Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Before You Say Goodbye to Summer

The only thing worse than cooking at the end of a work day is to cook at the end of a hot summer work day. Yes, it is August 31st and tomorrow is supposed to be unseasonably cool weather; but I'm a firm believer that there are some dog days of summer left, so I'm leaving you with a few easy recipes that work well when it's summer time and the livin' ain't easy.


1 (2 lb) boneless pork roast, trimmed of fat
5 tablespoons of hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 (10 inch) flour tortillas
3 cups shredded lettuce
1/2 c. sliced green onions
1 (15 oz.) can mandarin orange segments, drained


Place pork roast in slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine 4 tablespoons of the hoisin sauce, ginger root, five-spice powder and garlic; mix well. Spread mixture over pork.

Cover, cook on Low setting for 7 to 8 hours.

About 15 minutes before serving, heat oven to 300 degrees F. Wrap tortillas in foil. Heat packet for 10 to 15 minutes or until warm.

Meanwhile, remove pork from slow cooker; place on cutting board. Stir remaining tablespoon hoisin sauce into juices in slow cooker. Shred pork with 2 forks; return to slow cooker and mix well.

To serve, spoon about 1/2 c. pork mixture on each warm tortilla. Top each with lettuce, onions and orange segments. Roll up.

Makes 10 Sandwiches

Cooks note: I might increase the hoisin sauce at the end to 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons. Also, this recipe was from Betty Crocker. But you knew that already, right?



1/2 c. dry breadcrumbs
2 T. barbecue sauce
1 T. chopped chipotle chiles, canned in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1 pound lean ground beef
1 large egg
Cooking spray
2 c. cabbage and carrot coleslaw
1 T. reduced fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 hamburger buns


Combine first 6 ingredients. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each in a 1/2 inch thick patty.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties to pan; cook for 4 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer registers 160.

Combine coleslaw and next 7 ingredients (through pepper) in large bowl; toss well. Place 1 patty on bottom half of each bun; top each serving with 1/2 c. coleslaw mixture and top half of bun.

Nutrition Information: 4 Servings, 358 calories, 9.1 g. fat, 32.1 protein, 36.3 carb, 2.6 fiber (Source Cooking Light Magazine)

Cook's Notes: We sometimes add extra barbecue sauce on top of the burger. Yummy and light. The burger with the chipotle has a nice kick.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cooking Discoveries That Come as a Result of Your Husband Going Grocery Shopping

Bless my husband's heart. He is always eager to serve. And as we all know, many times you just can't get to the grocery store yourself. In those cases, my husband always cheerfully volunteers to pick up a few groceries for me.

But as often happens with cooking, some items may be hard to find at the grocery store--even for veteran shoppers. And when it's your husband who doesn't cook quite as often as you do who is looking for the item, then you never know what you might end up with.

Here are the outcomes in such a scenario:
  1. Your husband finds the right item and buys it exactly as instructed.
  2. Your husband finds the right item and is so proud of himself for finding this hard-to-find item that he buys three times as much as you asked for. In this case, you think to yourself "What in the world am I going to make with all of this extra stuff?" This scenario is apparently pretty common. While I was picking up a prescription, I got into a casual conversation regarding this subject with the pharmacist and he laughed and laughed and said that he totally does this and picks up three times as much when he finally finds the item his wife sent him to the store for. The other pharmacist working with him starting laughing in a knowing way too. I have a hunch he has been an offender in this area as well.
  3. Your husband accidentally buys something completely different than what you asked him to buy. In this case, you think to yourself "What am I going to make with this? It can't be used in the recipe I originally had planned. I need to find another recipe."
  4. Your husband doesn't find the item at all and you end up short on your ingredient list.
In all of these cases, cooking improvisation is needed. And another great thing is that I have made some pretty fun recipe discoveries as a result of the last three of the above scenarios. I have actually posted a number of recipes on this blog that have been the result of these types of shopping trips made by my husband. And even when it doesn't work out, it still makes for a pretty good story and doesn't it just make your husband even more endearing to you?

My sister shared a silly example of how she asked her husband to pick up a frozen pie crust for her so that she could make a quiche. He brought back a graham cracker pie crust instead. can you imagine how a savory quiche made with a graham cracker crust would have tasted? Interesting... But cute and silly! Just so you know, my sister didn't make a quiche with a graham cracker crust. She put the graham cracker crust to another use later on.

Most recently, I asked my husband to get some spreadable garlic and herb cheese for a recipe. He did actually find some, but he wasn't sure if it was the right ingredient, so he also brought back some Philadelphia Italian Cheese and Herb Cooking Creme. I thought "Holy cow. I've never even heard of this stuff. What am I going to do with it?" But that very day, I got a recipe newsletter (I am signed up for many). This newsletter was from Kraft recipes and it called for the very same mystery ingredient that my husband had just purchased for me. So, I decided to make the recipe. I made a few modifications. But it was GOOD. And if they ever stop making this cooking creme, I'm going to have to find a way to replicate it so that I can continue making this recipe! I have an idea of a substitution possibility that I will include in my notes for the recipe. But the recipe was really good and I hope you like it too.

Baked Penne (as originally written)

Serves 6


1/2 pound extra lean ground beef
1/2 cup each chopped onions and green peppers
1 jar (24 oz) spaghetti sauce
1 tub (10 oz) Philadelphia Italian Cheese and Herb Cooking Creme, divided
1 cup Kraft shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
3 cups cooked penne pasta


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown meat with vegetables in large nonstick skillet. Stir in spaghetti sauce, 3/4 cup cooking creme, and 1/2 cup mozzarella: cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until mozzarella is melted. Add pasta; mix lightly.

Spoon into 2-qt casserole; top with remaining cooking creme and mozzarella. Cover.

Bake 20 min. or until heated through, uncovering after 15 minutes.

Kraft Kitchen Tips: Substitute Italian sausage for ground beef. Substitute your favorite flavor of spaghetti sauce, such as mushroom or garden vegetable. Serve with a crisp mixed salad tossed with your favorite Kraft Light Dressing.

