Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekly Menu

I'll be sharing my menu from the past week. This way, I can share photos and reviews.
Our weekly menu:

Spaghetti Pizza Pie (blogged about it here)
Caesar salad

Chicken cordon bleu
mashed potatoes
steamed mixed veggies

Sun dried tomato pesto with penne (thanks mom!)

brisket sandwiches
- I put a dry rub on the brisket, cooked it on low all day (from 8:30-3:00) in the crockpot. Then, I basted it with barbeque sauce and cooked it in the oven on 300 for 3 more hours. It was good!
mac n cheese

cheeseburgers with hawaiian bread rolls and garlic mayo
french fries

chicken puffs
salad with homemade Thousand Island

Chicken Puffs (from Allrecipes)
2 chicken breasts- cubed
3 Tbsp. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
6 oz. cream cheese
6 Tbsp. butter
3 10-oz. cans refrigerated crescent roll dough (I didn't have crescent rolls, so I found a recipe and made my own. Recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 325.
In saucepan over medium heat, slowly cook and stir chicken, onion and garlic. Cook until onions are tender and chicken is lightly browned. In a bowl, blend chicken mixture, cream cheese, and butter.
If using crescent rolls, unroll and divide in half to make rectangles. Place a Tablespoon of chicken mixture on each rectangle, and fold up. Bake for 12 minutes, or until golden brown.

MY chicken puffs
I used 2 cans of chicken breast. Chicken is so expensive! I either buy canned chicken breast or frozen chicken in a bag. I usually only get the packaged chicken when it's buy one, get one free!
And, I didn't have crescent rolls, so I found a recipe and made my own dough. This dough is so good!! I can't wait to make it again and I'm already thinking of other yummy fillings to try.
Crescent Roll Dough
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
3/4 c. warm water
1/2 c. white sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 c. shortening
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 c. butter softened

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Once dissolved, add to a large bowl, and stir sugar, salt, eggs, shortening, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth, then mix in remaining flour until smooth. Knead dough, then cover it and let rise in a warm place (I put it in the laundry room) until double (about 1 1/2 hours).
Risen dough
Punch down dough and divide in half.
I cut it into rectangles and rolled thin. My helper and I added chicken mixture to the middle.
Then fold it up, and make sure no chicken is peeking out anywhere.
Let sit for another hour, to rise again. Brush with softened butter, and bake for 13-15 minutes. I also sprinkled with garlic powder.
All done!This dough really is amazing, it tasted awesome and was easy- you just need a few hours:)

Wow, this was a long post. Maybe next time, I will just do the menu as it's own post, and any recipes I share as their own post. Well, thanks for sticking with it- any suggestions are always welcome.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sweet Treat for the Week

Seriously- yum. These are great!

S'mores Brownies
graham cracker crust:
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp. sugar
pinch of salt
6 Tbsp. butter, melted

Brownie mix of your choice

3-4 cups marshmallows

325 degree oven
Line a 9x9 pan with foil, leaving an inch hanging over the sides (this makes it easy to just lift the brownies out of the pan after they are done). Put graham cracker mixture in bottom of pan and pat down. Bake for 20 minutes. Make brownies according to directions on box, pour over graham cracker crust. Bake 40-45 minutes. Turn on the broiler (on low), top brownies with marshmallows and toast under the broiler for just a couple of minutes (DON'T step away- it doesn't take long...). Remove from the oven, cut into squares and get ready to get your fix.

Tip for today

My kids love salad. My mom thinks it's weird (but great) that my 3 and 4-year old LOVE salad. Well, since we make salad pretty often, I was always running out of dressing. Not anymore! Instead of buying new bottles of dressing, I got good recipes for the kinds I make most often. The cool thing is the ingredients are some that I always have, so I never have to be out of dressing or spend money on it at the store.

Thousand Island
3/4 c. mayo
1/8 c. ketchup
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. worchestershire sauce
1/4 c. sweet pickle relish

Mix all ingredients. Taste. If it's too red, add more mayo. If it's to white, add more ketchup. I don't even look at the measurements anymore, I just squirt some ketchup and mayo in a bowl, then add a dash of lemon juice and worchestershire, and a good bit of relish. We like relish.

Easy Caesar Dressing
3/4 bottle of Italian dressing
1/3 c. mayo
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. mustard
1 t soy sauce

Again, mix all ingredients and taste. Alot of times I forget to add the soy sauce or mustard, and I probably add more parmesan than that. This is really good- I make this every time instead of buying the Cardini's that I used to buy.

