Thursday, February 28, 2013

Homemade "Spaghetti Os"

I came across a homemade “Spaghetti Os” recipe the other day on another food blog, and this sparked my curiosity.  I started exploring into other homemade “Spaghetti Os” recipes and they all seemed very similar. . .a basic tomato sauce thickened with some sort of cheese and an optional mini meatball.  Usually when I make simple pasta with Marinara Xavier usually eats mostly pasta tossed with a tiny bit of sauce and lots of Parmesan, so I wanted to give this a try so that he was eating more of the vegetable-based sauce with only a little bit of pasta but still with plenty of Parmesan cheese to make him very happy.  He was in love with this pasta!  He actually said, “Thanks Mama for making the best pasta in the whole world!”  We’ll obviously be making this again.  J 

Homemade “Spaghetti Os”

Mini Meatballs:

1/2 lb ground chicken
1/2 C panko crumbs
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t Italian herb seasoning


2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 28-oz can tomatoes, diced
S&P, to taste
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, grated
1 C ditalini (small salad macaroni)

Put all the ingredients for the mini meatballs in a bowl and mix together well with your hands, but don’t over mix or you’ll have tough meatballs.  Make a bunch of mini meatballs & set aside.

Heat the oil in a high-sided saucepan (if you’re pureeing with an immersion blender so that it doesn’t splatter everywhere, but if you’re pureeing in a blender you  just need a regular saucepan) over med-high heat.  Cook the onion & carrots until onions are translucent, about 5 min.  Add the garlic and cook another minute.  Add the tomatoes and season with onion & garlic powders and S&P.  

Remove from the heat and puree with an immersion blender (you can do this in batches in a blender if you prefer).  

Add the cheese and stir in; this will thicken the sauce.  

Add the meatballs and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, partially covered to avoid splattering.  Add the pasta and allow to cook for another 12 minutes, until pasta is tender and meatballs are cooked through. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Menu #39

The Waller home was once again hit with a wave of sickness. . .ugh!  This time we got hit with the cold bug, but thankfully it was short lived.  After being sick and actually being able to taste food again I had this craving for buttermilk pancakes.  Xavier said they would be even better with blueberries. . .he was correct!  J  Here’s our recipe for whole-wheat blueberry buttermilk pancakes. . .

Whole-Wheat Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

1/2 C whole-wheat flour
1/2 C AP flour
1 T sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 C buttermilk
1 egg
1 t vanilla
3 T melted butter

In a large bowl, stir together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon & salt. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, & vanilla. Stir in melted butter.

When I add ingredients to pancakes, such as blueberries for this recipe, I don’t add them to the batter so that I can get even distribution for all pancakes.  I pour my pancake batter onto the hot griddle and then add however many berries onto each one before I flip them over.  I usually do about 3 minutes per side on a medium griddle, buttering the griddle with each batch.  Enjoy!

On to this week’s menu. . .

Tuesday:  Broccoli-Rice Casserole/garlic breadsticks
This is my first time trying this recipe.  While I was sick this weekend, I was able to take in some much-needed Food Network time.  This is one of the recipes I came across, and I'll post about it later if it comes out as good as it looked on TV.  

Wednesday:  Salisbury Steak/mushroom-onion gravy/parsnip-potato mash
Laddie’s request J

Thursday:  leftovers

Friday:  Baked Potato & Salad Bar
I’m going to set up a bunch of vegs along with shredded cheese, salsa, dressings, & Greek yogurt, and everyone can just make up their own. 

Saturday-Sunday:  Visalia to meet my twin nephews!!!  I can’t wait!  

Monday:  Cheese Pizza/Salad
We received pizza & breadstick kits through one of little man’s school’s fundraisers, so we will be taking advantage of that since we will just be getting back from VisaliaJ

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hollandaise Sauce in a Blender!

I love Hollandaise sauce!  I’ve made it a million times in restaurants, but I rarely make it at home.  It’s a fussy sauce that is kind of labor intensive; and if not done just right, it will break and you must start all over.  When I came across Ina Garten’s blender Hollandaise, I couldn’t wait to try it.  It really works!  It’s simple and will hold up to 1 hour also!  There were only a few adjustments I made, which were clarifying the butter and cutting way back on the salt. 

Blender Hollandaise Sauce

Yield:  8 servings

12 T unsalted butter, clarified
4 large egg yolks, room temp
3 T lemon juice
1/2 t salt
Black pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

In Ina’s recipe, she just uses melted butter, but I chose to clarify just because that’s the way I was taught and I’ve always used clarified butter in restaurant cooking.  Clarified butter is simply pure butterfat once the milk solids have been removed.  You just put the butter in a pot and set on low until the milk solids come to the top.  Skim off the solids and voila you have clarified butter!

