Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

I made mashed potatoes on Saturday and I always end up with a bunch of leftovers.  I'm not a big fan of leftover mashed potatoes, reheating them in the microwave just seems to ruin them.  I decided to put the leftovers to a good use and try my hand at making Shepherd's Pie. 

The recipe I used is from Rachael Ray and is one of her 30 Minute Meals.  I'm normally not a huge fan of her 30 minute meals, they always seem to lack a depth of flavor.  (Although, her Sloppy Joes are to die for.  I may have to put those on the menu next week...) I decide to give her Shepherd's Pie recipe a try for two reasons.  1. I had all the ingredients on hand and 2. The ingredients looked like flavors we would like.

Here's a link to the original recipe and below is how I made it.  By the way, look at the prep and cook times, 15 + 25 = 40, not 30.  As I've run across in the past, a lot of Rachael's 30 Minutes Meals take at least 40-45 minutes.  I guess they would take 30 if you had a kitchen full of assistants running around!

Shepherd's Pie
Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 25 mins
Serves 4

Leftover mashed potatoes (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (only use if you are using a lower fat ground beef)
1 3/4 pounds ground beef
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
1 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1. Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat.
2. Add oil to hot pan with beef. Season meat with salt and pepper. Brown and crumble meat for 3 or 4 minutes.
3. Add the carrot and onion and cook with meat 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. In a second small skillet over medium heat cook butter and flour together 2 minutes.
5. Whisk in broth and Worcestershire sauce. Thicken gravy 1 minute. Add gravy to meat and vegetables.
6. Stir in peas. And cook for 3-4 minutes.
7. Preheat broiler to high.
8. Fill a small rectangular casserole with meat and vegetable mixture. Spoon potatoes over meat evenly. Top potatoes with paprika and broil 6 to 8 inches from the heat until potatoes are evenly browned.


I will definitely make this again.  I'm going to tweek some things though, I often do that after making a dish for the first time.  The meat mixture turned out a little sweet so I'm going to add onion and garlic powder to the meat next time.  I'm also going to do some research to see what goes into "real" Shepherd's Pie and may do some additional adjustments.  Overall, this was very good and I liked how quick it came together.  Having the leftover mashed potatoes was a huge bonus because it was one less thing to worry about.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Best Mashed Potatoes

I spent 2 hours prepping and making dinner on Saturday night.  I like to cook so spending 2 hours cooking is no big deal, especially when I don't spend that much time that often.  Dinner was delicious.  My boys weren't in an eating mood though.  Carter sat at the table and ate for 9 minutes, seriously 9 minutes.  Eli lasted 16 minutes.  I have no idea what was up with them, they normally last much, much longer.  I had spent so much time cooking and the food was so yummy that Jon and I just let the boys play while we finished dinner.  The joys of parenthood!

This is the first of three of the dishes I made on Saturday.  I wanted to post the chicken I made, but I'm using the leftover mashed potatoes in tonight's dinner so I thought I should post the potatoes today.  I'm saving the other recipes for when we eat out or I make something for dinner I've already blogged about. 

This recipe comes from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman.  (Have I said how much I love her yet?)  I make some changes though.  Here's a link to the original recipe and below is how I make them.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Prep time 5 mins
Cook time 40 mins
Serves 6

3lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
1-1.5 Sticks Butter
1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened
1/2-3/4 Cups Half-and-Half
Seasoning Salt
Salt & Black Pepper

1. Cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size.  I quarter mine.  Like this:

2. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes.
3. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.
4. Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.
5. Turn off the stove and add 1/2-1 stick of butter, mix/mash well.
6. Add 3/4 up to the full package of cream cheese, mix/mash well.
7. Add about 1/2 a cup of half-and-half, mix/mash well.
8. Next add seasoning salt, salt and black pepper to your liking.
9. Eat and enter mashed potato heaven.

The things I do differently than Ree are; I only use 3lbs of potatoes, she uses 5.  I have more than enough leftovers with the 3lbs as is! I use way less butter and a little more half and half.  (I think the potatoes are creamier that way.)  You can add as much butter, half and half and cream cheese as you like.  I really like the tanginess the cream cheese adds so I use a good amount.  I also don't bake the potatoes.  I'm sure they are delicious baked, but I don't typically have the time for one more step, plus I want to eat the potatoes by that point!

