Weekly Meal Plan - November 28th thru December 4th

>> Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Oh my gosh, I cannot believe it will be December in just a few days. Where does the time go?!?

Lamb with Cous Cous, Caramelized Onions, Almonds and Raisins; Baba Ghanoush (AKA my mom's cooking for me!)

Chicken & Dumplings (in the slow cooker!)

And just for fun - Golden Grahams S'mores Bars


Southern Potluck - November 2011

So much for creating potluck posts every month! Sadly I haven't posted about another potluck since our Cajun potluck back in July (or was it June?). But this month I actually remembered to bring my camera to the dinner and managed to take pictures of most of the dishes. Also, I should mention that within my group of friends there is a healthy amount of competition, so we instituted an award that is given each month to the best dish. We even have a trophy that gets passed around! This month, Candace's peach cobbler won!

Here's the delicious fare that we served up:

{Peach Cobbler - recipe found below}

Candace's Award Winning Peach Cobbler
adapted from Southern Living

9 cups sliced peaches, fresh or frozen
1-2 cups sugar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup butter
pastry for double-pie crust, fresh or store-bought

Combine first 4 ingredients in a pan and set aside until syrup forms. Bring peach mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook about 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and butter, stirring until butter melts.

Roll out one of the pie crusts to fit a 9-inch-x-13-inch pan. Spoon half of the peach mixture into the pan and top with the pie crust. Bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Spoon remaining peaches over the baked crust. Roll out second pie crust and cut into strips 1-inch wide. Arrange the strips in a lattice pattern over top of the peaches. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Serve with ice cream, if desired.


Cuban Beef with Bell Peppers

>> Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I pinned this recipe on Pinterest ages ago, and with crazy busy-ness of Thanksgiving week, I decided it was time to bust out another slow cooker recipe. I was surprised at how flavorful the meat was, especially considering there aren't a ton of ingredients. But once I tasted the beef with the avocado, I was blown away. The avocado is a must with this recipe! This is a great, simple and healthy slow cooker meal that is perfect for the busy holiday season.

Cuban Beef with Bell Peppers
adapted from Real Simple

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 white onion, chopped
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon roasted cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup sherry
salt and pepper
1 1/5 lb flank steak, cut into two or three pieces
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips
1 cup long grain, cooked
1-2 limes, cut into quarters
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
2 avocados, sliced

In the bowl of a slow cooker, combine tomatoes, onion, oregano, cumin, garlic, salt, pepper and sherry. Stir to combine. Nestle flank steak amongst the vegetables. Let cook on low for at least 8 hours. The longer you cook it, the more tender the meat will be.

About 2 hours before you're ready to eat, add bell peppers. (You can add them at the beginning but they turn to mush. I don't like mush, so by adding them later, they were cooked through but still had a nice texture.)

To serve, place rice on serving plate. Top with meat and veggie mixture. Squeeze lime juice over top and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve sliced avocado on the side.


My (Current) Favorite Salad

>> Thursday, November 17, 2011

I based this salad on a salad I make for my father-in-law, and I've made it twice in the last week. I love the tangy sweet citrus with the crunchy fennel and creamy avocado. Yum! I love it so much that while Andrew was eating ice cream last night, I got the left over salad out of the fridge and ate the rest of it! If you're looking for a flavorful addition to your Thanksgiving meal, this salad would be perfect.

My (Current) Favorite Salad

for the salad
2 oranges, peeled and segmented
1 ruby red grapefruit, peeled and segmented
1/2 can hearts of palm, sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 avocado, peeled and cut into chunks
1 head butter lettuce, washed and torn into chunks
1 bunch arugula, washed and torn into chunks

for the dressing
1 small shallot, minced
juice from left over grapefruit membranes (or juice of 1 lemon)
juice from 1 left over orange membrane
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1-2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large bowl arrange butter lettuce leaves, arugula, orange segments, grapefruit segments, hearts of palm, fennel slices and avocado chunks.

For the salad dressing, in a blender combine all ingredients and puree. Pour desired amount over salad.


