Monday, January 31, 2011

Freezer Cooking - February, 2011

I actually had my act together for my Freezer Cooking Foray this month. I began this post early so I could have my shopping list ready and my freezer inventoried for what we actually need to stock up on. A novel concept, I know!

Hamburger Buns
Squash Meatballs
Stuffed Peppers `
Gobi Matar Sabzi (from This Week for Dinner)
Asian Lettuce Wrap filling (from Pioneer Woman)

Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin is a dish I always imagine as "fancy." I had the dish on my menu several times over the past year, but never got around to making it. I had some chicken thighs leftover from chicken tandoori and thought I needed to slow cook those bad boys. After some Google-ing, I found a slow cooker version on my go-to Slow Cooker blog.

The only thing I took exception to in the whole recipe was the call for "cheap red wine" in the recipe. My inner Ina Garten is having convulsions over that statement. I used a "red wine I would drink with dinner." I also used some butternut squash instead of carrots. It was melt-in-your-mouth squash. Yum! A good substitution - if you ask me!

It was a pleasant change to the usual, rich slow cooker meal. Plus, it was fancy enough to serve to guests! And, it it fantastic as leftovers!

Coq au Vin
from Stephanie's A Year of Slow Cooking

6 to 8 frozen chicken thighs
6 slices cooked and crumbled bacon
8 oz sliced baby portabella mushrooms
1/2 butternut squash, cubed into bite-sized pieces (or 1 cup baby carrots)
1 chopped yellow onion
3 cloves chopped or minced garlic
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cup red wine
2 large fresh thyme sprigs

Cook bacon. Chop up and set aside. Dump the frozen chicken into your slow cooker and start layering in the rest of the ingredients in no particular order.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. You could cook it on high for 4 if you're in a hurry, but it won't taste as good. Serve with mashed potatoes or your favorite pasta.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week 54 Menu

Sunday: Stuffed Shells from freezer & roasted potatoes
Monday: Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwiches (from Bitten Word) & green beans
Tuesday: Creamy Beef over Noodles in slow cooker (from A Year in Slow Cooking)
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Chicken Parmesan (from GoodLifeEats) & broccoli
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out.

Monday, January 24, 2011

2011 Resolutions

Wow. How is is the end of January and I haven't posted my resolutions yet. Fail. Scott says you shouldn't make resolutions, but have goals, instead. Ok, so my "goals" (slash resolutions) are:

1. Increase our veggie intake. --> Test out a CSA.
2. Spend more "quiet time." --> With my Bible and/or devotion.
3. Run a half marathon. --> Follow interval plan.
4. Be better blogger. --> Review 2 recipes per month.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Week 53 Menu

Sunday: Roast chicken, ricotta cakes, & green beans
Monday: BLTs & asparagus
Tuesday: Coq au Vin in slow cooker (from a Year in Slow Cooking)
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Steaks (from the freezer!) on the grill & roasted cauliflower
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Food Show

I don't really watch reality shows. They usually end up annoying me after 5 minutes. But, Worst Cooks in America (on the Food Network) takes self-avowed bad cooks and puts them through a boot camp with two celebrity chefs - Robert Irvine & Anne Burrell. The last two contestants left will compete by serving a 4-course meal to harsh restaurant critics.

The trailer for the show looked like train wreck after train wreck in the contestants' kitchens. Schadenfreude* got the best of me and I tuned in. I'm glad I did! The chefs put these people through their paces with knife skills and complex dishes. These people could barely boil water in Episode One! Tonight they had to make a seared T-bone with a mushroom sauce, glazed carrots, and browned potatoes. As Chef Anne ripped some of the contestants apart, I began to wonder how I would do! Would my knife cuts be poo-poo'ed? Would the protein be too bland? Would my plate be too messy?

Even the "recruits" who were floundering still felt more confident in the kitchen. They were excited to take their new skills home to their families. I think that's the part that I like the most. Even the "worst cooks in America," with some practice and direction, can serve up some pretty impressive dishes!

* For a full explanation of Schadenfreude, please refer to Avenue Q.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week 52 Menu - a Year of Menu Planning!

Holy cow! It's been a year since I started menu planning! I looked back at the first couple menus and compared to what we're eating now. There are still some of the same favorites, but, by and large, we have a lot more variety and we're eating a lot more healthy!

We've gotten to be a lot more snobbish when we go out to eat. If we go to a restaurant, it better be pretty freakin' good! Otherwise, we'll just stay home and cook our own yummy steak or pizza or chicken pot pies, thank-you-very-much!

On to the week's menu. Still working to clear out the pantry/freezer!

Sunday: Tandoori Chicken (Bitten Word) & balsamic green beans
Monday: Sweet & Smoky Ribs (Smitten Kitchen) in slow cooker (didn't get to this one last week) & asparagus
Tuesday: Beef Stroganoff from freezer & broccoli
Wednesday: Dinner at church.
Thursday: Roasted Vegetable Minestrone (Pioneer Woman) from freezer with crusty bread
Friday: Leftovers (if there are any left!) & Apple/Butternut Squash Pancakes
Saturday: Out.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Week 51 Menu

I am following some bloggers' resolutions to use January to clean out the freezer & pantry. I've gotten through most of the pantry (thanks to the party at our house last week!). Now, I'm working my way through the freezer!

Sunday: Stuffed Shells (This Week for Dinner) & roasted sweet potatoes - extras from a "new baby" gift
Monday: Pulled pork from freezer & butternut squash
Tuesday: Chicken pot pie (Ina Garten) from freezer over egg noodles
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Sweet & Smoky Ribs (Smitten Kitchen) in slow cooker & broccoli
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out.

Freezer Cooking - January, 2011

Whew! The holidays are over, parties have been hosted, and now I can open the freezer doors to assess the damages! I just raided the grocery store for some "stock-up" pantry items. Now I'm ready to stock up the freezer!

I have an overly ambitious plan for the January. I'll be doing my official "cooking day" on MLK Day (no work!) so I hope to knock out a couple dishes. I hope I can fit in some of the other dishes on my radar throughout the month:

Stuffed Shells (x2) (from This Week for Dinner) I just made a double batch for some girlfriends who had babies over the, it's the Lawrences' turn! :)
Hamburger Buns
Whole Wheat Bread
Spinach & Chicken Enchiladas (from GoodLifeEats)
Vegetable Minestrone Soup (from Pioneer Woman)
Gobi Matar Sabzi (from This Week for Dinner)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Rosemary Cornbread

Uncle Mike made this corn bread when he was here a couple years ago. So, simple and SO tasty! I've made this recipe for many BBQs and parties we've gone to. I decided to make this corn bread as a side to the chili I served for our small group.

For the crowd we had for dinner, I made a double batch. I upped the yogurt to 12oz (from 8oz) and it was so much moister! I threw in the frozen corn straight from the freezer to the batter and it worked out fantastically.

The cornbread was a hit! I even got compliments from some born-and-raised Southerners from Florida, Alabama & Tennessee! Now that's saying something!

Corn Bread
from RealSimple

2 8 1/2-ounce boxes corn-bread mix
2 eggs, slightly beaten
12 ounces plain yogurt
2 cans 7-ounce whole-kernel corn, drained OR 3 ears of corn (kernels cut off) OR 2c frozen corn

1. Heat oven to 400ºF.
2. Lightly coat a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
3. Stir all the ingredients together. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
4. Bake 25 minutes or just until golden (cake tester comes out clean). Remove to a wire rack to cool. When cool, cut lengthwise into 3 strips and then crosswise into quarters. Cut each square into 2 triangles.