Now these aren't low fat or healthy by any means.  But they are delicious.  The best mashed potatoes I've ever made or eaten!  I only eat mashed potatoes 3-4 or so times a year (Thanksgiving, Christmas and the one or two other times I make them) so I let myself enjoy these.

I'm looking forward to using them in Sheppard's Pie tonight.  I've never made Sheppard's Pie and I'm excited to see how it goes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Farfalle with Pesto, Goat Cheese and Grape Tomatoes

I've never been a goat cheese person, then I ran across this recipe.  I was leery of it at first, I mean it calls for goat cheese, who eats goat cheese?  I decided to be brave and give it a try.  I'm so glad I did.  The goat cheese gives the pasta a nice tang.  The grape tomatoes are a perfect addition, they balance the past out and give it some texture.  This is the perfect summer time pasta.

I'm still not a big goat cheese person but I am now a fan of the type of goat cheese I use in this recipe, chevre.  The recipe itself calls for 4 ounces of "fresh" goat cheese.  Trader Joe's carries 5oz packages of chevre so that's what I use.  (I like chevre on crackers with a little salami now too, yum!)  Trader Joe's a bunch of different goat cheeses too, they only other one I've tried was goat cheese cheddar.  I'm not a fan.  I'll stick to chevre.

This is another Woman's Day recipe, I'm telling that magazine is great for recipes!  Here's a link to the original recipe .

Farfalle with Pesto, Goat Cheese and Grape Tomatoes
Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 10 mins
Serves 6

1 lb farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
1⁄2 cup walnuts, chopped
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 small cloves garlic, smashed
1⁄2 tsp crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
5 oz fresh goat cheese (chevre)
1 pt grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1⁄2 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
2. Meanwhile, using a food processor or blender, pulse the walnuts, oil, basil, garlic, crushed pepper and 1⁄2 tsp salt until finely chopped but not totally pureed.
3. Add the basil mixture, half the goat cheese, and reserved pasta water to the pot; toss to coat. Fold in the tomatoes and sprinkle with the remaining goat cheese before serving.

So easy and very yummy!  I typically serve this with some grilled sweet Italian sausage, fresh french bread and a salad.  It's really more of a light summer meal but it's still yummy in cold weather!  It sends me on a mini-summer vacation during cold weather. Enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

I love the Pioneer Woman.  If I could be her I would.  I wish my blog was as cool and well organized as hers.  I have made a bunch of her recipes and they are always delicious.  She even has a Food Network show now, The Pioneer Woman.  I'm picky about the cooking shows I watch and I love hers.  It has the perfect mix of cooking and real life mixed in.  A show I truly miss is What Would Brian Boitano Make?  I wish that show would come back on.

Ok, back to dinner.  This is one of my favorite recipes, I feel like I say that a lot, but then again, why would I cook something if it wasn't good? :)

I originally found this recipe in this amazing cookbook.

Not only am I picky about cooking shows, I'm picky about cookbooks.  Very rarely do I buy one.  There's too many good recipes in magazines and on the internet!  But this one came with rav reviews from many, many people.  Jon got the cookbook for me for my birthday a few years ago.  Not only does it have great recipes, with step-by-step instructions including pictures-- a huge plus for me-- but it has many other amazing pictures from Ree's day to day life.  All the pictures make me want to live in the country on a ranch!

My cell phone pictures do not do this cookbook justice.

Here's a link to the original recipe which is slightly different than the recipe in the book.  Below is how I make my version of Ree's Chicken Pot Pie.  The one major difference is I don't make my own crust.  I use store bought pre-made, find it in the refrigerated section, pie crust.  I'm sure this recipe would be a million times better with homemade crust but I don't have the time or desire to make homemade pie crust.  Hence, I'm not as cool as the Pioneer Woman. Also, it's super delicious even with store bought pie crust I haven't had the desire to try it with homemade pie crust.

For the chicken I use a Costco rotisserie chicken.  I've tried rotisserie chickens for other stores and they just aren't as good.  I take as much meat off of the breasts and drumsticks as I can and call it good.  It ends up being about 2 cups, or close enough that I call it 2 cups.

