Tip Tuesday: A New Recipe Source

Tip Tuesday

The Internet made meal planning an easy reality.  Blogs, recipe sites, access to foods and cuisines previously unheard of.  Ingredients, even.

And then the gifs.  Gif recipe loops on imgur and the like are addictive to the foodie-inclined.

One that has kept my mind occupied before but that I only just worked up the nerve to try was the Apple Pie Bake.

Innocuous name for something you can’t look away from.  If you clicked the link, you probably haven’t looked away yet.

I will wait.

A local restaurant (Chimi V’s) serves an apple pie on a sizzling skillet slathered with this sauce to die for and sided by ice cream.  This is the only apple-pie-ish recipe that comes close.

But seriously, if you have the sauce recipe for that apple pie, I will not be upset if you feel the need to share.  Seriously (which my phone for some reason recognizes as “hey, Siri” and feels the need to turn Siri on.  Does anyone else have that problem?  No?  Just me?).

I wouldn’t mind if you share it with me.

But back to the Apple Pie Bake.  This is a recipe I only made one change to.  I peeled the apples before chopping them.  Cooked apples in their skin makes me cringe.

Have you returned yet from the Imgur-Addictive-Watching?

Apple Pie Bake

Source:  Imgur (See link above)

2 packages refrigerated cinnamon roll dough, frosting packs reserved and bought to room temperature, dough chopped roughly

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 T cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 T butter

2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

1 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spread the dough chunks evenly in the bottom of a 9×9 square pan.  Whisk together milk, cinnamon, eggs and vanilla.  Pour it over the cinnamon roll dough.  In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter.  Add brown sugar and apples and cook until apples are softened.  Pour apple mixture over dough and custard mixture.  Drizzle both packets of frosting over the mixture.

Place the pan atop a cookie sheet to catch any bubble-over.

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes until cinnamon roll dough is cooked and top is browned.

Cool slightly before cutting into squares and eating a la mode with vanilla bean ice cream slowly melting atop the apple pie bake wedge.

This recipe is completely Muffin (and Mama and Josh) approved!!!

Muffin Approved

Do you have a favorite gif recipe?  Let me know below

 

Tip Tuesday: Pizza in Another Exciting Incarnation

Tip Tuesday

Pizza.  PIZZA!  Pizzahhhhhhhhh!!!

Is there a way that pizza (in its various forms) isn’t yummy?

But sometimes…the local pizza joint, or a Pepperoni Pizza Hot Pocket, or English Muffin Pizzas just fail to satisfy.

Sometimes, pizza gets a little ho-hum.  Mundane.  Ordinary.  Boring.  Trite.  Overdone (and I don’t necessarily mean burnt).

Sometimes you can (gasp!) get sick and tired of pizza.

That is when pizzahhh needs a reboot.

Today’s reboot comes courtesy of Kraft Recipes.  Well, mostly.  If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that it is impossible for me to follow a recipe exactly.  I.  Must.  Modify.

And luckily, this recipe is easily modifiable and adaptable.

What is it, exactly?

Pepperoni Pizza Lasagna.

Let me repeat that lusciousness again.  Pepperoni Pizza Lasagna.

Cheesy, saucy, meaty, pasta-y, veggie goodness.

And easily adaptable.

Yes, this is recipe nirvana.  (And not the band)

Nirvana (the band) is not exactly the genre of music I hear in my head when making and consuming copious amounts of this recipe.  Sinatra, yes.  Alternative?  No.  Think the Olive Garden soundtrack.  “When the moon meats your eye, like a big pizza pie…”

And, now back to recipe matters and not mangling-lyrics matters.

The original recipe calls for raw diced bell pepper and onion.  That creates two problems in our household.  1)  The peppers and onions don’t get completely cooked, and 2)  Muffin is not a fan of raw bell pepper and raw onion.  And, since he eats so many other healthy things, I have learned not to push my luck.

