Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kung Pao Style Chicken and Ramen Noodles

Hi! I came across this recipe yesterday and knew I had to make it for dinner. And it was so good that I am coming out of my bloggy "break" to share it with you! Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures. I really should have. But...I got the recipe from HERE and she has a beautiful picture of the food.

Kung Pao Style Chicken and Ramen Noodles

3 Tbsp. canola oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
1 red bell pepper
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts (mine were lightly salted)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
1/2 - 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like it....I used close to 1 tsp.)
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 (3 oz.) packages ramen noodles (throw away seasoning packet)
2 Tbsp. Hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
4 green onions, sliced thin

In a large (12 in.) nonstick skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium-high heat until rippling. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked thoroughly - about 5-7 minutes. Remove chicken to a medium bowl.

Add 1 Tbsp. oil to skillet. Add red bell pepper and peanuts to skillet. Cook until the bell pepper is softened - about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bell pepper and peanuts to the bowl with the chicken. Try to leave as much oil in the pan as possible.

Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to the still-hot skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute. Add chicken broth to skillet. Break ramen noodles into the broth mixture. Bring to a simmer and break up the noodles as they soften. Cook for 2-4 minutes.

Stir in the hoisin sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil (this worked best with tongs). Continue to simmer for another minute. Add chicken, peanuts and peppers to the skillet. Use tongs to combine everything. Sprinkle with green onions before serving.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Truck Stop Buttermilk Pancakes

I have been using this pancake recipe for several years and it's a great stand-by. The original recipe makes a ton of pancakes, so the recipe I use is scaled down quite a bit. The pancakes always turn out wonderful and we all enjoy them. Breakfast for dinner is one of our favorite meals!

(adapted from

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp. sugar

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, butter and buttermilk. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Mix well. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Stir gently until most clumps are gone. Add more buttermilk or flour, depending on how you like the thickness of your batter. Cook on a hot griddle (greased or ungreased...however you usually make pancakes) until bubbles appear on the surface, then flip and cook until other side is golden brown.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Coconut Curry Soup

This was a great soup for a cold day. We're in the middle of a winter storm here, so it was nice to have some hot soup while the snow blows outside. The flavors of coconut and curry go perfect together. And even better, this soup comes together really quickly! I managed to chop/dice everything up in the afternoon (while Jack was at school) and then throw it in the pot when we got home from running errands in the evening. Dinner was on the table in 30 minutes...and most of that was simmering time.

(recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe)

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3), cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (14 oz.) light unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more to taste...I would suggest 1/2 tsp. if you like it a little spicy)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

2-3 cups hot, cooked rice - for serving

In large stock pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add the pieces to the hot oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. The chicken and vegetables don't have to be fully cooked because they'll finish cooking while the soup simmers.

Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, fish sauce, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, and curry powder. Stir to combine. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes (I let mine go for closer to 20). Stir in the lime juice and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The BEST Chicken Pot Pie

Oh my heavens. This was comfort food at its finest. Both Lonnie and I really enjoyed this and thought it was delicious. I am positive that I will be making this again and again and again. I decided to double the recipe that I had and make 2 pot pies. One we ate tonight and one went in the freezer. I have a feeling it won't be long before the one in the freezer is brought back out. :) The following recipe is for TWO pot pies. So if you only want to make one, half it.

Oh, and side note - the card for our camera is broken, so I've been using my phone to take pictures. Sorry if they're not the best!

(adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cookbook)

Makes 2 pies

6 medium carrots
6 celery stalks
1 1/2 large onions
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3 cups cooked chicken, diced
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp. ground thyme
2 tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste
2 pie crusts

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Finely dice the carrots, celery and onions.
Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery to the pot. Cook until the onions start to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken and stir to combine. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and chicken and stir to combine. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring gently.

Pour in the chicken broth, stirring constantly. Add in the bouillon cubes and stir. Watch the thickening magic happen.

Pour in the cream (yes, all of it) and stir. Allow to cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Season with thyme, salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Taste your creation! Add in anything it might need (more salt, pepper, etc.).