Chicken Pot Pie
Prep time 15 mins
Active cook time 30 mins
Oven cook & cool time 40 mins
Serves 6-8

1 box premade pie crust (2 pie crusts total)
1/2 stick butter
1 large onion finely diced
3 carrots finely diced
3 celery stalks finely diced
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups diced chicken
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried chopped thyme
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Remove the pie crusts from the box and allow to warm up while preparing the rest of the recipe, or at least 15 minutes.
3. Melt butter in a skillet or dutch oven. Add onion, carrots, and celery and cook until translucent.
4. Add the peas and cook for 5 minutes.
5. Add chicken and mix well.
6. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir. Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
7. Pour in chicken broth, stirring constantly.
8. Pour in cream.
9. Bring to a slow boil and allow mixture to cook and thicken.  (This can take up to 10-15 minutes, you want this thick like gravy, not runny, or the final product won't turn out right.)
10. Add salt and pepper to taste and thyme.
11. Pour mixture into a casserole dish or deep pie pan.
12. Place one crust on top of the pot pie mixture and repeat with the second crust, press crust into the sides of the dish. Cut vents in the top of the crust.
13. Place pie on a baking sheet covered in foil, it will over flow while baking and this will save a mess in your oven! Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is very golden and the inside is bubbly.
14. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Step 9
I could seriously eat this mixture alone, Eli loves it! Or over mashed potatoes, it's so yummy.

Step 12
Ready for the oven!

I was very proud of this pot pie. It looks pretty and was super, super yummy!

Yumminess to the max!

This isn't a quick recipe, but it is an easy recipe.  If you prep everything ahead of time it goes faster as well.  I highly recommend giving this one a try!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Turkey Taco Salad

Apparently it's my new norm to go a week between posts.  Sorry, I'm really trying to get better!
We had Turkey Taco Salads for dinner about a week ago.  This is a meal that I created all on my own.  I'm quite proud of it.  It's really yummy, plus it comes together quick.

Turkey Taco Salad
Prep time 5 mins
Cook time 30 mins
Serves 2 (with lots of leftover meat)

1 package ground turkey
Taco seasoning
1/4 cup water
1 small onion, chopped
1 small can diced green chilies
1 can black beans
Romaine lettuce (1 head per person)
Shredded cheese
Sour Cream
Tortilla chips

1. Brown the ground turkey over medium high heat.  Depending on your pan you may need to add a little oil to the pan first.
2. After the turkey is brown, add the taco seasoning, I use about one packet. You can add as much or as little as you'd like.  Add 1/4 cup of water and cook until the water is gone. 
3. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onion is soft and brown on the edges.
4. Add the can of chilies and cook about 5 mins.
5. Drain and rinse the can of beans.  Add to the turkey mixture and cook until the beans are warmed.
6. Chop the lettuce anyway you'd like.
7.  Mix a little sour cream and salsa together to make a dressing.
8.  Add half the lettuce to a bowl.  Top with turkey mixture, cheese and dressing.  Serve with tortilla chips on the side for a nice crunch.

One nice thing about this recipe is how much extra turkey you will end up with.  We only used enough of the turkey for two salads.  We used the leftovers for quesedillas and soft tacos.  Plus there was still more leftover that I had to throw away due to age.

Ground turkey is a great alternative to ground beef.  I'm always looking for fun new ways to use ground turkey.  If you have a great recipe to pass along, let me know!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

French Onion Potatoes

Here I am with 4 days between postings.  What happened to posting everyday you say? Yeah, well, I get back there one day.  :)

Here's a look back on our dinners since I last posted:
Saturday- I honestly don't remember.  Must have been pretty boring.
Sunday- Amazing Chicken Alfredo with mushrooms  (Too bad I forgot to take pictures.)
Monday- Baked pork chops (nothing fancy, just Shake & Bake,) mixed veggies and the star, French Onion Potatoes.
Tuesday- Hot Dogs, well chili dogs if you're Jon.

This post is about the star of the show on Monday, French Onion Potatoes.  These potatoes are super simple and easy to make and super yummy.