Nutrition Information: 370 calories, 15g fat, 7g saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 990 mg sodium, 37 g carbohydrate, 4 g dietary fiber, 10 g sugar, 22 g protein.

Source: Kraft Recipes website.

Baked Penne (my version)


1 lb. lean ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 jar (24 oz) spaghetti sauce
1 tub (10 oz) Philadelphia Italian Cheese and Herb Cooking Creme, divided
1 cup Kraft shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 box (1 lb.) penne pasta, cooked


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown meat and onions in large nonstick skillet. Add garlic, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in spaghetti sauce, 3/4 cup cooking creme, and 1/2 cup mozzarella: cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until mozzarella is melted. Add pasta; mix lightly.

Spoon into 2-qt casserole; top with remaining cooking creme and mozzarella. Cover.

Bake 20 min. or until heated through, uncovering after 15 minutes.

Serves 8 (500 calories per serving).

Notes: I added more beef than the original recipe for two reasons. First, I had frozen ground beef in my freezer, but they were frozen in 1 lb portions. Second, I cook for my in-laws and they LOVE their beef! I excluded the green bell pepper because I thought I had some, but I didn't. I added the garlic, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper because I like a lot of flavor in my baked pastas. I used a whole pound of pasta because I wasn't sure how much dried pasta I would need to end up with three cups cooked. Besides, I wanted more than 6 servings because then my husband could take some to work for lunch the next day and otherwise, there wouldn't be enough for him to do so.

I almost added all of the cooking creme to the pasta/beef/sauce mixture, but I decided to do as the recipe instructed and save some for the top. I'm glad I did. It added such a nice kick--a great boost of flavor--to the finished pasta and it blended well with the browned mozzarella cheese.

My changes did increase the calories by 130 calories per serving, but I simply served it with a side salad topped with fat-free salad dressing to balance it out so the meal didn't become too high in calories.

If they ever discontinue this cooking creme, I would suggest using a small tub of garlic and herb spreadable cream cheese and whisking it until smooth with about 1/2 cup of milk. I think that would make for a good substitute.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dinner Silver Linings

Yeah, so dinner was a bust. I tried a recipe tonight that I have actually meant to try for a couple of years now. It's a chicken recipe that is topped with a watermelon salsa. I was intrigued. Perhaps my expectations were too high after wanting to try this recipe for so long.

I had read through the recipe and was sure I had most of the ingredients. So, I bought a few of the ingredients that I was missing...only to realize that I was missing a few more of the ingredients (some of them had been unexpectedly eaten by others).

I finally made it tonight after having been put off by one thing or another for two weeks. The watermelon salsa took forever to make. I had to make it during my older son's nap, which sometimes coincides with my baby's nap. However, my baby (who is usually a dream when I have to cook) woke up...and he fussed and cried the whole time I had to make the salsa. It was honestly a traumatic experience. But it was the only time today I could make it. If I'd realized it would be such a pain, I would have made the salsa portion of the dinner last night after my boys went to bed. Well, you live, you learn, I guess.

I had no other meal options that I could use for today instead when I discovered that I was still missing one ingredient! I thought I had it in my cupboard, but I was wrong. The missing item? Sweet chili sauce.

However, thanks to a quick Google search, I found a recipe for Thai sweet chili sauce and I moved forward with my recipe.

The result? The chicken with watermelon salsa was "meh." Nothing to write home about. Definitely nothing to blog about. Too much work for nothing special. But the Thai sweet chili sauce? Awesome! It tasted just like what you get at a restaurant.

So, I guess it was serendipitous that I forgot to buy the sweet chili sauce because the homemade stuff was so delicious and it was really quick and easy to make too. It's also ironic that while I didn't have the bottled sauce in my pantry like I thought I had, I had all the ingredients in my pantry to make it from scratch at home.

Maybe I was wrong--I mean, my husband loved dinner. But he's so sweet and he loves pretty much anything I make for him. But whether my taste buds were influenced by my experience making the watermelon salsa or not, I won't be making that recipe again. It wasn't worth the bother.

So, skip the fancy chicken with watermelon salsa and make some homemade Thai sweet chili sauce instead!

Thai Sweet Chili Sauce


1 cup water
1 cup rice vinegar (I used seasoned rice vinegar)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, minced (I used bottled ground ginger)
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 teaspoons hot chile pepper, minced (I used 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)
2 teaspoons ketchup
2 teaspoons cornstarch


Pour water and vinegar into saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in sugar, ginger, garlic, chile pepper, and ketchup; simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in cornstarch. Remove saucepan from stove to cool. Then transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until needed.

Source:, submitted by WOOBSIEE (called Sweet Chili Thai Sauce)

This is one of the comments that accompanied the recipe:

"A savory sauce to use as a dip with shrimp or spring rolls, in stir-fries and noodle dishes, even on whole wheat pizza crust instead of typical pizza sauce with feta, sun-dried tomatoes, chicken, and vegetables."

Notes: I changed the title because it made more sense to me to put "Thai" first. :) I also put all the ingredients, except cornstarch, in the pan all at once and brought it to a boil. I mixed the cornstarch with a tablespoon of water to make a slurry. Once the mixture was boiling, I added the cornstarch. I whisked the mixture until it thickened. I then removed it from the heat. It was awesome!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pantry Side Dishes

This is the last post regarding the pantry (well, at least for awhile). The thing about cooking meals from your pantry is that you can't just serve your family a piece of chicken for dinner. You need to serve something alongside the main dish. And what's the point of making a main dish from your pantry if you still have to go to the grocery store for the side dish?

That's where pastas, grains, baking mix, canned or frozen veggies, etc. come in handy. Potatoes, onions, and carrots are examples of fresh vegetables that keep for quite a long time. Plus, potatoes are really versatile so they can go with a lot of different main courses.

My last post about pantry meals included two side dish options (pasta with herbs and rice pilaf) that come straight from the pantry. But I thought I would include some more side dish options this time around. I hope they come in handy for you.