Pour the chicken mixture into two pie pans or small casserole dishes.

Put the crust on top of the pans and cut small slits in the top. Press the crust into the sides of the dish to seal. (I cheated here and used pre-made pie crusts. I hate making pie crust.) Here is where you can put one dish in the freezer (after covering it well, of course) and put the other in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Make sure to put foil under the pie pan to catch the filling that oozes over the sides. Put foil over edges of crust if it starts to brown too quickly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meatless Monday

(his and hers taco salads...can you guess?)

I love taco salads. I mostly love the big taco salads from Mexican restaurants. The ones with the big, fried, crispy tortilla bowl. I know...I know..."they" say that it's much healthier to skip the shell. But I can never resist it!

Tonight we had taco salad on the menu. Since it's Meatless Monday, I decided to skip the chicken or beef. So it was a simple salad of seasoned refried beans, lettuce, cheese, salsa, and sour cream (well, Lonnie skipped the sour cream). To make things a little more exciting, I made our own tortilla bowls. They were perfect! They turned out crispy and light brown. I got the recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Here's how I made them...


2 burrito size tortillas
Canola oil
2 oven-safe cups or jars

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a rimmed, foil-lined baking sheet, place the cups/jars that you will use to drape the tortillas over.
Microwave each tortilla for about 30 seconds, until they are soft. Rub a little bit of oil on each side of the tortilla. I just poured a small amount (1/2 tsp or so?) onto each side of the tortilla and spread it around with my fingers. Drape each tortilla over the cups.

Bake the tortillas for 8-10 minutes, frequently checking on them to make sure they don't burn. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool for a few minutes. Take the tortillas off of the cups and place on plates. Fill with salad!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Penne a la Vodka

Alla? A la? I don't know! I keep seeing recipes written both ways. Apparently it's open to interpretation. :)

This is a very simple, quick pasta dish that has a ton of flavor. It's on our list of meals that get made again and again. We both really enjoy it!

Pasta a la Vodka

(adapted from

1 lb. penne pasta, uncooked
2 Tbps. olive oil
1 lb. Italian Sausage (sweet or spicy)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta for 8-10 minutes. Drain.
In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Remove casing from sausage and add to skillet. Cook, breaking up the meat, until brown. Add garlic and red pepper, stirring until garlic is golden brown.
Add tomatoes and salt, bring to a boil. Turn down heat and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
Add vodka and cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add pasta. Stir well.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cheater, cheater...



About that........

We lasted 20 days (well, 18 minus pizza days). After a fairly stressful week and a late afternoon doctor's appointment today, we caved. We went to dinner at Culver's and it was great. Yummy food, eaten somewhere other than home, that I didn't have to make. And frozen custard to top it all off.

Back on track tomorrow. :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pregnancy Update!

We went to the pizza buffet for dinner tonight and yes, we are all stuffed! Since we don't have anything food related to post about tonight, I thought I'd take this time to make some notes about my pregnancy. I haven't been writing this stuff down anywhere else...and I'm kind of worried about forgetting it all. :) So, you've been warned. Don't feel obligated to read on if you don't want to!

16 weeks pregnant today!

Baby B is the size of an avocado

I have managed to only gain 3.5 lbs. This is waaaaay less than what I'd gained with Jack at this point, which is a very good thing.

I am at the point where I have to wear maternity pants or stretchy pants. And on that note...I have to mention how difficult it is for me to find maternity clothes. Tall maternity clothes are really hard to find. Add "plus-size" to that...and it's impossible! I think I will be living in sweat pants until summer time. And then at least I'll be able to pull off jeans as "capri" pants.

I stopped having "morning sickness" at around 10 weeks...but I still get nauseous every now and then.

I've been feeling Baby B move for a few weeks now. I know....I started feeling movement super early! Now I feel movement several times a day and it is wonderful. Definitely my favorite part of being pregnant.

I am still exhausted. I fall asleep on the couch every night by 8:00 or 8:30, without fail. I think part of my exhaustion is due to Jack not sleeping well....and part of it is due to how poorly I've been sleeping when I do sleep. I can't win in the sleep department!