The corn bread can be made ahead to this point. Remove from pan, wrap in foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw and reheat in the foil in a 325ºF oven for 10 minutes or until heated through.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dinner Group

Scott and I joined a new small group at church. It is full of young couples with young kids. Perfect! We offered to host the first gathering at our house - a social, dinner event on Wednesday night to get to know everybody. Get to entertain at our house and show off some cooking skills. Awesome! I was anticipating an intimate event of 4 couples's not like everyone will show up, right?

Somehow it turned out that everyone could make it! When I made the final tally, we had 12 adults, 7 kids & 2 infants over to our house for dinner!!!!

What do you cook for 19 people for dinner? On a weeknight?! I wanted to make January a "clean out the pantry & freezer" month to start out the New Year. I'm well on my way! Here's what we had:

Obama Chili (double batch)
Cornbread (double batch)
Pasta Salad
Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sign of the Times

Shelby: I play c'uter!!!!

Dad: What do you want to play?

Shelby: I check email.


Shelby: Hahaha! I funny!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas 2010 Recap

We had such a great Christmas this year! It began on 12/22 with my parents coming in and apexed on Christmas Day with my parents, my brother, his partner, Dave & Nancy and Mike. It was definitely a crowd! But, we ate well, we drank well, and we had A LOT of fun with our favorite two-year old!

No surprise that Scott captured a lot of the holiday with his camera. He put together a video with some of his shots! Enjoy the highlights from the Third Annual Benjamin/Lawrence Christmas Extravaganza!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Chicken & Dumplings

Scott and I have a good thing going when it comes to preparing Slow Cooker meals. I get to package up the prepped ingredients in little containers with a brief instruction Post-It. And, Scott gets to "make dinner."

I've never had chicken and dumplings before and I saw several post-ers with it on their menus the past couple weeks on my Weekly Menu Blog. I found a Slow Cooker version, but I made a few changes:
- I decreased the amount of liquid
Many commenters said they preferred a thicker sauce
- I cooked the biscuits separately and let them soak up the sauce
The recipe says to cook the biscuits in the slow cooker for the last hour....I don't have that kind of time!

The verdict: It was pretty good! We both liked it a lot. I make a pretty mean Chicken Pot Pie and this was very similar. This is an "empty out the fresh/frozen vegetable bin" recipe. The more veggies, the better! I emptied out 3 bags that were languishing in the freezer. It comes together faster than a pot pie....and can be cooking all day in the slow cooker! I'll hang on to this recipe for a good winter, comfort food. But, I probably won't make it a "go-to" recipe.

Chicken and Dumpling Soup
from A Year in Slow Cooking

Makes 4-6 servings

3 chicken breasts
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
16 ounces frozen vegetables
2 cans cream-of-something soup, or combine in a saucepan:
4 T butter
6 T flour
3/4 cup milk (I used soy)
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp basil or oregano
1 can refrigerated biscuits, or one batch drop biscuits

Put the chicken and vegetables into the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the soups (or homemade substitute). Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-5.

If you're pressed for time:
Cook biscuits according to the package directions. In the meantime, shred chicken and turn on high with the cover off. Put finished bisquits in slow cooker for 10 minutes to soak up the sauce.

If you have time:
An hour before serving, shred chicken with two large forks, and drop in the biscuit dough. Cover and cook on high for another hour. The biscuits are done when you can insert a knife and it comes out clean. They will be spongy and will brown a bit on the sides and top.

Serve in bowls, with a biscuit or two per person.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Week 51 Menu

Happy New Year!!

I amended my New year's Day menu. I forgot I wanted to cook the traditional Good Luck foods. So, for the new year, we ate black eyed peas & greens!

Sunday: Ginger Fried Rice with Grilled Shrimp (from Smitten Kitchen)
Monday: Chicken and Dumplings (I was inspired from previous weeks' menus!)
Tuesday: Schezuan Noodles
Wednesday: Obama Chili (big hit at Christmas!) and cornbread for our Bible Study potluck at our house!
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Homemade Pizza
Saturday: Out?