Saturday, February 27, 2010

Roasted Asparagus.

Ah, asparagus. The vegetable love of my life.

Do you know that I spent almost 18 years of my life not knowing the beautiful deliciousness that is asparagus? It's true! I didn't have asparagus until I started dating Evan. I was eating dinner at his house one night and, as was becoming tradition, his mom served a food I was unfamiliar with.

Roasted asparagus.

Here's how meals went at Evan's house when we were dating:
A new food I had never seen, smelled or tasted before would be on the table. I would avoid putting the food on my plate. Evan's mom would see the food absent on my plate. Evan's mom would herself put the food on my plate and stare at me till I ate it. I would eat it because I was scared not to. (Matt, Kyle's husband, was a pro at avoiding eating any food he didn't want. When he and Kyle were dating, during one of the first meals I ate with him there, he simply picked Jana up and placed her on the porch and locked all the doors when she tried to make him eat something green. A very common place tradition for him, I would soon learn.)

True stories. This is how I became acquainted with such lovely foods as brussel sprouts, couscous, and asparagus.

Roasting asparagus is my absolute favorite way to eat it. I will show you the perfect way to cook it.

First you break the asparagus at the base. A trick I learned recently, was to bend the asparagus at the end and the tough part will naturally break off.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lay the asparagus on a cooking sheet.
Now, you will need some olive oil and kosher salt.

Take the olive oil and drizzle it over the asparagus, like so.

Then take a good amount of kosher salt (like what I have in my hand) and sprinkle it on the asparagus. Remember, kosher salt is more forgiving, so using a lot won't make it too salty. Don't use that much of table salt. It would be toooooo much.

Here is what it looks like before you put it in the oven. Let it cook for about 20 minutes. Check on it, because you don't want it to burn (although, I won't lie, I will still eat it burned because I love it so).

Here's what it looks like when it's finished. The ends of the asparagus should be slightly dark, but the insides will still be juicy and soft!

Oh my goodness, how delicious does this look?!?!

We ate ours as a side to our Lasagna Rollups, but, honestly, I find it a suitable side for anything. Even cereal. I joke. Kind of.

Here's my only problem with asparagus--my children like it just as much as I do. In fact, Julia was eating just as much as me at this meal. I was so very upset. I almost wish I hadn't introduced them to asparagus so that I can eat all of it. But, I am a kind, good hearted mother, who wants my children to be exposed to such fabulous vegetables. So, I will just have to suck it up and buy more.

(Oh, and for those of you who are unaware, asparagus can be a bit potent when you have to tinkle later in the day. I'm just warning you that you may smell something. I don't (because 15% of people do not smell the results of eating asparagus, so I thought Evan was insane when he told me this tid bit of information the first time I ate it), but it really is true.

Monday, February 22, 2010

This Week's Menu

This week Evan will be working long hours (which makes me grumpy/sad because I will be single parenting more than I like), so I am not only making some of his favorite meals, but ones that will turn into leftover lunches easily.

Monday--Marlboro Man's Favorite Sandwich
Roasted something
Potato Salad

Tuesday--Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Wednesday--Quick Ginger Seasoned Steak & Rice

Baked Beans
Oven Fries

Friday--Poor Man's Lobster

Saturday--Southern Sloppy Joes
Cooked Carrots
Onion Strings

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chicken and Barley Soup

I got a fantastic cookbook from my best friend, Melissa, for Christmas. It's called Country Soups and after thumbing through it Evan decided I should start making soups from it pronto.

I am not one to argue with my husband, you know.

So, I chose this one. I had a lot of chicken (because when a certain type of meat is on super sale, I tend to stock up!) and thought this soup sounded delicious.

I was totally right. This soup is to die for! So, let me show you how it's made.

The ingredients:

A crockpot; 1 C. thinly sliced celery; 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped; 1 carrot, thinly sliced; 1/2 C. uncooked medium pearled barley; 1 cloved garlic, minced; 1 cut-up whole chicken (about 3lbs.); 1 Tbsp. olive oil; 2 1/2 C. chicken broth (or more as needed); 1 can diced tomatoes; 3/4 tsp. salt; 1/2 tsp. dried basil; 1/4 tsp. black pepper.

