Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 3: Baked shells with pesto, mozzarella, and meat sauce

Tonight's recipe comes from a Food & Wine Cookbook. Food & Wine is not a usual source of food inspiration, due to the "fancy recipes" made with "weird ingredients!" Even though I thoroughly enjoy both Food and Wine. I draw my limit at calf liver... or really liver of any kind! And if that interests you, I will gladly give you that page!

These books were actually a gift from a friend who bought them at one of the many book fairs that frequent the teacher's lounge! She decided to pass them on to me, knowing full well that I would use them.

This recipe sounded interesting due to the fact that

a. It is Italian, and we like Italian. A lot.

b. There is none of the afore mentioned weird ingredients.
c. An appetizing picture always helps too!

Here's the recipe.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans chopped tomatoes , drained
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 3/4 cup medium pasta shells
  • 6 oz. grated mozzarella
  • Parmesan cheese
Directions (the Jenn version)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook shells according to box directions.
  3. Use large skillet to brown hamburger and onion. Drain and return to pan.
  4. Add tomatoes and salt to pan with meat. Simmer for 10 min until thickened.
  5. Remove from heat and add pesto.
  6. Drain pasta and add to meat mixture.
  7. Grease 9x13 pan. Add 1/2 of meat mixture. Add 1/2 of cheese. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers.
  8. Cook 15 min, or until cheese is good and bubbly!
Doesn't it just look good?

This recipe is a keeper. We usually make the recipe according to directions first, then make changes. However, this time we made some initial changes.
  • We cut the salt. 1 1/2 tsp sounded like a lot. We only used 1/2 tsp.
  • Instead of mozzarella, we used smoked Gouda (my new favorite) and you could really taste it!
  • Next time, add mushrooms and sausage instead of ground beef.

Since it is Thursday.... and Pie League is back from hiatus.... and just because...... I decided to finish my meal with a piece of Apple Pear Pie and a little Ben & Jerry's Dulce Delish! Yumm!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 2: Pork Chops and Mashed Potatoes

When we got married a year and a half ago, we had registered for some new cookware. We just happened to find a set that we really liked- Emerilware. Little did I know, Eric would now use it as an excuse to yell Bam! all the time! We decided that since we have the cookware maybe we should actually try an Emeril recipe. And what could be more perfect than one with TONS of Garlic! Eric has a love affair with garlic. It is in almost everything we make, and if not, we usually find a way to add it in.

So enter tonight's meal- Grilled Pork Chops with Garlic Jam

- 4 thick cut pork chops
- Olive oil
- Essence Creole Seasoning- You can buy this but it was easy to make.
- 2 1/2 T. paprika
- 2 T salt
- 2 T garlic powder
- 1 T black pepper
- 1 T Onion powder
- 1 T Cayenne pepper
- 1 T dried Oregano
- 1 T dried Thyme

- Garlic Jam (Recipe follows)

- 4 large heads of garlic (Yum!)
- 1/2 c olive oil
- 1/4 of a red onion
- 1/4 t. Worcestershire sauce.. plus a little more
- 1 t. lemon juice.. plus a little more
- 1/4 t. salt

Preheat oven to 300.

In a small saucepan, heat salted water to a boil. Cut garlic heads
in half cross-wise and blanche in water for 5 minutes. Pour olive
oil in a small baking dish. Remove garlic from water and place in
baking dish. Add 1/4 of red onion to dish. Cover tightly with
aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour.

Remove garlic from oil and squeeze softened garlic from skin
into a bowl. Dice onion and place in bowl with garlic. Smash
garlic with a fork and mix together. Add in Worcestershire
sauce, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until smooth and creamy.


Heat Foreman grill. Brush pork chops on both sides with olive oil and rub with Essence seasoning. Cook until cooked through. Serve with garlic jam on the side or on top.