We've decided not to undergo any of the prenatal screening with this pregnancy. The tests are known to be somewhat unreliable, so we don't really feel the need to go through the extra stress right now. Lord knows we have enough of that.

Our "big" ultrasound will be sometime at the end of February. Which seems so far away! We didn't find out if we were having a boy or girl when we were pregnant with Jack, so it is really exciting to (try to) find out this time. I am fairly certain it's a boy.

I haven't really been craving a specific food, but I could live without sweets - which is so not typical of me. I normally have the biggest sweet tooth...and now I could take them or leave them! I am more likely to want a big juicy hamburger than a piece of cake. So weird!'s some baby bump pictures! One from each side. :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chili Cheese Nachos

I'll start this off by saying, I don't like chili. Never have. But lately, Lonnie's been on a chili-making kick. And I don't know if it's the pregnancy or if my taste buds are changing...but this stuff is really good! Lonnie made chili yesterday and we had it on nachos today. We ate them in front of the TV, after Jack had gone to bed. The perfect way to eat nachos.

Here's Lonnie - with his latest chili recipe. Try it!!!

** This recipe makes a pretty hot chili. Steph would say about 7 out of 10 on a heat scale, I'd say about 2 or 3. If you like less spicy, omit the habenero peppers and add another poblano. Poblano peppers have a great chili pepper flavor without the heat.

1lb ground chuck
2 diced habenero peppers (seeds removed)
1 diced jalapeno pepper (seeds included)
1 diced poblano pepper
2 diced small onions
1 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp curry powder
1 cup V8 hot & spicy vegetable juice
2 15oz cans of diced tomatoes (I use no salt added tomatoes)
Sea Salt to taste

Brown the ground chuck however you'd like. I boiled and strained it to remove most of the fat. I set the liquid in the fridge to let some of the fat harden so I could later skim the fat off and add some of the liquid back to the chili. Put the ground meat in the fridge as well.

Meanwhile in a large pot, combine the remaining ingredients and simmer for 2hrs, stirring occasionally. Next, add the ground beef and about 1 cup or so of the water from the boiled beef. Simmer on low for another 3hrs. I let it cook for a total of probably 5 to 5 1/2 hrs, giving all the flavors time to blend. You could cook it longer, but might need to add more liquid if you go that route. Let it sit in the fridge overnight and it's even better the next day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


We've been absent the last few days! Really, dinner just hasn't been that exciting around here. :) Thursday we had the homemade pizza...and here's how the rest of it has gone down...

Friday - Breakfast for dinner (pancakes and bacon)

Saturday - was a crazy day. Jack got sick and we ended up at urgent care with a diagnosis of a double ear infection. I (Stephanie) had store bought hummus and pita bread for dinner, and Lonnie had leftover pizza. (Side note - Trader Joe's Chipotle Hummus rocks.)

Sunday - tonight we had fried rice and frozen egg rolls. The fried rice wasn't that great and the egg rolls had a horrible texture. (Another side note - Trader Joe's veggie egg rolls don't rock.)

So....we haven't had any meals to blog about!

Hopefully the rest of the week is a little more exciting. In all honesty, things are a little rough with our family right now. Raising a child with autism is extremely challenging. And when you add an illness to those challenges - it feels almost impossible. If the posts are sparse this week, it's because we're busy and exhausted. I'll try to get caught up when I get a chance!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lazy Day

Today was a lazy dinner day. I had "pizza quesadillas" on the menu, but decided to just do regular pizza instead. I had plans to make the dough, but got even lazier and bought some dough from the grocery store. Perfect! bought dough (the good stuff in a tube), store bought pizza sauce, pepperoni, shredded cheese, and pineapple. It was great! Jack helped assemble the pizza and wanted to make a "J" out of his pepperoni. So this is what he came up with...

So cute! And...super impressive...he ate the WHOLE THING! Pepperoni pizza is a new food on Jack's super small list of "acceptable" foods, so it was super awesome that he ate this whole thing. We were so proud of him.