Honey Roasted Red Potatoes


1 pound red potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons diced onion
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat an 11x7 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Place potatoes in a single layer in prepared dish, and top with onion. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper; drizzle over potatoes and onion.

Bake in the preheated 375 degree oven for 35 minutes or until tender, stirring halfway through the cooking time.

Source:, submitted by STEPHNDON

Notes: I ALWAYS check the potatoes before pulling them out of the oven. They always take longer for me to get to my desired degree of doneness/tenderness. I doubled the recipe and that might have had something to do with it, but I kept these potatoes in the oven for nearly an hour before they were soft enough for my tastes. But it was a good, basic recipe to have on hand.

Parmesan Garlic Rolls


Frozen bread/roll dough, 1-2 rolls for each person (such as Rhodes Dough)
Grated or shredded Parmesan cheese, to taste
Garlic salt or powder, to taste
Melted butter (amount depends on how many rolls you are making. I would recommend 2 tbsp butter for 12 rolls)
Herbs/spices, if desired (fresh or dried may be used. Some favorites are: Italian seasoning, rosemary, oregano, basil, parsley, etc.)


Let dough thaw and rise in desired baking dish/pan according to package directions.

Melt butter and brush over rolls. Sprinkle rolls with Parmesan cheese, garlic salt, and desired herbs/spices.

Bake according to package directions.

Source: We got this from a Rhodes Dough package or cookbook years ago. I couldn't find the exact recipe, so this is just the basic guideline that we usually follow.

Notes: Have fun with the size and shape of these rolls. You can make these into breadsticks, elongated rolls, regular rolls, foccacia bread, etc.

Mashed Parsley Potatoes


1 pound unpeeled red potatoes (small-medium size)
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup fat-free milk
1 1/2 tablespoons reduced-calorie stick margarine (or butter can be used)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried parsley)
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper


Cut potatoes into quarters; place potato and water in a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl. Cover tightly with heavy-duty plastic wrap; fold back a small edge of wrap to allow steam to escape. Microwave on high for 9 minutes or until tender, stirring after 4 minutes. Drain potato; return to bowl. Add milk and remaining ingredients. Mash with a potato masher or fork until potato is mashed and mixture is combined.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)


New Potatoes in Seasoned Butter


1 pound unpeeled small red potatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon light butter
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 3 teaspoons dried parsley)


Steam potatoes, covered, 6 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a large serving bowl, and keep warm. Combine butter and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl; stir well. Add to potatoes, and toss gently. Sprinkle potatoes with parsley, and toss again. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 2/3 cup).

Nutrition information: 105 calories, 1.7 g fat, 2.8 g protein, 21.0 g carbohydrate, 2.0 g fiber, 5 mg cholesterol, 1.1 mg iron, 319 mg sodium, 13 mg calcium.


Garlic Smashed Potatoes


4 cups cubed peeled Yukon gold potatoes
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/8 cup milk
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 minced garlic cloves


Place 4 cups cubed peeled Yukon gold potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil; cook 6 minutes or until tender. Drain. Return potatoes to pan. Add 1/ cup chicken broth, 1/8 cup milk, 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 3 minced garlic cloves, mash with a potato masher to desired consistency.


Herbed Basmati Rice


2 teaspoons butter
1 cup uncooked Basmati or other long-grain rice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion tops (optional)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Fresh thyme sprigs, optional


Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice; stir well. Add 2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat; simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in remaining ingredients; garnish with thyme, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Nutrition information: 115 calories, 2.8 g fat, 2.8 g protein, 19.2 g carb, 0.3 g fiber, 2 mg chol, 1.5 mg iron, 217 mg sodium, 52 mg calc


Broccoli with Garlic and Lemon-Pepper Sauce


1 pound broccoli
3 tablespoons light butter
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper


Steam broccoli, covered, 7 minutes or until crisp-tender. Transfer to a serving bowl, and keep warm.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add garlic. Saute garlic 1 minute or until golden. Add lemon juice and remaining 4 ingredients; bring to a boil. Pour over broccoli; toss gently. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition information: 86 calories, 5.2 g fat, 4.7 g protein, 8.9 g carbohydrate, 3.1 g fiber, 15 mg cholesterol, 1.3 mg iron, 372 mg sodium, 61 mg calcium.


Drop Biscuits

The dough for these biscuits is dropped into muffin tins instead of onto a baking sheet, but their final shape is still free-form like that of traditional drop biscuits.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chilled butter or stick margarine, cut into small pieces
1 cup fat-free milk
Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add milk; stir just until moist.

Spoon the batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden. Remove biscuits from ban immediately, and place on a wire rack.

Yield: 1 dozen biscuits (serving size: 1 biscuit)

Nutrition information: 119 calories, 4.1 g fat, 2.9 g protein, 11 mg cholesterol, 97 mg calcium, 270 mg sodium, 0.6 g fiber, 1.1 mg iron, 17.6 g carbohydrate


Roasted Apples


2 cups sliced Granny Smith apples
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon melted butter
Cooking spray


Combine 2 cups sliced Granny Smith apples, 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon melted butter in an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until tender.


Salsa Corn with Cheese


2 (11 ounce) cans corn (if possible, ones with red and green bell peppers such as Mexicorn)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chunky salsa


Heat corn in a medium saucepan; remove from heat. Stir in cheese and salsa; toss gently until cheese melts.

Yield: 5 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Nutrition information: 108 calories, 1.5 g fat, 5.6 g protein, 21.6 g carb, 2.5 g fiber, 2 mg chol, 1.1 mg iron, 519 mg sodium, 57 mg calc


Parmesan Cheese Toasts


4 slices Italian bread
Cooking spray (preferably olive oil flavored)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese


Coat 4 slices Italian bread with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Top each slice with 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese, and broil 3 1/2 inches from heat until lightly browned.

Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrition information: 93 calories, 1.0 g fat, 3. g protein, 17.1 g carbohydrate, 0.8 g fiber, 2 mg cholesterol, 207 mg sodium.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Food Storage for a Family of Two on Five Dollars a Week

A friend of mine gave me this list with a gift of some pantry basics (such as flour and salt) at my bridal shower. I just think this list is so cool, so I thought I would share it with you.

