Dinner Round Up

We just had a Pinterest round up and those are always fun, so why not a dinner round up?

See also, I don’t take pictures of my food anymore. A confluence of life events has left me such that I’m often eating,

a) standing up, while trying to do three other things at once
b) er, shoveling food in my mouth frantically, so I can head out the door
c) in a state of complete exhaustion because the day kicked my butt

I’d give you a classic blogger excuse like the winter light is terrible (and it is), but that would be utter nonsense.  I’m not snapping pictures of my food because I don’t sit still long enough to do it. Check out my Instagram stories if you want to see what’s for dinner.

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If you want to click on what’s for dinner, however, that’s easy enough. It’s right here:

Amy Thielen’s fancy meatloaf is amazing, and the “fancy” does not apply to the prep–it comes together easily enough. (Next time, I’d chop everything going in super tiny, but that’s a personal preference.)

Pinch of Yum’s Skinny Spinach Lasagna (though of course I didn’t use the skinny ingredients) was my first foray into no-boil noodles, and dare I say, it was a rip roaring success. Lasanga can now be a candidate for weeknight meal. Never thought I’d live to see the day.

The Kitchn’s Creamy Skillet Tortellini with Sweet Potato and Spinach is amazing. Always wanting to work sweet potatoes into the rotation, and this was a great way to do it.

Brown Eyed Baker’s Italian Wedding Soup has shredded chicken and ground beef meatballs.  Loved it. (Doubled the pasta because I always do.)

On a smiliar note, Bon Appetit put together a zoodle soup, to which I added real (egg) noodles because, see above. Felt like a fun twist on a classic vegetable soup. (This is what’s in the picture above.)

This slow cooker basil chicken with coconut curry sauce is a great alternative to cream of mushroom soup in the slow cooker.  You know I can only handle so much cream of mushroom in the slow cooker.

The Kitchn’s Cheesy Lentil, Mushroom and Rice Bake was a great meatless addition to the table, and something that can easily come together if you prep the grains ahead of time.

The Slow Train* [easy meatball stroganoff]

The (Not So) New Girl is great at reminding me that my baby isn’t on the slow train with regards to whatever skill he hasn’t quite yet mastered, he’s just on his own train. He’ll get where he needs to go in due time.

And I guess I will too? But oh, lately does it feel like I’m on the slow train back to Sunday dinners. I used to love throwing a hunk of meat in the oven for all of Sunday afternoons until it was falling apart, and we were so hungry we’d eat enough to put ourselves in a food coma.

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(I really want this image to rotate, and I’ve spent too much time not getting it to work.)

Enter Design Mom’s easy meatball stroganoff.  The perfect, hearty Sunday dinner, but without all that roasting time. I prepped the sauce during the day, we took Gooplet for a gorgeous winter walk, saw an open house, visited with neighbors, came home to put him to bed, and reheated dinner for ourselves.  Dream day, dream dinner.

To make meatballs for 4 or 6 friends, you will need:

Ingredients
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large onion, diced
1 pound mushrooms (white button or cremini), sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups beef broth
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
One (24 ounce) package frozen meatballs**
1 cup sour cream, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
For serving:
Hot, buttered egg noodles, spaetzle, or rice (we used barley)
Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Instructions
1. In a Dutch oven or large 5-6 quart saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Add the onion and let cook, stirring often, until it starts to soften, about 3-5 minutes.
2. Add the mushrooms and season with a little salt. Saute, stirring often, allowing the mushrooms and onions to brown nicely. Remove the onions and mushrooms from the pan. Set aside and keep warm.
3. To the pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and melt. When foaming subsides, add the flour and stir well. Cook the flour, stirring constantly, for 30-60 seconds. Add beef broth. Whisk well to remove any lumps.
4. Bring gravy to a simmer. Add the thyme sprigs to the pan along with the reserved onions and mushrooms.
5. Add the frozen meatballs to the pan. Stir to coat with the sauce. Cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until meatballs are heated through. Be sure to stir occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pan.
6. Once meatballs have cooked through, stir in 1/2 to 3/4 sour cream, depending on preference. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Spoon the meatballs and sauce over hot noodles, spaetzle, or rice, with remaining sour cream on the side.