That's it for today!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

French Dip Sandwiches

Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooh. Yum. This is one of the best meals I've made in a long time. So delicious. Typically, I am not a fan of red meat. Just not my favorite thing. But, I do like good shredded beef. And, apparently I like red meat while I am pregnant. Weird.

So, I plopped this big hunk o' meat in the crockpot at 6:00 am and by 4:30 pm it was falling apart. I can't remember exactly the cut of meat I bought, but it was top round something or other. I got it because it was reduced for quick sale and it looked like what I might need. Like I said, I don't really "do" red meat. So when I buy beef, I have no clue what I'm buying. I just guess. This time, guessing paid off. It shredded wonderfully and was lean, but still tender.

These sandwiches are amazing. The flavors are unique, but still what you expect from a "french dip" sandwich. We toasted our bread and I had Provolone cheese on mine and Lonnie had Swiss cheese on his. I found the recipe from Real Mom Kitchen. I only made a few minor changes from her recipe.

Here's the recipe -


(recipe adapted from Real Mom Kitchen)

1 Tbsp. minced roasted garlic
1 Tbsp. dried rosemary
3 bay leaves
1 cup soy sauce
6 cups water
3-4 pound beef chuck roast (or whatever kind of roast I used!)
Rolls or buns
Provolone cheese

In the slow cooker, combine the garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, soy sauce and water. Place the roast in the liquid. Cook on low for 10 hours.
Remove roast from the slow cooker and shred. Put shredded beef in a separate bowl. Add some of the liquid to the meat. Strain the rest of the liquid and put in small bowls for dipping.
Butter the rolls and put under the broiler to toast. Put meat on the rolls and top with cheese. Put under the broiler for a few more seconds for cheese to melt. Serve with the reserved liquid for dipping.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Meatless Monday

Normally I am not a fan of broccoli or cauliflower. But, roast them in the oven...and something magical happens. Tonight's dinner was Sesame & Soy Roasted Broccoli, served over rice. I got the recipe from Prudence Pennywise, a great food blog that also takes the cost of the meal into account. This broccoli was amazing. Delicious, salty, little crispy bits - perfection!


(recipe from Prudence Pennywise)

1 (12 oz.) bag of broccoli florets
1 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
Hot cooked rice

Preheat oven to 425*. Spread broccoli out on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and stir it all around. Roast for 10 minutes. Drizzle with sesame oil and soy sauce and put back in oven for 10 more minutes.
Serve over hot rice.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Not-So-Red Beans & Rice

(It's really hard to get a good picture of beans and rice)

I had Red Beans & Rice on the menu for today, but decided to use pinto beans instead of red beans. I think they're a little softer. And, I decided to use the crockpot. I love my crockpot. Stick everything in in the morning and you have a delicious meal in the evening. Couldn't be easier. And then there's also less excuses to go out to eat. :)

There are some theories on whether or not you should soak the beans overnight before putting them in the crockpot. I would've soaked my beans...but I just forgot to do it last night. They cooked fine without soaking them. I've read that the soaking process is supposed to take out some of factor.


(recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen)

1 lb. dried beans (red or pinto)
7 cups water
1 bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 lb. andouille sausage (or kielbasa or smoked sausage), sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 Tbsp. creole seasoning
Cooked rice, to serve over

Add all ingredients, except rice, into slow cooker. Cook on high for 7 hours or low for 12 hours (I cooked mine on low for 7 hours and then on high for 2 hours, just to make sure the beans got soft enough). About 1/2 hour before serving, smash up some of the beans in the slow cooker.
Serve over hot rice.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Broccoli Cheese Soup & Bread Bowls

I was really excited for this soup, but the results were just...ok. I debated on sharing it here, but figured I might as well. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't amazing. Both Lonnie and I had two bowls, but I don't think I would make the same recipe again. But, someone else out there might really love it! The comments on the blog I got the recipe from were all great. It seems like a lot of people enjoyed this recipe. So maybe it was just me. :)

I also did homemade bread bowls to serve the soup in. I've made this bread bowl recipe (the Italian Bread Bowl recipe) several times...and each time they don't come out as round as I would like them to. I am thinking that I might need to add more flour to the recipe and maybe they would stand-up better. But the actual bread is delicious. The bread is hearty and the crust is crusty and the bowl stands up really well with soup in it. I actually halved the recipe this time and only made 3 bread bowls. I didn't want the extras to go to waste.