French Onion Potatoes
Prep time 5 mins
Cook time 40 mins
Serves Varies

Red Potatoes (number depends on the number of servings you want)
Olive Oil
Lipton Onion Soup Mix (1-2 envelopes)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Prepare potatoes by cutting into 1 inch cubes.  I use red potatoes, you can use Russets if you like.  I used approx 4 lbs of potatoes, we like leftovers.  :)
3. Spread potatoes on a sheet pan and cover liberally with olive oil.  Once again the amount varies, I use less oil than the original recipe calls for.  I think I use about a 1/4 cup for 4lbs of potatoes.  You want the potatoes coated but not dripping with oil.
4. Cover potatoes with the soup mix.  I used 1 envelope per 2lbs of potatoes.
5.  Bake for approx 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and brown and crunchy on the outside.


I'm hoping to be back tomorrow posting about a new Spanish style rice recipe I'm trying.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Asian Lettuce Cups with Spicy Ground Turkey Filling

That's right, I'm finally back!  We've got a working refrigerator, it's not new, it's old, ugly and almond in color, but it works.  We're going to keep it as our "garage fridge" once we get a real new one.  The only downside is we're keeping it in the garage.  Lots of trips to and from the garage when cooking can be a pain, but at least we have a refrigerator again!

I've cooked a bit in the last week, just nothing too exciting.  Tonight I finally cooked something new and exciting for dinner.  I'm super excited to share this recipe.  It turned out super yummy and Jon and I both loved it.

Cast of characters

Here's the link to the original recipe and here's how I made it.

Asian Lettuce Cups with Spicy Ground Turkey Filling
Serves 4-6
Prep time 10 mins
Cook time 20 mins

1 T vegetable oil (or slightly more, depending on the pan you have)
3 T minced shallots
2 T minced garlic
2 T grated ginger root
1 lb ground turkey
4 T soy sauce
1 T Chile Oil
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (about 1/2 large bunch)
1 small can water chestnuts
chopped peanuts (as many as you'd like, we used a bunch)
2 small heads butter lettuce

1. Chop onion and set aside.
2. Peel ginger root, then grate with the large side of a cheese grater.
3.Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add onion and saute about 2 minutes, then add garlic and ginger root and saute about one minute more.
4. Add ground turkey to frying pan (with a bit more oil if needed) and break apart and spread out with turner.
5. Add soy sauce and chili garlic sauce. Cook until the turkey is brown and crumbling apart, and the sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
6. While turkey cooks, wash and chop fresh cilantro to make 1 cup. Also, chop the water chestnuts into smallish pieces.
7. Remove the core end from lettuce, separate leaves and wash. 
8. Chop peanuts and put in small bowl to serve at the table.
9. When turkey is done, add chopped cilantro and water chestnuts and cook 1-2 minutes more.
10. Serve filling and lettuce leaves in separate bowls and chopped peanuts in another small bowl.

To assemble, each person takes a lettuce leaf, fills with desired amount of turkey mixture, adds chopped peanuts and sauce (see below) and then eats the mixture from the lettuce cup.  Like a lettuce filled taco.


I also made a sauce to go on the filling.  I just mixed soy sauce, chili oil and minced garlic together in a small bowl.  It turned out really good.  It reminded me of the sauce P.F. Changs makes for their lettuce wraps.
Like I said, we loved this recipe.  Next time I make it I'm going to make some modifications.  I'm going to add mushrooms and green onions and use fish sauce.  This recipe is differently a "keeper".

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blog, what blog?

So life has struck again.  I am shocked to see that I haven't posted since September 20th, that's 9 days!

I can't even tell you how many times I cooked over those 9 days.  I know at least twice, maybe three times.  Life just keeps hitting us right now.  First we all got a really, really, really bad stomach bug so there was no cooking (and very little eating) for 5 days around our house.  Now our refrigerator has died.  Sigh.  We're still trying to figure out what we're going to do.  Right now we are living out of a mini fridge.

I'll be back one day, I'm just not making any promises on how soon!

Please bear with me, I will be back!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tools of the Trade-- Rub-A-Way Bar

We use lots of onions and garlic in our house.  When you prep onions and garlic your hands get stinky.  I've tried many ways to deal with the stinkiness over the years.  My methods of coping have been (but not limited to) washing my hands a 1,000 times, wearing rubber gloves when prepping and just dealing with stinky hands.  None of those options every made me happy. 

I'd see Rub-A-Way bars at Crate & Barrel and Bed, Bath & Beyond for years.  I always just assumed they were a gimmick.  I got tired of having stinky hands a few years ago and finally bought a Rub-A-Way Bar from Crate & Barrel.  (Side note-- I love Crate & Barrel and could spend hours, if not days, walking around making a list of all the things I want, no need, from there!) To my surprise the bar worked like magic!

