Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Life and a Little Pasta Primavera

Wow - I can't believe it has been two months since I posted! Things have been absolutely crazy.  In addition to the normal craziness of a mother of 2 (almost 3) we recently put our house up for sale.  I can not even stress how exhausting it is to be pregnant and trying to sell a house.  We are doing it "by owner" to try to save a couple bucks and between the cleaning, open houses, regular showings (and being 7 months pregnant) I feel like I don't have time for anything extra. 

Did I mention that Emma started soccer, and Aiden started baseball? Ouch! ;)

They are lucky they are so cute or else I am not sure that I could juggle everything right now!

I did squeeze in a run/walk today which was a rare treat.  I couldn't turn down the beautiful weather and my neighbor's offer to go with me.  We ended up going about 3.4 miles which included a poop stop for Utley (yes...the dog) and a bathroom break for me.  I just can't run like I used to! lol...

After the run I had to get the kids from school and decided to make dinner super early.  I was STARVING and needed something quick and easy to satisfy me as well as the kids when they decided to eat.  Enter this little gem that I got super cheap with a coupon:

I was a little hesitant.  I always made alfredo type sauce from scratch and wasn't sure how this would turn out.  Let's just say I was pleasently surprised! Here is what I came up with:

I found an awesome new veggie stand near my house.  Everything is super cheap but really fresh so I stocked up yesterday on a ton of veggies.  The only thing I would have done differently in this dish is add mushrooms.  I didn't have any and didn't necessarily miss them, but I love mushrooms in a primavera.  The recipe is approximate as I just chopped and tossed as I went...

Pasta Primavera

8 oz dry penne
3 cups broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 of a red onion (chopped large)
2/3 cup baby carrots (make nice size chunks)
2 tomatoes (seeded and chopped large)
2 tsp minced garlic
1 green pepper chopped
2 tbsp butter (I use Light Life by Bob Greene - saves a few calories)
1 tbsp flour
1 cup skim milk
1 tub Philadelphia Cooking Creme - Italian and Herb
Parmesean Cheese
Black Pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Add broccoli and cauliflower during last 3 minutes of cooking.  Drain and set aside.

In a saute pan, melt butter and add rest of veggies and garlic.  Cover and cook about 10-15 minutes until carrots are soft enough - stirring occasionally.  Add flour and make sure it is dispersed evenly among veggies.  Add milk and stir to create a thin sauce.  Add cooking creme and stir until all combined.  Add in drained pasta/veggie mixture and stir until sauce evenly coats everything.  Top with parm cheese and black pepper (salt if you need it too). 

That is it - super easy and I thought it was really good.  It is heavy on the veggies, so if you need more pasta than veggies give or take some of the ingredients.

I am not one to buy processed foods at full price but if you can find the $1.50 off Philadelphia Cooking Creme coupon I would definitely give this a try!

Until later!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Target Tuesday!

I haven't cooked one thing that was blog worthy all week long.  How lazy of me!

But honestly, I have been super busy this past week and didn't have too much extra time to spend in the kitchen.  We are putting our house up for sale within the next 2 weeks and I have been cleaning, packing, and organizing to make it look like a civilized family lives here instead of a bunch of monkeys. 

So, instead of posting a non-homemade recipe, and since my last post on couponing was so popular, I thought I would post about what I picked up at Target today.  Here is what I got:

Purex Complete with Zout - on clearance for $4.49.  I had a $3.00 coupon so I paid $1.49.

Purex Complete 3-in-1 laundry sheets - on clearance for $4.24.  I had another $3.00 coupon so I paid $1.24.

Up&Up all purpose cleaner with bleach - on sale for $1.37.  Target has online coupons one of which is for $1.00 off any Up&Up cleaning product.  I paid $.37 cents

Up&Up dental floss - on sale for $.89.  Another online Target coupon for $1.00 off any oral care item. FREE

Benefiber sticks - regularly priced $5.49.  Target had an online coupon for $3.00 off and I had a manufacturer coupon for another $3.00 off.  Remember you can stack Target coupons with manufacturer coupons.  FREE.

I have also been wanting to reorganize how I hold my coupons.  This is how I was doing it for the past year or so...

I didn't have enough slots for categories and it took me forever to flip through each section to find what I wanted.

Now that I am a "serious" couponer (ha ha) I wanted to reorganize how I hold my coupons.  At Target today I found a purple binder on clearance for $1.74 and then on a tip I got from The Krazy Coupon Lady, I bought baseball card holder sleeves to put inside.  They are also at Target and cost $4.99 for a pack of 30 pages.  Let me warn isn't really too pretty, but it is functional! We'll see how I like it once I need to find coupons out of it.