I got both of these recipes from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, one of my favorite food blogs. She has some amazing recipes and there are a lot from her site that I make again and again.


1 can chicken broth (about 1 3/4 cups of broth)
1 small onion, diced
1/3 c. flour
1/4 c. butter
Pepper to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, preferably sharp or extra sharp
1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
2 1/2 to 3 cups chopped, lightly steamed or blanched broccoli (I cheated and used frozen!)

Simmer chicken broth and chopped onion for 15-20 minutes in a covered small saucepan, until onions are soft. Heat milk in microwave for 1-2 minutes. In a separate medium-sized stockpot, melt butter then add flour and pepper. Cook together for a couple of minutes, then whisk in warmed milk. Stir and heat together on medium-high heat until soup starts to thicken. Next add chicken broth and continue to stir until well blended. Add cheeses and steamed broccoli. Serve immediately.


1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
7 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water

In a large bowl (or bowl of an electric mixer), dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

Add salt, oil and 4 cups flour to the yeast mixture; beat well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well with an electric mixer at medium speed after each addition until a soft but not sticky dough is formed (you may not need to use all 7 cups).

When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes (or let knead in an electric mixer). Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Punch dough down, and divide into 6-8 equal portions. Shape each portion into a round ball. Place loaves on lightly greased baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal (or use silpat liners or parchment paper). Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 35 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, beat together egg white and 1 tablespoon water; lightly brush the loaves with half of this egg wash. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Brush with remaining egg mixture, and bake 10 to 15 more minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks.

Man Meals

So, this is Lonnie - Stephanie's other half.  My wife is an absolutely amazing cook.  We both really like cooking, which sort of sucks when you have a really small kitchen like we do.  This often ends up in us not cooking together, which is fine since we'd probably spend more time arguing than cooking.  Stephanie and I are complete opposites in the kitchen.  Stephanie follows the recipe and measures stuff.  I on the other hand, just make things up.  Whatever sounds good is what ends up in the meal I make.

So far, we're almost 8 days into this not eating out thing and it's good + bad.  I haven't really been craving anything in the take out world, and I'm sure the fast food that's voided from our diets is a plus in the healthy category.

With my running and weightlifting, I take in large amounts of protein - most days, around 1 to 1.5 grams per lb (so 200-300 grams per day).  This is easily achieved by consuming a lot of tuna or protein powder, but that can get pretty boring and there are only so many ways to tweak a can of tuna or whey protein.  Last night, I got the craving for some "Man Meals" as I like to call them.  Good timing as we have some frozen meats and some bacon in the fridge.  Oh, I found a couple all beef hot dogs in there too.  Might as well throw those in the mix.  Meat = protein!

I decided that I would use the bacon + hot dog for breakfast! It was with that, I created my Bacon weave wrapped hot dog.  I set it up, coated it in some salt/pepper and let it sit overnight.

You've got to have some carbs with breakfast too right?!  I decided that they should come from a pancake and figured what better way to serve it all than to wrap the bacon/hot dog combo with a pancake!  First, I fried up the bacon roll.  It took a good 30 minutes of turning & frying.  Now, it was time for the pancake.  It was a massive pancake (which I had to have Steph make since I'm terrible at it).  I rolled it up, put a touch of syrup on it and I ate half - good enough for me:

Continuing the day of my Man Meals adventure for lunch, I had some chicken bratwurst in the freezer to use up.  In the fridge I found some leftover mushrooms.  I defrosted the Brats just enough to be able to slice them, remove the casing and grill them.  I sliced off the mushroom stems and gave them a shot of olive oil, salt, red pepper and black pepper.  Popped them into a 425* oven for 20 minutes, stirred them, added some roasted garlic and put them back in the oven for 5 minutes.  With that, I had another high protein, low fat lunch:

With this, I am done cooking for the day, but Steph is as usual already in the process of making an awesome dinner.  Check back tonight for details on it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Comfort Food

Tuna casserole was on the menu tonight - and it actually sounded really good. Yes, I used canned tuna and canned cream of mushroom soup. Yes, I used pre-shredded cheese and greasy potato chips and frozen peas. AND YES, it was yummy.