I have provided my personal notes and tips at the very bottom (right below the items and total amounts you will end up with at the end of the year).

This list provides the information needed to create a one-year food storage for a family of two. For every two additional people in your family, add $5.00 more and double the amount of the item you are buying for that week. So, for a family of four, it would be $10.00 a week instead. Still, very reasonable!

Food Storage on Five Dollars a Week
for a Family of Two
January 2007

Week 1--6 lbs salt
Week 2--5 cans cream of chicken soup
Week 3--20 lbs sugar
Week 4--8 cans tomato soup
Week 5--50 lbs wheat
Week 6--6 lbs macaroni
Week 7--20 lbs sugar
Week 8--8 cans tuna
Week 9--6 lbs yeast
Week 10--50 lbs wheat
Week 11--8 cans tomato soup
Week 12--20 lbs sugar
Week 13--10 lbs powdered milk
Week 14--7 boxes macaroni and cheese
Week 15--50 lbs wheat
Week 16--5 cans cream of chicken soup
Week 17--1 bottle 500 multi-vitamins
Week 18--10 lbs powdered milk
Week 19--5 cans cream of mushroom soup
Week 20--50 lbs wheat
Week 21--8 cans tomato soup
Week 22--20 lbs sugar
Week 23--8 cans tuna
Week 24--6 lbs shortening
Week 25--50 lbs wheat
Week 26--5 lbs honey
Week 27--10 lbs powdered milk
Week 28--20 lbs sugar
Week 29--5 lbs peanut butter
Week 30--50 lbs wheat
Week 31--7 boxes macaroni and cheese
Week 32--10 lbs powdered milk
Week 33--1 bottle 500 aspirin
Week 34--5 cans cream of mushroom soup
Week 35--50 lbs wheat
Week 36--7 boxes macaroni and cheese
Week 37--6 lbs salt
Week 38--20 lbs sugar
Week 39--8 cans tomato soup
Week 40--50 lbs wheat
Week 41--5 cans cream of chicken soup
Week 42--20 lbs sugar
Week 43--1 bottle 500 multi-vitamins
Week 44--8 cans tuna
Week 45--50 lbs wheat
Week 46--6 lbs macaroni
Week 47--20 lbs sugar
Week 48--5 cans cream of mushroom soup
Week 49--5 lbs honey
Week 50--20 lbs sugar
Week 51--8 cans tomato soup
Week 52--50 lbs wheat

Some weeks you will have leftover change. Save the change each week to be used for the weeks that you may exceed $5.00. At the end of the year, you will end up with:

500 pounds of wheat
180 pounds of sugar
40 pounds of powdered milk
12 pounds of salt
10 pounds of honey
6 pounds of yeast
6 pounds of shortening
12 pounds of macaroni
5 pounds of peanut butter
40 cans of tomato soup
15 cans cream of mushroom soup
15 cans cream of chicken soup
24 cans tuna
21 boxes macaroni and cheese
500 aspirin
1000 multi-vitamins

My personal notes and tips:

  1. One of the things I mentioned in my last blog post (which I consider to be VERY important) is don't stock your food storage with foods you don't like/hate/won't eat! If something happens and you have to rely on your food storage, do you want to be hating life because you are detesting every morsel of food that is going into your mouth? No! So, if you detest canned tuna, replace it with something you WILL eat. Perhaps you would rather have more macaroni and cheese on hand because it is one of your favorite things to eat. Or, mix it up. Maybe you could replace your hated food item for a store-able food favorite that isn't on this list. For instance, you could stock up on Ramen noodles. If you hate cream of mushroom soup, replace it with more cream of chicken soup or cream of celery, asparagus, or potato. Would you get sick of only having macaroni? Get other kinds of pasta for your food storage as well. Be creative! But I must say this, if you don't like wheat, you'd better learn to like it! Ha ha!
  2. Watch for sales. The order of this list isn't set in stone. If there is an amazing sale on pasta, don't wait until the sale is over to stock up on your macaroni! Perhaps your store is having a case-lot sale. You could get your year's worth of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup in one week and save a ton of money! Take advantage of the sales when they happen.
  3. Pay attention to the tastes of your family. I would personally also stock up on chicken broth. I use it in a ton of stuff. Check the grocery store for other options that would work for your family as food storage. Instant potatoes/potato flakes and rice are other good choices for food storage. Canned vegetables, such as corn and green beans are also a good option. So, you can add your favorites in addition to or in lieu of another item. For instance, I don't use 40 cans of tomato soup a year--by itself or in recipes. So, I could buy half that or a quarter of that and swap canned vegetables for the remaining number of cans.
  4. Use a marker or sharpie and write the date you bought each item. Also, highlight, circle, or write the expiration date as well. You can't just buy a year's worth of food storage and let it sit for 10-30 years. The shelf life of each item varies. Some items CAN actually sit for 10-30 years. Others will need to be replaced much sooner than that. The items that need to be replaced should be consumed before they go bad--otherwise it's a waste of money! The purpose of food storage is to provide food for your family to actually eat--in good times and in bad. That's another reason to only buy things that you and your family like to eat.
  5. Rotate your food storage. After you have built your year's worth of food storage, you're going to want to start using it and replacing it. Some things will last longer than others before they expire (such as salt and sugar). Other things will need to be used sooner. So, start using your cream of chicken soup and then replace it with newly bought (and dated) cream of chicken soup which you can then add to your food storage to replace the food you used.
  6. Some items have an amazingly long shelf life. Powdered milk is good for 20 years! Wheat is good for 30 years! Crazy! So, you won't have to replace those items each year (just increase them as your family grows). Check out this link regarding food storage shelf life.
  7. Don't forget to buy necessary food preparation items such as a wheat grinder. It sure would stink to need to use the wheat but have nothing to grind it with and no idea what to do with it once it's ground!
  8. Once you have your wheat, you don't have to worry about buying it again the following year (unless your family has gotten larger and you have more people to buy for). In that case, I would suggest replacing it on the list with all-purpose or wheat flour the following year. Flour is something that everyone uses in everyday cooking. Sure, it's shelf life isn't nearly as long as wheat, but it's more practical for everyday use. If your spouse loses their job, and money for groceries is tight, are you going to want to break out your wheat and wheat grinder or draw upon your stash of flour? I would say most people would prefer using flour.
  9. Create a collection of recipes that you can make using your food storage. Sure, it's great to have all of this stuff, but do you know how to make anything with it? You can purchase a cookbook, such as this one, that contains food storage recipes. Or, you can research recipes online. Here is a good online resource.
Most of these items can be purchased in your grocery store. However, for longer term food storage--the ones that will last 10-30 years (items such as wheat), it might be easier to purchase it from a food storage store or center. Those items would not need to be replaced (except 30 years from now). You can do a Google search and find a ton of places to purchase food storage from. Here is one option.