Top view

Side View

The bar is super easy to use.  You "wash" your hands with it like you would a bar of soap.  Just water and the bar, no soap need.  The bar is made of stainless steel and from my web research, it appears the steel bonds with the sulfur in stinky foods therefore removing the stinkiness from your hands.

I've read you can also just rub your hands across a stainless steel knife, I've tried this method and it didn't work for me.  I think the Rub-A-Way bar is better because there is more surface area and you don't have to worry about cutting yourself!

I used my Rub-A-Way bar last night  after I turned 3 medium onions

into sauteed deliciousness for our brats.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gemelli with Spicy Sausage and Spinach

I had a super busy weekend and didn't get a chance to blog.  This was Friday night's dinner.  Saturday I took a break and we had QDoba and Sunday we went to a BBQ for my Mom's group.  I've felt like a slacker for not blogging all weekend.  I'll feel better after this post since I'll be all caught up.  :)

Gemelli with Spicy Sausage and Spinach is hands down my favorite pasta dish.  That's saying a lot.  I love pasta and I make ton of different pasta dishes.  While I like, sometimes really like, my pasta dishes, I love this one.

What's gemelli you're asking? Why it's a type of pasta, in fact it's this pasta:

It took me awhile to find this pasta.  I finally found it at Costco in a variety pack of  3 different pastas.  The shape works great for this dish, if you can't find gemelli you can use small penne instead.

Good ol' Woman's Day magazine gave me this recipe.  Here's the link to the original recipe and below is how I make it.  The only change I make is to add more chicken broth and heavy cream.  I like the dish to have more sauce to help the leftovers not dry out when they're reheated.

One quick note, please use spicy sausage (I didn't say hot, just spicy) this dish tastes so much better with spicy sausage.  I tired it once with Italian sausage (not spicy) and it wasn't nearly as good.

"Don't forget me!  You'll be sorry if you do!"

Gemelli with Spicy Sausage and Spinach
Prep time 5 mins
Cook time 20 mins
Serves 6

1 lb gemelli pasta
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 lb spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 bags (5 to 6 oz each) baby spinach
Grated Parmesan

1. Bring a 5- to 6-qt pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook as package directs.
2. Meanwhile,  heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; saute 2 minutes or until just beginning to brown.
3. Add sausage and cook, crumbling with a spoon, until browned, about 10 minutes.
4. Add chicken broth, stirring to dissolve any browned bits. Stir in cream and nutmeg; simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat.
5. Place spinach in colander; drain pasta over the spinach (spinach will wilt).
6. Return pasta and spinach to pot; add sausage mixture.  Stir well.
7. Serve with grated Parmesan.

I love the trick of wilting the spinach with the pasta and pasta water.  It always amazes me how much spinach wilts.

Please excuse the foggy effect from the steam.

Best pasta EVER.

We're having brats (bratwurst), hot dogs, french fries and peas for dinner tonight.  I'm not really making anything so I'm not sure what I'll be blogging about.  Maybe a tip, maybe a favorite tool, maybe I'll just forget.  Who knows!  What I do know is that you need to make this pasta dish very, very soon!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


And for tonight's dinner... waffles!  Well, waffles, bacon and scrambled eggs.  We like having breakfast for dinner in our house.  We can never get our act together to have a real breakfast for breakfast so we make it for dinner.  I'm going to focus on the waffles.  Bacon and scrambled eggs are easy, well so are these waffles, but they are super yummy so you need to know about them!

I've made waffles from scratch and they were good, but not as good as the waffles I make using Trader Joe's Buttermilk Pancake mix.  This mix makes the best waffles I've ever had, hands down.  Plus a box is less that $2.00 and I can get two batches of waffles from one box.  Oh and they are super easy to make!

All you need is 3.5 cups of mix, 2 cups of water, 1/2 cup of oil and 2 eggs.  Mix until blended and away you go.

I use this waffle iron and I love it.  My waffle iron uses 1 cup of batter so I end up getting 5 waffles out of one batch.

The waffles take 2 minutes and 15 seconds to cook and come out perfectly.

Add your favorite toppings, here's ours

and life is good.