This is a whole chicken already cut up. I tell you this beacause, normally, I buy either breasts or thighs or some specific part of the chicken and I kind of wandered aimlessly in the chicken aisle. I am trying to save you the embarrassment, people.

Now we chop. Throw them all into the crockpot after you've chopped them, please.



Barley. (I didn't chop this, but it gets tossed in with the chopped stuff. Just clarifying.)


Now heat up the oil in a skillet.

Okay, here's the deal with the chicken. Because it's a whole cut-up chicken, there will be skin that needs to be removed. There will also be some "other" parts of the chicken that will not be used. Throw them away. If insides of chickens gross you out, make someone else do it. I made Julia do it. She's got a stomach made of granite, that girl!

Also, you will need to separate all the pieces, including the drumsticks from the thighs. You will also need to take the wings, put them in a ziploc baggie and put them in the freezer because we won't be using them. Save them for the grill. Or fried chicken.

Okay, now, we will be browning the chicken pieces. On all sides, please.

Once they are browned, throw them in the crockpot over the veggies.

Add the diced tomatoes, broth, salt, basil and pepper. You are going to either cook this on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4 hours. I'll let you decide which is best for you. Because I actually had all my ducks in a row (for once), I got this all ready in the morning and cooked it on low.

It's done! Hooray! You will need to dig out all those giant pieces of chicken, put them on a cutting board and shred them. Oh. You hate shredding too? Well, let me tell you a's so flipping tender, it's the easiest shredding I've ever done in my whole entire life. So, suck it up and shred away!

Now dump the shredded chicken back into the soup. (Please, please, please make sure you check for bones and cartilage before putting it back in the soup. I'm just saying that your husband may look at you funny when he finds a bone in his soup...)

I felt like the soup needed more broth. I enjoy broth. I added about another cup.

Serve! We ate ours with a salad.

Can I just tell you that every single member of my family enjoyed this soup. That after eating the leftovers the entire rest of the week, both Evan and Elisabeth were sad it was gone. It was seriously that good! Enjoy!

Monday, February 15, 2010

This Week's Menu

This week I have couple of new recipes, a couple of previously cooked recipes and one that's been in my freezer to be eaten.

Monday--Tilapia with Peppers and Olives (NEW!)
Noodles of some sort

Tuesday--Baked Chicken Lasagna Rolls (Oldie but Goodie!)
Roasted Asparagus

Wednesday--Perfect Roast Chicken (NEW!)
Brussel Sprouts

Thursday--Chicken & Corn Chowder (NEW!)

Friday--Chicken Spaghetti (Frozen!)
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans

Saturday--Meatloaf (NEW!)

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Ah. Gnocchi. I love it so. Although, I do have a hard time pronouncing it correctly. I always end up second guessing myself.

Anyway...Gnocchi. It's name means "lumps" in Italian. I think that is kind of a gross name, so I like to think of them as pillows. Soft, doughy pillows.

And they are delicious. They are very filling and one of my favorite things to make, not only because they taste so good and absorb the surrounding flavors like a sponge, but because they are so stinking easy to make. I'm not kidding. Easy.

Let me show you!

The ingredients:

1 box of gnocchi; dried basil; 2 garlic cloves; 3 plum tomatoes; parsley; salt; olive oil.

Please. For the love of all that is holy. Start that pot of boiling water. It will take it longer to boil than to make the entire meal. I promise. Oh, and while you're at it, dice up those tomatoes. We need them diced. Thanks!

Alright, let's start by drizzling your skillet with around 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Let it get nice and warm.

While it's warming, take your two garlic cloves...

and smash them. Smash them good. Throw your smashed garlic in the skillet and let them brown.

Oh! The water's boiling? Fantastic. Throw those gnocchi in there. But, here's the important part--it will only take about 3-4 minutes for the gnocchi to cook. You will know they are done when they start floating. Do not leave them. Please.
See? They're done! Now go drain them.

Okay, now these garlics are brown. Just scoop them out and throw them away. We just wanted the garlic to mix with the oil. Now that it has, we no longer need them.

Take those already diced tomatoes and throw them in the oil. We are going to cook them for about 5 minutes.

Add about a Tbsp. of chopped parsley and a dash of the basil. Let them cook with the tomatoes.

It will look cooked down like this after five minutes. Take it off the heat and add it to the gnocchi.

