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.               

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bool Kogi

Tonight's dinner was Bool Kogi, jasmine rice and peas.  We love this meal in our house!

I use a pre-marinated meat from Trader Joe's for my Bool Kogi.

I'm sure you could find a "from scratch" recipe for this, I've just never done much research into it.  This is one of the items I like to keep around for quick meals.  I normally have a package of Bool Kogi either in my fridge or freezer.  I've found if I keep one or two quick and easy meals around I'm more likely to cook when our plans change.  (Just not over the last two weeks!)  That's another reason I love menu planning.  I typically have one or two quick meals built into each week.  That way if plans change I can easily move items around knowing that I have everything on hand.  Ok sorry for the sidetrack, back to the Bool Kogi.

There are two ways to cook Bool Kogi, on the grill and on the stove top.  On the grill is best, but we're still without a decent grill; the stove top is fine, just not as good.  When I cook Bool Kogi on the stove I use our 12 inch cast iron pan. And here are the steps:

1. Heat a large heavy duty pan over high heat, let the pan get very hot.  If you're using a stainless steel pan you'll want to add a little oil so the meat doesn't stick.  Our cast irons are perfectly "seasoned" so I rarely have to add oil to them when cooking.
2.  Once the pan is very hot place a single layer of meat in the pan.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.
3.  Turn the meat and cook another 3-4 minutes.
4.  Remove the meat from the heat and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Repeat for the rest of the meat.
5.  Eat!


Serve with rice and a veggie, we're big pea eaters in our house, and you're set.  I like to add a little butter and salt to my rice, Jon likes his rice plain.  This meal hit the spot tonight!

I have no idea what's for dinner tomorrow night.  I haven't gone grocery shopping in two weeks.  (Thank heavens we get our milk delivered and have had the farmer's market around to get fresh fruit!)  Not only do I need to go shopping for dinner stuff we need lunch and breakfast stuff STAT!

The boys have been happily enjoying lots of mac & cheese and grilled cheese for lunch.  Jon's been getting the leftovers (when I've actually cooked!) and I've been digging in the bottom of the freezer using up my "quick" lunches.  I really need to go grocery shopping tomorrow!  Who knows if I'll even cook... it kind of feels like it's going to be a Qdoba night to me. :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Yeah so...

Ugh! I had my post all written ready to go and some how I deleted it all and of course Blogger saved my post after everything was deleted.  I'm tired and don't feel like retyping everything so below is the condensed version.

I didn't cook last night.  We had Teriyaki for dinner.
I didn't cook tonight, it was the last farmer's market of the year.
I told you I wasn't going to make the frittata!

Here's my very boring, yet very helpful, tip...
Use vinegar in your dishwasher as a rinse agent.  I used to use an actual rinse agent and then I read somewhere to use white vinegar and decided to try it.  It works great for us and we have really hard water.  Not only is it good for the environment, its cheap!

I have every intention of cooking dinner tomorrow-- I promise this will become a food/cooking blog again!