We Plan Wednesday: The 2015 Edition of The 25 Days of Holiday Goodies

We Plan Wednesday

It’s that time of year again.  Before the next Wednesday rolls around, the 25 Days of Holiday Goodies (2015 edition) will have already commenced.

But before I give you a teaser taste of what is to come, here is the link from last year’s Holiday Goodies Roundup.  And a few shots to remember:











And now, for a sneak peek, subject to change:

25 Days of Christmas Goodies Button

1:  Limoncello

2:  Tiramisu

3:  Eggnog

4:  Eggnog French Toast

5:  Coconut Cream Cake (AKA Pina Colada Cake)

6:  Gifts in a Jar:  Jambalaya Revisited

7:  Homemade Sausage:  A Variation

8:  Christmas Punch

9:  Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese

10:  Blue Cheese Dressing or Dip

11:  Natchitoches Meat Pies

12:  Sausage Cheese Bisquick Balls

13:  Nieman Marcus Cookies

14:  Broccoli Salad

15:  Churro Chex Mix

16:  White Sausage Rotel

17:  Sugar Cookie Frosting That Hardens

18:  Cheesy Snack Mix

19:  Yogurt Parfait

20:  Sausage Biscuit Casserole

21:  Candy Bark

22:  Salted Caramel Truffles

23:  Velveeta Cheese Fudge

24:  Mom’s Cheesecake

25:  Jezebel Sauce

I hope you enjoy the fun and the series!

Tip Tuesday: Peruse the Cooking Magazines for Inspiration

Tip Tuesday

We now interrupt the Kitchen Essentials miniseries to bring you a much-needed update and confession.  I am MASSIVELY obsessed with the seasonal cooking magazines (or the specialty ones) that Land O’Lakes, Betty Crocker, Taste of Home, and Better Homes and Gardens publish.

Recently, at our new Kroger (which is going to have a post of its own soon, I promise), I spied these two gems:



The soup idea intrigued me.  I’ve seen the same approach with layering salads in containers, but the soup idea was just making me NEED to see it (and share with you).

It’s the concept of Cuppa Noodles.  You know, the disgusting things that attempt to upscale ramen and make you only miss the straight-up ramen-ny goodness boiled on the stove?

The execution seems simple and makes three pint-sized microwaveable jars.  I’m hoping to make up some of these for Josh (as he seems to be in cold season’s nasty clutches) for his cookstove in his work van.

The basic formula is as follows:

3 tsp. bouillon (that will be 3 bouillon cubes crushed) (see below for more details)

flavorings (see below for more details)

9 ounces protein (see below for more details)

1 1/2 cups cooked grains (see below for more details)

1 1/2 cups vegetables (see below for more details)

Divide stock base and flavor boost evenly among the containers.  Layer with protein, noodles, and vegetables.  Place lids on jars.  Store in the fridge 3-5 days.  Before heating, let stand at room temp for 10 minutes.  Fill the jar nearly to the top with water (1 1/4 cups).  Microwave (or heat in a cook stove), uncovered, 2 minutes.  Let stand five minutes.  Stir to combine.

Bouillon:  beef, chicken, or vegetable

Flavorings:  (one or more)

1 1/2 tsp. citrus zest

1/4 tsp. chili powder

3/4 tsp. Tony’s

3/4 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

1 T soy sauce

2 T rice vinegar

3 T teriyaki sauce

2 T white miso paste

2 T grated fresh ginger

2 cloves minced garlic

1 T snipped fresh herbs or 2 tsp. dried herbs

Protein:  (only one)

cooked sausage (smoked, artisan links, breakfast, Italian)

cooked shredded (or diced) chicken

cooked shredded leftover roast (beef or pork) (or finely diced)

leftover hamburger meat

cooked peeled shrimp (even tails removed) (maybe finely diced or smaller shrimp)

diced ham

cooked meatballs

3/4 cup canned beans or thawed (from frozen) beans (They recommend edamame)

2 ounces smoked salmon (or a cooked whitefish…make almost a bouillabaisse if you add in some shrimp)

3 diced (or smushed) hard-cooked eggs (I think this would be best to add as a topping, though)

Cooked Grains:

They recommend any type of cooked noodle (cooked one minute less than package directions, drained, shocked in cold water to stop cooking, drained, and tossed in cooking oil to coat), snipped into shorter lengths if a long noodle.  I think rice and funky pasta shapes (tiny stars, etc) would work, as well as orzo.  I also think mostly-cooked barley would be a bulk-adding ingredient to it.