So, we adapted.  We subbed olives for the peppers and onions.  I think it would also be fabulous with most pizza toppings.  Except maybe pineapple.  As much as I love pineapple pizza, the thought of pineapple and lasagna noodles makes me slightly nauseated.

But Italian sausage, browned and added to the sauce and crumbled over the top?  Definitely!  (Even though we haven’t tried it that way yet.)

So, what do we do usually?

Pepperoni Pizza Lasagna

Adapted from Kraft Recipes (see link above)

1 egg, beaten

1 (15 ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided

1 pkg. pepperoni, divided (I used the 6 ounce package from Aldi)

1 cup (1 can large pitted ripe olives, sliced) veggies, divided

1 jar (24 ounces) smooth pasta sauce (Traditional flavor, if possible)

1/2 cup water

1 package lasagna noodles, uncooked (You will not use them all.)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the egg, ricotta, Parmesan, and half of the mozzarella.

Reserve 12-15 pepperoni slices and 1/2 cup olive slices (or 1/4 cup other vegetation).  Chop remaining pepperoni.  Add it to a medium bowl with sauce, water, and remaining vegetation (olives).

Spray a 9×13 dish or foil pan with cooking spray.  Spread 1/2-3/4 cup sauce on the bottom.  Top with a layer of lasagna noodles, broken to fit, as necessary; 1/3 ricotta mixture; and 1/2 cup of sauce.  Repeat layers twice.  Top with lasagna noodles, sauce, cheese, and reserved toppings (meat and vegetation).  Cover with foil sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake 35 minutes.  Uncover and cook 10 minutes more.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  Cut into serving-sized squares, with a slice of pepperoni centered in the square.

Chill or freeze.

When ready to eat, remove the desired number of squares and reheat in the microwave until heated through.

*Note:  I tried eating this 10 minutes post-oven, but the noodles are on the hard side of al dente.  For some reason, chilling it overnight after cooked softens the noodles to a more preferable al dente (as in, you can then chew them).

This recipe was definitely Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved

What is your favorite pizzahhhh variation?

Tip Tuesday: Children Eating Veggies

Tip Tuesday

Muffin eats most things.  Raw peppers, onions, and anything spicy are the noted exceptions.

I haven’t found a fruit yet that he won’t eat, copious amounts of, except possibly grapefruit.  This is the child who can decimate a pound of strawberries in one sitting and wonder where the rest are.

I’ve been lucky in that regard.

Of course, sometimes he comes up with some strange combinations, such as Sunday’s baby carrot in a stick of celery “hot dog” with ranch dressing “ketchup” at the Christmas lupper table.  Or the salad-stuffed breadstick at Olive Garden.

And we can’t forget (although we have desperately tried) the blueberry taco with pretzels.

Seriously.  Desperately.  Tried.  I’m still scarred emotionally for life about that one.

Muffin has, if you have not guessed it, been an adventurous eater.  But certain “vehicles,” I shall say, have aided that.

And those vehicles are great at encouraging kids (or veggie-resistant adults) to trying new foods.

Vehicle #1:  Topping a baked potato.  Every so often at work, one of the classes makes available a baked potato bar.  It is seriously the best day of the month (I have leftovers for the following Monday’s lunch).  This one taught me something.  Basically, if you stick it on a potato, it has to be good.  Raw broccoli is a case in point.  I like many veggies (brussel sprouts included), but the texture of the florets of broccoli made me…blanch.  (Okay, I couldn’t resist.)  I have managed to convince Muffin to try many foods that foods are good by slapping them on an open potato vehicle.

Vehicle #2:  Pizza.  Muffin went through a whole phase where he only wanted cheese pizza.  Pepperoni magically became “too spicy.”  Then, all of a sudden, pepperoni was awesome again, and it reigned on pizza.  I doubted the magic and mystique of pizza.  And, then, the other day, Muffin saw his dad get a deluxe slice of pizza from Sam’s (with red and green bell peppers and onions).  He insisted he had to have a piece of deluxe, as well.  And he ate…most of it.  The red bell peppers were still a tough sell.  But he ate the onion, when previously he would have eaten it only in onion rings from Whataburger.  But I’ve always eaten onion, I think, because my mom has always put chopped onion in her pizza sauce.