*An alternate story to tell with the serving of this dish, was my husband’s commentary that we are a great match because I understand it’s appropriate to serve bacon with meatballs.

**The key to the meatball-finding is to look for beef meatballs that are not Italian season.  The author of the post recommends meatballs from Trader Joes or IKEA.  I can vouch that frozen IKEA meatballs are one of life’s great joys.

Mom Brain [baked pesto rigatoni]

The other day, Wooden Nickels sent me an article, a headline, something, I don’t remember, about how “mom brain” isn’t real.
Hah.
Mom brain is absolutely real.  You know all those studies that show how important sleep is for making you a functional person?  (See here for what is perhaps the most applicable.) Well moms don’t sleep.  Even moms with “good sleepers” don’t sleep because their babies are teething, or have learned to stand and have decided the best time to practice this skill is the middle of the night, or the moms go back to work and upset the balance in which their life was hanging.  And moms of bad sleepers?  Ugh, just come sit by me.  Moms don’t sleep.  And a lack of sleep kills brain cells.
Enter, mom brain.
Mom brain is what allowed me to get entirely through the making of this dish, up to the point I needed to sprinkle the assembled casserole with cheese, and realize I didn’t ever put the basil in the pesto.  And by realize, I simply mean I saw two packages of basil sitting pretty in the drawer in the fridge, and then thought, huh, isn’t basil an essential ingredient in pesto? (Answer: yes!)
Here’s the great news.  Cooking is incredibly forgiving, and I loved this baked pesto rigatoni anyway.
To make a 9×13, or two 8×8 casserole(s), you will need:
For the pasta:
  • 1 lb. rigatoni
  • 2-3 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes
  • ½ cup reserved pasta water
  • ½ cup shredded cheese of choice (I used a mozzarella and provolone blend)
  • pesto (recipe follows)
For the pesto:
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 cup basil (unless you claim mom brain and leave it out)
  • ¾ cup almonds or pine nuts
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup Parmesan or Asiago cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While the water is boiling, chop up the tomatoes – I just cut the little ones in half. Add the pasta to the water and cook according to package directions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, place all the pesto ingredients in the food processor until smooth. Go ahead and stick a glass measuring cup in that boiling water and pull out 1/2 C, sans pasta, to thin out the sauce a little bit.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the cooked noodles with the chopped tomatoes and pesto. Transfer to a 9×13 baking dish (or two 8x8s if you want to share with someone else) and sprinkle with the cheese. Cover loosely with well-oiled aluminum foil and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.  Crisp things up by cooking 5 minutes longer without the foil.

AGOMEYR [enchilada orzo]

About as many times as I’ve mentioned AGOMYR on this blog, she has mentioned that she doesn’t really put the Y in AGOMYR.  And a couple of weeks ago she proved me right by going and having a kid of her own.  Cue all the frozen meals!
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It’s a little risky making food for AGOMYR, because she’s a bit of a foodie herself.  So, for inspiration, I visited her own Pinterest boards, knowing that was sure to lead me to something exactly right for her.
What I didn’t know was that I would also find a great dinner for myself, my husband, and Gooplet in the process.  I doubled (and tweaked) Damn Delicious’ slow cooker enchilada orzo, so we could enjoy some too.  It’s not a recipe I’d have made otherwise, but thank goodness I did.  Gooplet inhaled it. He couldn’t get enough.
So thank you AGOMYR, and brand new, adorable AGOMEYR (A Glass of Milk’s Even Younger Reader?) for introducing us to what is sure to become a staple in our family.
To make enchilada orzo for 4-6, you will need:
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 (10-ounce) can mild enchilada sauce
  • 1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth, or more, as needed
  • 1 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned or roasted
  • 1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Place the tomatoes, enchilada sauce, chiles, vegetable broth, corn kernels, black beans, salt, and pepper in a pot, and stir to mix everything well.  Turn on the stove, and let the mixture come to a boil.  Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook at least 30 minutes.  Really, cook as long as you want, but keep checking on it every now and again, stirring it and making sure the liquid hasn’t all cooked out.  Be prepared to add more broth if need be.