Vegetables:  (choose two or three)

They don’t recommend par-cooking, but I would par cook some of the more crisp veggies here.

thinly sliced carrots (if you par-cook, you could do diced here)

sliced snow or sugar snap pea pods

frozen peas

frozen corn

sliced green onion (or diced regular onion)

grated broccoli or broccoli slaw

fresh baby spinach, baby kale, or chopped bok choy

sliced mushrooms

finely chopped squash (zukes, summer squash, maybe even butternut)

finely chopped and drained peeled tomato (or sun-dried tomato)

They make a few flavor suggestions:

  1.  Edamame-Mushroom:  chicken bouillon, soy sauce, rice vinegar, miso paste, ginger, garlic, edamame, rise noodles, snow peas, and mushrooms
  2. Teriyaki Chicken:  beef bouillon, teriyaki sauce, ginger, garlic, chicken, ramen, carrots, bok choy
  3. Cajun Sausage:  chicken, Tony’s, smoked sausage (or andouille), farfalle, corn, green onions, and broccoli slaw (I would probably use onion, bell pepper, and celery to include the trinity)
  4. Lemon Chicken:  chicken bouillon, lemon zest, dill weed, chicken, linguine, spinach, and zucchini
  5. Shrimp Bowl:  vegetable bouillon, Old Bay, shrimp, angel hair pasta, broccoli slaw, and mushrooms
  6. Meatball Mac:  beef bouillon, chili powder, meatballs, shell pasta, frozen peas

One that I’m looking forward to trying is a take-off on Chicken Tortilla Soup:  chicken bouillon, chicken, lime zest, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, corinander, rice, corn, bell peppers, and tomato.  I would serve it with tortilla chips.

What ideas do you have?

Meal Plan Monday: American Thanksgiving Week!

Meal Plan Monday

Happy (early) Thanksgiving to all people who celebrate the U.S. holiday.  This year, LFam (Josh, Muffin, and I) are eating with my parents at my parents’ house.  I’m supplying Yams Richard (by my mom’s request) and Red Velvet Sheet Cake with Ermine Frosting (by Muffin’s request).  I will also probably help my mom with her cooking to-do list, especially the gravy, on Wednesday and Thursday.

But before we get to Thanksgiving, I do have some things to prepare to feed a hungry Muffin (not to mention Josh and me).  So, this is how things are going to shape up:

Saturday:  Diablo Burgers (Recipe forthcoming) and Poutine (Recipe forthcoming for the non-Canadians who read this)

Diablo Burger


Sunday:  Taco Tuesday (but still on a Sunday!) while watching The LEGO Movie

Monday:  Muffin will be at my mom’s tonight because I have to work a basketball game at work.  I will probably pick something up from somewhere.  Josh will probably scavenge at home.

Tuesday:  Chicken Parmesan (will try to post the recipe once i figure it out), green beans with bacon and onion

Wednesday:  Eggnog French Toast from A Beautiful Mess and homemade sausage

Thursday:  Gee, I wonder…Thanksgiving dinner, duh!

Friday:  Leftovers!

Saturday:  Leftovers (fingers crossed hopefully)

Sunday:  King’s Ranch Chicken from The Cotton Country Cookbook

What’s on your meal plan for the week?

Tip Tuesday: Kitchen Essentials #1: The Slow Cooker

Tip Tuesday

It seems fitting that my new Tip Tuesday series on essential kitchen items should begin with a slow cooker.

Anyone who knows me or who has read this blog for any length of time knows of my love of my slow cookers.  I have two, in fact.  Big Bertha (my 7-quart programmable behemoth) and ‘Red (my smaller, saucier 5 quart).  I wouldn’t mind having more, however (hint, hint).

It uses almost no electricity (compared to my power-draining oven).  When it’s hot in the summer, it keeps the kitchen as cool as possible.  The crock insert is its own serving bowl.

On this blog I have already featured several slow cooker recipes.