As a side tonight, I made mashed potatoes. Real Mashed potatoes. Growing up mashed potatoes were the bain of my existence. I loathed them, but my parents required that I ate them. And we had them EVERY Sunday! So every Sunday, I would always be the last one to scoop out my potatoes hoping that somehow my Mom had miscalculated the amount of potatoes. But there were always enough. So instead, I would make the tiniest, most minuscule dollop I could get away with.

As a grown up, if I make potatoes they are usually instant potatoes, because those I like. Weird. I know. If the potatoes aren't instant, then they are Slow Cooked Mashed Potatoes from Taste of Home. I don't make them often, usually when potatoes are on sale for cheap. :)


- 6 cups of mashed potatoes ( no butter or milk added)
- 3 oz of softened cream cheese
- 1/4 cup softened butter
- 1 packet of dry Ranch Dressing
- 1/2 c sour cream
- parsley flakes on top


Put all ingredients in a slow cooker. Stir and mix completely. Cook on low for 3 hrs.

That is it for the potatoes. Easy and delish. And how can potatoes be bad with cream cheese and sour cream and ranch!

Overall good meal. The garlic was good to cool down your mouth, but if you were short on time a big glass of milk would do the same thing. Didn't really think about color until the very end. So sorry it is all in the same color family! Werm, my Foods teacher in HS, would not be very happy with me! :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Generic Food Challenge-- Day 1

Hi. My name is Jenn, and I am a cookbook junkie.

Here is my story--

I can't help walking down the cookbook aisle at Borders or Target or Hyvee... (I think you get the idea.) And walking by is not such
a bad thing. However, I always seem to walk away with at least one or two. It has gotten to the point that my cookbook shelves are now overflowing. So many cookbooks, many marked with fantastic sounding/looking recipes, but it is getting out of control. I am forgetting what we have.. what we've tried... and which recipes I desperately wanted to try!

Solution? We created the Generic Food Challenge. What is the Generic Food Challenge? In a span of three months, our goal is to cook a different meal for supper each night of those 3
months- No Repeats. Once we have successfully completed a 3 month period, we are free to repeat up to 6 recipes over the course of the next 3 months.

Disclaimer--- I usually only cook 2 or 3 days a week, so I am not sure how this would work if you are super woman and cook EVERY night !

Impossible? Not really. It is actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. However I did get a HUGE craving for Asian Pork Burgers this summer and couldn't remake them, because that would break the rules! That was not fun, but we suffered through.

We have tried this out and seem to have worked out some of the wrinkles, so now I think I'm ready to share some good stuff!

Day One: 3 Cheese French Onion Soup with Turkey Bacon Panini

  • 2 large red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 4 cups Chicken or Veggie Broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • 1 teaspoon pepper (maybe a little less)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.. or a little more in our case.
  • 7 slices French bread (3/4 inch thick)
  • shredded Swiss cheese
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • grated Parmesan cheese

  • In a large soup pan, saute onions in butter until tender. Add the broth, water, soup mix, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat: cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

  • Place bread slices on a baking sheet. Put some swiss and mozzarella cheese on each slice. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes. Put a slice on top of soup and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
  • To make the Turkey Bacon Panini.....

  • Leftover French Bread
  • 2 slices of Apple Smoked Gruyere cheese
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • Dijon Honey Mustard
  • Mesquite Turkey Breast Lunchmeat
Cut French bread into 4 slices. Place honey mustard, cheese, turkey, and bacon on a slice of french bread and top with the other piece of bread. Repeat because you husband needs one too. Brush outside with a little olive oil. Cook for a few minutes on panini grill until dark and crusty. Yum!

Both parts of super tonight were awesome! I love nights like this!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I am addicted to....

The Good Wife.

Have you seen it? I'll admit, I dismissed this show last year not giving it a second thought... but over the summer I thought I would give it a shot, after hearing some praise of this show. I have been hooked ever since. It has a stellar cast, but they follow it up with fantastic writing, and intriguing story lines. Law dramas are hit and miss , but this is a law drama with personality and depth, which you rarely find. This season has been no disappointment. Last night's episode was particularly interesting. I was engaged in the episode for the entire hour! (which is actually rare, I am usually doing something as I watch tv!) I highly recommend it.