Vehicle #3:  Tacos.  How Muffin first had salad (lettuce) and tomato (other than ketchup and salsa).  As he has proven, there is not much that Muffin will not put on a taco.  Except raw onion.  But usually every other taco topping (including green olives) will appear on a Muffin taco.

Vehicle #4:  Ranch (or another favored) salad dressing or dip.  My parents often do a crudite platter for lunch.  Muffin is always very excited to go over to their house for lunch because of this.  He has been known to consume cucumber, celery, and carrots without said dip or dressing, but he will consume it in copious amounts with the white seasoned stuff.

Vehicle #5:  Salad bars.  If you cut up a rainbow of veggies, the odds are high(er) that your child will jump at the chance to create and consume his or her colorful creation.  Taking Muffin to a salad bar is always an exercise in patience.  If it’s not spicy (or raw onion or bell peppers), he wants to try everything.  And everything must be arranged just so.

Vehicle #6:  Sandwiches (especially and including burgers):  Muffin is much more adventurous on his sandwiches and burgers than I am.  He wants to always eat one of those picture-perfect sandwiches and burgers bulging with toppings.  So he always has salad (his name for lettuce) on his sandwiches.  I rarely if ever have lettuce on sandwiches and burgers.

These are not 100% a guarantee that your child will eat all of the veggies on the planet, but it is better (in my opinion) than those hide-a-way veggie methods that some employ.  Yes, you want them to have the nutrition from the veggies.  But hiding it does not cause them to eat said veggies later in life.

In fact, by challenging Muffin with “you don’t really want that, do you?” has made him try more veggies and odd foods (mussels) than hiding any of it has.  And he is always so proud when he likes it!

Tip Tuesday: Sometimes It’s Okay to Become Lazy With a Recipe

Tip Tuesday

I’m probably the world’s worst person at following a recipe that I know.  Sometimes it works well; sometimes it works less than well.

Sometimes (as is the case of the Mississippi Roast I made yesterday) I misread or forget an ingredient (at 5:30 in the morning when you are racing around trying to gather lunches and stock the slow cooker and get ready for work it happens).  Sometimes, I substitute ingredients.

And, sometimes, after a long, hard day at work, I get…lazy.  There!  I said it.  The recipe I am going to share with you today (my adaptation of Wholly Guacamole Enchiladas by Mommy Hates Cooking) is the product of my extreme laziness.  Rather than enchiladas, it became more of an enchilada casserole.

It was still yummy, but I don’t have the patience to warm corn tortillas to make them pliable, then fill and roll them, cursing them when they still tear and crack anyway on the best of days.  After a day of teaching?  It’s not happening.

So, I put a bit of the sauce in the bottom of a 9×13, spread six corn tortillas flat, then put the enchilada filling on top, then six more tortillas followed by sauce and cheese.  It turns more into an echisagna at the end, but it is still delicious.

Note:  the one thing I will INSIST upon is that you use an enchilada sauce that you like.  I used one from my Aldi run and it was too spicy for anyone except me.  They still tasted awesome, but Muffin and Josh couldn’t finish theirs.  And the sauce was really watery.

But here’s what I did.

Guacamole Enchilada Casserole

(Adapted from Mommy Hates Cooking–See Link Above)

12 corn tortillas

1 large can red enchilada sauce (28 ounces, I think)

2 cups cooked and shredded chicken breast

1 can Rotel (the original says drained…I just realized that)

4 green onions, sliced

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (I could still tell there were leaves in mine.)

16 ounces guacamole (I had two 8 ounce packages in what I purchased from Aldi, so I used it all.)