I used each card holder for a different coupon. I like that everything has it's place :)

Hopefully I will have a new recipe one of these days! Until then, good luck couponing!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thanks Target!

I have always had a love/hate relationship with Target.  I love going there but hate spending a ton of money that I didn't mean to (which happens ALL THE TIME!).  Today however is a different story.  I went in with an agenda...and my coupons...and came out a winner.  Check it out:

Mossimo Jeans on clearance for $4.98 (I bought 2 pairs, and gave one to my neighbor)
                        MINUS two $5.00 off target coupons on any jeans purchase
                        FREE JEANS!!
Finish Dishwasher tabs on sale for $2.49
                        MINUS $1.50 off target coupon
                        MINUS $1.00 off manufacturer coupon
                        FREE DISHWASHER SOAP!!
Finish Jet Dry (small bottle for $2.59)
                        MINUS $1.50 off target coupon
                        MINUS $.40 off manufacturer coupon
                        PAID $.69
Up and Up brand toothbrush for $1.29
                        MINUS $1.00 off target coupon for any oral care item
                        PAID $.29
Aquafresh Extreme Clean travel size toothpaste for $.97
                         MINUS $1.00 off manufacturer coupon
                         FREE toothpaste!!
Dentyne Ice 3 pack of gum on sale for $1.79
                         MINUS $.75 off target coupon
                         MINUS $1.00 off manufacturer coupon
                         PAID $.04
Lysol Wipes dual action on sale for $2.04 each (I bought 2)
                         MINUS $1.00/off 2 manufacturer coupon
                         PAID $1.54 each

All of this for a grand total of $4.10.  Don't mind if I pat myself on the back for this one!!! 

Here are my favorite coupon sites...

Check them out! You won't be disappointed!

FYI - I found all of these deals at the Target in Wyomissing.  Not all Targets will have the same sales.  Good luck!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cobb Salad Extravaganza!

I was hoping my in-laws were going to be able to make a trip down to see us this afternoon, but unfortunately they couldn't make it. I had planned to make a salad when they came and didn't let their absence deter my dreams of making the biggest and best salad EVER.  I got the idea after reading my friend Kristi's blog Ja Cie Kocham and seeing this... .  I pretty much duplicated what she did!

From left to right here are the ingredients:

1 - Cubed extra sharp white cheddar
2 - Avocado
3 - Eggs
4 - Grilled chicken marinated in bottled Italian dressing
5 - Bacon
6 - Cucumbers
7 - Red bell peppers
8 - Scallions
9 - Baby bella mushrooms
10 - Cubanella peppers
11 - Grape tomatoes

And the blank slate:

All of the boiling, grilling, and chopping paid off in a big way!  Here is the husbands finished product:

At this point, I was too hungry to even stop to take a picture of mine.  Just imagine the biggest salad you have ever seen completely covered in veggies, eggs, cheese, a bit of chicken and drenched in this:

Oh yes...It doesn't get better than that.  I think I am going to be full for days. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's a Dance Party!

Ever since we bought Just Dance 2 for the wii we have been playing it non-stop.  The kids and I LOVE it and I get to squeeze in a bit of exercise too.  If you really work-it, you will totally break a sweat and burn some calories.  The kids favorite song is Monster Mash:

Utley wants to know what all the fuss is about...

And Aiden couldn't help but do a victory cheer when he stole the crown from me and beat me!  I may or may not have let him win (ok...I didn't...he won fair and square).

If you have a wii you should really get this game.  It is a ton of fun!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Make-Your-Own Pizza

I have been watching one of the little ones in my neighborhood off and on for a couple of weeks.  He is a lot of fun and I thought that all three kids (mine included) would love to make their own pizzas for lunch yesterday.  It was a big hit and their pizzas looked awesome!

I've found when my kids help cook, they are more inclined to eat it, and less arguing at the dinner table makes for a happier mommy! 

Of course, I had to play in the dough too!  Mine was loaded up with fresh spinach and green peppers.

I made a 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 white flour dough.  We topped it off with some simple marinara that I defrosted from the freezer, and some pre-shredded mozzarella cheese.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 tbsp olive oil

Throw all of the ingredients in a standing mixer with a dough hook and knead until a soft, non-sticky dough ball forms.  Cover in a lightly oiled bowl and allow to rise for about 1 1/2 hours. 