As much as I love this show, I have one hangup. Rather than seeing the distinguished lawyer, Will Gardner, on the screen in front of me..... I see the picture the loveable boy who worked at Clown Dog in Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter is Dead. hehe.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Holding my new nephew

Watching Eric hold a new baby :)

Eating a dish of trail mix- (which is really more chocolate than dried fruit and nuts!)

The smell of cilantro

Watching Christopher devour his birthday cake! :)

Hearing all the great stories of hope and compassion on CMN Telethon!

Spending time with great friends laughing and crying in a Root Beer Bar of all places!

Finding a pair of shoes you forgot you had, and wondering how you could have ever forgotten about them!

A happy, unstressed husband coming home from work! :)

Brilliant blue skies that look more like a painting than real life.

Betty Jane Carmel Apples- my Friday after school snack.

Looking at all the fun Christmas decorations in September, and wondering if it is too early to put up my Christmas tree!

Relieved no one died on our excursion to Chicago

How cool Dave Matthews concerts are.... even if you are in the upperdeck.... and pay lots of money to go!

Jumping out of my comfort zone to teach Preschool and Succeeding.

Listening to Tik Tok.... I think I may need an intervention.

Finding a twenty in my fall coat!

All of my favorite shows filling up my DVR

Watching Aarti on the Food Network. She is the type of person I'd want to spend time with!

Hand Irish dancing

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chicken Fried

Today I have been reflecting on one of my favorite weekends, Town and Country Days. Even though I am exhausted from the preparations and the actual day, it really is one of the Greatest days of the year! These words of "Chicken Fried" have been replaying in my head all day.

And its funny how it`s the little things in life that mean the most
Not where you live, what you drive or the price tag on your clothes
There`s no dollar sign on a piece of mind; this I`ve come to know


To a little bit of chicken fried
Cold beer on a Friday night
A pair of jeans that fit just right
And the radio up

The band played this song last night and it just personifies Small-Town America, which I love, which got me thinking of the other "little things in life" that I love. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the list of to-do's or focusing on the negatives of the day, that I overlook all the small joys. So my goal to create a list of little things in life that mean the most to me, and help to instantly put a smile on my face. Who knows how many little joys I will find, so I start with 1-10.

1. Hearing Chicken Fried in a packed street dance, dancing with my friends

2. A warm Grande Nonfat Chai Tea on a chilly morning

3. My super comfy couch

4. The insane amount of body heat my Husband has to warm my ice-cold feet

5. The smell and taste of banana walnut bread

6. My joyfully, happy yellow purse.

7. The tall basil plants that are growing in my herb box

8. Listening to my niece sing her heart out to Praise songs

9. Watching my nephew play football (ps. Can't wait for this season)

10. Kittens Inspired by Kittens-- youtube it!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fresh start

Upon a fantastic weekend in my hometown, I am feeling very rejuvenated. Did I just hear myself correctly rejuvenated after a 6 hour car ride one way to spend the weekend with family? :) Yes rejuvenated. It was an awesome weekend! We went home to celebrate my nephew Jordan making Profession of Faith (How awesome it was to see him take that all important step in his Faith), but found myself rediscovering some of my favorite things.

We went home on Friday and I ate a delicious Bootlegger Burger. A fantastic burger that is a cheeseburger with 1000 Island dressing all warm and gooey under the cheese and the first bite punctures the cheese and the dressing oozes out! It really is pure Deliciousness.

Saturday was filled with a trip to Sioux Falls (as is customary and much needed), but we did things that are not in our usual repertoire... but they should be. We went one of my favorite stores- Zanbroz Variety and a variety it is! Where else can you go to get books, unique jewelry, interesting kitchen/decor items, but yet find this--- picture

or pic

Yes... That really is a Samurai Sword umbrella... the Only Umbrella I think Eric would ever willingly carry. Must satisfy his inner ninja..... And yes a cardboard buffalo head mount... Part of the Cardboard Safari. Yes it is an actual thing. Google it.