2 cups shredded cheese (I used a mix of sharp and mild cheddars.  Monterey Jack would be awesome as well.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix in a bowl chicken, Rotel, green onions, cilantro, and guacamole, ensuring it’s well-mixed.

Lightly coat the bottom of a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish with enchilada sauce.  Place six tortillas on the bottom of the pan, overlapping slightly as needed.  Pour and spread all of the guacamole mixture over the tortillas, smoothing as needed.

Cover with six more corn tortillas, arranged as before, pressing slightly to adhere and smoosh.  (Yes, smoosh is a technical term.)  Cover with remaining sauce (I love saucy enchis!) and cheese.

Bake until hot and bubbly (about 30 minutes) and cheese is melted.  Let sit 10 minutes then cut and serve like lasagna.

IMG_3501

What is your favorite lazy shortcut?

Tip Tuesday: Sometimes You Must Break the Rules…

Tip Tuesday

I’m a believer in following the rules.  I think I was a hall monitor in a former life.  Personal responsibility is a BIG thing with me.  Once I learned how to color within the lines, I tried never coloring outside of them.

For those of you who have read my (nearly countless) posts of how I altered recipes, therefore NOT following the rules, you are (justifiably) howling maniacally.

But my need to bend recipes to my will aside, sometimes there are times you need to BREAK THE RULES!

Even though I haven’t written an updated post (yah, yah) for the Please Don’t Heat Up the Kitchen New Recipe Challenge, I am trying to make sure that I don’t heat up the kitchen this summer of insane heat.

Repeat after me:  In.  Sane.

So, why would I make a recipe that not only heats up the stove coils for an extended period of time but also runs the oven for close to half an hour (plus pre-heat time)?

Because it is totally worth it.

Because it makes you think you are literally tasting summer.

The fresh and crisp and clean summer, not the insane (see above) summer.

The recipe comes from Debbiedoo’s (I just love that name), the blog that gave Muffin his favorite pork chop dish (Slow Cooker Dr. Pepper Pork Chops).  I figured that any recipe from that website would be totally Muffin Approved (and it was)!

What dish, to me, epitomizes summer?  Drumroll….Wait for it….

Quick and Easy Chicken Piccata.  Lemony.  With a crisp note of white wine.  And the one ingredient that makes me love chicken piccata:  capers!  Of course I forgot to add them until after the chicken was in the oven for a bit, but half a jar still went in there.

We served it with broccoli that was “stir fried” in the pan that had browned the chicken and made the sauce, cantaloupe, blackberries, and strawberries.  Eating the rainbow again.  My one regret is that I didn’t serve it with pasta.  It totally needed pasta.

And, as I was saying, with the exception of the capers (oh, well, more for me), Muffin LOVED it!!!  Of course this was a Muffin Approved meal all the way around:  two of his favorite fruits and one of his favorite veg.  For some reason, Muffin wasn’t that fond of the blackberries.  I loved them!

Anyway, here’s what I did:

Quick and Easy Chicken Piccata

(Followed almost exactly from Debbiedoo’s–see the hyperlink above)

IMG_3125

3 large chicken breasts (the thin end cut off as one piece then the thicker in divided into two pieces–halved horizontally–you will have 9 smallish pieces)

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup (ish) all-purpose flour

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (You are going to buy a fresh lemon anyway to slice and boil in the sauce, so 1/4 cup of juice isn’t that much of a hardship.  P.S. If you have a Muffin, he or she loves doing this part of the work.)

1 fresh lemon, sliced

1/2 jar nonpareil capers (the tiny bits of goodness)

2 tablespoons butter (The recipe calls for four tablespoons, but I was trying to finish off a stick of butter before it went rancid.)

vegetable oil

2 cups of white wine (I used Flip Flop Pinot Grigio.  No, I don’t get compensated by their parent company, but I wanted to let you know so you could produce consistent results.  And, I chose this one because I’m not fond of pinot grigio, and this one had a screw top–so that it could be easily saved for another cooking use.)