In the blender, add the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, pepper, & cayenne (I did a couple pinches but season to your liking) and blend for about 15 seconds.  With the blender on lowest setting, remove the top covering & very slowly drizzle in the hot clarified butter and blend for about another 30 seconds, until it’s thickened.  At this point, you can leave it in the blender for up to 1 hr.  If it is made ahead of time, then blend right before serving with about 1 T of hot water to loosen up again.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Beef Stew

1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
2 C AP flour
2 lbs beef stew meat (chuck roasts work well), cut into big chunks
3/4 bottle dry red wine (I used a Pinot Noir & we each had a glass so we had ¾ of a bottle left to work with J)
Handful of thyme sprigs
6 garlic cloves, smashed
2 bay leaves
3 cups beef stock
4 red potatoes, cut in quarters
1/2 lb carrots, sliced
1 onion, quartered
1 pound baby bella mushrooms, halved
1 C frozen peas
2 T AP flour
2 T butter
1/4 C chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high.  Season the beef with S&P.

While the pan is heating up, set up a meat-flouring station next to your stove with a plate or shallow pan for the flour & a bowl with your seasoned beef.  

When the pan is hot, working in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan, toss the beef into the flour to coat. Shake off the excess flour & add the beef chunks in a single layer to the hot pan.  Brown the beef on all sides. Once it has all been browned remove it to a plate & set aside.

Add the wine to the pan & bring it up to a simmer while you scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze the pan. Once the wine has come up to a simmer, add the meat back in along with the thyme, smashed garlic cloves, bay leaves, & beef stock. Season with S&P to taste.  Bring the mixture up to a boil & then lower the heat to a simmer.  Cook uncovered, about 20 minutes, until it begins to thicken. At this point, cover it & cook on low heat for 2 1/2 hours.

After 2 hours of cooking add the potatoes, carrots, & onions.  You can either add the mushrooms at this point also, or you can sauté them separately while the stew is cooking & add them at the end with the peas.  I prefer sautéing separately because it keeps the mushrooms from getting mushy & it gives them more flavor.  After adding the vegs, turn the heat up slightly & simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes more, until the vegs are tender. 

Add the frozen peas during the last minute of cooking along with the sautéed mushrooms if you chose to do them separately. Taste for seasonings, remove thyme sprigs & bay leaves, and stir in the parsley. 

Perfect for a cold, rainy night!  J

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Menu #38

Happy Tuesday!  I made those cute little Jell-O cups for X-man’s Valentine’s party at school, and he was so excited to share them with his friends!  I made strawberry whipped cream for the topping, which was super yummy.  I cooked down half a pint of strawberries with a little bit of water & sugar and let it cool overnight to make a strawberry simple syrup and added that to the cream when I whipped it.  J

I didn't get around to any posts this past week because we were busy with Valentine's festivities and then headed to cabin.  I do plan on doing a couple posts tomorrow to make up for it.  :-)  This week's menu. . .

Tuesday:  Parmesan-Crusted Chicken w/ Caesar salad

Wednesday:  Pan-Fried Fish w/ lentils

Thursday:  Out w/ BFF!  Boys are ordering pizza.
My best friend, Janna, & I are enjoying a lunch date followed with Weins Winery’s member-appreciation party…yay! 

Friday:  Homemade Chicken Nuggets w/ acorn squash mac n cheese & carrot sticks

Saturday:  Teaching a cooking class on side dishes.  Leftovers for the boys.
My friend, Trish, has offered up her spacious kitchen for a fun cooking class.  We will be making quinoa pilaf, couscous salad, bacon-wrapped asparagus, and glazed carrots along with 2 easy vinaigrettes for salad. 

Sunday:  Dinner Out
We have a birthday party to attend in the afternoon and then we are hanging out with our friends, the Browns, afterwards.

Monday:  Homemade “Spaghettios” w/ garlic breadsticks
I found this fun recipe on a fellow bloggers site, and I can’t wait to try it.  I know lil’ man is going to love this!  It’s just a simple pureed tomato sauce with some sort of fun, small pasta & tiny meatballs. 

Tuesday:  Broccoli & Rice Casserole w/ heirloom tomato salad & garlic breadsticks
We have baseball practice on Tuesdays, so I like to either do a slow-cooker meal or something I can do ahead of time such as these dishes.  I will make the casserole that afternoon so I just need to throw it in the oven when we get home, and I’ll also make the salad and hold the vinaigrette until right before serving. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Menu #37

Xavier loves to help cook breakfast meals as you can see in his excitement above.  J  Baseball practice was cancelled Saturday morning because of the cold weather & wet fields, so we decided to stay in our pajamas and make waffles.  Xavier & I searched through the pantry to get waffle flavor ideas and our two choices were either chocolate-raspberry or blueberry granola, and he opted for the latter.  I bought this great granola at our local store last week that has dried blueberries, brown rice crispies, and flax seeds.  The granola gave a great crunch to the waffles along with a yummy blueberry aroma from the dried blueberries.  We were quite pleased with our decision. 

Blueberry-Flax Seed Granola Waffles

Oil for brushing on waffle iron
1 C whole-wheat flour
1 C AP flour
½ t salt
2 T sugar
3 t baking powder
2 t cinnamon
1-1/2 C milk
2 eggs
4 T butter, melted
1 t vanilla extract
1 C granola

Brush your waffle iron lightly w/ oil & preheat it on medium.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour to cinnamon) in a large bowl.  In another bowl, mix together milk & eggs.  Stir in the butter & vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined (if it seems too thick, add a little more milk).  Fold in the granola.