For me, there is something about adding cream of ____ soup to a dish that automatically qualifies it as "comfort food."

It seems that everyone has their own way of making tuna casserole. Mine is mostly based on the way my mom makes it, with a little of my own stuff in there.

Here's everything in the 9x13", ready to be mixed up. We have tuna, peas, cheese, cream of mushroom soup and pasta.

Potato chips on top. Sometimes I do this, sometimes I don't. I am so glad that I did today.

Almost forgot to take a picture of it with the cheese on top, but got one just as it went into the oven.

The finished product! The top is definitely the best part. The crunchy chips and the brown, crispy cheese - perfection.


16 oz. box of pasta
2 cans of tuna, drained
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 -1 cup frozen peas
2 cups shredded cheese (1 cup to mix in, 1 cup for the top)
1 cup crushed potato chips

Cook pasta according to box directions, drain. Add pasta, tuna, soup, milk, peas and 1 cup cheese in a casserole dish. Mix thoroughly. Sprinkle crushed chips on top and then the remaining cheese. Bake at 425* for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!


Jack was a little tired tonight. I snapped this picture of him laying on the couch before dinner. He never just lays there, so I had to capture the moment. It's 6:30 pm and he's in bed right now!

"Tried-Too-Hard" Thursday

Yesterday was difficult. We had our trip to the hotel and waterpark and the whole thing was just difficult. Without going into too much detail or negativity, I will just say that everything about it was challenging. With the added stress and irritability, we really wanted to eat out. There were restaurants surrounding the hotel and they all sounded delicious. And so easy. But, we held strong! We managed to eat all of our food (dinner on Thursday and breakfast on Friday) at the hotel. It was nice that our hotel room had a little fridge, microwave, sink and dining table.

For dinner Thursday, I made popcorn chicken and tater tots. Or, I should say, I attempted to make popcorn chicken. I used The Pioneer Woman's recipe for chicken strips, but I cut the chicken into smaller, bite-size pieces. My first batch was a complete flop. I had to throw it away. I don't know if the oil wasn't hot enough or what, but the breading fell off of the chicken and it just tasted icky. The second batch turned out much better and that's what we ended up eating. Jack wouldn't touch it....but I can't say I'm surprised about that. He ate some of the tater tots and PB&J. I didn't take any pictures while I was making the chicken because...well...I didn't feel like it. I was a little bitter about having to make our dinner to take to the hotel - all I wanted was to be able to drive-through a fast food place and buy the same exact thing without the hassle of making it at home. Here's the one picture I got of our dinner -

Jack, mid-sentence -

So, here's what I learned yesterday...

1) Our son does not need a fancy hotel room and waterpark to have fun. His anxiety really got in the way of him having fun. We could've found something to do at home that would've been more fun.

2) Our meals do not need to be perfect. I could've easily just made sandwiches for dinner on Thursday. But I had to do better than that. And the stress that I put on myself was unnecessary.

3) Next paycheck, we are buying a deep fryer. I am so tired of "frying" things in a pan on the stove. It is messy, smelly, greasy and messy.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Meatballs with Peppers & Pineapple

I don't have a creative title for Wednesday yet. Might not ever have one. We'll see.

Today I made Meatballs with Peppers & Pineapple. This recipe comes from my favorite food blogger, The Pioneer Woman. I have used many of her recipes (and have her cookbook!) and each one has turned out wonderfully. This one was no exception. I made it in stages throughout the day and that worked out really well.

I didn't have any store-bought breadcrumbs, so I made my own. Super easy! I just used one piece of regular bread and put it in our little food processor.