*Debbiedoo’s also uses parsley, but I didn’t use any.  If you want to find out how, check out the link above.

I started out by preparing the sauce ingredients (to avoid cross-contamination with the chicken):  sliced the lemon, juiced the lemons, measured out the wine, plopped in the butter, and forgot the capers.  Then, I prepped the chicken, dividing each into three pieces (see above) and mixing the flour with salt and pepper.  While prepping the chicken, I coated the bottom of a large pan in oil and started warming it on medium.

I then cooked the chicken (3-4 minutes each side) in two batches, evacuating the chicken to a 13×9 glass pan as it finished.  Once I started cooking the chicken, I preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Once the chicken was browned, I poured in the sauce ingredients, starting with the wine, which deglazed the pan close to immediately.  I stirred them together and brought them to a “bubble,” then reduced the heat and let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes.

I poured the sauce over the chicken and plopped the 13×9 in the oven.  Sprinkle capers over the top (if you forgot to add them to the sauce as I did).  Bake 25-35 minutes.  I baked mine 25 minutes and it was perfection, very tender and flavorful.

Muffin Approved

What is your favorite dish that reminds you of summer?

Tip Tuesday: Sides that Won’t Heat Up the Kitchen (and a Dessert Idea, Too!)

Tip Tuesday

It’s extremely necessary to not heat up the kitchen in the summer.  Even assuming that your a.c. works perfectly (and that isn’t always the case), if you live in an area that tends to get the 9,000 degree heat with 500% humidity, heating up the kitchen defeats the purpose.

There are tons of recipes for the slow cooker, the grill, or that are not-to-be-cooked for main dishes (and even some desserts or sides), but a visit to my sister’s recently reminded me of other options that are cooling (and healthy to boot!).

Yes, I said healthy.  It’s not a topic often covered by this blog, but the summer is the time of year when I tend to reduce–a bit.  It’s too hot to eat for one thing.

For another, and the focus of this entry, there are so many yummy fresh fruits and vegetables available during this time.

While at my sister’s last week, for each meal eaten at home (and a particularly memorable snack time), she served a veggie tray and a fruit tray.

Let’s examine the complexity of the veggie tray.  At Christmas and Thanksgiving (with pickles and olives), we call such a thing relishes.  If you are attending a pinkie-extended cocktail party, you may speak in an upper-crust accent and call them cruditees.  If you purchase such a thing pre-made at the grocery store, you will see it called a vegetable tray.

In the summer, it should only be called a veggie tray, bringing to mind the idea of lazy summer days cooled by the crisp fresh veggies and dip (which could be sour cream-based, yogurt-based, or salad dressing).

Really, any raw vegetable is awesome.  Grape tomatoes, carrots, celery sticks, radishes, green onions, pepper strips (or mini bell peppers), broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber…the possibilities are endless.

I have been guilty (in the past) of purchasing veggie trays.  That’s okay (especially if they are marked down as reduced produce).  But there is something so satisfying about arranging them in a colorful melange of flavors and textures.

On Sunday, for the Father’s Day celebration, I created the one below.  I also made one to serve with the leftovers yesterday.  But Muffin started scarfing the tray before I could snap a pic.  Muffin loves the veggie trays a lot.  My mom even mentioned that, when he visited them on Saturday for lunch, he did a good job of decimating the veggie tray.

Note:  We’ve enjoyed the veggie tray for two days in a row.  I can definitely see this as becoming a regular side at our table (for supper or lunch…it would make a great addition to a ploughman’s lunch!).

They can also be as simple or elaborate as you wish.  The sky’s the limit!

And what, may you ask, is Muffin’s new favorite dessert?  One that would make the federal lunch guidelines happy, that’s for sure.

Muffin is very much fruit-obsessed.  I have seen him offered a choice of cake or fruit, and he will choose fruit almost every time.