Cut the amount of dough you want for each pizza and shape accordingly.  I made 4 small pizzas or this would also make 2 "medium" pizzas about 12-14" each.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow dough to rest about 20 minutes before you add any toppings.  Add sauce and any desired toppings.  Bake at 450 for 12-15 minutes. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Smoothie Obsession

I drink a smoothie every day for breakfast.  I think it is a great way to start the day and get lots of fruit and veggies in first thing in the morning.  I switch it up all of the time so there is no "recipe".  Here is what my blender looked like this morning:

Yes that is spinach in there, but you can't taste it! I typically use dark berries to hide the greenness especially when the kids are drinking some with me.  Here are the layers:

1 - a 6oz yogurt (I usually use a blueberry or strawberry)
2 - Frozen blueberries (maybe 1/2 cup - give or take)
3 - Frozen strawberries (whole or sliced - about 3/4 cup - give or take)
4 - Liquid of your choice.  Just fill to right below the frozen fruit.  I usually use Simply Orange orange juice 
      but today it was milk
5 - If using milk, add a dash of vanilla paste
6 - 1 banana
7 - Fill to the top with baby spinach (about 1 cup or a little more)


See - no green.  Just berry deliciousness!! That is my smoothie pictured above but my son also had a kids cup full too.  He loves them and has one everyday with me.  These are also great for snacks and even before bed if you are hungry but don't want something heavy. 

If you don't mind the green color, I also recommend just using milk (or almond milk), frozen bananas, spinach and peanut or almond butter.  Yum! 

Get to blending!

Cheaters Chicken Pot Pie

I was in the mood the other night for something totally comforting.   I had just received a Woman's Day magazine in the mail so I started flipping through for inspiration and came across a recipe for Chicken Pot Pie. 

Growing up my Pot Pie always had a top and bottom crust with chicken and veggies in the middle swimming in gravy.  Since being in Lancaster County, Pot Pie is basically a soup with big homemade "pot pie" noodles and chunks of chicken.  I haven't made the kind with crust in a long time and when I found this recipe using frozen puff pastry for the crust I considered it cheating...but I just had to make it anyway. 

I changed up the original recipe a little by adding a potato and switching up the spices.  The original recipe called for fresh tarragon.  I used half of the amount called for, but the husband was not a fan at all.  If I made this again, I would up the thyme and poultry seasoning and take out the tarragon completely.  If you are a fan, by all means, tarragon it up :)

Here is what I did:

Cheaters Chicken Pot Pie

1 1/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 cups of chicken stock (I used homemade but you can buy it too)
2 tsp poultry seasoning
2 tbsp olive oil
3 leeks (white and light green parts sliced into half-moons)
5 medium carrots (cut into circles)
1 extra large potato cut into little cubes (mine was about 1 pound)
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
Frozen puff pastry, thawed ( I ended up using 1 and 1/3 sheets because my dish was oval)

In a deep skillet or pot, heat up chicken stock and add chicken breasts sprinkled with poultry seasoning.  Simmer until chicken is almost fully cooked.  Remove the chicken and set aside until cool enough to handle.  Reserve the chicken stock in a bowl for later use.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Using the same skillet, heat the olive oil and add the leeks, carrots, and potato.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook about 15 minutes or until vegetables are softened, but not fully cooked.  Stir in the flour and cook for one minute.  Add the wine and scrape all of the veggie bits off of the bottom of the pan.  Slowly add the 2 1/2 cups of reserved chicken stock.  Bring to a boil. 

Add the peas, parsley, tarragon, and thyme along with about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. 

Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish and cover with the puff pastry. 

Vent the top and bake until the pastry is golden brown. 

Mine took 30 minutes but the original recipe said 35-40 minutes.  I say check it at 30 minutes and then add additional time if needed.

It helps if you have a great helper too.  I recommend adorable 4 year olds :)

Hope you like it!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

16 Weeks Already!

In honor of my 16 week doctor's appointment today I thought I would share a belly shot with the world.  I really do not feel like I have a baby belly yet - I would swear it is just leftover fat from before.  And in my defense, a little pouch runs in my family! At least that's what my mom says, and if there is an excuse for belly fat, I'll take it! :) 
I gained 1.5 lbs from my last appointment, but still -3 overall since my first visit.  The baby's heart rate today was between 155-160 and the dr. said that between 110 and 160 was normal, so we are on the right track! They don't really measure anything else at this point so I suppose that no news is good news for now.