Cheddar Rosemary Biscuits

>> Tuesday, November 15, 2011

For dinner the other night, I prepared Pulled Pork with Homemade Peach BBQ Sauce served atop Cheddar Rosemary Biscuits. The Pulled Pork was great (just a word of warning to the Texas BBQ fans - the sauce is a vinegar BBQ sauce rather than a ketchup/tomato-based one), but the biscuits really stole the show. They were buttery, slightly cheesy with just a bit of beautiful rosemary flavor. Delicious on their own, but they also paired wonderfully with the vinegary, tender pork!

After the three of us devoured all of the biscuits, I decided to whip up another batch this morning to freeze for part of our Thanksgiving menu. I love things that can be made ahead of time for big holiday meals! To freeze the biscuits: prepare the dough, cut into biscuits, place the biscuits on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and freeze completely. Once frozen, place the biscuits in an airtight ziploc bag. Bake them frozen at 425 degrees for 22-30 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through.

Cheddar Rosemary Biscuits
adapted from Daily Cravings, who adapted the original recipe from Ina Garten

2 cups self-rising flour, plus more
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
12 tablespoons very cold butter, diced
1/2 buttermilk, shaken
2 extra large eggs, divided
1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon milk or water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt and rosemary in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the butter and continue to mix until the butter is the size of peas.

In a small bowl, beat buttermilk and 1 egg together. With the mixer still on low, add buttermilk mixture. Mix until just moistened. In a small bowl, mix cheddar with a small handful of flour. With mixer still on low, add cheese and mix until just combined.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead lightly a few times. With a floured rolling pin, roll dough out to a 10-inch x 5-inch rectangle. With a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits and place on a greased baking sheet.

In a small bowl, mix remaining egg with 1 tablespoon milk or water. Brush egg wash over tops of biscuits. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden.


Oven Baked Onion Rings with Dipping Sauce

>> Monday, November 14, 2011

While I love onion rings, I've never made them before. I try not to fry too many things for health reasons - and because I hate cleaning up the grease splatters all over my kitchen. When I stumbled upon this recipe, I knew I had to try it. I'm notorious for not completely, or carefully, reading through the recipe directions beforehand and I did it again. I had almost finished preparing the onion rings before I realized that the recipe was actually called Oven Fried Onion Rings and they were cooked in oil in the oven rather than stovetop. Hmmm...not quite as healthy as I wanted, so I fiddled with it and came up with something that actually is Oven Baked Onion Rings, no frying involved!

Every afternoon around 4 or 5, Finley has her "witching hour" complete with fussing, crying and needing lots of attention. Unfortunately this coincides perfectly with the time I am trying to get dinner going for the evening. I've learned that usually I can prepare Miss F a big snack/light supper and plop her in front of an episode of Special Agent Oso and that will keep her happy and occupied while I'm working in the kitchen. But this particular evening my go-to plan wasn't cutting it. While I was dredging the onions rings with eggs and cracker crumbs stuck to all my fingers, I had a very unhappy toddler clinging to my leg shrieking for me to read to her. Fin finally settled for holding the book herself and I read aloud while working on the onion rings. Multi-tasking at its best. In my head, I was cursing these stupid onion rings for taking so long to prepare and I swore that they had better be damn good since it was complete chaos in our house at the moment.

But when I sat down at dinner and took a bite, I knew they were worth it. All the crispy, crunchy goodness of an onion ring without any of the deep fried guilt! By this time, Finley's witching hour had passed and while she wasn't a big fan of eating the onion rings, she did enjoy using them for bracelets! A happy toddler + awesome onion rings = a happy, and very full, mama!

Oven Baked Onion Rings with Dipping Sauce
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

for the onion rings
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 sleeve Saltine crackers
4 cups corn flakes
1-2 sweet onions
non-stick spray

for the sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon ketchup
1/2 - 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon paprika
a pinch or two of salt
a pinch or two of dried oregano
a pinch or two of pepper

For the onion rings, preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a shallow bowl (I used pie plates), sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour. Set aside.

In another shallow bowl, beat eggs and buttermilk together. Add remaining 1/4 cup flour, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper and mix well.