While at my sister’s, he tried to decimate her fruit tray, gobbling handfuls of red grapes and wedges of watermelon interspersed with copious amounts of strawberries.

On Sunday, throughout dinner, he kept wheedling (there is no other word for it) to have some of the fruit tray that I made below.  I specifically kept it in the fridge so that he would eat some of the main part of his meal (other than the vegetable tray above).

Fruit trays can always be the most beautiful, decorative element on the table.  You can have the green of honeydew or kiwi, various berries in shades of red or blue (or purple), the many hues of grapes, the orange of cantaloupe, the red of watermelon, the oranges of various tropical fruits.  As you can see, I compiled chunks of honeydew (that I cut down some because I couldn’t find a whole on in the store, blueberries (Muffin ate the rest of the pint for breakfast), cherries, strawberries, cantaloupe, and watermelon (I had purchased a personal watermelon, sliced off the ends, and peeled the rind off the rest before cutting it in disks, and then fingers.).

There wasn’t much left of the tray (and the rest was gone the following morning after Muffin hit it).  The honeydew disappeared before we returned home with the tray.

The next day, I decided that would be the ideal dessert with the leftovers, so I replenished the tray.  I even bought strawberries and had leftover cherries that never made it on last night’s tray.  I purchased some organic blackberries that were 99 cents a 6 ounce package (that I didn’t realize were on sale).  I ended up buying two of them.  They were perfect.  Tight little berries.  If you were to paint a still life of blackberries, these would be your muse to recreate.

So, last night, for dessert with the leftovers (as well as a lovely chilled bedtime snack), this is what we feasted upon:

What are your favorite warm weather sides and desserts?

Tip Tuesday: Find a Place to Have Quick (Cooling) Summer Outings!

Tip Tuesday

It’s that time of year again!  The mercury is going to soar, and tempers are going to get shorter and shorter.  I tend to be very hot-natured, as does Muffin (and his dad).  So, it’s extremely important for us to stay hydrated and COOL during the summer.

Window shopping with a six-year-old tends to be very not conducive to being frugal.  And Muffin tends to short out and have a meltdown if I try to browse every aisle in Walmart or Kroger attempting to beat the heat.

It is imperative to find activities for Muffin that will help him to not overheat.

I could take him to a water park, like Splash Kingdom or Magic Springs or Hurricane Harbor.  But if we do that more than a handful of times (keeping in mind that Magic Springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Hurricane Harbor in Arlington, Texas, are more than three hours away as a one-way trip), the cost racks up fast!  Also, tourist hot spots (pardon the pun) tend to be all-day affairs.  Most of the time, we don’t have that in our workable summer schedule.

So where does the intrepid Muffin and his at-her-wits-end Mama go when the mercury rapidly approaches the triple digits?  (No, it hasn’t happened yet, but it’s coming…fast!)  We are blessed to have a lot of neighborhood parks in our twin cities area.  At least two of them have splash pads.

You know, those places where the water shoots up from the ground, or rains down from suspended buckets, or shoots out of Muffin-controlled cannons?  They are usually free, and they are a mama’s Godsend.  A.  Serious.  Gift.  From.  God.

Free.  Cooling.  Great Muffin pic opportunities.  And you score brownie points for being the “Best Mama Ever!”  (Quoted from Muffin on Sunday)  Add in some sunscreen, a towel, and a picnic lunch, and you’ve got a respite guaranteed to make a Muffin smile.

And please do add in the sunscreen (and as a Mama apply it yourself).  We learned the other day that Muffin-applied sunscreen tends to leave spaces and streaks vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays…the painful way.

Here are the happy Muffin results!

I do need to add one disclaimer.  We went to the Toronto Zoo while on our trip to Canada.  They have a massively huge (easily 10x the size of the one that is local to us–at least) splash pad that is included with the price of admission.  It is not free by itself (but totally worth it if you are visiting the zoo on a sweltering summer day).

What are you doing with your little one(s) to beat that summer heat?