tuna likely goes back to my experience in the third grade when I ate tuna that wasn’t so fresh and ended up heaving my guts out next to my school bus while all of the kids watched in horror and fascination. So. I’m now 38 years old in the grand year of 2009 and eat tuna. Like I said, maybe once or twice year. (Don’t let my nasty gut heaver story stop you from making this one! Please.)

Tuna Melts

2 6-ounce cans of white albacore tuna packed in water
2 Tbs of non-fat plain yogurt
2 Tbs mayonnaise
¼ C onion – finely diced or shredded using a box grater
½ C shredded carrot
½ tsp salt
4 slices whole wheat bread, toasted
1 C part-skim mozzarella, cheddar, or the cheese of your choice

1. Preheat the oven to 400º F.
2. Drain tuna, dump into a bowl, and “shred” with a fork to break up the large chunks
3. In a small bowl combine the yogurt, mayo, onion, carrot, and salt until well combined and add to the tuna. Mix gently. You don't want to pulverize the poor tuna. It's already been put through the ringer in the ocean, ok kids?
4. Spread the tuna over the 4 slices of bread and top with the cheese.
5. Bake 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted.
6. Serve immediately. You don’t want some nasty mush-like mess, do you?
7. Serves 2 (generously)

Carrots: I always self-shred. The stuff that’s pre-bagged is just too chunky for my tastes.
Onion: I tend to veer toward grating the onion on a box grater because it turns the onion into a “juice” of sorts. I don’t like chunks of onion in my tuna. (I now see from where my son's gotten his whole texture issue. More mother guilt. Bring it on.)
Yogurt: Using the yogurt obviously cuts down on the fat calories in this recipe. I am not a fan of mayo and tend to like tuna salad that’s much drier than most people.
Mayo: Low-fat, full-fat, no-fat? The debate lives on. Use what you like. You’re the person eating the food. If you deny what you truly want, you’ll end up overdosing on the very taste and/or texture you were craving in the first place. My favorite mayo (if there is such a thing!) is Hellman’s. I grew up on Hellman's and won’t touch the “salad dressing” mayo stuff that’s on the market.
Bake time: Some people would disagree with the short bake time. I don’t like my tuna “warm.” I like the cheese melted and the tuna tepid. Do what you like best! You’re the one eating!

Add celery, hot sauce, and/or chopped pickles.Don’t toast the bread if you like things less “crunchy.”

The husband and kid didn’t want to try this. The husband thought there were too many “of those vegetables in there!” If he had his way, tuna would be ½ tuna and ½ mayo. Literally. I can’t stomach that sorta thing. He’s the kind of person who will order tuna in a deli and ask for “extra mayo.” Gah. The kid? He loathes mixing his food and doesn’t have a taste for tuna yet. Time will tell on that one.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I've finally made a true foray into baking with yeast. Until today, I'd consciously avoided recipes requiring me to create that perfect chemistry of yeast, a food source for that persnickety yeast, and a liquid at some sort of "perfect" temperature I never could seem to obtain.

Until TODAY. I made some simple foccacia following directions from Kittencal's Kitchen.

I was able to knead the dough easily. It came together so simply, and I actually had my four year old help me knead. He was a happy chip chappy.

The dough only needs to rise ONCE and does so in an hour. I threw mine into the oven when I left to pick up some fresh veggies for a salad. I have a gas stove-top, and the pilot light provided just the right conditions for the required rise. I baked it according to Kittencal's directions.

I chose to use sea salt, olive oil, dried oregano and basil, and freshly grated Parmesan for toppings.

If you live in fear of yeast - try this one. It'll give you confidence!

Kittencal's original recipe calls for olives and suggests using onions as well.
I see feta, thinly-sliced onions, and roasted red peppers as a natural grouping.
I also love provolone and pine nuts as a pairing.
I'm going to use the dough to make TWO thin foccacia loaves and will mound a salad of mixed greens that have been dressed with lemon juice and olive oil on top of the hot bread. I love salad and bread together.

My husband and son almost fell over with joy when I placed the finished product on the table. They were both pleased and munched with glee.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Creamy Chicken Casserole

Here's one for the "from the cupboard" people. I made this on a night when I didn't want to cook and couldn't be bothered to eat. However, I KNEW I would have a ravenous husband whose mood would worsen exponentially if his blood sugar dropped. Hence, I looked in the butler's pantry to see what was what.