Then spread the crumbs out on a baking sheet and put in the oven to dry out. I set my oven to 350* and put the crumbs in there while it was preheating. These were done right when the oven beeped (to let me know it was at 350*). One slice of bread equaled 1/2 cup bread crumbs. Perfect!

The recipe calls for ground beef, but we had ground chicken on hand (reduced to $1.49/lb at our local store!), so I used that. If you've never used ground chicken's a weird thing. The texture is nothing like that of ground beef or ground turkey. It's like if you took a raw chicken breast and mashed it up. It's very sticky and mushy. Which makes making meatballs with it kind of interesting. But here it is with the onion, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. All ready to be smushed up.

Here are the balls! I used my handy-dandy cookie scooper (I don't know how I survived without this thing) to make them into uniform size meatballs. I got 18 out of 1 lb. of meat. I popped these in the freezer for 45 minutes or so (didn't plan on that long, but life got in the way).

Green bell peppers, roughly chopped. So green and pretty!

The recipe calls for fresh pineapple, but I used canned. Cheaper and I already had some in the pantry. I used just a little bit less than the entire can.

Now for making the sauce. Some beef broth...

Soy sauce...

Sherry...(I have never used cooking sherry before today. The recipe calls for either sherry or vinegar. Sherry smells nothing like vinegar. It smells like what it is - alcohol.)

Sugar...(and then I added cornstarch, but my hands were too messy to take a photo).

Here's the meatballs, all coated in flour. They look like Russian Teacakes. Don't walk away from them while they're on the counter...wouldn't want a kid or a husband biting into one of these!

Fried! Super easy. The oil was very hot and they browned up really quickly. At this point, they are still raw in the middle, but they'll get cooked through in the sauce later.

Peppers in a hot skillet. Only let these cook for a minute or so...they'll cook more in the sauce later.

Pineapple with the peppers. Again, only cook them for about a minute.

Here's everything simmering happily in the pan! The meatballs finish cooking in the sauce and the cornstarch helps the sauce thicken up nicely. I added about an extra tablespoon of cornstarch to my sauce. To add more cornstarch to an already hot liquid (so it doesn't clump up) - in a small bowl, add about 1 Tbsp. of cornstarch and then just enough cold water to mix it together, then add the cold liquid to the hot liquid.

The finished product! It was absolutely delicious. I will definitely be making this again.


(adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

1 lb. ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey)
1 small diced onion (or 1/2 medium onion) diced finely
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
Black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, more to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Canola oil, for frying
2 green bell peppers, seeded and roughly diced
1 1/2 cups pineapple chunks (fresh or canned)
2 cups beef broth
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 cup sherry or white wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
Salt to taste
Crushed red pepper, to taste
Extra cornstarch, if needed
Extra beef broth, if needed

Combine ground meat, diced onion, egg, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, and crushed red pepper. Mix with hands until combined. Roll meat mixture into small balls and place on a cookie sheet. Freeze on the pan for 15 - 30 minutes to firm.

Mix together beef stock, soy sauce, sherry (or vinegar), sugar, and cornstarch.

Heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Roll meatballs in flour, then fry in two batches until nice and brown, about two minutes per batch. Remove meatballs and set aside on a separate plate.

Pour off oil from pan and return pan to medium high heat. When pan is hot, throw in the chopped green peppers and cook for one minute. Add pineapple to pan and cook for one minute, stirring gently. Pour in stock/soy sauce mixture, then add meatballs. Stir gently to combine and allow to cook and bubble for a few minutes, or until sauce is thickened. Add salt and crushed red peppers to taste.

Serve over cooked brown or white rice.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"Too Full" Tuesday

So, here we sit. It's 7:30 on Tuesday night and we are sitting on the couch. We are "too full" from eating at the pizza buffet tonight. :)

We talked about if we should blog or not on Tuesday nights. And we figured, why not? We'll use this opportunity to talk about our life in general and how our little resolution is going.

