Meal Plan Monday: Super Bowl/Valentine’s Edition!

Meal Plan Monday

I know.  I’ve been AWOL.  The last few weeks have been interesting, to say the least.  Out of town to Dallas, then adjusting to a new schedule (and stresses) at work, and Muffin being sick the past few days.  With the exception of the Dallas trip, I can’t pretend the other things were a positive experience.

But back to MPM posts (and a WPW post that is a LONG time coming!)…

This week is the convergence of three special days (if you count my nine day meal schedule as a “week”).  Yesterday, was the Super Bowl, tomorrow is Mardi Gras, and Valentine’s Day is next Sunday.  It’s not a week to shirk on fun or food.  Next week, I hope to share Josh’s fabu-luscious lasagna recipe, as he has promised to make it for me for Valentine’s Day weekend.

Saturday:  leftover pizza (Josh worked late)

Sunday:  Chick-Fil-A-style chicken nuggets, BBQ little smokies sausages, rotel dip and chips, chips and dip, fries, Tubbs Xtreme Praline King Cake

Monday:  Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken (Six Sisters’ Stuff), rice, eggrolls

Tuesday:  “cheater” Red Beans and Rice (Popeye’s style) and leftover king cake (possibly with bread and salad)

Wednesday:  Farmer’s Casserole (Recipe Girl)

Thursday:  leftovers

Friday:  something pizza related

Saturday:  Josh’s famous lasagna, salad, bread

Sunday:  Valentine’s Day cheese plate

What is your menu for this very busy menu week?

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The 25 Days of Holiday Goodies Day 15: Sugar Cookie Frosting

25 Days of Christmas Goodies Button

…that hardens!

Every year for the first few years of making sugar cookies as a wife and then a wife and mother, I struggled with this concept.  The frosting would either be like cake frosting (and never harden but be soft and fluffy) or like a runny river that never hardened and simply made a big mess.

So, I turned to that old trusty friend, the-site-formerly-known-as-Recipezaar (Food.com).  And, there, I found the recipe of my (and Muffin’s) dreams!

How does such a lovely frosting get made?  Well, here I am to show you.

Sugar Cookie Frosting (That Hardens)

Source:  Food.com

2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon milk + more if needed to thin it out

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/4 teaspoon other flavoring)

Food coloring

 

In a small bowl, mix confectioner’s sugar with milk.  Add more milk, as necessary, to reach a spreading consistency.  Beat in syrup and flavoring until smooth and glossy.  Divide into bowls and tint with food coloring.

 

To use frosting:  paint cookies using a brush.

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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?

Thoughtful Thursday: Good-bye to an Old, Now Heavily Damaged, Online Friend

Thoughtful Thursday

I still remember the day I met you.

I was a fresh-faced girlfriend of 26, visiting my then-fiance in Canada and desperately wanting to impress my future in-laws.

My recipe books were at home, and I was at a loss.

You saved me.  It was a simple recipe, comfort food at its finest, salisbury steak, I believe.  I had never realized that the “steaks” were supposed to be oval in shape.

Of course, you were not a person.  People posted the recipes to you, but, looking back at the recipes that I carefully (and not-so-carefully) placed in one of my many “cookbooks,” you marked various stages of my young married life.

I remember how I tried to be alliterative and cutesy with my cookbook titles, like “Punches with Punch” and “Casserole Crazy.”  Yes, I carried it over to Pinterest, but you were my first.  And for a bit, my only.

I was one of the crazies that paid to have multiple cookbooks and no ads.

In those days, Recipezaar, you were, as my sixteen-year-old self would have said, the bomb.

And then came the change.

After Scripps (y’know, the Food Network and spelling bee people) bought you, you were diseased…infected.  You didn’t look the same…or act the same.  To my shame, I began visiting you less and less, using you only to locate old recipe standbys.

They made you change your name…from something so memorable and magical and whimsical as Recipezaar to the much less appetizing (pun intended) Food.com.

You grew less approachable.  At times, I forgot your existence.  I missed the friends that I had met there, discussing OAMC and budget cooking ideas.