In a a food processor, pulse crackers and corn flakes together until they are fairly finely ground. Pour the crumbs into a third shallow bowl.

Peel and slice onions into 1/2-inch wide slices, separating the rings. Discard any rings that are not at least 2-inches in diameter.

Dredge each ring in the flour, then dip into the egg mixture completely coating the surface. Allow any excess to drip off and then place onion into the crumb mixture, gently pressing crumbs onto the onion. Place onion ring onto a greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining onion rings.

Spray each onion rings lightly with non-stick spray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned and onion is tender.

Serve with dipping sauce.

*Onion rings can be prepared and refrigerated for an hour. Let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking or else the cold onions will not get tender.

For the sauce, in a small mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Store sauce in refrigerator until ready to serve.


Weekly Meal Plan - November 14th thru November 20th

>> Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thanks to Pinterest, I've found some fun new cooking blogs from which I've pulled most of this week's menu. I love it when I stumble upon a new blog - especially when Finley just went down for a nap, so that I actually have time to look at it!

I expect that the upcoming holiday season will be a busy one and I know there will be more nights where I don't feel like cooking. But with the usual holiday expenses, I know we won't want to eat out either, so I'm planning on making more meals in bulk and freezing half of them to combat those lazy night!

Lasagna Soup, Salad, Garlic Bread (freeze half - without noodles)

Pimento Cheese BLT Sandwiches, Oven-Fried Onion Rings (I'll eat the left-over pimento cheese for lunch this week)

Chicken Stir-Fry, Brown Rice, Steamed Edamame

Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos, Black Beans, Avocado & Tomato Salad (freeze half of the chicken)


Breakfast Egg Muffins

>> Saturday, November 12, 2011

I love the idea of having a big family breakfast together on the weekends, but since I'm not a morning person, it rarely happens. Usually by the time I stumble out of bed, Andrew and Finley have been up and around long enough to have already eaten. But this weekend I really wanted to give it the old college try.

These are really more like individual sized breakfast casseroles than muffins, but you get the idea. I made them last night (like you would with a breakfast casserole) and then just popped them in the oven this morning. And then I got to sit down and enjoy my coffee knowing I was about to serve me family a great homemade breakfast - without any work to do in the morning! These would make a great addition to any breakfast or brunch buffet and I think they might make an appearance on our table Christmas morning!

Not only are they tasty and portable, they are a complete meal - protein from the sausage, eggs and cheese; vegetables from the onions, red bell pepper, spinach and potatoes (okay, that last one's a stretch since I used tater tots!); and dairy from the milk and cheese. Feel free to switch up the proteins, cheeses and veggies to create something that your family will love!

Breakfast Egg Muffins

27 tater tots
1/3 pound breakfast sausage (any kind or flavor you like)
1/4 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
6 extra large eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
salt and pepper, to taste

Bake tater tots according to package directions. Set aside to cool completely

Meanwhile, cook breakfast sausage, onion and bell pepper in a saute pan over medium heat, breaking up any large clumps of meat, until sausage is cooked through and no longer pink. Drain any grease. Set aside to cool completely.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Add cheese, salt and pepper.

Using non-stick spray, grease 9 cavities of a 12-muffin pan. Gently press three tater tots down into the bottom of each well to create a "crust". Spoon a large spoonful of the meat and vegetable mixture over the crushed tater tots. Pour just enough egg mixture over to cover the meat and vegetables. Make sure the tater tots and meat mixture are cooled before pouring the egg mixture over top.

Cover the muffin tin and refrigerate. The next morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake 15-20 minutes.

Makes 9 muffins.

* While the quality of the camera is much higher, sadly the quality of the photographer remains the same. Bare with me as I'm learning the ropes!


Mahogany Chicken

>> Tuesday, November 8, 2011

This is such a simple recipe with few ingredients, but it has such a wonderful depth of flavor. We loved it! Finley ate half of a chicken breast herself - and that is saying a lot since she usually eats minuscule amounts of food.