Here is a list of other long-term food storage options, their shelf-life, and their cost.

It's just a good idea to be prepared! I'm not trying to use scare-tactics or sensationalism (I hate when people do that!). The world isn't going to end tomorrow. But things happen and it's nice to have a plan so that you can provide and care for your family.

I appreciated my friend passing this list on to me. It has a lot of good information that can be used as a basis to create a personal food storage for your family's needs. It's just handy information to have and when it is broken down like this, it makes acquiring a food storage seem much easier to afford and organize. I hope you find this list to be useful too!

Building a Pantry: Pantry Basics

Everyone's pantry is different--because everyone has their own food favorites. So, this is just a guideline, but I thought it might be helpful to have a list of some items to have in your pantry. It takes some time to stock up on all of these things, but once you have a well-stocked pantry, it makes cooking a lot easier. It gives you a lot more choices and makes grocery shopping less expensive. And the great thing about a well-stocked pantry is that you never run out of everything all at once. So, once your pantry is stocked, upkeep doesn't cost a whole lot.

A well-stocked pantry is the beginning of (or a cousin to) your own personal food storage supply.

One tip: don't stock foods that you don't like! If you hate canned corn, why in the world would you keep it in your pantry? You won't eat it and it will either go bad, or you will end up donating it to the food bank or to the scouts when they are collecting canned foods for the food bank. A worthy cause, yes. But it's not the way to stock your cupboards. I learned that the hard way. I found a great deal where you could buy canned vegetables for a reduced price if you bought ten cans at once. I bought some great vegetables that I actually ate (like corn and green beans), but I also bought canned peas. I'd never eaten canned peas before, but I thought I'd give them a try. I HATED them. In my opinion, they are ugly (a muted army green color as opposed to the bright green that you get with frozen peas), they are mushy, and they don't taste that great. Yeah, I gave them to the scouts.

So, the pantry list I am providing is just a guideline. Skip the things you don't like or won't use. Also, I would love to hear what you consider to be pantry basics that I might have excluded from my list.

Also, don't stock your fridge with perishables that you won't use before they go bad. If you don't use cheddar cheese that much, don't stock it. Only buy it when you need it for a specific recipe. But if you use it all the time, make sure it's always in the fridge so that you can use it in a pinch if you decide to make a certain favorite recipe that calls for cheddar at the last minute.

The freezer is a great resource. I just included some ideas in that section. Am I saying that you aren't well-stocked if you don't have steak in your freezer? No! I'm just saying that if it's something you enjoy and you find it on sale but don't have plans to use it soon, buy it and freeze it and then you can have steak on hand when you want it! That goes for all of the items listed in the freezer section. You don't have to keep every single item listed there in your freezer all the time in order to be well-stocked. Those are just items that are freezer friendly that come in handy when you're trying to come up with a last minute dinner.

Finally, I included a garden section. I know a garden isn't a part of your pantry, but it goes a long way towards stretching your food budget and your dinner possibilities. I included a list of easy herbs/spices and vegetables to grow. You don't need a ton of space for a garden. Even a little corner of your yard will do. Or, you could grow herbs and keep them in pots on the window sill in your kitchen and then you have fresh herbs available all year long.

And mark my words, I've had fruit trees in the past and someday, I'll have fruit trees again. I had an apple tree which I adored. I made all sorts of fun things with those apples: dried apples, applesauce, strudels, crumbles, etc. Besides, apples keep fresh in the fridge forever! I was eating apples two months after I had picked them and they were still delicious. Oh yes, I will have an apple tree again someday. Besides, does anything beat being able to just pick an apple off the tree and eat it in your own yard? I don't think so!

My in-laws had a cherry tree which sadly died this winter. It bore the most luscious cherries I've ever eaten...and we all know how expensive cherries are at the grocery store or even at the farmer's market. They also have a pear tree that grows the most to-die-for pears I've had. Yum! We are saving up for a house of our own and when we do get it, I'm going to plant some fruit trees and bushes! Apples, pears, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, maybe apricots or peaches...hmmm. I'm going to need a big yard!

But I hope you find this pantry basics list helpful. Again, I would love to hear what basics I might have missed that you can't live without!

Pantry Basics


Bread crumbs (plain, Italian, panko)
Taco seasoning
Ranch dressing packets
Italian dressing packets
Cream of chicken soup
Cream of mushroom soup
Broth (chicken, beef, and vegetable)
Worcestershire sauce
Soy sauce
Teriyaki sauce
Balsamic vinegar
Red wine vinegar
White wine vinegar
Apple cider vinegar
Distilled white vinegar
Olive oil
Vegetable oil
Vanilla extract
Instant mashed potatoes
Rice (brown, white, basmati)
Flour (all-purpose, wheat)
Sugar (granulated and powdered)
Baking soda
Baking powder
Brown sugar
Grains (oats, wheat germ, quinoa, etc.)
Pasta (spaghetti, linguine, penne, lasagna, fettucine, macaroni, couscous, egg noodles, etc.)
Marinara/pasta sauce
Peanut butter
Canned tomatoes (whole peeled, puree, sauce, diced, stewed, paste, etc.)
Canned beans (black, white, pinto, chili, etc.)
Side dish staples/favorites (corn bread mix, couscous, Rice-Roni, etc.)
Canned diced green chiles
Canned chipotle chiles in adobo
Canned vegetables (sliced mushrooms, green beans, corn, beets, olives, etc.)
Canned fruit (pears, peaches, mandarin oranges, pineapple, etc.)
Canned tuna (or in pouches, if you prefer)