About 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve add the orzo, and let the mixture continue simmering, uncovered now, for about 10 more minutes.

Remove from heat, and stir in the cream cheese until melted.

Serve, and top with cilantro.

A Balancing Act [bacon wrapped club crackers]

When a family is kind enough to invite you and your baby to a cocktail party, you are forced to make a tricky decision.  Do you…

a) pay a babysitter a large chunk of money so you can go childless, only to have everyone in attendance ask you why you didn’t bring your adorable child?

b) bring him and leave super early because he goes to bed when the rest of the world is eating dinner?

This go-round, we chose b, and for the first time in my life, our family was both the first to arrive and the first to depart at this event.  I am so glad we went, though, as I got to catch up with some old faves.

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They say motherhood is a balancing act, and my one regret is they served my favorite party appetizer here. In my balancing of wine in one hand, and child in another, I never managed to get my hands on one.

So I made them at home.

Dear readers, do you know the magic that is bacon-wrapped Club crackers?  Safe to say if you attended a Super Bowl party in the 1990s, you’ve eaten one or two. May I refresh your memory and encourage you to eat another couple.  And soon.

To make bacon-wrapped Club crackers, you will need:

  • Club crackers
  • Parmesan cheese (I like to use shredded, not grated)
  • sliced of bacon, cut in thirds

Line a baking sheet with foil, and top it with a cooling rack.  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

To prepare the crackers, place a heaping teaspoon of cheese on each cracker.  Wrap bacon on top.  You want the cheese facing up and the seam from the bacon facing down when you place these on the rack on the baking sheet.

Bake for 2 hours.  Enjoy them right away, or prep them ahead of time, and serve at room temperature.

#momlife [pork saltimbocca]

I had visions of gloriousness for the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  My husband was taking the week off, and I wanted to do two things.

  1. Visit Arlington National Cemetary, where Grandma Glass of Milk is buried, because it’s so pretty in the winter, with the wreaths adorning the graves.
  2. Make fried chicken.
  3. *Okay, maybe I also dreamed of a trip to Target sans Gooplet.

I did neither (*none) of those things.  Instead, we spent a whirlwind Christmas weekend biting off more than we could chew in terms of family visits and food and fun, and then my husband got sick.  With a cough.  That still hasn’t entirely gone away.

I threw an awesome mom-fit about how I JUST WANTED A BREAK and I didn’t get it.  And after a couple days, I realized, this is #momlife.  It’s never getting a break.  Suck it up, Jennie.

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Despite all my fit-throwing, I did make the time to cook some dinners that are more hands on than usual.  Since I had an extra pair of hands, albeit germy ones, at home all day, every day, I could make dinners that required a little more active cooking.  These have eluded me for, oh, about the last 10 months.  Here’s a winner:

To make pork saltimbocca (or #porkonpork) for 4, you will need:

4 boneless center-cut pork chops (1/2 inch thick; 5 ounces each)
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large shallot, finely chopped
8 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
5 thin slices prosciutto (about 3 ounces), 1 slice chopped
1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 10 -ounce package frozen peas

Preheat the broiler. Season the pork with salt. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, dredge the pork in the flour and add to the skillet; reserve the flour. Cook until browned, 1 minute per side. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium; add the shallot to the skillet and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the sage and 2 teaspoons of the reserved flour. Cook until sizzling, 30 seconds. Add the wine; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half, 2 minutes. Add 1 cup broth; return to a boil and cook until thickened, 2 minutes. Add the pork; return to a simmer. Top each chop with a prosciutto slice, then the cheeses. Broil until bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped prosciutto; cook until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the peas, the remaining 1/4 cup broth and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover; cook until the peas are tender, 5 minutes. Uncover; increase the heat to medium high. Cook until the liquid is reduced, 1 minute. Serve with the pork.

