Thursday, April 30, 2009

No Plan for Dinner??

What do you get when you haven't menu planned for the last two weeks, hamburger is in large supply in the deep freeze, and there are leftover hotdog buns that will go to waste if not used?


Yeah! The kids loved it. I can't take the credit, though. My friend, Sarah, told me she did this a while back and it's been stuck in my mind ever since. Saved up for just the right time ... which was today.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fiesta Nacho Cheese Soup

I haven't been menu planning the last few weeks. I've been gone A LOT and this week just came on too fast. So, I told my Fargo friends that I'm 'flying by the seat of my pants for menu planning this week.' It has worked out okay so far ... thank goodness!

This recipe is one for which I always keep the necessary ingredients in the pantry. It's probably the most 'processed' meal/soup that I make, so consider yourself forewarned. However, it's one that every member of my family enjoys, and it can be prepared quickly. I can usually get two meals out of a batch; although that is becoming more of a stretch as the kids get older.

Fiesta Nacho Cheese Soup
Yield: 10 servings
Prep Time: I can prepare it in 30 minutes or slightly less

8 oz. small shells, rings, or spaghettie broken into 1" pieces (I use whatever I have on hand that is similar in size - tonight I used medium shells)
10 3/4 oz. can Fiesta Cheese Soup
10 3/4 oz. can Cream of Chicken soup
10 oz. can Enchilada sauce
14.5 oz. can chicken broth
2 cups milk
3/4 cup cubed processed cheese spread (Velveeta - I often use 1 cup)
5 oz. can chicken, drained*
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 cups tortilla nacho chips (or as many as needed - 2 cups is less than we use - chips are a treat at our home)
4 oz. finely shredded cheddar cheese (I use what's on hand)

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside. In large saucepan over low heat, mix soups, enchilada sauce, chicken brother, milk and processed cheese. I like to heat this thoroughly. When heated, add the diced or canned chicken, pasta and parsely. Simmer 5 minutes over medium heat until heated through.

To Serve:
Our family crunches the chips into the bottom of our bowls and spoons the soup over the top. We garnish with the shredded cheese.

*I often use frozen diced chicken, leftover from a roasted chicken, or frozen diced chicken breast that I've prepared ahead of time for recipes such as this. Another way to 'cheat' on the chicken is to use the Oven Roasted Chicken Bite's from Schwan's. Pop them in the micro to reheat and then dice the bite's into 1/2" cubes or smaller. Schwan's really is my ticket to fast food out here in the boonies.

The label as Mexican may be a stretch, but it has Fiesta Nacho cheese soup!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easy Pork Lo Mein

After Easter Sunday, I had pork tenderloin leftover. I had marinated half the tenderloin in Tamari soy, and planned to use any leftovers in a Chinese meal. Lo Mein is one of our family favorites, but my usual recipe has chinese cabbage - a special purchase. While I had to substitute on a few fresh seasonings and herbs, I had all the ingredients for this recipe on hand. It's quick,easy, and everyone liked the dish.

Easy Pork Lo Mein
Yield: 6 servings

1 lb. pork tenderloin
¼ cup Tamari soy sauce
3 garlic cloves (or substitute garlic powder, like me, if you don’t have fresh garlic available)
1 tsp. minced gingerroot (or substitute about ½ tsp. ginger powder – I didn’t have fresh!)
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
2 cups fresh snow peas (I used thawed, frozen snow peas)
1 medium sweet red pepper, sliced lengthwise
3 cups angel hair pasta
½ cup chicken broth
2 tsp. sesame oil

1. Cut the tenderloin in half lengthwise and then cut into ¼ inch strips. Put slices in a large re-sealable bag. Add the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes to the pork. Seal and mix up the ingredients. Marinate for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

2. In a large wok, stir-fry the pork for 4-5 minutes or until the pork is no longer pink. Add peas and red pepper strips. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir in the pasta and chicken broth; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat and add the sesame oil.

3. NOTE: I used leftover, soy-marinated pork tenderloin. It eliminated a few steps and cut down on preparation and cooking time quite a bit. I did marinate the meat again, because a tenderloin roast doesn’t have as much soy flavor packed into it when marinated whole. It was not too salty for my family to use the ¼ cup soy to marinate the strips.

P.S. I must be getting back to my old self, because I've been wanting to cook again!! I enjoy trying new recipes...

Hash Brown and Ham Quiche

This is one of the dishes I served at our Saturday morning Brunch. It disappeared so fast ... I only tasted a few scrappings from the bottom of the pie plate. The scraps were tasty enough to entice me to prepare it again today! Who says quiche is only for the breakfast hours....

With our large group, I made one and one half of this recipe and it fit in my large ceramic pie plate (about 10-11") However, be forewarned that it will take about 25 minutes extra to bake it completely (and, if you bake it longer, make sure to cover the top with foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent over-browning).