Mahogany Chicken
adapted from Food.com

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoon ketchup
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 chicken breasts

Combine soy sauce, honey, ketchup and garlic. Mix well. Place chicken breasts in ziploc bag and pour marinade over them. Marinate in fridge for 4-8 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken breasts in a baking dish and discard marinade. Sprinkle breasts with fresh cracked pepper.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink. (If you're using really big or bone-in chicken breasts, the cooking time will be longer.)

* I cooked two breasts (but I would have cooked three had I known how much Fin loved this dish!) and froze the remaining two chicken breasts raw (uncooked). Hopefully they'll taste just as good the second time around! And since I also froze half of the hash brown casserole, I have almost an entire dinner in my freezer!


Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole

I saw this recipe on Pinterest last week and I've been thinking about it ever since. I finally gave into temptation this evening and made it to go with our dinner. It was soooo good - really rich and creamy! If you're thinking of branching out from mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, this could be a contender to forever take their place!

Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes
adapted from Food.com

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups sour cream
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 green onions, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bag (about 2 lbs) frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed
2 cups corn flakes, crushed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch-x-13-inch baking dish (or two smaller dishes) with nonstick spray. Set aside.

In a large (very large!) bowl, mix together the butter, soup, sour cream, cheese, green onions, salt and pepper until well combined. Stir in the hash brown potatoes and mix well. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Top with crushed corn flakes. Bake for 45 -60 minutes.

*This recipe makes a huge amount. I divided the mixture into two smaller dishes and froze one before baking it.


Chicken Pot Pie

>> Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Recently, my friends and I had a freezer meal swap and the meal we received from Erika was Chicken Pot Pie. It was such a warm and comforting meal and I loved having leftovers for lunch the next few days. On a whim (and totally ignoring my carefully made meal plan), I decided to make a CPP for dinner last night. Unfortunately I didn't have Erika's recipe so I just winged it and it came out great. And it was exactly what the doctor ordered - Andrew and I both had second helpings and sweet Finley had thirds! Hopefully your family will enjoy it as much as my family did. It also got me to thinking about when CPP first came into our family...

Growing up, my mom made Chicken and Dumplings, which I didn't like because I had an unfair aversion to soggy/mushy food, but I don't remember her ever making Pot Pie. In my mind Chicken Pot Pie and Chicken and Dumplings were similar enough to one another that I just assumed I wouldn't like either of them. But you know what they say when you assume...Anyway, fast forward to when I was newly married and I realized that Andrew would buy frozen pot pies whenever he went to the grocery store. Poor guy! I decided to remedy that and make him homemade CPP.

Andrew was so excited that he volunteered to head to the store for me. I made out the list and gave it to him. I've learned over the years that I have to be very specific on the grocery list or else I'll end up with something weird. I usually include notes, brand names and location within the store to ensure he comes home with the right ingredients. But this little trip was early into our marriage and I hadn't yet learned this trick. When I unpacked the grocery bags, I found that Andrew had bought a graham cracker pie crust! Bug-eyed, I queried him, and he admitted he thought it was weird but it was the only pie crust he knew of. Ah, funny memories!

Chicken Pot Pie
a Baking & Eggs original

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 white onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 potato, peeled and diced small
1 egg
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1 cup frozen peas
2 pie crusts (homemade or store bought)
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degree.s
In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt butter and saute onion, carrots and celery, until veggies are softened, about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, add potatoes and egg to a small saucepan filled with water. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and set potatoes aside. Peel and chop egg. Set aside.

In the saute pan with the veggies, melt butter. Stir in flour. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk until the mixture is smooth and thickened. Stir in salt, pepper, celery seed, parsley, garlic, chicken, frozen peas, cooked potatoes and hardboiled egg. Take pan off heat.

Roll out pie crust in deep-dish pie plate. Carefully pour chicken mixture into dish. (You may have a little filling left-over. I ate it for lunch!) Top with second pie crust. Crimp edges and cut a few steam vents on the top. Brush with egg wash. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until crust is golden.

(I made my pot pie during Finley's nap time, refrigerated it and then baked it for about an hour. You can also double the recipe and freeze one since they freeze great.)


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