People who say they NEVER cook using canned goods, especially cream soups are lying, eating some super-dee-dooper high fat creamy meals, or noshing on the Raw Diet.

Whatever works for 'em, I guess.

Creamy Chicken Casserole

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 LARGE can of cream of mushroom soup (I used Campbell's 98% fat free)
1/2 C low-fat sour cream
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 C shredded cheddar cheese, divided
2-3 C prepared egg noodles (The ones I used were left over from a meal earlier in the week. They were screaming to be used. And hell, they were the No Yolks.)


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Spray a 9X13 pan (or whatever , I'm not a pan whore. Just use what you have.) with a non-stick spray.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the soup, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Do NOT add water or milk. Just use the soup straight from the can.
  4. Add the chicken (raw) to the soup mixture and combine.
  5. Add half of the shredded cheese and the egg noodles, mix, and transfer to the baking pan.
  6. Top the casserole with the remaining shredded cheese.
  7. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, COVERED with foil.
  8. Turn on the broiler, remove the foil, and broil for approximately 5 minutes to brown the cheese on top.


  • Ok. So this is completely lacking in vegetables. So be it.
  • Add some veggies - the usual suspect would be broccoli, but I'm thinking peas and mushrooms would also be good.
  • Use whatever pasta and shape that suits you. I'll try this with rice another time.


My kid eyed this with trepidation and refused to eat it. He takes a gander at ANY casserole with suspect and doesn't like "mixing" his food. I'd prepared some Morning Star Farms "chicken" nuggets and slices of apple with a little fat free caramel dip for him.
The husband? Don't you know he balked at the serving I placed in front of him as if I'd given him WAY too much. He finished it lickity-split and then had seconds and thirds. When he want back for the trois feeding at the trough, I said, "Ahhhhh. I see. You thought it was going to SUCK and didn't want to have to eat the first plate, huh? It IS good, isn't it?"

He admitted his guilt and added, "It's summer. All I could think was 'hot food'!"

Doesn't matter. He was digging it. Try this easy one; you may like it too!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lamb and Feta Loaves

I cringe just looking at the name of this dish. Unless we're talking LOAVES of bread, fresh from the oven with tons of softened butter or a lovely bowl of olive oil with herbs, garlic, and sea salt - the word "loaves" makes my belly wanna heave.

With that said, I have no other way to describe these babies. I guess we'll have to overlook the crappy name and just dig in.

I made these a while ago and picked up freshly-ground lamb the other day, so this will be on the menu shortly. This recipe will make individual loaves of rich, meaty goodness. Trust me and my not-so-flat stomach.

Lamb and Feta Loaves


1lb ground lamb

1tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp coriander seed

1/2 tsp cumin

1 egg, slightly beaten

4 oz feta, crumbled

1 1/2 C shredded baby spinach leaves; chiffonade 'em

1/2 C unseasoned bread crumbs


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare a cooking sheet with a slab of that wonderful Silpat stuff.
  3. In a LARGE bowl combine the meat and all other ingredients. Use your damn hands! Forget the fancy shmancy Pampered Chef accoutrements you purchase because your friends have those parties. Just use your HANDS. You'll be able to efficiently and completely combine all of the ingredients in a minimum of time thus yielding a tender finished product. I loathe tough loaves of ANYTHING. That kinda crap is AKA OVER-MIXED AND OVER-HANDLED! Gak!
  4. Separate the meat mixture into small loaves - enough to serve one person. I ended up with 6 loaves, but then again, I don't eat large amounts of any meat in one sitting.
  5. Place them on the lovely Silpat and bake for approximately 15 minutes. They will have a lovely crust with small patches of dark spinach and oozy white feta peeking out at you.

Variations and notes:

  • Dried herbs in this recipe: Not fresh here. Just not.
  • Feta: I didn't use any of that flavored feta stuff. Just plain, salty, zingy feta. I have been known to make myself sick eating feta. I'm just gross that way.
  • Silpat and professional baking sheets: I cannot impress upon you how important Silpat and professional sheets are in the realm of all that is cooking. If you are lucky enough, like me, to have a restaurant supply store in your city/hometown, go and gaze at all that is beautiful there. The sheet pans. *sigh* I must stop. Please just go.
  • Spinach: I know it's long and involved. I know frozen spinach has 'come a long way.' I also know there's no way I'm using frozen spinach because it tastes 'gamey' and tough to me. Always. It ALWAYS does. If you wanna use frozen for the ease of this recipe, go for it.
  • Bread crumbs: Let's be honest here. If you want to use the canned, seasoned ones from Progresso, go for it. When I'm dragging-ass tired at the end of the day and have to throw these together, I'm gonna go for the can in my butler's pantry and not lose any sleep over it.
  • My Oven: I have a dual-fuel stove. The top is powered by gas while the oven is electric. There is the option for convection. I'm lazy and always pressed for time, so I always use the convection mode which means I have to watch anything in there for fear of overcooking. I think my little loaves took all of maybe 10 minutes because they were SO little. Use your convection wisely, people!
  • If you like, you can always get some bamboo skewers, soak those suckers in water, mold some of the loaf mixture around them, and grill 'em.
  • Feel free to grill these suckers patty-style as well - grill pan or grill outside. Whatever works!
  • If you want to go patty-style, throw together a little yogurt sauce, chop up some tomato, onion, and cucumber, and toss it all into a pita.


The husband wasn't touching these. He just wouldn't. He's a purist where meat's concerned and hates the thought of vegetables of any kind touching his cloven hoof. I'll convert his ass yet!

The people at work? Loved 'em.
Made them for some friends another time to rave reviews.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cheesy Olive Bread

I saw the original recipe posted by Ree Drummond at the Pioneer Woman Cooks. You gotta love a woman who feels that butter is a necessary ingredient in almost all recipes. That chick isn't afraid of a few chubs climbing onto her hips. (For real, have you see her? She's a hottie, fer cripe's sake. I say pack on some more. Make us real peeps feel like you're one of US!)

I have tweaked her original recipe to fit my tastes a bit but wanted people to know that the REAL idea stems from all that is Ree.

Cheesy Olive Bread

1 loaf of cheap "Italian" bread (Don't go wasting your money on artisan-quality bread. I spent a buck on a loaf from HellMart and made some amazing-ass bread the other night.)
1 1/2 sticks of salted butter, softened
1/4 C mayo (And we all know I loathe mayo. But wait. You won't taste it. If I couldn't taste it, no one will!)
1/2 small white or yellow onion, grated (Use that old box grater. I do! It creates "onion juice.")
1 lb Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (I use that box grater. I like freshly-grated for this baby.)
1 can black olives, chopped. (Chop 'em yourself. I hate those pre-sliced suckers.)
1/3 C green olives, chopped


  1. Slice the bread in half length-wise and place on a cookie sheet. (Please go buy yourself a Silpat. Please? Nothing sticks to that Silpat goodness.)
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the softened butter and mayo until combined.
  4. Add the olives and onion juice stuff. Combine.
  5. Dump in that lovely cheese goodness. At this point, drop the spoon. Use some clean hands to mix this stuff. Please? It's easy and adds some serious love to the dish. Trust me on this.
  6. When all ingredients are well-combined, pack the mixture on top of the cut sides of the bread. It'll look like a lot. Even if you think it's too much, use every bit of fatty love that's in the bowl.
  7. Slide that cookie sheet into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. I err on the side of longer rather than shorter. (Oy vey. That sounds naughty. But I digress.)
  8. You want the bread to be bubbly and the cheesy mixture to be browned.
  9. Take out the cookie sheet, and for all that's holy LET THE BREAD REST BEFORE SLICING. Two things will happen if you slice it before waiting 5-7 minutes:
    *The cheesy goodness will slice off the damn bread. Don't ask me how I know this.
    Just listen and know I am the all-knowing where this is concerned.
    *You will pop a piece of the bread into your mouth and scald your tongue, lips, and the
    roof of you mouth. Everything else that enters your mouth for the next day will be RUINED. Again. Trust me.
  10. Slide each half IN HALF, lengthwise again. (You'll end up with four long pieces of love.) Slice those pieces into smallish slices. If people take HUGE chunks of this, they will likely fall out from rapture. Or a heart attack. So. Let's go small.
  11. Be ready to entertain the masses who will ask for the recipe and admire your cookity cooking genius.


  • Feel free to mix cheeses or use different cheese altogether. Cheese is a food group in my home. As is bread.
  • I have never and will never use fat-free or reduced fat mayo in this. As much as I can't stand the texture and smell of that white, jiggly shit, I cannot veer from the full-fat version. If you're gonna take out the fat, you're altering the recipe all-together. And brands? I'll just say one word: Hellman's.
  • Red onion? Green onions? Sure. Go for it.