I love having these easy options, and being able to throw a salad together whenever I want.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tip for today

I am not a great baker, but I have really started enjoying it in the past year. When I started making cakes from scratch, I wasn't too pleased with how dry they quickly became. After you are used to super-duper moist cakes from a mix, made-from-scratch cakes just tasted dense and dry. I did love the flavor of homemade cakes, and was determined to find ONE recipe that I liked. I have found the recipe and more on that soon (as soon as a certain sister of mine sends me a certain picture I need), but I have a good tip to try that will make your homemade cake a little more moist.

You ready for this???

Pudding mix. Yes, throw a box of pudding mix into the batter (I mixed it in with the dry ingredients), and the cake suddenly became moist and yummy!!! (Thanks, Dad!!!!)
Maybe you knew this or do you have a trick of your own?? Like I said, I am not an experienced baker, but now I will be baking more cakes from scratch- with pudding!!!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's new to me!

I tried a new recipe this week- from Full Bellies, Happy Kids

Spaghetti Pizza Pie
8 oz. spaghetti, cooked and drained
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained
2 cups spaghetti sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toss cooked spaghetti with half the Parmesan and the egg. Place in 9-inch pie plate; press onto bottom and up side of pie plate to form crust.

Mix meat and spaghetti sauce; spoon into spaghetti crust.
Sprinkle with mozzarella and remaining parmesan.
Bake 30 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.This was yummy, and easy. I always have the ingredients on hand to make this, and am SO thrilled to find a new recipe using ground beef. I tend to buy lots of ground beef, but get tired of meatloaf and sloppy joes... This is a keeper and you will be seeing it on my weekly menu again and again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tip for today

Grocery store talk...

- I go to the same store every time. They send me coupons in the mail because I am a frequent shopper- it helps!! Also, I know the layout and make my list in order of how I go through the store. You can also make your list up by categories: dairy, produce, canned, frozen, etc. so it makes it less likely to forget an item. There is nothing that drives me more crazy at the store than to have to walk clear across the store for one thing I forgot!!

- I make my menu for two weeks, then go through my pantry and see what I need to make these recipes. Add to my list the items we are out of, and there's your grocery list!

- The circular for my store comes in the mail in middle of the week, before I go to the store. I browse that for their sales for the week. If chuck roast is on sale that week, then, it looks like we're having pot roast, honey!! If you don't get the ad, check online. The stores usually have their ads online, so you can check for sales, add it to your list, and adjust your menu- instead of a bunch of impulse buys!!!

- Clip coupons!! It really makes a difference. It may be a beating, but overall, I think it's worth it. I usually save anywhere from $8-15 from coupons.

I bet you have a great grocery store tip. Let us in on it...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chicken Fried Rice

I love fried rice, and was so excited last year to find a good, simple recipe to make at home. I found this on Food Network's website, from the show How To Boil Water.

Chicken Fried Rice
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 chicken breasts, diced to bite-size pieces
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (I have never done this. Not a ginger person)
3 whole scallions, thinly sliced, white and greens separated
1 1/3 c. medley frozen veggies (peas and carrots works great because they are small, like the rice)
4 large eggs, beaten
4 cups cold cooked long grain rice, white or jasmine (The recipe says it's important to use cold rice because it keeps the rice from sticking together)

Heat a large heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon oil. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned. Add the onions to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until onion is fragrant. Add the garlic, ginger and scallion whites and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the frozen vegetables. Cook until defrosted, but still crisp (no more than 3-4 min). Transfer contents of skillet to a large bowl.
Add 2 more Tbsp. of oil and the eggs. Season with salt and pepper, stir constantly and cook until almost set but still moist, transfer to the bowl with veggies and chicken. Add last of oil and rice to the pan. Use a spoon to break up any clumps. Season with salt and pepper and stir-fry the rice to coat with oil. Stop stirring and let the rice cook undisturbed, for about 2 min. Stir the rice again, breaking up any new clumps. Add the scallion greens. Transfer to the bowl.
Stir all ingredients together, season with salt and pepper as needed.
Add soy sauce if you like (yes, please!)
This may seem like lots of steps, but it is some good eats!! If you like fried (I keep typing fired and it's driving me crazy!) rice, give it a try. I think you will be pleased. I always am!

Review: LOVE this!

From time to time, I will review kitchen products. Either something new that I just tried or a favorite that I have loved and used often.

This is one of those favorites that I use often.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

I have two preschoolers that keep my house is constant disarray. Since I cook everyday, my kitchen always has something going on. These little beauties are great!! They really get those gunky spots that probably started off as a little juice, then you add some crumbs and a little sugar and you have got yourself a nice, dried up gunky spot! Not that YOU lovelies would ever have that problem, but I have been known to come across a gunky spot a time or two. Well, these are great. Get them damp with water and rub away! The spot will be gone, I bet. Sometimes I need to spray some cleaner after I rub it, it will leave a dull sheen on my counters. But the spot is gone!! Also works great on my stovetop, when I step away from my boiling potatoes for ONE second and I come back to overflow potato water. Sigh. Thank you, Magic Eraser.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tip for today

Go to Kraft website (on my links to the right) and sign up for their magazine. It's FREE. Yes, seriously free and full of recipes. It comes out 4 times a year, and the turn of the season. I just got my fall one, and it was pretty good.