Before we decided to stop eating out, we had planned a little get-away to a local hotel/waterpark. It had originally started as a plan to go to the Wisconsin Dells, but we missed out on booking our reservations before a really great deal was no longer available. We felt like we were desperate to get out of the house and do something. Our family could really use a fun break. So we decided to just book a room at a local hotel that has an indoor waterpark. Jack is SO excited. He has been asking for several months "when can we stay at a hotel again?" He loves staying in hotels. So when we told him that we were going to stay in a hotel on Thursday, he was just thrilled. And to have a waterpark on top of that? Really awesome! We are so thankful to be able to use Christmas money from family to pay for most of our little vacation. Hopefully this will be just what we need to relax and have some fun right now.

What are we going to eat at the hotel? I (Stephanie) was pushing for us to have an "exception" on Thursday night and go out to dinner. But, no. We will be strong. I am going to make a dinner that we can reheat at the hotel, we will have muffins/fruit for breakfast on Friday, and sandwiches for lunch. Super easy. Plus, I'm sure Jack will get a kick out of eating in the hotel room instead of going to a noisy restaurant. At least, we can hope that he will. (Things often have a way of backfiring on us!)

In other news, we are all absolutely exhausted at our house. For those of you that don't know, Jack has never been a good sleeper. We have been through a sleep study, MRIs, EEGs, and several doctors...and it all comes down to autism and/or behavior. There is something that causes him to wake up in the middle of the night and/or early...we just have no clue what it is. We have blackout curtains, white noise machine, warmer jammies, cooler jammies, warmer blankets, cooler blankets, fan, etc. You name it, we've probably tried it. So right now we're in this pattern of Jack waking up once or twice at night and then waking up around 4:30 am. For the day. 4:30 is EARLY! And it feels even earlier when you're pregnant. So, needless to say, we're tired. :) I am praying that this pattern breaks sometime soon and maybe we can get a little break at some point.

Not much else "blog-worthy" stuff going on around our house! We'll be back tomorrow with a really yummy-looking recipe. I'm actually really excited to make this one.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Meatless Monday

On the menu for tonight - Super Bean Burritos!

I ran across this recipe at Real Mom Kitchen, and knew right away that I wanted to try it. We try to have at least 2-3 meatless meals per week and burritos are a great way to make one of those meals happen. They come together easily, they're cheap, and they're filling (and delicious)!


2 cups already cooked rice (brown or white)
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed, finely diced
1 tsp. cumin
3 T. tomato paste
2 cans pinto beans (15 oz. each), drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
1 10 oz. package frozen corn
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
10-12 large tortillas (10" burrito size)
1 1/2 - 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a cheddar jack mix)

In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender. Watch the garlic closely to make sure it doesn't burn. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
I know it doesn't look like much, but this will make your house smell amazing. (onion, garlic, jalapeno and cumin)

Add 1 can of beans to the pan and mash with a fork. Add the 2nd can of beans, along with the water. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to medium. Simmer for 10-12 minutes, allowing mixture to thicken. Stir occasionally, making sure the mixture doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Add corn and cook 2-3 minutes until heated thoroughly. Stir in onion and garlic powders. Remove from heat and stir in rice.
Before the rice is added.

Heat tortillas in the microwave until soft (25 seconds or so). Fill each tortilla with 2/3 cup (or so) of the bean/rice mixture and then about 1/4 cup of cheese. Fold like a burrito. I would try to explain in detail how to fold the tortilla, but I would fail. So, if you don't know how to fold a tortilla into a burrito, I would suggest Googling it.
The finished product.

Serve immediately (with salsa and sour cream, if you so choose) or freeze for later. The original recipe has different directions for freezing and reheating...but here's how I'm doing it - I folded up the burritos and then I wrapped each individual burrito in foil. I put the foil covered the burritos in the freezer. For reheating, I am planning on putting them in the oven at 350* until they're heated through. I am hoping that the foil will keep the tortillas from getting too dried out, and without the extra chewiness of putting them in the microwave for a 2nd time. I'll let you know how they turned out!

Here's what Jack had for dinner - Fiber One cereal! Haha! He loves this cereal. And it's a good thing, too. Let's just say that he could always use more fiber in his diet. :)

It's a good thing he's cute.