I have made this app several times this summer alone and haven't heard one person say "ick." Ever. The only so-so review was from someone who said, "Um. This is RICH, isn't it?"

Uh. Yeah. You're eating at a big girl's house. If you want to eat that celery shit, go elsewhere. Unless you want a stick of that crunchy stuff in a spicy Bloody Mary. Oh, I love a good Bloody Mary. Even Virgin. For real. I don't drink. Much. Really.

So, back to the bread. People will eat this. Trust me. Make it and watch it disappear.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fried Rice

I made some homemade fried rice using the some leftovers from the pork tenderloin. The husband usually looks at a single-dish dinner with a raised eyebrow. He comes from the school of "If there's not a bunch of cloven hoof on my plate, something's wrong." Yeah. I said that.

I pointed out that there was tenderloin in the dish, and he attacked with gusto.


8 oz pork tenderloin, chopped into bite-sized pieces (I used leftovers. If you are using raw, please cook it before throwing it in the rice. PLEASE? I just had visions of worms in the bowels of people.)

1 small can of water chestnuts, chopped

1 C frozen peas and carrots (Yes. Frozen. It's easier that way today.)

2 tsp oil

1 Tbl oyster sauce

2 Tbl soy sauce

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tsp sesame oil

3 cups cooked and COOLED rice

  1. Defrost the peas and carrots in a bowl in the microwave. Add approximately 1 Tbl of water to the veggies and heat on HIGH for 1 minute.

  2. Heat a large frying pan or wok over high heat. Add 1 tsp of the oil and flash fry the pork. If it's already cooked, you'll only need a minute or two for this. Remove the meat to a bowl.

  3. Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the pan and add the vegetables and rice, stirring quickly. Add oyster sauce through sesame oil and continue cooking over HIGH heat approximately

  4. Add the meat to the rice and mix until heated through.


  • Go veggie. Forgo the meat and use tofu or just continue to up the veggies.

  • Add some hot pepper flakes to heat things up.

  • Yellow or white onions (chopped) as well as scallions are always welcome additions.

  • I'll add baby corn the next time I do this.

  • Add 1-2 scrambled eggs to up the protein. I didn't have the time or inclination to do it at the time.

The husband was digging this. I was surprised by his reaction. I'm definitely making this again but will up the veggies - probably double of what I used this time around.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Asian Pork Tenderloin

Asian Pork Tenderloin

Simply said, this was one of the easiest dishes ever, and the leftovers can be transformed into an Asian salad or easy fried rice.

Two 1lb pork tenderloins
½ C low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbs hoisin sauce
1 Tbs sweet Thai chile sauce
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1-2 tsp Sriracha chili sauce (You know, that Rooster stuff!)

1. Remove any silver skin from the tenderloin. Using a sharp knife, start at one of the tenderloin and gently pry your knife under the skin. Move your knife back and forth while pulling the skin back. You do not want the silver skin remaining on the tenderloin because it’s sinewy and just plain nasty. Remove it. Just trust me on this.

2. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.

3. Pour the marinade into a gallon zip-lock bag. Add the tenderloins and marinate in the fridge for anywhere between 30 minutes and several hours. (Mine sat in there for 6 hours and was just fine.)

4. Heat the grill to medium.

5. Remove the tenderloins from the marinade. At this point, your own health is in your hands. Me? I threw caution to the wind and boiled the marinade for 20 minutes until it was reduced and (HOPEFULLY) lacking any bacterial and other growths from the raw pork. I’m sure doctors, the pork industry, and a myriad of other folks are cringing right now.

6. Grill the pork for a few minutes on each side. Mine were pretty slim, and I hate overdone pork so I was kind and removed it while I could still see some juice. You don’t want white or gray (*gasp*) pork. If that’s the case, you should just eat no-name dog food. Again, just my opinion.

7. I let the meat rest for 10 minutes on my cutting board and then sliced it on a bias.

This was served with brown rice made with chicken stock and grilled asparagus. I’m all about grilled asparagus. Who cares if those stalky things make your pee stink?

Omit the Rooster sauce if your stomach can’t handle it.
Add smashed lemon grass to the marinade.
Omit the hoisin and add honey instead.

My husband is meat-eater. If things were my way, I’d eat some seafood once in a while and subsist on some soy products. I loathe raw meat and visibly gag when I have to handle it. Is this not some love, people? It’s freaking adoration, I tell you! I also have to eat meat or continue to suffer from some serious iron deficiency issues. Oh woe is me.