Spice Rack:

Dry mustard
Chili powder
Italian seasoning
Bay leaves
Ground ginger
Cayenne or ground red pepper
Red pepper flakes
Garlic salt and/or powder


Chicken breasts
Ground beef
Pork roast
Beef roast
Fish (salmon, tilapia, etc.)
Steak (flank steak, skirt steak, etc.)
Pork tenderloin
Frozen bread/roll dough
Bread (loaves, buns, etc.)
Puff pastry
Vegetables (mixed vegetables, corn, peas, broccoli, spinach, etc.)


Eggs and/or egg substitute
Butter (can also be kept in the freezer until ready to use)
Jellies, jams, and preserves (apricot jam is used in a lot of recipes)
Cheese (Cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan, etc.)
Sour cream
Lemon juice
Lime juice
Pita Bread
Hot sauce
Ranch dressing (or other favorite salad dressing)
Mustard (Dijon, Spicy Brown, Coarse ground, Yellow, etc.)


Tomatoes (grape, cherry, large--such as Beefsteak, etc.)
Bell peppers

Laurie's Pantry Additions:

Having a well stocked pantry is the first step to being a good cook! A few extra things that I usually have on hand:


Rice Wine Vinegar
Sesame Oil
Peanut Oil
Sesame Seeds
Flax Seed
Some beef bouillon and chicken bouillon cubes


Red Curry Paste
Hoisin Sauce
Red Chili Garlic Sauce (the Asian chili sauce, not the barbecue chili sauce)
A few lemons and limes
Olives (black olives come canned and can be kept in the pantry, but kalamata and green olives are kept in the fridge)

In the fall and winter if you have chicken broth, celery, carrots and onions and some chicken you can make a whole variety of things! Chicken and Dumplings, Chicken and Rice, Chicken Noodle Soup.


Oh and another spice to add which I just got smoked paprika! It has quite a nice flavor to it. A few others that I like to have on hand:

Herbs De Provence (A blend of rosemary, lavendar, thyme and maybe a few others)
Garam Masala
Allspice ( For Jerk Seasoning)
Celery Salt
Cream of Tartar (For snickerdoodles!)
Onion Salt
Poultry Rub

Also sometimes I mix up some different spice rubs and store them in jars so that when I am in a pinch I can just make easy grilled meat or fish with a rub. I'll have to post some recipes.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pantry Dinners

We all have those days when we think to ourselves "what in the world am I going to make for dinner tonight?" I mean, we can't always be on top of it and have every meal planned a week in advance. I've discovered that with two little boys, I rely on what is already in the cupboards when it comes to dinner. These days I'm either too busy or too tired to go grocery shopping on a consistent weekly basis. So, I am often at the mercy of my freezer and cupboards when it comes to dinner.

So, to me, a pantry meal is a meal that I can throw together where I have either all or nearly all of the ingredients already in my house. If I have to buy more than two of the ingredients (ingredients that I can't keep on hand in my cupboards or freezer), then I don't consider it a pantry recipe.

A lot of your favorite recipes might work as pantry recipes. Keep an eye open for ingredients in your favorite recipes that can be stored in the freezer, fridge, or cupboard so that they will be on hand when you are in a bind and need to throw something together for dinner. Even some perishable ingredients (such as onions, garlic, cheese, favorite fresh herbs such as parsley and cilantro, etc.) can be kept on hand if you use them often enough in recipes (meaning, you use them up before they go bad, otherwise it's a waste of time and money to keep them on hand all the time).

At the very bottom of this post, I will include a list (with hyperlinks) of all of our previously posted recipes that can be considered pantry recipes too. Check it out!

So, if anyone is in the same predicament that I usually am, I hope you appreciate these pantry meals. And don't forget to keep certain ingredients on hand so that you can make your favorite recipes whenever you need to!

Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy


1 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 egg
1/2 cup Original Bisquick mix
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, cut in half and then sliced
1 jar (4.5 oz) Green Giant sliced mushrooms, drained
1 jar (12 oz) beef gravy


In large bowl, mix beef, egg, 1/4 cup of the Bisquick mix and the pepper. With wet hands, shape beef mixture into 6 oval patties, about 1/2 inch thick. Lightly coat patties with remaining 1/4 cup Bisquick mix.

In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Arrange patties in single layer in skillet. Add onion slices around and on top of patties. Cook 12-16 minutes, turning patties once and stirring onions occasionally, until meat thermometer inserted in center of patties read 160°F.

If necessary, spoon fat from skillet and discard. Add mushrooms and gravy to skillet. Turn patties to coat with gravy. Heat to boiling.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: 250 calories, 14 g fat, 85 mg cholesterol, 600 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 18 g protein.

Source: Betty Crocker website. You can find it here.

Notes: I served this with some instant mashed potatoes. I topped (smothered) the potatoes with the onions and mushrooms.

As for this being a great pantry recipe option...

I almost always have onions on hand (because you use them in almost everything), you can keep ground beef in the freezer, canned mushrooms, beef gravy, Bisquick, and instant potatoes in the pantry...and voila! Throw it all together and dinner is served. The only thing I changed is that I doubled the recipe and added more pepper than what the recipe called for. I also used more Bisquick than 1/4 cup to coat the beef patties with because I hate having to scrape the bottom in order to coat meat.

Lemon Rosemary Chicken


3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
4 (4 ounce) skinned, boned chicken breast halves
Vegetable cooking spray


Combine first 4 ingredients in a shallow dish. Add chicken, turning to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning chicken occasionally.

Remove chicken from dish, and discard marinade. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil 5 minutes on each side or until done.

Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrition information: 157 calories, 26.2 g protein, 4.6 g fat, 1 g carb, 72 mg cholesterol, 66 mg sodium.


Notes: I didn't change a thing. Super easy!

Pasta with Herbs


8 cups hot cooked pasta (preferably angel hair)
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 minced garlic cloves


Combine 8 cups hot cooked pasta (preferably angel hair), 1 cup chopped fresh basil, 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, and 3 minced garlic cloves; toss well.


Notes: If you have fresh basil growing in your garden and you keep a supply of Parmesan cheese in your fridge, then you can have everything on hand without a trip to the grocery store. I used whole wheat angel hair pasta this time around. It was still great! I've used regular spaghetti too and it was fabulous. Sometimes, I like to add some Italian bread crumbs too.

Teriyaki Chicken


12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
3/ cup sugar
3/4 cup soy sauce
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
4 1/2 teaspoons cold water
Hot cooked rice, optional


Place chicken in a 4 quart slow cooker. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and pepper. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until chicken is tender.

Remove chicken to a serving platter; keep warm. Skim fat from cooking juices; transfer to a small saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Gradually stir into the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve with chicken and rice, if desired.

Yield: 6 servings.

Source: Taste of Home website.

Notes: I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of thighs. Plus, I shredded the chicken rather than serving it whole. I also added the cornstarch to the slow cooker (another reason for shredding the chicken--because then I didn't have to remove it from the slow cooker. Plus, chicken breasts don't yield as much fat, so you don't have to skim the liquid)

Pan Glazed Chicken with Basil


4 (4 ounce) skinned, boned chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried basil)


Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn chicken, and cook 6 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in vinegar, honey, and basil; cook 1 additional minute.

Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrition information: 161 calories, 3.7 g fat, 26.2 g protein, 4.6 g carbohydrate, 0.0 g fiber, 66 mg cholesterol, 367 mg sodium.

Notes: Again, if you grow basil then you can keep everything on hand. Or, you can use dried basil.

Lemon Pepper Chicken


Use lemon pepper seasoning or any other lemon-herb seasoning in this recipe. If sodium is a concern, check the ingredient list on the seasoning label. The closer salt is to the beginning of the list, the higher the sodium content. Serve with couscous and snow peas.


Cooking spray
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 (4 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning


Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; add oil, and place over medium-high heat until hot. While pan heats, sprinkle both sides of chicken breasts evenly with lemon pepper seasoning. Add chicken to pan, and cook 4-5 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Transfer chicken to a serving platter, and keep warm.

Add broth and vinegar to pan; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until slightly thickened.

Spoon sauce over chicken.

Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrition information: 138 calories, 2.7 g fat, 26.2 g protein, 0.3 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 55 mg cholesterol, 0.9 mg iron, 233 mg sodium, 13 mg calcium.


Notes: I didn't make the balsamic sauce. I had a bottle of balsamic glaze that I used instead to save time. My boys were going crazy and I knew that I just didn't have time to throw together the sauce. They needed to eat and they needed to eat NOW.

Rice Pilaf


2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup chopped onion; saute 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in 1 cup uncooked long-grain rice; saute 1 minute.

Add 2 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Stir in 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley.


Notes: This is such a great recipe to have on hand. I usually use Rice-a-Roni or boxes of couscous. But honestly, this recipe takes about the same amount of time to make as some boxes of Rice-a-Roni. It's a good one to have in your repertoire.

Laurie's Lemon Linguine with Chicken



8 ounces uncooked linguine
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded


4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 tbsp canola oil
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup fat free milk
2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp pepper
4 lemon slices



In saucepan, cook linguine in boiling water for 8-10 minutes. In another saucepan, combine butter, lemon juice, basil, garlic, and lemon pepper. Cook until butter is melted. Drain linguine. Add to butter mixture. Add Parmesan and toss.


Cook chicken in oil until browned. Drain. Combine soup, milk, lemon juice, and pepper. Pour over chicken. Cook a few minutes with chicken. Top with slices of lemon and serve with (preferably over) linguine.

Source: I got this from my sister, Laurie. But I don't know where she got it.

Notes: Here's the mistake I made this time. I made the lemon sauce in the same pan that I cooked the chicken in. That's fine...but make sure to wipe the pan first. I had too many browned bits in the bottom of my pan and it turned into more of a gravy rather than the delicate creamy lemon sauce that it was meant to be. Well, you live, you learn!

Above: And here's what the sauce looks like when you don't screw it up!  :)  Of course, this time I didn't have the lemon slices.  Oh well!

Here is a list of some of our past blog posts/recipes that can be considered as pantry recipes too if your pantry is stocked well and you keep the right ingredients on hand:

Chicken Parmigiana (stuffing mix, chicken, Parmesan, parsley, spices, pasta, marinara sauce)
Homemade Pizza (frozen roll dough, canned pizza sauce, canned olives, pepperoni, mozzarella)
Thai Style Pork Stew (pork, red bell pepper, peanut butter, teriyaki sauce, spices, rice)
Chicken Tenders (chicken tenders, spices, sauces for dipping)
Spanish Spaghetti with Olives (ground beef, spaghetti, marinara sauce, spices, onion, garlic)
Sloppy Joes and Sloppy Giuseppes (ground beef, onion, herbs, spices, marinara sauce, buns/bread--which can be kept in the freezer)
Lemon Horseradish Sole (fish--can be kept in the freezer, lemons, parsley, horseradish, Dijon mustard)
London Broil (steak--can be kept in the freezer, herbs and spices)
Apricot-Glazed Pork Tenderloin (pork--again, can be kept in the freezer, apricot jam, spicy brown mustard)
Linguine Arrabiata (linguine, canned tomatoes, spices, Parmesan cheese, chicken broth)
Easy Barbecue Crispy Chicken Melts (chicken, Bisquick, cheese, barbecue sauce)
Green Chile Chicken Casserole (chicken, tortillas, cheese, canned green chiles, cream of chicken soup, onion, sour cream, spices)
Weight Watcher's Layered Mexican Chicken (chicken, tortillas, sour cream, black beans, cheese, spices, salsa)
Baked Ziti (ziti/penne, ground beef, marinara sauce, onion, spices, mozzarella)
Garlic Basil Tortellini Soup (tortellini--can buy frozen, canned white beans, chicken broth, basil, Parmesan)
Mulligatawny Soup (chicken, chicken broth, onion, garlic, spices, rice, cilantro)
Many of the recipes in my College Eating blog post
Chicken Tortilla Soup (chicken, onion, garlic, chicken broth, canned tomatoes, spices, taco seasoning, frozen corn)
Tortilla Soup with Black Beans (canned black beans, tortilla chips, corn--frozen or canned, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, spices, lime juice)
Creamy Italian Chicken and Linguine (chicken, cream of chicken soup, linguine, dried Italian dressing packet, cream cheese)
Foccacia Bread (frozen roll dough, Parmesan, spices)
Mexican Pork (pork roast, rice, salsa, black beans, canned chopped green chiles, Monterey Jack cheese)
Buffalo Chicken Stromboli (puff pastry--keep it in your freezer, chicken, buffalo sauce, blue cheese)
Teriyaki Pulled Pork Sandwiches (buns--can be kept in the freezer, pork, Teriyaki sauce, canned pineapples)
Pepperoncini Beef Sandwiches (buns, beef, canned pepperoncini peppers, pepper jack cheese)
French Dip Sandwiches (buns, beef, canned soup)
Greek Meatballs (beef, mint--grow your own!, onion, garlic, bread crumbs)
Penne with Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (penne, pork sausage--keep in the freezer, spaghetti sauce, jar of roasted red bell peppers)
Honey Chipotle Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches (buns, chicken, canned chipotle peppers in adobo, spices, canned tomato)
Pulled Chicken Sandwiches (buns, chicken, spices)
Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches (buns, chicken, buffalo sauce, blue cheese or ranch dressing)
Baked Ravioli (ravioli--buy frozen, marinara sauce, onion, garlic, spices, mozzarella cheese, canned tomatoes)
Tomato Sausage Lasagna (lasagna, sweet Italian sausage--keep frozen, spices, canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese)
Slow Cooker Southern Pulled Pork (pork, buns, onion, garlic, spices, BBQ sauce)
Meaty Calzones (ground beef, refrigerated pizza dough, spices, onion, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese)
Cheese Garlic Biscuits (Bisquick, cheese, garlic powder)
Washburn Flank Steak (flank steak--keep frozen, Kraft Light Zesty Italian Dressing, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, canned mushrooms, instant mashed potatoes)
Southwestern Strudel (puff pastry, chicken, canned corn, cheese, salsa)
Chicken Tamale Casserole (chicken, spices, canned creamed corn, corn muffin mix, canned chopped green chiles, red enchilada sauce, sour cream)
Chicken Chilaquiles (chicken, canned tomatoes, tortilla chips, feta cheese, cilantro, sour cream, canned chipotle chiles in adobo)
Easy Chicken Pot Pie (chicken, cream of chicken soup, frozen mixed vegetables, Bisquick)
Chicken Stuffing Bake (chicken cream of mushroom soup, frozen mixed vegetables, Stove Top)
Bacon Tomato Linguine (grape tomatoes--you can grow your own!, linguine, cooked bacon pieces, spices, onion, garlic)
Spaghetti Carbonara (spaghetti, bacon, milk, Parmesan, egg, salt, and pepper)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Quinoa...Its What's for Dinner!

One of my favorite things is getting my cooking magazines in the mail. Its so fun to look over new recipes, and its also fun because it seems in the foodie world there are certain food items that become the "it" ingredient. And it seems like recently that "it" ingredient is Quinoa! I had never even heard of it before last year and then all the sudden I can't hide from this mystery ingredient. So one day I decided to try it. And I loved it! The greatest thing about Quinoa is that it is super healthy. According to wikipedia:

"this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), and like oats, quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it a complete protein source, unusual among plant foods.[12] It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest."

So there you go! It tastes good and its good for you! So basically any recipe that calls for rice or couscous you can easily substitute Quinoa for. Here are two recipes that I have kind of improvised that my husband and I both enjoy. And two big bonuses! Its perfect for summer because you can eat it cold and its tasty. And secondly, it makes for very tasty leftovers. You can make one of these recipes and just eat them for lunch all week! Yum yum!

First, here is the basics on how to cook Quinoa. Its pretty similar to couscous and rice. You need 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa. First, you need to rinse the Quinoa. Then add to a pot with the liquid ( I always use broth instead of water, to give it a nice flavor) bring to a simmer, cover pot for 15 minutes. Then remove from heat, keep lid on and let stand for 5 minutes. Then fluff with a fork and add to one of the following tasty salads:

Mango, Avacado and Black Bean Quinoa Salad

1 mango, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/4 cup red onion diced
1 can black beans, rinsed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 garlic cloved, chopped
1 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups broth
1/2 t. cumin
3 T olive oil
1 1/2 T red wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
cooked shrimp (optional)

First chop up mango through the garlic and add to a large bowl. You can do this hours before. I usually do it during the day with my little boy in the baby bjorn. He loves to watch me chop veggies!

Next, combine broth, quinoa and cumin in a pot. Quinoa will triple in bulk so make sure your pot is big enough. Cook according to instructions above.

Once Quinoa is cooked, add to the chopped produce and add oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. Toss well and add cooked shrimp or chicken if desired. You can eat this warm or cold.

This makes about 6 servings.

Greek Quinoa Salad
1-2 tomatoes, chopped
1 small cucumber cut into cubes
1/4 cup chopped red onions
1 can chick peas, rinsed
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup pitted kalmata olives
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups broth
1 t. dried oregano
3 T olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste.
Crumbled feta cheese

Follow the instructions for the previous salad. Chop produce, cook quinoa and add vinegar and oil, and sprinkle with feta cheese. Simple as that.

Now you have the building blocks to make all kinds of yummy quinoa salads. Makes for a great dinner, lunch and leftovers!
these recipes were adapted from recipes I found on and