Bake about 3-5 minutes, until golden brown. 

Now on to this week’s menu. . .

Tuesday:  B4D—Eggs Benedict w/ spinach, breakfast potatoes, and fruit salad
I have English muffins, Canadian bacon, & spinach left from last week, so what else could I do but make benis. . .my absolute favorite breakfast entrée!  I’ll do a post on Hollandaise sauce next week. 

Wednesday:  Vegetable Egg Rolls w/ stir fry brown rice, salad & peanut dressing
I found a great recipe for baked veg eggs rolls, and I can’t wait to try it.  I’ll post all about them later along with stir fry brown rice.  Stir fry rice & noodles are another tricky way I sneak vegs into X-man’s diet. 

Thursday:  Grilled Steak & Steamed Crab Legs w/ beet risotto & grilled asparagus w/ chocolate truffles & champagne for dessert
Happy Vanlentine’s Day!!!  We are heading to Green Valley Lake for a snow-filled Valentine’s weekend!  After the 4-year-old passes out, we will enjoy ourselves a lovely candlelit dinner by the fire.  J 

Friday, Saturday, Sunday:  Dinner at the cabin…yay!!!

Monday:  Tamales w/ salsa rice & black beans
Since we will just be getting back from the cabin, I’m going to make it easy on myself.  I’m using up some tamales & black beans we’ve had reserved in the freezer.  I’m also going to throw some brown rice with salsa & chicken stock in a steamer and let it cook itself.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper-Tomato Soup

I’ve talked before about how much my little guy loves soup, and this has to be his very favorite.  This is a creamy tomato soup that is slightly sweet from the roasted sweet peppers, savory from all the vegs, and acidic from the tomatoes…what’s not to love!  It freezes very well, so make a big batch and freeze the leftovers for a rainy day.  J

Roasted Red Pepper-Tomato Soup

4 garlic cloves, whole & unpeeled
4 red bell peppers
2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
4 C chicken stock
1/2 C heavy cream
S&P, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Set bell peppers & garlic on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil & season with salt.  Bake until peppers are blackened…about 30 min.  Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam for at least 10 minutes (this allows for easy peeling).  Once they’ve steamed, de-seed, peel, and chop up the peppers.  

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, & celery and saute until just starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes. 

Add tomatoes & bay leaves along with roasted peppers.  Squeeze roasted garlic into pot also.  Season with S&P.  Cook together for a couple minutes and then add chicken stock.  Let simmer for about 25 minutes.    

Remove from the heat and puree with an immersion blender (you can do it in batches with a regular blender also).  Taste for seasoning.

Mix in cream and it’s ready to serve!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Menu #36

How was everyone’s week?  Mine had so many highs & lows, it’s making my head spin!  High:  49ers are in the Super Bowl!  Low:  49ers lost Super Bowl!  High:  My brother’s twins are arriving in two days!!!  Double Low:  My car left me stranded on a very busy freeway exit right smack in the middle of the off ramp with thousands of dollars in repair, so I don’t have transportation to go see them!!!  I’m just going to try to concentrate on the highs and not stress too much about the lows.  That being said, I can’t wait for Ethan & Elijah to enter the world!!!  J 

Since I’m without transportation right now and not able to do my usual Tuesday grocery trip, this week’s menu is based off whatever I have in the pantry & freezer and a small trip to my local grocery store which is walking distance.  I also made those yummy blueberry-banana muffins to use as fun breakfast treats & after-school snacks throughout the week.  J 

Blueberry-Banana Muffins

3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 C sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 C melted butter
1 C blueberries, fresh or frozen & thawed
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3/4 C AP flour
3/4 C whole-wheat flour

Mix together mashed banana, sugar, & egg.  Fold in the butter & blueberries.  In another bowl, mix together dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and gently stir.  Pour into 12 regular or 24 mini well-greased or lined muffin tins.  Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes.  

Tuesday:  Slow-Cooker BBQ Chicken Sliders w/ corn-pepper sauté
We have baseball practice & a baseball team parent meeting this evening (I was volunteered to be Team Mom for my son’s baseball team…Go Tigers!), so the slow cooker is perfect! 

Wednesday:  Sausage & Pepper Pasta w/ salad & wheat rolls

Thursday:  Fish Tacos w/ salsa rice & black beans

Friday:  Movies w/ the girls!  Leftovers for the boys.
We are going to see my favorite movie guy, Bradley Cooper, in Silver Linings Playbook…yay! 

Saturday:  BBQ Chicken Pizza on whole-wheat dough w/ salad
I’m using the leftover slow-cooker chicken for this pizza.  For the sauce, I usually mix a tomato sauce with a little BBQ sauce or season the tomato sauce with BBQ seasoning.  I then add red onion slices, scallions, jalapenos, & cheddar cheese.  I reserve a small area of the pizza with only scallions & shredded parmesan cheese for little man.

Sunday:  Tuna Melts w/ grilled potato wedges & fruit salad

Monday:  Leftovers or Salad Bar