So the carnivore? He loved this stuff. His feedback usually consists of “It’s ok.” Ok can mean anything from “This sucks. Do not ever prepare it again!” to “Holy Mary, mother of God, slather this on your body so I can worship at the Altar of Food and You at the very same time!” He’s not a man of many words. I am proud to say that he said, without prompting, ”Damn. This is some good stuff!”

Lemon and Garlic Chicken with Pasta

I made this at my sister's place when we were at the beach. I think this whole challenge to eat in more than out started there. I guess it's just EASIER to eat out when you work full-time, have a preschooler and husband, deal with a chocolate lab, and are trying to maintain an even keel when you haven't seen such a thing in years.

I finally concluded that unless I challenged myself to eat better, take advantage of my ability to challenge my cooking habits and repertoire, and take better care of my health and that of my family, I'd be that proverbial hamster on that damn spinning wheel. As I loathe vermin and rodents of any kind, I am taking myself to task.

While I'd like to do the whole 365 commitment many bloggers have taken on with great zeal of late, I know that once I return to work in the fall, there will be evening commitments which will require that either I or my husband and son eat out. I know I'll be at open houses, PTA meetings, conferences, etc.


What's the big deal about my -ish bloggy? I'm making a commitment to increase my percentage of time eating IN exponentially. You people who have much better health habits than me would likely keel over from a stroke if you realized how much my family eats out. And it's a damn waste. A damn, damn waste.

Onto the recipe that started this little brainchild.

Chicken with Lemon-Garlic Sauce and Pasta

1lb whole wheat spaghetti (Don’t like spaghetti? Hell, use whatever you like. Me? I love me some whole wheat pasta.)
1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1lb zucchini, diced into bite-sized pieces
1lb yellow summer squash, diced into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, diced into bite-sized pieces
¼ C olive oil and a small amount more for vegetables
1 Tbs Smart Balance
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
3 Lemons, juiced
1Tbs Lemon zest (use the lemons from above)
½ C to 1C white wine (I used a tasty Pinot Grigio)
Grill Seasoning (I used McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning)

Cook pasta according to box directions. Do this near the end of the grilling process. If you do it any earlier, you’ll end up with mushy, congealed pasta or pasta you’ve coated in oil which will not only add unnecessary calories but also make it virtually impossible for your lemon-garlic sauce to adhere to the strands.

Heat a small saucepan and melt the Smart Balance. Pour in the olive oil. Once they’re heated through, add the smashed garlic. After two minutes, add the lemon juice and zest as well as the wine. At no time should you boil this mixture. Just keep it at a medium simmer.

Preheat your grill to medium.

Wash and dry the chicken breasts and coat each liberally with the grill seasoning. I am a fan of grilling meat that’s not fridge-cold.

In a large bowl, combine the vegetables, enough olive oil to lightly coat, 2 tsp of grill seasoning. Transfer the veggies to a grill basket.

Make your way outside and put then grill basket and chicken breasts on to cook. You want to have a nice char to the veggies and make certain that the chicken is cooked through without drying it out. Don’t be shy. Slice into one of the breasts if you think it’s done. You’re going to chop these lovely babies. No one will know you cheated!

Once the pasta, veggies, and chicken are done, let’s get this dish together.
Slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Toss the chicken, veggies, and sauce together. Add the pasta and toss using tongs.

I served this in deep plates with high sides. I’ll double the sauce next time and allow it to pool at the bottom of each plate. This time around, we were fighting for more sauce and used a fresh baguette to soak up the garlic goodness.

Don’t like my veggies? Hell. Go your own way. I wanted to use portabellos in this one, but there were too tweens who would have made dinner a living hell had I done that, so I omitted that idea. While I love me some tomatoes, I can’t stand cooked SKINS of tomatoes. There’s no way that I’d blanch and peel tomatoes for one measly meal unless I had a maid who was cleaning my home for free. Needless to say, I’ll not be using them any time soon.

Go for grilled shrimp if you don’t like the idea of chicken or are just plain tired of the white meat.

My brother-in-law is a hard-charging fireman who doesn’t like “funny food.” He ate this with a vengeance and brought more to work the next day for his lunch. My four-year-old ate it after I separated the chicken, veggies, and pasta. He didn’t want them “mixed.” The tweens? They ate it. Lots of it. Good times!