We also visited Ten Thousand Villages and a super cool Art Gallery. We ate some coconut shrimp, spent some much needed time with my sister and family, watched Eric and Jordan battle each other at MarioKart (what can I say... I married a big kid), listened to Kaylie read about the Good Samaritan (yes she read Samaritan) and play her piano recital songs, and spent the evening adventuring at Falls Park. Falls Park is a rock climbing adventure. The River flows right over the rocks, creating spectacular waterfalls around the park. It is so serene to walk out to the edge of the rocks, sit on the edge of a cliff, and watch the water and the Falls.

Yet it is also a little terrifying for myself, as someone with no balance and a bunch of uneven surfaces prime for causing me to fall... especially when I decide to wear flip flops. I did manage to escape unscathed... this time!

Which brings us to Sunday- the reason for our entire visit. Watching Jordan so calm and collected on ,as the Pastor put it , the most Important Decision he will ever make. Oh how I wish I had his courage and passion at that age. I kept thinking all through church how lucky I am and how Blessed I am. It doesn't get much better than being at church, holding my 5 year old Niece, and both singing I am Free! Perfect weekend.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Name that PLANT!

The joys of being a homeowner are wonderful, but it also mean that you inherit a yard, a vast space full of growing green things that are sprouting that may or may not turn into something beautiful. Not to mention things sprouting where they aren't supposed to, or so you think! :)

Some things you LOVE--

Some things you HATE---

Some things just cause you stress, since you can't tell what is what...

Some things are very pretty and blossom overnight, but you still have no IDEA what it is!

Some things you dislike, because you had to sit next to the stinky potted version of these in 4th grade for extended periods of time .... but your horticulturalist friend says it will be nice so you trust his judgement.
So anyone with a green thumb or even a semigreen thumb wanting to give a girl a hand is more than welcome.. Until then, I will be staring at these in my yard, since they seem to be growing with no problem! :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Enjoying the tasty bits of life...

I know I know... I have been bad. Not only for not sharing, but for also not sharing pictures of the house. My camera cord is still MIA and the laptop crashed, and my Geek Squad husband still hasn't fixed it! :)

Eric and I are still (yes, still) digging through boxes and deciding where things should go. Most of our stuff is still waiting to be gone through in the garage. I am refusing to have needless boxes inside, because if we do we will look like we should be on Hoarders. So maybe that is the problem-- the boxes are out of sight, out of mind. Eh.. its a catch 22. Hopefully this weekend, we will make loads of progress. :)

Even though life has been hectic and busy, we are still managing to spend some time in the kitchen. The other night we spent making one of our favorites-- Skillet Lasagna Alla Vodka. I came across the recipe in a magazine I think. So, I thought I'd share.

Skillet Lasagna Alla Vodka

12 oz lasagna noodles
1/4 t. black pepper
16 oz cottage cheese
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 t. basil
1/2 c. Vodka
25 oz Marinara sauce
1/2 c heavy cream
2 c shredded mozzerella

Cook noodles according to package directions. Mix cottage cheese, spinaceh, basil, and pepper. In a sauce pan simmer marinara sauce and vodka for 5 min. Stir in Cream. Spread 3/4 c of sauce over bottom of large skillet (12 in). Drain noodles and cut into 2 in pieces. Arrange 1/3 of noodles over sauce. Spoon half of the sauce over the noodles. Top with another 1/3 of noodles. Spread the cheese mixture. Then sprinkle 1 cup of mozzerella cheese. Top with remaining noodles and sauce. Cover and simmer 10 min. Sprinkle last 1 c. of mozz. cheese. Cover and simmer for 2 min or until cheese is melted.

It is very delish, and it is easy to make modifications if you so choose, We have added sausage and mushrooms before, but most of the time we just like it simple and good. You can also buy the vodka sauce too, but what fun is that and it is super easy to make!


**** We also tried Sicilian Supper last night from Taste of Home. You can find that here!