Hash Brown and Ham Quiche
Yield: 6 servings

4 cups hash browns, shredded, frozen
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
3 Tbls. butter, divided
1 medium onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
2 tsp. all purpose flour
1 cup diced pre-cooked ham
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded cheese - colby jack, cheddar, mexican blend, whatever you have on hand (I forgot to spread this over the top for our brunch, but no one noticed!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Nicely browned hash browns.

2. In a large skillet, saute the hash browns, salt and pepper in 2 Tablespoons butter until lightly browned. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9 inch pie plate. In the same skillet, saute the onion and green pepper in remaining butter. Remove from heat and sprinkle with the flour. Stir in the ham, eggs, and milk. Pour into the hash brown crust.

Sauted green pepper and onion, above. The Hash Brown and Ham Quiche ready to bake in the oven, below.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with cheese and bake 5 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Easter at Our Home

This year, I'm hosting my whole family for an Easter meal. That means 13 adults and 6 children - at least one of whom can eat an adult sized portion. It'll be a little different than past years as we plan to have the big meal on Saturday evening. We'll have a Saturday morning brunch followed by lots of visiting. Many need to travel back home on Sunday because they have quite a drive, therefore we are having the family meal on Saturday evening. Most of my family will return to Fargo for the night and attend Mass in the morning. Here's my menu plan for Saturday....

Morning Brunch:
Italian Sausage and Broccoli Quiche
Hash Brown Ham Quiche
Fruit Tray
Veggie Tray
Danish rolls and assorted muffins

Evening Meal:
Spiral Ham with a glaze (probably maple)
Stuffed Chicken Breast (broccoli and cheese)
Roasted Baby Potatoes with herb butter
Mixed vegetables
Romaine Salad
Crescent Rolls
Deviled Eggs
Peach Pie, Blueberry Pie, and Cheesecake

Eric, the kids, and I will attend Mass on Sunday morning. For the Sunday noon meal, I plan to prepare marinated pork tenderloin, Au Gratin potatoes, green beans, Romaine salad, homemade rolls. We're hoping that Grandma and Grandpa Green Acres will be able to join us.

*Recipes and pictures might be posted later - IF I remember to take pictures!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Birthday Cakes

This past weekend, Dash celebrated his birthday (which is actually later this month on the 24th) with four friends. They had a bowling party and had a great time. Party-goers were asked to bring a donation for either Adopt-a-pet or the Cathedral of St. Mary Altar Servers.

I decorated a cake for the boys. It's not professional, but do boys care??? I usually 'do' a cake like this, or one that requires more decorating, at least every couple years. It reminds me why I'm not a professional cake decorator and reminds me that I should appreciate dexterity in my fingers. Even that amount of piping made my hands cramp!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chicken Fajita Casserole

I've been craving fajitas for quite a while. I was actually craving a beef fajita recipe that I used to make about once a month when I was first married. It was made in the crock pot and had great flavor - I'll have to post it sometime. I've been holding back on making it because I was pretty sure my kids weren't READY for it, yet. My hubby said I should just 'go for it.' However, the recipe is pretty spicy and I KNOW I would get a lot of grumbles.

Instead of using my old recipe, yesterday I finally acted upon my craving and made a Chicken Fajita Casserole. I used pre-cooked chicken to save time. The peppers are bright and colorful - just the sort of food we should eat when we are craving warmer weather and Spring-time. The kids ate it; it wasn't too spicy and did hit the spot for me.

Chicken Fajita Casserole
Yield: 10 servings

3 chicken breasts, cut into strips (or about 2.5 - 3 cups pre-cooked chicken breast, diced)
3 Tbls. olive oil
1 green pepper, sliced or diced
1 yellow pepper, sliced or diced
1 red pepper, sliced or diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 cans cream of chicken soup
15 0z. can tomatoes with chili peppers
2 cups shredded cheese (I used Mexican blend, but Monterey Jack would be great, too)
1/2 package flour tortillas (I had the Flat-Out wraps on hand, so I used four of them, instead)

1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you aren't using pre-cooked chicken, prepare your chicken by cutting into strips and sauteeing in 1 Tbls. olive oil in a medium sized skillet. When completely cooked, set aside.

2 In a large skillet, saute the three pepper, onion, garlic and pepper in 2 Tbls. olive oil until tender. Set aside.

3. Dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces. In a large bowl, mix the chicken, tomatoes, and cream of chicken soup.

4. Spray a 13x9 inch pan with cooking spray. Tear the tortillas into quarters and arrange half on the bottom of the pan. Layer half the chicken mixture, half the pepper mix, and half the cheese on top of the tortillas. Repeat the layers.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

6. OPTIONAL: You can serve the casserole with toppings, such as sour cream, shredded lettuce, black olives, hot sauce, extra cheese, etc. Use whatever your family enjoys.