A Resolution Breaker [stovetop mac and cheese]

This mac and cheese is amazing and quick, and if you’re looking for a great way to break your 2017, “be a healthier person” resolution, this is it.  I made it as written months ago, and we’re experimenting with Havarti and Mozzarella later this week.

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Cheers, dear readers, and happy 2017.  I’ve got tons to tell you, but I’ve gotta get through the most epic reading post ever.  I’ve been editing it for weeks–weeks!

To make Alton Brown’s Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese for 4, you will need:

1/2 pound elbow macaroni*
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.

*I take issue with a lot of recipes that call for less than a whole box of pasta.  Why wouldn’t you make the whole box of pasta?  So use a big pot, and double up if you want, dear readers.

The Wisdom of AGOMYR [pioneer woman’s twice baked potatoes]

After Thanksgiving, AGOMYR was kind enough to inquire as to the results of a little experiment I conducted in my kitchen.

“How were The Pioneer Woman’s mashed potatoes?”

“Oh, AGOMYR, they were good.  They have almost everything Grandma Glass of Milk’s recipe has.  But they just weren’t the same.”

“Um, of course they weren’t.”

Because nothing is ever the same as your grandma’s mashed potatoes.  Especially when you and your grandma have gone so far as to exchange Hallmark cards specifically about mashed potatoes.

So noted.

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I can tell you, however, that The Pioneer Woman’s twice baked potatoes are absolutely and completely too good to be true.  There is not a shred of nutrition in them.  But now and again, I’m okay with that.

These would be a delightfully decadent addition to your Christmas table, and you could make them ahead of time, and reheat them in the oven right before serving.

To make potatoes for 12, you will need:

8 baking potatoes, washed
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 sticks salted butter
1 cup bacon bits (fry your own!)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup Cheddar or Jack cheese (or a mix of both), plus more for topping
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3 green onions, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Rub them with the canola oil and bake for 1 hour, making sure they’re sufficiently cooked through.

Slice the butter into pats. Place in a large mixing bowl and add the bacon bits and sour cream. Remove the potatoes from the oven. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F.

With a sharp knife, cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scrape out the insides into the mixing bowl, being careful not to tear the shell. Leave a small rim of potato intact for support. Lay the hollowed out potato shells on a baking sheet.

Smash the potatoes into the butter, bacon and sour cream. Add the cheese, milk, seasoned salt, green onions and black pepper to taste and mix together well. (IMPORTANT: If you plan to freeze the twice-baked potatoes, do NOT add the green onions.)

Fill the potato shells with the filling. I like to fill the shells so they look abundant and heaping. Top each potato with a little more grated cheese and pop ’em in the oven until the potato is warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes.

The Story Behind the Menu – A First Birthday Bash [honey ham and swiss sliders]

Don’t fret, dear readers, Gooplet still has a couple of months to go before he gets his first taste of cake.  This first birthday bash was for CV(D)’s son.  In fact, she not only had time to pull of this party, but she even wrote her next guest post about it. And the sliders in question were gobbled up faster than anyone could snap a picture.  Please enjoy her adorable cake, instead.