Today, I felt a yen to visit you.  I had heard mention (maybe in an e-mail that I had speedily deleted) that you had changed further.

I truthfully couldn’t recognize you.  You were nothing like the friend I remembered.  Even now, as I sob (yes, I know I cry too much) remembering you as you were and mourning what could have been, I am lost.  It took over an hour to find out how to access my recipes that I had spent hours saving over the years.  It will take countless hours to PDF them to my computer.  Once that happens, and I’m saying this in advance:  I am breaking up with you.  We are no longer friends.

You’ve lost the essence of you and I fear there is no way to get you back.  The essence was not a glut of recipes; your essence was how you made everyone optimistic about cooking.  Now, you just seem to be a clone of the Food Network website or AllRecipes (or the especially obnoxious and annoying Yummly).

By the way, I miss the Community Message Boards.  That’s what brought me back today…and the loss of them made my goodbye final.

I am one…in case I haven’t hammered it home before…adverse to unnecessary change.  Recipezaar wasn’t broken, and what Scripps did to it through its various “improvements” destroyed it.  Change is not always good.  Not always positive.  And, in this case, it certainly wasn’t.

Goodbye, my friend.  I will remember you fondly.  Waves

Thoughtful Thursday: Recipe from the Post That Disappeared

Thoughtful Thursday

This is very scary folks.  My Thoughtful Thursday post that I poured my heart and soul into disappeared.  I am trying to get to the bottom of it, but, sadly, I didn’t have the post saved.  I will now attempt to recreate the recipe portion.

This recipe, as I said so much more eloquently in the now-missing post, is adapted from a recipe at Food.com.  It says spicy but you can adjust the spice to your taste.  My son, Muffin-who-swallows-cups-of-salsa-at-Mexican-restaurants but who has become a spice-phobe shoveled the shrimp in.

Sometimes, we boil the marinade for a few minutes and serve it with bread for dipping.  Yum, yum!

This recipe is a great recipe to serve up during the patriotic week or any time.  My mom loves this recipe, and she was the one to request it.  I suggested we have it for Canada Day, and there you have it.  It is totally yum!

Spicy Citrus Grilled Shrimp

Adapted from Food.com

1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons sugar

4 oranges, zested and juiced

2 limes, zested and juiced

1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined

Combine all above ingredients except shrimp in a bowl.  Add shrimp to the bowl and stir to coat.  Marinate 15-30 minutes (any longer and the acids will start to “cook” the shrimp).  Grill 1 1/2-2 minutes per side.

This recipe is totally Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved

Happy Canada Day! Eat Some (Strawberry) Pie!

Happy Canada Day, everyone!  We are celebrating Canada Day as our tradition dictates:  hot dog bar with a red-and-white dessert.  In this case, I am making Strawn’s Strawberry Pie using a recipe that I found, first on Food.com (but without the crust recipe), and then the complete recipe in a cookbook I found at Sam’s when my in-laws’ were visiting, Southern Living Off the Eaten Path On the Road Again.  I have been obsessed with Strawn’s pie crust at first bite.  It’s almost a crackery crust, if that makes any since.  Tender it is not, but it is still unique enough to be yummy…and obsession-causing.

I first made the pie during my in-laws’ visit, and I was disappointed that I didn’t have the crust recipe.  The filling recipe is all over the Internet.  The crust recipe that they use for all of their pies–strawberry, chocolate, coconut, and peach.

Strawn’s is a Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana, institution.  And they are known for their pies, particularly their strawberry pies.  The crackery crust, the deep red fresh strawberry filling made extra ruddy with a nip of red food coloring, topped by white billowy clouds of sweetened whipped cream molded into a low center peak.  A big, whole juicy berry right in the center denotes that it is a strawberry pie.

Josh’s first introduction to Strawn’s pies was interesting.  Josh first worked for Circle K, the convenience store, when we were first married.  He met one of the employees at Strawn’s; in fact, she was a customer of his.  She would sometimes bring him a leftover pie at the end of the night if she knew that he would be working.  We ate well during those months.