From the magazine and can't wait to try:

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
I LOVE sweet potatoes. I make them a ridiculous amount during the holidays and never get tired of them (my husband, however, definitely got sweet potato overload last fall/winter)

2 large sweet potatoes
2 oz. cream cheese
2 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 c. pecan pieces

Heat oven to 425. Cut potatoes lengthwise in half; place, cut-side down, in foil-lined baking pan. Bake 30-35 min. or until tender. Scoop out centers of potatoes into bowl (be careful, don't let the skin break!), leaving a little bit of sweet potato in there as a shell. Add cream cheese, milk, sugar, and cinnamon to potatoes, mash until blended. Spoon potato mixture into shells; top with nuts. Bake 10 min. or until potatoes are heated through and nuts are toasted.
Can't wait to try!

The other reason I like this magazine so much, they show you how to do things; there are lots of pictures (as opposed to this blog, which has no pictures. In the future, my recipes will have pics with them). Step by step pictures to help you along the way.

Weekly Menu

These are our dinners for this week. I make my menu first, then go to the grocery store with my list of everything I need. We go to the store twice a month, so I make two weeks of menus at a time. That way, I know what we have and I already have a list of recipes and ideas to choose from.

potato skins
baked beans (these baked beans are FABULOUS. Yes, they are a little sweet and tart, but not overly so. If you have no aversion to hot fruit, unlike my mother, you should definitely make them)
what? The Cowboys were on Monday Night Football...

Homemade pizza

*Wednesdays will never be particularly exciting. We have church, I rarely eat dinner on this night, and the kids usually have cereal.

Hamburger steaks with caramelized onions and brown gravy
mashed potatoes
roasted squash and zucchini
* Side note: I didn't have any russet potatoes. Instead, I made them with Yukon golds, with the skin on, since it is a thin skin. I had never used those kind for mashed potatoes before, they turned out great.

Brown Sugar Chicken (love this site, love the crockpot. Can't wait to try this one!)

*** Added 9/21***

Here is the chicken thighs and brown sugar/lemon-lime soda/garlic/vinegar sauce. I cooked it on low for 6-7 hours.
After 6-7 hours

It fell right off the bone. I served it with rice and a ladel of the sauce over the chicken pieces.It was very tender and juicy, but a little too sweet for me. And I like sweet. I'm already thinking of tweaking the recipe and trying it again. Maybe more of a teriyaki sauce with brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic and chicken stock instead of lemon lime soda and vinegar.

tamales (purchased- our area has a great homemade tamales. Although, I will be attempting my own homemade ones soon)

hmmm, not sure if we will be hungry for dinner after a big family lunch this weekend.


Homemade pizza dough
1 packet rapid rise yeast
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. warm water
Pour yeast packet and sugar in the warm water. Stir and let sit for at least 5 minutes, you want to see it foaming.

While yeast is activating, in a mixer with a dough hook, mix:
3 cups flour
3 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
1 t salt
Add yeast and 2 Tbsp. olive oil into the flour. You can (and will need to) add up to 1/2 cup water to the dough as it is forming. It will take just a few minutes to come together.
Wipe olive oil into an aluminum bowl and add ball of dough. Wet a dish towel with warm water and cover bowl. Set aside (I usually put mine in the laundry room) for at least 45 min.
When the dough has risen, bring it out of bowl and knead it a few times. Cut into two or three sections, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. The dough is now ready to roll out for pizzas.

Roasted Squash and zucchini
Slice ends off of squash and zucchini. Cut into thick (1/2 inch) slices and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (I heavily sprinkle) and toss with olive oil. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes. I usually go in halfway through and toss them again, to get both sides browned.

Baked Beans
(from Paula Deen)

4 16-ounce cans baked beans
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup molasses
1 cup barbeque sauce
2 Tbsp. yellow or brown mustard
5 slices cooked and crumbled bacon
1 6-ounce can french fried onions
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, mix together all ingredients, but save 2/3 of onions. Pour beans into 13x9 casserole dish and sprinkle remaining crushed onions on top. Cook in oven for 1 hour or until beans brown and bubble. Serve warm.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

iCook- you can, too!!

Welcome to iCook!

This blog will feature recipes, reviews and tips. I hope you enjoy.

Why I started this blog:

- I love to cook and do it daily.
- fall is my favorite season, and I have lots of great cool weather recipes to share.
- I love to hear other people's tips and recipes, too. I hope you will share!