I was going to blog during the boy's nap time today and then I fell asleep, sitting up.  I was paying bills one minute and the next I was startled awake by my own snoring.  I decided I should take nap and not blog. :)

Wednesday night I made spaghetti and meatballs.  This is yet again one of my favorite meals, it's also one of Jon's favorites.  While the boys don't eat the meatballs, they love the sauce and noodles.  Spaghetti night is a good dinner night in our house.

I used my Spaghetti Meat Sauce recipe, minus the meat, for the sauce.  This post is about the meatballs.  I use my Hawaiian Meatball recipe as a guideline.  I just tweek it to make it Italian.

Prep time 25 mins
Cook time 20 mins
Serves 6

2lbs ground beef
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
2/3 cup minced/chopped dried onion
2 eggs
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp garlic powder
1/2 cup milk

1. Mix all items together.  Let sit for at least 20 minutes, or make ahead of time, to help the flavors meld.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium high seat.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet.
3. Form meatballs, using roughly 1 tablespoon of meat.
4. Add meatballs to the skillet and cook for approx 5 minutes, until browned. Turn meatballs and cook for another 5 minutes.  Repeat process until all the meatballs are cooked.  We like our meatballs on the crispy side. :)

Golden brown (well black) and delicious.

5. Serve over your choice of pasta and with your choice of sauce.  I highly recommend this sauce, minus the meat.  Sprinkle with Parmesan.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tater Tot Casserole

The first time I ate Tater Tot Casserole was almost 4 years ago right after Carter was born.  Our wonderful neighbors made us dinner for the first two weeks after Carter was born and on the first night we got Tater Tot Casserole.  You would have thought it was Christmas morning Jon was so excited.  :)

Apparently, Jon had this type of dish while he was growing up.  The only casserole my mom ever made was tuna casserole-- yuck!  I wasn't a big fan of this dish at first but I've grown to love this recipe.  It's one of the those meals that has to sound good to me to make it on our menu.  It also makes great leftovers.  My favorite part is it's quick and easy to throw together and then pop in the oven.

Tater Tot Casserole
Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 1 hour
Serves 8+

2 pounds ground beef
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1lb frozen mixed vegetables
Shredded cheese
1lb tater tots
Johnny's seasoning salt

1  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook the ground beef in a large skillet until browned.  Season the meat with seasoning salt when browned.
3. While the ground beef is cooking, microwave the frozen vegetables until warm, but not hot.  Just enough to unfreeze them and get some of the moisture out.
4. Combine the ground beef, vegetables and cream of mushroom soup in a 13x9 baking dish. Mix together well.

5. Sprinkle the mixture with seasoning salt.
6. Add a layer of cheese.  (I use the Mexican blend of cheese, any cheddar type cheese works fine.)

7. Top with Tater Tots.

8. And more Tater Tots.

9. Bake for 1 hour or until the Tater Tots are slightly brown and crispy.

10. After removing from the oven, sprinkle seasoning salt on the Tater Tots.  Eat and enjoy!

There are tons of versions of this recipe online.  Please just learn two things from me- don't put the ground beef in the dish raw (to bake in the oven) you'll end up with all the fat from the meat still in the pan.  By browning the meat first you can drain off most of the fat.  And don't put the veggies in the dish frozen, you'll end up with a watery mess.

Spaghetti and meatballs are what's cooking tonight.  I've already blogged about my Spaghetti Sauce so tomorrow you'll read about my meatballs.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Marlboro Man Sandwich

This is it, the recipe I've been wanting to share!  I made this for dinner Saturday night and we ate it for leftovers last night.  Plus Jon took some for lunch today.  This meal can easily serve 6 people.

This recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman.  I heart The Pioneer Woman.  None of her recipes have every led me astray.  I wish I could go live with her for a week and eat all her yummy food!  Here's a link to the original recipe and below is how I do it.

The Supplies
Plus you'll need rolls and cheese.
(I forgot to include them in the picture.)
Please note-- those onions are fresh from our Pea Patch!