I did schedule my 20 week ultrasound today and I am really excited to find out if it is a boy or a girl.  I wanted it to be a surpise at first, but Len really wants to find out and I think it will be fun to start collecting "stuff" and finalizing names :)

Here is the belly:

Gotta run! Today is a dear friends birthday and to celebrate we are going out to dinner at Annie Bailey's in Lancaster.  I have been so excited that I was checking out the menu already! Happy Birthday Junes!!! Love you girl!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Best Ever Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I know there are a TON of recipes floating around for Spinach and Artichoke Dip.  Look no further...your search has ended my friends because this one is the best.  Not only is the flavor delicious, it only takes about 7 minutes to throw together, not including bake time (I'm good...just not THAT good :)

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

1 10oz package frozen chopped spinach
1 13.5 oz can artichoke hearts
8 oz package reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/4 cup reduced fat mayonnaise (I use Smart Balance Omega Plus)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup shredded pizzeria cheese (combo of motz and provolone)

Defrost the spinach in the microwave.  While that is defrosting, chop up your artichoke hearts.  When the spinach is done drain it using a colander and press to get all the water out. Set aside.

Using a microwave safe bowl, place your block of cream cheese in it and microwave for about 30 seconds to soften.  Once softened, add sour cream and mayo and whisk together until combined.  Stir in spices and Parmesan cheese, and then fold in the artichokes and spinach. 

If your bowl isn't oven proof, move your mixture into an oven proof bowl and top with the pizzeria cheese.  I used a 4 cup pyrex dish and it was perfect.

Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly and the cheese on top is all melted and brown around the edges.  Mine took about 20 minutes...give or take a few :)

Using your favorite tortilla chip, and cut up veggies - dip and enjoy!!  I like to use the Garden of Eatin Blue Corn chips.  They are thick and sturdy and good for you too :) I also serve this with carrots and celery.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Panko Crusted Cod with Sweet Pea Risotto

I haven't cooked fish for a while.  Mostly because I haven't been cooking much at all but also because I haven't been finding very good prices on fish lately.  Finally yesterday I couldn't take it anymore and needed something to eat other than chicken or vegetables (I cook pork and beef for my family but I do not eat it).  I headed out and found some cod at a decent price at a local market.  I read a couple of recipes online and then decided to do my own thing with the topping.  To be honest, if I could do it over, I wouldn't have used cod.  In my husbands words, "the topping is great but the fish itself doesn't even taste like anything." I had to agree with him, and would use a fish like tilapia or flounder in the future.

Panko Crusted Cod


Two cod filets (My two filets together came up to 1.6 lbs)
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 tsp old bay
1/2 tsp lemon pepper (I have one of those grinders)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp grated parmesean cheese (do not include in topping mix)

Lightly grease a baking dish with butter or olive oil.  Place the filets side by side in the bottom of the dish.  Mix together all of the topping ingredients, including the olive oil.  Spread the topping evenly over the fish. Finish with the parmesean cheese sprinkled evenly on the top. 

Bake uncovered at 375 for 20 minutes.  I finished mine at a broil for about 2 minutes to crisp up the top a little more.

I needed a side dish to go with this and decided that I would try risotto.  I had never made risotto before but had the arborio rice in my pantry that I had bought a long time ago.  I found a recipe by Rachel Ray for a Sweet Pea Risotto and decided to give it a try.  I really loved it and will definitely make it again. 

Sweet Pea Risotto
Slightly adapted from Rachel Ray

4 cups chicken stock (I used homemade but you can use canned)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine, plus a little more for the end
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 cup parmesean cheese
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp black pepper

In a medium saucepan, warm the chicken stock over medium heat.  In a non-stick saute pan, melt the butter and olive oil.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft.  Add the rice and cook for about 1-2 more minutes.  Add the wine.

Stir until combined and then add about one cup of chicken stock at a time until you use it all.  In between each cup of stock, place a lid on the rice and stir about every minute or so.  When the liquid is about 2/3 of the way absorbed, add more stock.  You'll see what I mean when you start doing it.  It should take about 20 minutes or so to get all 4 cups of stock into the rice. 

When you are about 3 minutes from serving, add the peas and the 1/2 cup of parmesean.  The cheese will help to thicken up the sauce a bit.  At this point I added another spash or two of white wine for that extra flavor boost.  You can skip that part of you don't like the added wine flavor.  I think it made a big difference personally. 

When I served it, the risotto looked like this:

I don't know how it compares to other risotto, but I thought it tasted amazing.  It was thick and creamy and had just the right amount of sauce for me.  I heard somewhere (I think Top Chef) that risotto is supposed to spread out on the plate.  Mine did a little, but not much.  If you want it to "spread" I guess add a little more stock at the end so that it is a bit saucy"er" !