I’ve been known to visit our local Strawn’s with Josh and Muffin for a late breakfast, putting off breakfast as long as possible, in fact, so that there are pies available to cut for a slice for breakfast.  It has dairy, grain, and fruit…three of the four food groups.  It counts as a breakfast, right?

The first attempt rested on a purchased shortbread crust.  It was good…it just wasn’t the same.  Wish me luck today as I use the following recipe in its entirety.

No changes or augmentations on this one, folks.  You know it’s serious when I don’t change any component of a recipe, but this one will be made as stated.

Strawberry Pie (Strawn’s)

Source:  Southern Living Off the Eaten Path On the Road Again

Pastry

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

1/4 cup cold shortening, cut into pieces

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. table salt

3 Tbsp. ice water

Strawberry Filling

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

Pinch of table salt

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. red liquid food coloring

3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

1 cup heavy whipping cream (Bring it up to a pint is closer…oops…one change to be made)

1 Tbsp. sugar (Another change to be made…I would recommend closer to 3 Tbsp.)

1.  Prepare Pastry:  Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl with a pastry blender until mixture resembles small peas.  Sprinkle ice water, one tablespoon at a time, over surface of mixture in bowl; stir with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened.  Gather dough into a flat disk; cover and chill 1 hour.

2.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Roll dough into a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Fit into a 9-inch pie plate; fold edges under, and crimp.

3.  Line pastry with aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights or dry beans.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Remove weights and foil; bake 15-20 more minutes or until golden brown, shielding edges if necessary.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

4.  Prepare Strawberry Filling:  Combine first 3 ingredients in a saucepan; stir in 3 tablespoons water until a past forms.  Slowly stir in 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil 1 minute or until thickened.  Stir in lemon juice and food coloring.  Remove from heat.  Fill a large bowl with ice; place pan in ice, and let stand, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes or until cool.  Stir in strawberries.

5.  Beat whipping cream until foamy; gradually add sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

6.  Spread filling in piecrust.  Top with whipped cream.  Chill at least 2 hours.  Makes:  8 servings.

By the way, this is an excellent cookbook.  I plan on making the Gelato di Superior Pub Cookie from the Arkansas section of the cookbook, scooped out in 1/2 cup portions and containing such goodies as oats, coconut, chocolate chips, pretzel sticks, and Oreos.  Muffin has been wanting to make cookies, so this looks like the cookie to make…next week when things aren’t so crazy.

Happy Patriotic Holidays, everyone!

Meal Plan Monday: Leading Up to Visitor Week

Meal Plan Monday

We are inside of a week of my in-laws’ visit.  Muffin is EXTREMELY excited!  Beyond excited.  Each day, he says his countdown of how many days.

To make matters kinda dicey, every time I serve a new dish that he likes, he asks if we can have it when Grandma comes.  I explain to him, with varying degrees of patience, that the menu has already been finalized (and refinalized).  We are now on version 12.0, I think.

So, to my wonderful mother-in-law:  Muffin really wanted to have Smothered Chicken, Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, blueberries, sesame chicken, pizza pasta, mini pizzas on toast, and Fuji Chicken.

If you go back to the We Plan Wednesday post about the June menu, you will notice that things have changed slightly.  Hahaha.  Did anyone not think that would happen?

Saturday:  Chicken with Cornbread Casserole from Bread, Booze, and Bacon; salad with vinaigrette

Sunday:  Cheesy Chicken Tater Tot Casserole from Country Cook (made in the slow cooker), green veg

Monday:  beef stew and cornbread

Tuesday:  Spasagna from Country Cook, salad

Wednesday:  red beans and rice in the slow cooker, bread, green veg

Thursday:  leftovers/hot dogs (I know from experience that there will be leftover red beans and rice.)

Friday:  Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza Balls from Gunny Sack, hamburger topping salad

Saturday:  Crockpot Ranch Pork Chops from Food.com, green veg, rice

Sunday:  Baked Potato Bar, Strawn’s Strawberry Pie (from Food.com)

What’s on the meal plan for you this week?