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Who: family and some of the best friends a family could ask for
What: a first birthday party
When: 2-5 on a Sunday afternoon
Why: because one always hosts a first birthday – OMG my baby is one!
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The thought process: Pick a time between naps that also doesn’t require feeding people a real meal. Pick a theme because that’s what people do for first birthdays nowadays, and it makes it more fun for mom. Pick a theme based on a book because mom is a teacher and baby boy loves things that go. Enter The Little Blue Truck. Ask grandmas to bring things that require actual cooking because babies be babies.
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The Menu:
Farm fresh veggies (veggie platter with ranch dip)
Chicken feed (white cheddar popcorn)
Honey Ham and Swiss Sliders (no cute name, but yummier than pigs in blankets)
Hay bales (rice crispy treats)
Spare tires (Oreos)
Birthday cake and smash cake!
What worked: Pinterest! Thanks for all the great ideas, people who take the time to post those sorts of things. Also, having my mom and mother in law make things that required time and attention. It took enough to get our house clean(ish) and our kid napping at the right time; not having the stress of putting anything “real” together the day-of was amazing.
What didn’t: not enough beer and not enough sliders. (oh hey, last minute guests! We love hosting parties and we love our friends; just because we didn’t think you’d be into a one year old’s first birthday, doesn’t mean you don’t love us enough to come!)
My mom made the sliders for the party using a recipe from her sweet neighbor, Kelsey. They were a hit to say the least!
To make Honey Ham and Swiss Cheese sliders for a small crowd, you will need:
24 Slices of deli honey ham
6 Slices of swiss cheese, cut into fourths
1/3 cup Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Poppy seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup Butter melted
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 packages (12 count) KING’S HAWAIIAN Original Hawaiian Sweet Dinner Rolls

 
Kelsey’s Note: I always add a little extra cheese and ham on mine to make them more hearty. This recipe calls for more than I think you need, but I tend to use almost all of the ham & cheese when I make them! Also, sometimes they sell the rolls in a 24 pack, and they are easier to prepare/cut that way because you’re cutting one full package of rolls instead of 2-12 packs. I’ve found that this recipe takes close to 45 minutes for prep, wait time & cook time!
 
Instructions: 
1) Cut rolls in half and spread mayo onto 1 side of the rolls. Place a slice or two of ham and slice of swiss cheese in roll. Replace the top of the rolls and bunch them closely together into a baking dish.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk together poppy seeds, dijon mustard, melted butter, onion powder and worcestershire sauce.
(Note: if you’re prepping in advance and assembling at the party your daughter is throwing (or whoever), pause here. Cover the baking dish(es) and put a lid on the sauce. Carry the whole deal over to the party, then pick up again at step 3)
3) Pour sauce over the rolls, just covering the tops. Cover with foil and let sit for 10 minutes.
4) Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Uncover and cook for additional 2 minutes until tops are slightly browned and crisp. Serve warm.
We doubled it, but if you have a few single guys who aren’t that into cooking on your guest list, you might consider tripling that 😉

 

A Dose of Nostalgia [adult spaghetti-o’s]

It’s terrifying to think that it’s people my age who are the targeted market for nostalgia these days.  The first time I heard a Red Hot Chili Peppers song on the classic rock station I flipped out.  Classic rock?  A song that I remember vividly from my childhood? Not possible.

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Need something to eat while you’re finishing up season two of Fuller House?  (Surely you’ve finished Gilmore, even though I haven’t started.)  May I suggest Bon Appetit’s adult SpaghettiOs?

To make enough for 6 people, you will need:

  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • ¼ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck (20% fat)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium onion
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 large sprigs basil
  • 12 ounces anelletti, ditalini, or other short tubular pasta

Purée tomatoes in a food processor until mostly smooth; there should still be some dime-sized pieces remaining. Set aside.

Whisk panko, cheese, oregano, garlic powder, ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, and 1½ tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in egg and cream. Add beef and mix with your hands until just combined, being careful not to overwork (if packed too firmly, meatballs will be dense). Form into 1″-diameter balls (you should have about 24); transfer to a plate.

Heat oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides but not fully cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to another plate.

Cook onion and garlic in same skillet, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and begins to soften, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and cook until brick red, about 1 minute. Add paprika and a pinch of red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sugar, basil, and reserved tomato purée. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is slightly reduced and flavors have melded, about 20 minutes. Add meatballs and any accumulated juices; continue to cook until meatballs are cooked through, 5–10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and return to pasta pot. Pour sauce and meatballs over pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to a platter and top with cheese.