The Marlboro Man Sandwich (Abbey Style)
Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 20 mins
Serves 6+

1 whole large (or 2 Small) Onions
1 package mushrooms
1 stick of Butter
3 pounds Cube Steak
Johnny's Seasoned Salt (or Similar Seasoned Salt)
Lemon pepper
1/2 cup (approximately) Worcestershire Sauce
6 whole deli rolls
6 slices Provolone cheese

1. Slice onions and cook in 1/4 stick butter until soft and light brown. Remove and set aside.
2. Slice (or use pre-sliced) mushrooms and cook in 1 tablespoon butter until brown.  Set aside with the onions.
3. Slice cube steak against the grain. Season liberally with seasoning salt and lemon pepper.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons butter over high heat (in same skillet as the onions and mushrooms were cooked in) until melted and beginning to brown. Add meat in single layer. Cook one side until brown, then flip and cook until brown, about a 2-3 minutes on each side. Repeat until all the meat is cooked.
5. Return all the meat to the pan after the last batched is cooked.  Add the mushrooms and the onions. Add 1/2 cup (at least) Worcestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons butter.  Stir to combine.
6. Split the rolls.  Butter and then brown the rolls in either a skillet, small toaster oven (like I do) or under the broiler in your oven.
7. To assemble, lay bottom half of roll on plate. Place meat mixture on the roll, then a spoonful of juice from the pan followed with a slice of Provolone and top with the other half of the roll.  Eat.


This is one of my favorite meals.  The sauce is amazing and the cheese melts just enough to hold everything together.  Please don't skip toasting the bun, it adds an amazing element.  I'm not big on reheated meat, this is one of the few beef recipes that I'll eat for leftovers.  It's almost better the next day after all the juices and flavors have melded.  You really need to try this recipe!

If you go to The Pioneer Woman's (Ree Drummond) cooking website you'll find lots of variations of this recipe.  I've made this version earlier this year and it was heavenly as well.

One note, if you don't like worchestire sauce, you may not like this recipe.   We love worchestire sauce in our house so we love this recipe!

No cooking for me tonight.  I'm getting some Mommy time out with friends.  I'll be back tomorrow night with a comfort food favorite of Jon's.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Really, I cook, I do.

I didn't cook Wednesday night, a late trip to Costco meant no time to cook.  I grabbed a rotisserie chicken and some rolls while we were there and we had chicken sandwiches at home.

Thursday night I was grumpy, the kids were grumpy and Jon worked late.  We ate out.

Tonight we went to Target after nap time.  The kids were grumpy, Jon was grumpy, I was tired and it was too hot to cook.  We got teriyaki take out.

I've had a recipe on our menu that has been moved from Tuesday night to Wednesday to Thursday to... you get the idea.  I really want to share this recipe with you.  I really, really like this meal.  I WILL cook it tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I did cook on Tuesday night, I just didn't blog.  I couldn't take the glaring eyes of the five loads of laundry sitting in my room anymore, I had to fold them.  I would have rather blogged but the laundry won the battle.

Tuesday night I made tacos for dinner.  Tacos are easy, I hope you can make tacos on your own, if not email me and I will send you a tutorial. ;)  Along with the tacos I made beans.  Homemade refried style beans.  I say refried style because they weren't refried, just mushed up. 

One of the moms in my mom's group posted this recipe on Facebook.  I have been thinking about making refried beans at home so I thought I would give it a shot.  Here's the recipe, it's from a blog called Budget Bytes.  Her recipes look pretty easy and yummy.  Plus they are affordable.

I followed the recipe exactly but will make some changes next time.  Here's the recipe:

(Not) Refried Beans
Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 4-8 hours
Servings 9

1 Pound dry pinto beans
1 Medium onion
1 Medium jalapeno
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
10-15 cracks of black pepper
6 Cups water
1 Tbsp salt

1. Spread the dry beans out onto a baking sheet to pick through them and remove any stones or bad pieces. Place the beans in a colander and rinse with cool water.

2. Slice open the jalapeno and remove the seeds and ribs by scraping with a spoon. Dice the jalapeno and the onion. Place the onion and jalapeno in the slow cooker along with the garlic, cumin, chili powder, and black pepper. Do not add the salt.

3. Add the sorted and rinsed beans to the slow cooker along with 6 cups of water. Give everything a good stir to distribute the seasoning. Secure the lid and cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 8. It's okay if they cook longer, they'll just be easier to mash.

4. After cooking, remove as much water as possible and reserve it in a bowl. Mash the beans and add the reserved water back in as needed. Make the beans a little thinner in texture than you'd expect because they will thicken as they cool. Season the beans with salt at this point. By adding salt at the end, you'll need to add less and the beans won't be so tough. I used approximately 1 Tbsp but add a little at a time until you're satisfied. Serve warm!