I topped this dinner off with some simple roasted cauliflower. 

Hope you like it!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cheesy Chicken, Tot and Broccoli Casserole - and an Announcement :)

I have had a major hankering for tator tots lately.  Mostly I have been enjoying them loaded with ketchup, but when I came across an idea online for a casserole with tots, I knew I had to make it.  This is a definite mom recipe, and not one that is going to win any culinary awards, but if you have kids you'll thank me :)  I most apologize for the lack of pictures.  I was starving and forgot to take one until I had already placed some on everyone's plate.  You'll still get the idea...

I made this recipe even easier by using a rotisserie chicken that I had picked up at the market.  The poor chicken was made into chicken sandwiches, Cheesy Chicken, Tot, and Broccoli Casserole, AND a batch of chicken stock.  I mutilated it, but feel good that I used the WHOLE thing. 

Cheesy Chicken, Tot, and Broccoli Casserole

1 can campbell's cheddar cheese soup
1 can campbell's 98% fat free cream of chicken soup
3/4 cup milk
1 pound cooked and cubed/shredded chicken (I used a rotisserie but feel free to cook some and cube)
2 broccoli crowns cut into florets and stems cubed (uncooked!)
About 1/2 bag of tator tots frozen - I ended up using a bit more
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
Pinch Salt
 1/4 tsp Pepper
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
 1/2 tsp Dried Parsley

In a large bowl, combine soups, milk and spices.  Whisk until smooth. 

Fold in chicken and broccoli.  Place in the bottom of a 8 1/2 x 11 baking dish.  Place the tator tots in an even layer on top of the chicken mixture.  Top with the shredded cheddar cheese. 

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and cover with foil.  Return to oven and bake another 20 minutes.  Remove foil and broil for 3 minutes just to give the tator tots a little more crispness and make sure that the cheese is all melted.  Remove and serve!

I served this with texas toast and the whole family loved it.  I was afraid the husband would think I was crazy, but once he mashed his tots into the casserole, he was a happy man. 

On an exciting note, I want to share that my husband and I are expecting our third little one in the end of July!!  I hope this explains the sporadic posts for the last couple of months as well as the tator tot obsession.  I have never experienced food aversions like the ones I have during this pregnancy.  I think I lived on fruit and vegetables for a whole week because NOTHING else sounded remotely appetizing. 

I am officially 16 weeks along, and feeling great so I should be back in the kitchen full swing - although there will probably be some weird cravings to satisfy so bear with me :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

I wanted to make something new today and decided since it was a snowy day and I had a pot of coffee going, biscotti seemed to be the perfect choice.  My mom sent me a White Chocolate Macadamia Biscotti recipe a while ago but unfortunately I didn't have either of the star ingredients on hand.  I did have some mini chocolate chips, so Chocolate Chip Biscotti it was...

Chocolate Chip Biscotti
adapted from Cindy Walter

1/2 cup butter (I used is all I buy)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
2 tablespoons Amaretto
2 1/4 cups uncleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar (I used my kitchenaid).  Beat in eggs, vanilla, and Amaretto.  Add flour and baking powder.  Mix in chips last. 

Butter a baking pan and set aside.  On a lightly floured worksurface, split dough in half to make two logs.  Bake for 25-27 minutes.

When they come out, the logs will still look like they aren't cooked all the way.  That's ok!

Allow them to cool for 5 minutes or so, and then slice using a serrated knife.  I got 10 pieces out of each log (not counting the ends that the kids and I ate).

Bake an additional 8-10 minutes until lightly browned on the bottom.  They should feel firm on the edges.  The middles will firm up more as they cool.  Remove from the pan and place on wire cooling racks.

While cooling, start making the chocolate dip (if using).  I microwaved 2/3 cup of mini chocolate chips with 2-3 tbsp fat free vanilla creamer.  I swear, creamer isn't just for coffee! :) Once all of the chocolate is melted, dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate and place on a cooling rack covered in wax paper.  This chip/creamer ratio covered 16 biscotti.  I ran out of chocolate chips or else I would have used more.  I think 1 cup chips and 4 tbsp creamer would be perfect for all 20 biscotti.

Allow the chocolate to set before serving.  As you can see, the kids could hardly wait to dig in.  These were a definite crowd pleaser.

*Note - these biscotti are not the crispy kind you buy in the coffee shop. They are firm on the edges but slightly soft in the center.