Crockpot Thai-Peanut Chicken

Apple Cider (Slow Cooker Adaptable, easily)

Chipotle’s Copycat Barbacoa

BBQ Sausages

Biscoff Baked Oatmeal in the Slow Cooker

Crockpot Baked Ziti

Crockpot Cheesy Ravioli Casserole

Crock Pot Creme Caramel Bruleed French Toast

Crock Pot Honey Garlic Chicken

Crock Pot Low-Country Boil

Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese

Crock Pot Pork Tips and Gravy

Crock Pot Ranch Pork Chops

Crock Pot Style Gyros

Dr. Pepper Pork Chops

Mom’s Pork Loin

Pizza Meatball Subs

Chipotle’s Carnitas

Simple Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pork

Slow Cooker Refried Beans

Slow Cooker Root Beer Pulled Pork

Slow Cooker Rotisserie Chicken

I’m going to share with you another recipe today that is a reader recommendation:  Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes from Southern Living.  The addition of sausage really makes the recipe.  Feel free to substitute ground turkey, chicken, or pork for the beef.


Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes

Source Southern Living

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 (16-oz.) package ground pork sausage
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped (I used a whole one.)
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar (I used red wine vinegar.)
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
8 hamburger buns, toasted
I microwaved the onion and bell pepper for two minutes and browned the meats together in a large skillet.  I then mixed together all of the ingredients in my crock insert.  I cooked on high for four hours.
*The recipe also lists directions for making it only on the stove top if you are pressed for time.
What is your favorite slow cooker recipe?

Meal Plan Monday: Happy Anniversary!

Meal Plan Monday

Happy 8th anniversary to the most wonderful man on the planet!  It’s impossible to believe that its been eight years already.  I couldn’t imagine my life without you in it!

This week is a busy week.

I am making one dish I’ve never before shared with you, Italian Sausage Spinach Cannelloni.

This dish is special to me for many reasons.  It was from one of those little Land O’Lakes cookbooks (the kind you get at the grocery store checkout) (Land O’Lakes Recipe Collection Pasta published in 1992).  My mom made this when I was younger, and my sister and I requested it simply for the tomato sauce on pasta.

To avoid having to boil the manicotti tubes, simply double the bechamel and tomato sauces.  I’ve made it that way, and it works perfectly.

Otherwise, the noodles tend to stick together closed, making filling them impossible.  This recipe is completely worth the time and effort.

This is also the recipe I made (and froze) for Josh and I to eat on our wedding night in our new apartment.  And, it’s the recipe I’m making tonight for our anniversary, 8 years later.

Italian Sausage Spinach Cannelloni

Source:  Land O’Lakes Recipe Collection Pasta (1992) and stored on Food.com

14 uncooked dry manicotti tubes

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 (28-ounce) can chopped Italian tomatoes, reserve juice

1 can tomato paste

2 T chopped fresh basil leaves (or 2 t dried)

1 t sugar

1/2 t salt

1/4 t coarsely ground black pepper (fresh ground!)

1 lb bulk Italian sausage

additional 1/4 cup chopped onion

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh garlic

2 cups chopped fresh spinach (or 10 ounces frozen, defrosted and drained)

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 eggs

1 t dried oregano

1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

1 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup ground white (or not) pepper

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

(Note:  Some of the ingredients are in multiple parts of the recipe, so I mentioned them separately.)

  1. Cook manicotti according to package directions; drain. Set aside. (Or don’t and increase the sauce measurements. If increasing the sauce measurements you may want to use a roaster or a deeper pan.).
  2. To prepare tomato sauce: In Dutch oven (or large heavy saucepan) add olive oil and 1 cup onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until onions are soft (5-8 minutes). Add tomatoes, reserved juice, and all remaining sauce ingredients (tomato paste, basil, sugar, 1/2 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper). Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce just comes to a boil (2-4 minutes). Cover; reduce heat to low. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 35 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, to prepare filling: in 10-inch skillet add sausage, 1/4 cup onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sausage is browned (10-12 minutes). Drain off fat. Add spinach. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until spinach is soft (2-3 minutes). Place sausage mixture in large bowl. Cool 10 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan, eggs, oregano, and 1/4 t pepper. Set aside.
  4. To prepare bechamel sauce: in 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth and bubbly (1 minute). Add milk, whipping cream, and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens (5-8 minutes).
  5. Heat oven to 375. Divide filling between manicotti tubes using a small spoon to fill each tube with about 2 T of filling (I use my clean hands–think stuffing a roll of coins). Place 1/4 cup tomato sauce on bottom of 13x9x2-inch baking pan (more if you don’t boil the noodles and in a deeper pan). Place filled tubes on top of tomato sauce. Pour bechamel sauce over tubes. Top with remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.
  6. **This is a great OAMC recipe. Before cooking/prep day, I would prepare the tomato sauce and sausage/spinach filling mixture and chill (I would prepare the tomato sauce anyway to serve as a pasta sauce–I could literally drink the stuff!). Make the bechamel sauce the day of your big session. Fill the tubes and prep the pans. Cook 45 minutes (Covered!), wrap in foil and freeze. On “eating day,” cook at 375 until tubes are al dente (they probably already will be) and bubbly and cheese is melted. I would keep it covered for most of the cooking time. This is a very very rich recipe, so I would serve with a salad of bitter greens tossed in a sharp vinaigrette. It says it serves 8, but, as I said, the sauces are so rich that I can’t really eat more than one tube, so I would say it serves 14.