I cooked my beans on low for 8 hours, next time I will cook the beans on low for 6 hours and then on high for 2 hours.  My beans were a little crunchy, not horribly, but enough for Jon and I to notice.  Also, I mashed my beans with a potato masher but will use my stick blender next time.  Our masher is perfect for potatoes, but not good for small beans.

Overall the beans were great.  They had great flavor, not too spicy and even Carter liked them!  For being low fat I like them even more.  I am a big fan of the refried beans at our favorite Mexican restaurant, or lard beans as my brother-in-law and I call them, but there is no way they're low fat!  (Hence lard beans.)

Give this recipe a try, it's super easy and tasty!

Monday, September 5, 2011


Any Monday holiday during the summer (oh and the 4th of July) means BBQ time! We still have a horrible BBQ, but not for much longer, and it grills burgers just fine.

To make our burgers, I "make" them and Jon cooks them. Here's how we do burgers in the Cantrell house.

Ground beef, GOOD ground beef, get it from a butcher if you can.  Fresh ground beef is a 1,000 times better than most store bought ground beef.  And ground beef from a tube, I won't even go there.
Johnny's seasoning salt
Dried chopped onions (dried onions are important, fresh onions make the burgers too moist they fall apart)
Worcestershire Sauce

I don't have exact measurements, it's all based on your taste.  Today I used four pounds of ground beef, approximately 2 tablespoons seasoning salt, 1/4 cup dried onions and 3-4 tablespoons worcestershire sauce.
Combine all the ingredients, form patties and grill. We like our burgers well done.  Jon cooks them about 5.5 minutes a side.  If you like your meat "pink" cook for less time.  Add cheese at the last minute, just long enough to melt the cheese.  We use American cheese just because it melts nicely.

I must tell you a couple things about grilling.  Jon wanted to make sure I told you these things, if I didn't tell you these things I would be in trouble.  Here are the things:
1. Only flip the burgers ONCE.
2. Do NOT press the burgers flat.

I hope you follow these rules, if not your burgers will suck and Jon will say, "I told you so."

Okay, now for my soapbox.  I use to form our patties by hand, we end up with baseball burgers.  They would swell and shrink and it was a pain.  I read in Food Network magazine a tip from Bobby Flay, pressure your thumb in the middle of your burger just enough to make an indention and it prevents the burger from swelling.  That tip worked great for swelling, but not for shrinking.  Jon decided we needed a burger press.  I thought he was crazy but I was wrong.  I love our burger press.  I use it every time.  Now our burgers don't swell (the press has a little indention maker) don't shrink and are all a uniform size.

Here's how the press works:
Put a ball of meat in the press.
Apply pressure.

And your patty is formed!

I highly recommend the burger press.  They aren't that expensive, $10.00 or less, and they are easy to use.  Plus your burgers will be the right size, all of them!

I like my burgers simple.  :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

Well as I predicted, I didn't cook last night.  We had a fun, full day in Seattle and neither Jon or I wanted to cook.  We didn't go to Qdoba though, we went it our favorite local Mexican restaurant. 

Then comes today.  I was suppose to go grocery shopping today, then Jon decided to buy a new car.  I didn't go grocery shopping we went car shopping. So tonight we went to Red Robin for dinner.

I'm really tired of eating out a this point.  I vow to go grocery shopping tomorrow.  I also told Jon we won't be eating out for the next two weeks!

So I'm sure you're thinking, "If you didn't cook the last two nights, why are you blogging and why is your post titled 'Blueberry Muffins?'" Well, I'll tell you!  We still have a bunch of blueberries left over from our trip to the local blueberry farm last week so Jon decided he and Carter should make muffins.

While blueberry muffins aren't a dinner food, this recipe was too good to not pass on.  Plus Jon said the muffins were super easy to make.  The muffins turned out great.  The only modification we made was to skip the crumb topping.  I thought I would miss the topping, but I didn't.  The muffins had a nice sugary, crunchy top as is. 

Here's the link to the original recipe and here's how Jon and Carter made them:

To Die for Blueberry Muffins
Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 25 mins
Servings 9

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.

2.  Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.

3.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.