Mix them together and we're done. It was that simple. (I'm sorry this picture is so off color. Apparently I only took the one.)

It doesn't make a lot, so don't freak out if it looks like less than you anticipated. But, the gnocchi is so filling, that to us, it makes a meal. The thing is, though, that Julia loves this stuff sooooo much that I will soon have to start buying two boxes of it because she eats more than her fair share. We usually have a salad with ours or some other green vegetable. Please, go out and try gnocchi. You shan't be disappointed!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chicken and Black Bean Tacos

My family loves tacos. It's one of Elisabeth's favorite meals, so we probably have them around every other month or so. I like them too, but wanted to try something different. I'd bought a bag of dried black beans and decided to use them in some recipes. Tacos was one of them.

Okay, now's where I tell you I've never dealt with dried beans before. I'm more of a can girl. But, trying to be frugal and step out of some of my cooking comfort zones, I decided to try the more economical dried beans. First off, they are about a dollar for a bag. Once cooked, they make around 5 bajillion cups of black beans. And that, in case you were wondering, is a lot of black beans.

So, first, let's cook the black beans before we get to the taco recipe.
Hello, black beans!

First we are going to soak the beans. Now, most instruction dealing with any type of dried bean will tell you that they need to soak for hours. They are right. The beans need the time to soak up the water because...well...they're dry. (duh) So, I dumped the beans into my big pot.

Poured about 10 cups of warm water into the pot and walked away. I did this in the morning and then went about my business for the day (which includes laundry, reading, facebooking, picking up endless amounts of toys, and more laundry).

Once they had soaked for a good 6 hours, I dumped the beans into a collander.

Gave them a nice rinsing.

Poured them back into the giant pot and added about 4 cups of water (enough to cover the beans plus an extra 3 inches).

Then I turned up the heat until the water was boiling. When it started to boil, I turned the heat down to a simmer. They will now simmer there for about 1 1/2--2 hours. I then proceeded to referee Julia and the cats and cried at the mess my children make in my house daily that I absolutely hate picking up.

When the beans were almost done cooking, I started getting stuff ready for my tacos.

Want to hear something stupid I did?

Wow, you were way too eager with that yes.

Anyway, I bought a giant bag of frozen chicken. Brought it home. Realized it was pre-seasoned (lemon and herb). I was too lazy to return it, so decided to use it anyway and just rinse off the seasoning before cooking it.

And, vowed to actually read the packages of the things I purchase. Ugh.

Okay, time for tacos. The ingredients:

Tortillas; 1/2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips; 1 C. black beans; 1/4 C. salsa; 2 plum tomatoes, chopped; 1 C. shredded lettuce; 2 scallions, thinly chopped; shredded cheese; sour cream.

I cut my seasoned chicken into strips. I figure one chicken breast is about half a pound.

I poured some oil into my warmed skillet.

While the chicken was cooking, I sliced my onions...

and my tomatoes.

Let's take a gander at our black beans. Ooh...they look yummy!

Now, I took one cup of those black beans and added it to my cooked chicken strips.

Along with the salsa. (Ooh, and I decided that I needed more salsa, so I added it. Feel free to do the same!)

Just heat all of this wonderful concoction together until it's all the same temperature.

This is my taco serving dish. Don't you just love it?! Here's the best part--it turns!! It is one of my favorite things. Anyway, I've put all the taco ingredients needed in here: tomatoes, onions, cheese, sour cream, and the chicken mixture.

Oh, and this? Well, I got this from one of Elisabeth's school fundraisers.

It's a tortilla warmer. You put your tortillas in, pop the lid on and warm it up in the microwave for about a minute. It is wonderfully handy.

Whenever Julia sees a set table, she becomes the hungriest baby alive. We can't set the table until the very last second or else she fades away into nothingness.

Here's my constructed taco.

Yum. Especially with that side of spanish rice. Mmmm...

The chicken/black bean/salsa combination was so flavorful and only mildly spicy. Oh, and filling. Black beans are excellent when wanting to add something to a dish to give it extra depth, because you sure get full fast! Everyone enjoyed the tacos, and even though I did hear some small whimpering about not having refried beans and the traditional ground beef taco meat, everyone ate at least 2 tacos. We will definitely be having this again!!