What am I serving the rest of the week?  Look below to find out!

Saturday:  dinner out at Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro (for anniversary)

Sunday:  snacky dinner/cheese tray with spinach-artichoke bread

Monday:  canneloni, garlic bread, salad, cupcakes

Tuesday:  pulled pork sandwiches

Wednesday: potato bar with leftover pulled pork

Thursday:  leftovers or hot dogs

Friday:  pizza and corn

Saturday:  burgers

Sunday:  King Ranch Chicken

Whats on your plan for this week?

Funny Muffin Friday: Muffin at Rest

Funny Muffin Friday

Some of Muffin’s cutest moments are when he’s at play.  But, to me, the most precious and priceless images that have been captured of Muffin are when he is asleep.  So, I present this nearly wordless post.


IMG_1191 IMG_1291 IMG_1364 IMG_1458

Yes, in the last picture, that’s my boo-tay, my bo-hunk-us that Muffin is resting his head and arm on.

I felt soooooooo loved!

A Catch-Up Post: Oven Fried Pork Chops

Muffin likes pork.  He loves it, in fact.  There’s just one small problem:  he calls it chicken.  Recently, we had Recipe Girl’s Root Beer Pulled Pork (again).  As I was attempting to pull it (it always takes me at least an hour to pull that much pork), he came in and asked me if he could have a bite of that chicken.

He does that a lot.

Ask for bites while I’m preparing it and calls pork chicken.

Most pork recipes that I make are Muffin Approved, and this one certainly is.  If you look at the plate above, pretty much the only thing he would save for last is the cole slaw.

I like this recipe because it is a four-ingredient recipe (five if you count the potatoes that cook alongside the pork).

It comes together really fast and goes with a variety of sides.  In fact, if you look at the above plate, you will note that the pork is actually the least percent of the plate “pie graph.”  It really doesn’t have to take center stage here.

This recipe (found in two places on the Better Homes and Gardens website) appears all over the Internet.  I think I first found the idea when thumbing through one of the BHG magazine cookbooks.  I had written it down as one to look up from the index, and, luckily, it was on the website.

This picture comes from February, and it is one of the forgotten heroes that is only waiting for the weather to cool down below 100 (I’m writing this post mid-July) to make again.

Isn’t it weird how that happens?  You make a recipe that’s awesome and then it gets shoved aside and forgotten in the melee of day-to-day life.  In these catch-up posts, I think I’m starting to see recipes that were forgotten that need to be, not only blogged about, but also to be re-made.

Oven Fried Chicken (and Potato Wedges)

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

four pork chops, trimmed of fat (I used slices from a pork loin.  The website recommends fairly thick chops, but I find those sometimes difficult to eat–especially for Muffin)

one package of cornbread stuffing mix (I used Stove Top.  I would recommend crushing up some of the larger pieces in order to dredge it easier)  You will use about 1 cup or so of crumbs.

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

24 ounce frozen homestyle potato wedges (although I think any largish frozen potatoes would work)

Preheat oven to 425 and line a half sheet pan with foil.

In a shallow dish beat together the egg and milk with a fork.  Place the stuffing crumbs in another shallow dish.  Dip both sides of a pork chop in egg mixture than coat with stuffing crumbs.  Place on one side of the baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining chops, being sure to arrange them on the pan in a single layer.

Pour the frozen potatoes on the other side of the pan, arranging in as shallow of a layer as possible.

Bake 20-25 minutes, stirring the potatoes at about 12 minutes.  They are done when the pork measures 145 degrees in temperature and the potatoes are lightly browned and crisp.

Serve with a choice of sides and condiments.  They can be dressed up or dressed down as you see fit.

These were totally Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved