April 29, 2010

Delicious Banana Raisin Muffins!


Yesterday was a cold and very windy day in New England. It felt a lot more like late February then late April. Dinner was an easy one: Turkey Tacos with homemade Salsa. I haven't made the salsa since I last posted about it in the winter and it was even better as the tomatoes have sweetened up! Since I was running around the house with a coat on, the heat cranked up and still freezing, I decided we needed something homey to eat. The kids are not big eaters in the morning and I am always trying to get them to eat a little something; lunch is a long time away. I had 3 big overripe bananas on the counter so I came to view that as a sign that I should make banana bread. I am always tinkering with my recipe and trying new ones when I make banana bread. I am the girl with buyer's remorse; I know there's a better banana bread around the corner. Today I think I have the best. I loved the bread and the kids did too. I actually turned them into muffins and this morning everyone was happily munching on one as they walked out the door. This is not a very dense muffin, rather it is light and buttery. I added sour cream and golden raisins to the batter so they have a certain sweetness(but not overly so). The muffins came out of the oven as we were finishing dinner and Will decided that they would be a perfect dessert as well. Of course, he had to put butter on his as he informed us that anything warm was crying out for butter. Delicious! I actually like the muffins better cool, I thought the butter and banana flavor in them really came out stronger when they were cool. This morning, though, Will was heating his up so he could add his butter! There are worse things, I am sure....

Banana Raisin Muffins (makes 18)

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3 large very ripe bananas, mashed(or 4 small)
1/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs at room temp, beaten slightly
3/4 stick butter melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour muffins cups or use liners.
Melt butter and set aside. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl. In separate medium bowl, mash bananas, then add sour cream, eggs ,butter and vanilla. Lightly fold into dry ingredients. When mixture is almost combined, add raisins and fold just until mixed. Divide into muffin cups. Place in middle rack of oven for 18-22 minutes. Muffins will be lightly browned and toothpick inserted will come out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes and the transfer to rack.

April 28, 2010

Why I have to stay out of grocery stores...

I really have to stay out of grocery stores. I always wish I was one of those organized people that could plan all their meals for the week, do one big shop and be done with it. One of my problems is that I am in the store almost everyday. If I am able to skip a day, I view it as a huge accomplishment. I just can't seem to plan more then one day in advance. Yesterday, I really outdid myself though. Two stores in one day. The second time I didn't even need anything. I was just browsing...killing time while Will was at a soccer practice. I had done a pretty good shop earlier, but decided to wander into Trader Joes as it was right down the street. I really want to love that store, I know so many people do. Me, I can never figure out what to buy besides a few things.(They do have a great big bag of Haricot Verts for a great price!) So, I decided that I would just wander around and do some browsing. Nothing I needed, so I was safe. Or so I thought. Unfortunately, some things cried out to me:


Anyone looking in my cart would have thought I was strange, indeed. Chocolate Chip Dunkers(snacks for the ...um..the kids), Cinnamon Grahams(I liked the package and Mart loves them), Blueberries(on sale!), Raspberries(looked good), Chicken Fingers(sometimes the kids just need a chicken finger fix and the woman next to me in line was raving about them). So, I walked out with a full bag. Nothing horrible, but it did strike me that once again, I spent money that I really didn't need to. My new goal is to only shop 3 times a week(and no double dipping). Especially with spring coming and farmer's markets opening soon, I think this is very doable. I'd like to get to twice a week but that seems too wild and crazy at this point. Baby steps are needed. I am anxious to see what the bottom line looks like each week, I really do think I can save a substantial amount if I stay out of the stores. Judging from my trip around TJ's, I could be rich! I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. I need all the help I can get!

April 27, 2010



Do you ever watch that show on Food Network, Semi-Homemade? I am not a fan, everything seems a little too processed for me. I do like Giada, though. Her food always looks good and is she not the most beautiful woman? Yes, I am a little offtrack; the purpose of this post is not to discuss my likes and dislikes on the Food Network. Rather, tonight was my foray into what I will call Semi-Homemade. I made my Chicken Caesar Salad with Brioche Croutons(see cookbook for recipes). So delicious and everyone can eat it whenever they walk in the house. The homemade part of dinner. My boys would say though, they need something else with it. This is where the semi comes in. Sometimes, I just do some french bread with it. Ok, but a little boring. Other times, if I am out and about I will stop at Panera and get some Asiago Bread or at Cosi and get some flatbread. A little more exciting. Tonight, I blew the doors off. I stopped at a local pizza place and picked up their garlic bread. This isn't a typical loaf of bread, instead it is pizza dough, with garlic and cheese. Yummy! Now, before you tell me I am supposed to be cooking in... let me tell you that the bill was $7.00. In my mind, it was well worth it! I wouldn't do this all the time, but once in a while was a fun treat. I even have enough left for the kids to take salads for lunch tomorrow with a piece of garlic bread. My kind of Semi-Homemade!! Now, when will Food Network be calling me? :)

April 26, 2010

Monday Madness

Mad is the only way to describe Monday's in my house. In addition to it being the start of the week, it is also a day where I have kids running in every direction, straight through until 7pm. If you're equally stressed on Mondays for whatever reason, check back each Monday night. Dinner will always be short, sweet and easy! This is a night that calls out for delivery pizza. Unfortunately, or fortunately, whichever way you want to look at it, I've sworn off the delivery man. So Mondays need to be well planned and well executed. I am thinking I need to move into casseroles, but right now I am fixated on the grill. It's spring and the grill and I have only had a few interludes since last fall. I want to spend all my time with the grill. My love affair will wane as the summer goes on, but right now I am loving the aroma, flavors and easy cleanup. So, tonight I decided to make the sausage and peppers I thought of last week. Since Brittany and I don't like the sausage, I decided I would just substitute plain grilled chicken cutlets for ours. I purposely didn't use green peppers as I wanted the flavor of the caramelized onions and sweet peppers to offset the spicy sausage I used. The sweetness from the peppers and onions added enough flavor that I didn't need to add anything to the cutlets, either. The key to this meal is sauteing the peppers and onions ahead of time. I made mine in the afternoon and reheated them when I got back. You could also make them the night before and just microwave them or throw them back in a saute pan for a few minutes. So, all I had to do when I arrived home was pop the sausages and chicken on the grill, heat up the peppers and onion and toast the buns. Simple. Delicious. My grill never lets me down!

Sausage and Peppers
(serves 4-6)

6 Sweet or Hot Pork Sausages
6 Brioche Long Rolls
1 Orange Bell Pepper
2 Red Bell Peppers
2 Sweet Onions(large)
2 tblsp olive oil
spicy brown mustard

In large saute pan, heat olive oil. Slice onions and peppers and add to pan. Saute for 10 -15 minutes on medium low, stirring frequently. Cook until onions are soft and caramelizing and peppers are soft and browning. In the meantime, grill sausages(and chicken cutlets if using) on grill. Toast buns, split sausages down the middle and fill with onions and peppers. Add mustard to taste. Dinner is served!

April 25, 2010

Sunday Brunch


The Dutch Baby from the previous post inspired me! Last night the grownups were out and I had made the kids Tostados. If you haven't tried these, please do! Everyone is always thrilled when I make them and last night was no exception. Tonight my younger kids have a church function so I knew if I didn't do a family breakfast, the weekend would pass without us all eating together. In the past, we would have gone out to brunch somewhere but I decided I would tackle this one and save the big bucks! The kids suggested Eggs Benedict; their favorite. Well, let me tell you, I have never even successfully poached an egg, let alone a whole family's worth. I am happy to report that it was easier then expected. The Benedicts were great; we even made a variation on one Brittany likes from a local restaurant, the Farmer's Benedict. I also put together a simple Tropical Fruit Salad of pineapple, mango and kiwi. So delicious and just what we needed on a rainy day! I have decided that I will buy an egg poacher. I made the eggs first, then dunked them in ice water and then quickly submerged them in simmering water right before we ate. It just took so long to poach 10 eggs individually. For one or two people, this would be a really quick breakfast. I also made blender hollandaise. Although purists may not be happy, it was delicious and easy. And easy on a Sunday morning is what we are looking for. What a great way to start the day!

To poach my eggs, I used the method the Smitten Kitchen suggested, which you can find here: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/08/how-to-poach-an-egg-smitten-kitchen-style/. I liked this method the best. Don't use too big of a pan, I used a medium saucepan and that was perfect. When I tried to poach in a bigger dutch oven, the eggs broke apart too much.

Eggs Benedict(serves 5)

10 poached eggs(make in poacher or do ahead, submerge quickly in ice water and set aside. Then pop them into simmering water for a minute right before you serve)
5 english muffins, halved and lightly toasted
10 slice canadian bacon, warmed
Hollandaise (see below for recipe)

Place canadian bacon on top of english muffin, then place 1 poached egg on each half. Add hollandaise on top to your liking! Yum!

Farmer's Benedict

shredded or cubed potatoes
2 slices lean bacon or turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 poached eggs
hollandaise sauce

Saute shredded or cubed potatoes in a small amount of oil until browning and crispy. Place on plate, add bacon, eggs and hollandaise. A great twist on a classic!

Blender Hollandaise Sauce

3 egg yolks
Juice from 1/2 lemon
pinch of freshly grated pepper
pinch of salt
1 stick of butter

Melt butter in saucepan until melted and frothy. In blender, place 3 egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and pepper. With blender running on low, blend until mixed. Keep blender running and add very slowly, in a steady stream, hot butter. Sauce will emulsify as you add the stream of butter. It will end up as a creamy, dreamy sauce! Serve immediately!! So good on eggs, also great on vegetables, especially asparagus and broccoli.

April 23, 2010

Dutch Baby!


Are you in need of an idea for breakfast this weekend? Having a brunch? I've got you covered! Last week, if you remember, my friend Sheila told me about making an iceberg wedge salad and I immediately found some inspiration for dinner. Well, she also mentioned a Dutch Baby. I'd never heard of such a thing. Have you? I was intrigued and even more so after she sent me over the recipe. A cross between a pancake and popover was how she described it. So, this morning for breakfast I made a Dutch Baby. And let me tell you, I will be making many more! It was delicious; easy enough to put together for a family breakfast and special enough to serve to friends. The very slight hint of cinnamon and nutmeg is fantastic! The lemon sugar is a must...it adds so much flavor. I actually made the Dutch Baby 2 ways: in individual ramekins and also in a cast iron pan that you cut into wedges to serve. They were both great! The individual ones would be great if you had a few people for breakfast and you wanted presentation. Try these this weekend....you'll be asking the same thing as me,"How did I not know about Dutch Babies?" Thank you, Sheila!!!

Dutch Baby (serves 4-6) ) adapted from Epicurious

1/3 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest
3 large eggs at room temp. for 30 mins
2/3 cup whole milk at room temp.
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
2 tblsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Place 10in cast iron skillet(or 6 ramekins)in oven and preheat oven to 450.
Stir together sugar and lemon zest in small bowl and set aside.
Beat eggs with mixer on high until pale yellow and frothy. Then beat in milk, flour. vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Beat until smooth, approximately 1 minute. Batter will be smooth. Remove dishes or pan from oven and put in pieces of butter. Swirl to coat. Immediately pour in batter and place in oven. Bake 15-20 minutes until puffy and brown. (Less time in ramekins)
Remove from oven and sift lemon sugar onto Dutch Baby. Serve immediately! (See finished products below)


April 21, 2010

Amazing Toffee Bars

Tonight was an easy dinner... simple tomato sauce, salad and bread(for the carbaholics in my family). Will mentioned that he would like Toffee Bars. Now, I don't think he has ever had a Toffee Bar! He saw it in a magazine somewhere and decided that it looked good. This got me thinking about some really delicious Toffee Bars I have had from a recipe in The Silver Palate Cookbook. The only issue was the walnuts; the bars are covered with them. No one in my house likes them. And unfortunately, the younger kids are not nut fans of any kind. I needed something else to put on top of these bars. Coconut, too...white. M and M's .... too typical. Marshmallows...too sweet. But then, the perfect idea came to me..... toffee pieces! I'm a genius, aren't I? :) The bars are delicious. They are so easy to make(isn't everything I do?) and look like you spent a lot of time on them. These would be great to bring to a party or a pot luck. Buttery goodness is how my oldest described them! Does anyone not like buttery goodness?!!!


Toffee Bars (adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook)

2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg yolk
2 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
3 Skor bars, frozen and broken into pieces(use rolling pin)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 12 baking pan. Cream butter and sugar together in large bowl. Add egg yolk and beat again. Whisk flour and gently add to mixture. Stir in vanilla. Spread mixture into pan and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with chocolate chips. Return to oven for 3-4 minutes. Remove pan from oven and spread melted chocolate. Let cool for 10 minutes and then sprinkle Skor Bar pieces on top. Cool completely before cutting. (This is an important part... don't cut before cool or the bars will crumble. Don't ask how I know this!)

April 20, 2010

The Ultimate Cobb Salad


Tonight's dinner is done! We are having the absolutely, best Cobb Salad! Every time we have it, there is not a morsel left. No matter how big it is, it just disappears. It's a great dinner as it is very hearty even though it is a salad. The boys in my house especially love it. I can't take credit for this salad either, my son, Will made the whole thing. The only help he got from me was that I grilled the filets. The filets really make this salad special. I hate salad with tough meat! Who wants to be sawing at the meat while trying to eat a nice salad? I know you are thinking, filet mignon on a salad? Not cheap! But actually, it is not that expensive the way I buy the filets. I like them very thin so they cook up quick and are easy to slice into the salad. I ask the butcher to slice them for salad about 3/4 of an inch thick. For my family of 5, about a pound works for us. That is actually more then enough meat, with all the other protein sources on the salad. You could easily substitute chicken, shrimp, salmon or another steak and this salad would be great. Wanting perfection though? Stick with the filet mignon!!

Cobb Salad (serves 4- 6)

1 large head of Romaine Lettuce- chopped
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
8 slices bacon
1 1/2 cups croutons (homemade if possible)
2 avacados- chopped
1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese - grated
2 tomatoes- chopped
1 pound Filet Mignon, sliced thin

On large platter or salad bowl place chopped lettuce. In lines, assemble ingredients. Pour dressing over and toss to serve.


1/4 Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
3/4 cup oil
salt and pepper

whisk vinegar and mustard into bowl. Pour oil slowly in while whisking vigorously. Season with salt and pepper.

Just in time for spring! Asparagus Risotto

Last night I decided we needed to welcome spring with a little risotto. I love risotto but never want to make it because of the stirring, stirring, stirring. I am not a patient person. But then I saw a recipe in The New Best Recipe Cookbook that didn't involve total concentration(it's the concentration part that I struggle with). So, last night became Risotto night. I also made some grilled chicken to go with it and it was the perfect meal. I loved the asparagus in the risotto as well, it added a little extra texture; next time I might add some snow peas as well. The picture doesn't really do it justice; we had a guest over and I didn't want to look like too much of a weirdo trying to photograph it! If you intimidated by making risotto, this is the one to make!


Asparagus Risotto (adapted from The New Best Recipe's)

3 1/2 low sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
4 tblsp unsalted butter
2 shallots, diced fine
1 tsp salt
2 cups Arborio Rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 lb Asparagus-end removed and sliced on the bias in 1/2in lengths

Bring broth and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Then reduce to the lowest heat to keep warm. In another large saucepan, melt butter and add shallot. Cook for 5-6 minutes until shallot is translucent. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the edges of the grains are transparent, about 4--5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of the warm broth and 1 tsp salt. Stir infrequently(every few minutes) until broth is absorbed into rice(approximately 10-12 mins). Add 1/2 cup of broth and cook for 5 minutes. Add asparagus and cook until broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth until rice is cooked through(should still be a little firm in the middle). You may not need all the broth. When rice is cooked, stir in parm cheese and serve immediately.

April 19, 2010

It's all about the croutons!


Last night I was still smarting from my expensive fast food. Don't get me wrong, it really was a good burger, I've just decided that for easy meals like that, I'd rather eat at home. But of course last night was not a night we were "at home". We were at soccer games all afternoon but came home in time to do a quick run to the store and pick up something to grill. Don't you just love it when the weather is warm enough to grill out on a regular basis? Quick cooking takes on a whole new meaning. And no clean up!!! That's my kind of cooking. So, we picked up some chicken cutlets and sausage to grill. We are a divided family regarding sausage: the boys adore it and the girls hate it. I don't know why, I keep telling them its genetic. The boys loved the sausage(sweet if you are wondering) so much that I think I will make sausage and peppers one night. It doesn't get any easier then sausage - you plop it on the grill, cook the heck out of it and then plop it on a plate. Then you look like a star for serving something a little different!

I made a Caesar Salad tonight as well(left off the chicken as we had that on the grill). Once again, I made my croutons. They were so good, I was slapping hands as they were eating them all before we sat down to dinner. I am sad to say it is all about the croutons. If you make them with brioche, they are like no other. The butteriness(is this is a word?!!! ) from the bread, combined with the olive oil and salt and pepper make for an exquisite cube of fabulousness. I think they take any salad from good to great. These would be worth making and keeping on hand, if you can hide them from your family(or yourself)! If you haven't made these, you must. There is no comparison to store bought croutons!!! (if you are looking for the recipe, see Chicken Caesar Salad in Cookbook above).

April 18, 2010

I've lost that lovin' feeling.......


What has happened to me? Last night we went out to dinner. It has been a while since we've been out and we just had the twins home. No one wanted to get dressed up(it was cold and rainy here) so we decided to try a newer, casual restaurant, The Counter. I believe it is a chain, perhaps you've been to one. It is, for lack of better description, a burger joint. Very casual(although they do have a bar) but just a couple of steps up from fast food. The really great part is that they are committed to buying fresh, locally sourced meat and vegetables. Great idea and I loved that you basically made your own burger, picking exactly what you wanted on it. Here's what I didn't like: the bill. We had a nice dinner but uneventful. The bill, for the four of us(including 2 glasses of wine) was $76 plus tip.(Doesn't my $32 steak dinner from last week look like a bargain?) As we walked out I remarked that although it was good, there wasn't anything we ate that I couldn't have done as well or better at home. (Even the onion straws! Remember them from my earlier posts?!) It struck me that prior to Cooking to Save we ate like this at least 2 or 3 nights a week!! No wonder money was running out of my checking account. I just don't get the joy in eating out much anymore. :( To be honest, it's kind of a bummer. I think I have become a spoilsport. Who would believe that this could happen in a few short months? I think it comes down to liking money and liking more of it in my bank account! I haven't sworn off eating out again of course. I've decided that if we eat out with the kids it has to be a restaurant where I can't (ok, don't want to) replicate the food; hibachi would be a good example. I still really enjoy going out with friends sometimes; that becomes less about the meal and more about enjoying time out. So we'll continue to do that. But for the rest of it, we're home. Spring is here and we'll be cooking out a lot. We still have New Years as a goal and I am finding myself reenergized to continue saving. It is definitely feeling more like a life choice then a sacrifice. Tonight, my choice is to light the coals ......(well, actually I am hoping that Mart is going to do that!)

April 17, 2010

Homemade Waffles are the Best!


Last night Will had a friend sleepover. Thankfully, they went to bed at a reasonable time and we all got some sleep. This morning they woke up starving after a night of playing video games and watching movies(these activities burn a lot of calories, you know!) Actually both are really active 14 year olds so their appetite is huge right now. I decided I would be a good mom(or pretend) and make some waffles and bacon for them. Do you ever make homemade waffles? Once you do, you never want to eat a frozen waffle or one from a mix again. It's all about the egg whites in wafffles. I fold the beaten egg whites into the batter at the very end, leaving little "puffs" of whites in the batter. The waffles come out light and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. So, so, yummy! When the kids were young, I would make a batch on the weekend and freeze the leftovers individually between waxed paper for the weekdays. Whenever someone wanted a waffle for breakfast I would just take one out of the freezer and pop it in the toaster. Unfortunately now, there are no leftovers! Brittany had one waffle and the boys ate the other 4 or 5!( I am not sure exactly how many, they were eating faster then I could make them). They were a great way to start the day! These are also special enough that they make a good, quick dinner. And, if you are feeling really naughty, they would be perfect with some ice cream on top and a little chocolate sauce(see my previous post for chocolate sauce recipe).


2 3/4 cup flour
1 tblsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup skim milk(or any other milk)
1/2 cup canola oil

Preheat waffle maker.
Whisk together dry ingredients in large bowl. Separate eggs with yolks going into small bowl and whites into larger bowl. Whisk egg yolks, milk and oil and pour into dry ingredients and combine. With mixer on high, beat egg whites until frothy and light. Carefully fold whites into mixture, leaving peaks in batter. Do not over mix. Batter should look like this:

Following waffle maker directions, pour appropriate amount into it and cook until done. Waffles should be medium brown and crispy!

April 16, 2010

The Perfect Dessert ...so, so easy!


Last night was "make your own salad" night. We were all home at different points so I made a salad bar for us. All kinds of salad toppings(in other words, anything I could find in the refrigerator)chicken and some leftover steak from the night before. I had been too lazy to go to the store so I didn't even have any of the requisite bread to go with the salad. Boys need their carbs! I decided instead that I would have a dessert for them. My kids love ice cream. Well, doesn't everyone? Now that I think about it, I don't know anyone who doesn't. Do you ? I don't think there's anyone in the world who doesn't like ice cream. Back to dessert... I had bought some vanilla ice cream the day before from our local dairy farm. The kids hadn't realized it was in the freezer so I decided I would make some chocolate sauce to go with it. There isn't anything easier! I used 2 ingredients: heavy cream and chocolate chips. That's it ! The kids went crazy over it and I put some bananas on top of the ice cream so we could pretend we were eating healthy. I had a lot left so I just put it in a tupperware; we can just reheat it in the microwave when we want some more(in other words, tonight!) I promise you, this is wonderful chocolate sauce; you will never buy a jar again!


Chocolate Sauce

1/2 cup heavy cream
10 oz chocolate chips(almost a full bag)

In double boiler(I used a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water) pour in cream and chips. Stir frequently until chips are melted. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers for 3-4 days. Reheat in microwave.

April 15, 2010

Iceberg Wedge Salad

Last night I had no inspiration for dinner. There was nothing I really wanted to make and even my kids had no thoughts on what would be a good dinner. But, lucky me, I have friends! I met with my friend, Sheila yesterday, who had plenty of inspiration for me! Unbeknown to me, she had been taking some pictures of her dinners to show me. She is a fabulous, yet simple cook and her meals looked so delicious. What looked so good to me yesterday was something so simple: an iceberg lettuce wedge! I buy lettuce constantly, but never iceberg. We've all heard that there isn't as much nutritional value in iceberg so I always skip it in place of some red leaf or romaine. But for some reason, the wedge looked so appealing. And if your cheating involves iceberg lettuce, I don't think that's a particularly a bad thing! I can think of a lot worse things to be eating. It was a beautiful night here so I picked up some steaks and made some dressing for the wedges, along with some bacon that I crumbled on top. Instead of using the gas grill, we broke out the charcoal and the steaks were wonderful. I didn't even serve any potatoes; the salad and the steak were plenty for everyone. The dressing I just put together with ingredients I had. A bottled ranch or creamy italian would work well, too.

As this is Cooking to Save, I thought I would come clean on the dinner bill. Dinner cost me $32, not exactly a cheap meal. But, can you imagine how much strip steaks and iceberg wedges would have cost in a steakhouse for 5 of us? We had a really high quality meal at a fraction of the cost. And although it wasn't an inexpensive meal, combined with some of my other meals this week(leftover pasta sauces) it all evens out to a really reasonable amount of money spent on meals. When you eat at home, it is amazing how easy it is to eat well and still not spend a ton of money!

Now, go fire up your grill and pick up some iceberg lettuce!

Buttermilk Dressing

1/2 small garlic clove, minced
1 small shallot, minced
1 tsp fresh dill (snipped well)
1 tsp chives (snipped well)
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tblsp sour cream

Whisk all ingredients together, pour over iceberg wedges and sprinkle with crumbled bacon.

April 14, 2010

Crunchy Cookies


Ok, this isn't the cookies! Actually, this was a burger we ate for dinner last night. Ryan insisted I put it in the blog as the kids proclaimed these the best burgers they ever had. Especially coming from Ryan, this is a big award; he is burger aficionado! I am not a big fan of lots of ingredients added to burgers, I always think they end up tasting like meatloaf. Last night I added leeks to the meat though and it was such a great flavor addition, I think I will always do this. For 2 pounds of meat I used one whole leek, washed and chopped. Then I just mixed it into the meat with my hands and lightly pattied them. Leeks are the perfect addition; a mild slightly sweet taste, not overpowering like an onion. Even Will, who doesn't like onions very much loved these. I like that the leeks added just a little something extra; I will be sure and make these burgers next time we have company for a cookout!

But, back to the Crunchy Cookies. This recipe has been floating around my street for a while. I loved the idea of them: whole wheat flour, corn flakes, and oats but I always felt like they needed just a little more flavor. This past weekend I changed the recipe around a few times and really love the new formulation. They disappeared from my kitchen in no time, the kids just devoured them! If you are leery of the whole wheat flour, let me assure you that you will never know that it is whole wheat and not white flour in the cookies. They are wonderful right out of the oven, crisp around the edges and soft inside. I also love them the 2nd day(if you can keep them that long) as the flavors really come out after they have sat for while. These are quick, easy and so, so good!!


Crunchy Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup old fashioned Oats
1 cup Corn Flakes
1/2 cup sweetened Coconut
1/4 cup raisins & 1/4 cup craisins
(or use 1/2 cup raisins)

Preheat oven to 350.
Cream butter in mixer on low. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat again. In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and powder, and salt. Add in 2 additions, mixing quickly in between(do not over beat). Stir in corn flakes, oats, coconut, and dried fruit.

Line cookie sheets with parchment. Drop by tablespoon or small ice cream scoop onto cookie sheet. Bake for 10-13 minutes until just starting to brown. (Undercooked is better then overcooked; they will dry out).

April 12, 2010



If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may remember the purge of my freezer. I got rid of most everything in it, especially meat that was no longer identifiable. I declared then that I was not a freezer girl; food went in but rarely came out. It had become this huge vat of frozen wasteland. Since the purge I have worked to keep only items that I use in the freezer: frozen fruit for smoothies, ice cream(the essential), homemade chicken broth, some leftover soup. I will tell you that I love opening my freezer and seeing space. Everything looks so neat and tidy, I actually get a weird thrill when I open it. (I realize that this may be cause to see a psychologist!) Also neatly stacked in the freezer were two kinds of pasta sauce: some leftover Vodka Sauce and some of Marcella Hazan's Simple Tomato Sauce. So, tonight I served up both sauces and let everyone decide what they were in the mood for. It was a great easy dinner and I felt so virtuous, the dinner cost me virtually nothing. I also have a little more room in my freezer! Leftovers I actually used.... a huge accomplishment in my world!

April 11, 2010

Simple Apple Tart

My mom makes what she refers to as an open faced apple pie. Basically, it's an apple pie without a top crust. So easy and so delicious. Tonight I decided that I would make an Apple Tart, which is my version of the open faced pie. The puff pastry makes it even simpler then making a pie crust. If you keep a box of puff pastry in the freezer, you can always have a tart on the table in no time. I informed everyone that this would be my last Apple anything until fall! I love apples but I am always happy when spring comes and berries come into season. Apples are my winter "go to" fruit. Come spring and summer, its berries and peaches. So tonight we had a mix of spring and fall. Grilled chicken and a big salad and a simple Apple Tart. Judging from the crumbs left, everyone enjoyed it! This tart took me under 15 minutes to put together and the house still smells good! Try it, you will love this one!


Simple Apple Tart

1 sheet puff pastry(folded and thawed)
3 Apples(Macintosh or Cortland)
3 Tblsp sugar
1/2 Tblsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg yolk, beaten mixed with 1 tbslp water
1 1/2 tblsp butter
2 tblsp apple jelly

Preheat oven to 375. Do not unfold pastry. When thawed roll out on lightly floured board to 8x12 rectangle. Take sharp knife and trim to a rectangle. Move to a cookie sheet. While preparing apples, place pastry in freezer. Peel, core and slice apples (approximately 1/8 inch thick) Place in large bowl and toss with sugar, flour and cinnamon. Remove pastry and score with knife a 1/2 inch border. Brush inside the border with egg wash, then place apples on top. Dot with butter and bake 30-40 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven. Melt apple jelly in microwave and brush on top of apples. Serve warm.

April 9, 2010

Tarragon Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups

Years ago, when I was pregnant with my twins, a friend brought me some leftover Tarragon Chicken Salad she had made. Being 8 months pregnant with twins, with a toddler running around, I was thrilled to not have to think about making dinner. I so loved the salad and raved about it so much(I probably went a little overboard) that she often brought it to me. I had forgotten about the salad until last year in the middle of the summer when I was searching for something cool to make on a hot night. I improvised on the ingredients and it turned out just as I remembered. Since then I have made it often and have tweaked the ingredients each time. I love grapes in my salad so I just added them. To lighten things up tonight I am serving the chicken salad in small lettuce cups. The kids love them because they can still pick them up and eat the lettuce cups like a sandwich. Alongside a fruit cup they are a perfect Friday night dinner. I am thrilled because it is exactly 3:49pm and I have dinner done and ready to go!


Tarragon Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups serves 4-5

4 split chicken breasts- bone in
splash of olive oil
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 -1 cup green grapes sliced in half(to preference)
2-3 stalks of celery, sliced 1/4 inch wide
1/2 cup mayo
1/3 sour cream(I like light)
1 tblsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp salt
3 tblsp sliced almonds
1 head boston bibb lettuce

Preheat oven to 350. Place chicken on foil lined pan, sprinkle with olive oil and kosher salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool. In the meantime, slice celery and grapes. In a separate small bowl, whisk mayo, sour cream, tarragon, and salt. Cube chicken and place in bowl with grapes and celery, pour mayo mixture over and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours(tarragon flavor will intensify). Before serving, separate chicken salad into lettuce cups. Sprinkle with almonds and serve.

Good Enough?

Do you have any meals that are "good enough"? I've decided that it is crucial to have some of these meals in the back of your head if you really want to stay out of restaurants. By good enough, I mean meals that you can put together quickly when plans change. Good enough meals don't have to be pretty or exotic. The best good enough meals are some old simple standby's. Breakfasts or lunches are perfect good enough dinners. In my house, tuna melts, grilled cheese and bacon, burgers or some kind of simple pasta are my good enough meals. They usually come to be because I ran late or because parts of the family are suddenly not home for dinner. Last night this happened here. I had planned a nice chicken dish with roasted asparagus for dinner. By 4:30, all the kids had other plans and it was just going to be Mart and I. I will admit that I was thrilled by this news. I was off the hook for dinner! I also was not moving too well; I had gone to a new "bootcamp" class in the morning and every muscle in my body hurt. I contemplated just picking up a salad or sandwich for us but decided that we could make due with what was in the house. I opted to have a bowl of cereal(Special K if you are wondering). For some reason, it was extra good and I was completely happy with it. Mart decided that he would make some bacon and eggs. We sat in the kitchen enjoying the peace and quiet and the best part.... no cleanup!! ( And , oh yes, think how much we saved with our good enough dinner?!!)


April 7, 2010

How Brownies Saved Me.....

Today my kids walked in from school at the same time I returned home. They were hot, tired and both of them lay spread eagle on the floor(this was for effect, I am sure). After whining about how boring and hot school had been they proceeded to check out the snacks in the pantry. Unfortunately, I have not been good about keeping snacks in the house. So, now I had to hear that there was nothing to eat, they were starving, blah, blah, blah. I couldn't stand it. It was going to be a long afternoon. Did I mention that these are not toddlers but 14 year olds?! I said the first thing that came to mind, "Brownies." Wow, suddenly everyone had a smile on their face. "Great," they said, "We'll go start our homework." Are you kidding? I couldn't believe it was that easy! 10 minutes later I had the brownies in the oven(recipe is in recipe book above). Since I really am running for mother of the year, I decided to add my "icing". Don't they look good?


They were gobbled down so quickly that I had to hide them so that I would have some for lunches tomorrow. The icing really dresses them up and couldn't be easier. All I do is lay Hershey Bars on top(about an inch apart) of the brownies as soon as they come out of the oven. In about 2-3 minutes, the chocolate is completely spreadable. Normally, I let them cool and the chocolate hardens up but today there was no waiting. Milk was poured and brownies had to be cut. The kids spent the next 2 hours working with no whining, no complaints. My afternoon was saved. Who would have thought Brownies could have this much power?!

April 6, 2010

Tomato Basil Tart

Tonight I was going to write about how uninspired I've become. Because, I am really, really dull these days. I've been trying to adapt to crazy spring sports schedules with the kids and I am not a good adapter! Dinner now really needs to be done before the afternoon is over .. or at least planned in detail. This is how I get into trouble. I procrastinate( I am really good at that) and then I end up picking something up because I have run out of time. I have not gotten that bad yet. Instead, my meals have been dull, dull, dull. Tonight was hamburgers and watermelon. No one was home before 730 in my house and everyone was starving. But I have new inspiration courtesy of my BFF Jeanne. (Trust me, you will all be asking for her number to become her BFF after this one!) Jeanne made us the most "absolutely delicious" Tomato Basil Tart. I can't even say we ate it .....we consumed it, with gusto! This was so, so good, words cannot describe. My kids stood around the counter as the burgers cooked on the grill and fought over the tart. No one even cared when the burgers came off the grill, the tart was so filling. This tart reminded me of why I try to be creative with my meals. There is so much more joy in eating something fresh and different vs. the old humdrum. Believe me when I tell you : You MUST make this tart! If you are really feeling it, make 2 like Jeanne did and show some love to a friend!!


Tomato Basil Tart

1 refrigerated unbaked piecrust(or make your own!!!)

1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

5 Roma tomatoes

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

1/4 cup grated asiago cheese

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

Fresh basil leaves (optional)

Place uncooked pie shell in 9 inch pie plate. Flute edges. Line shell with double layer of foil and bake at 450 for 8 minutes. Remove foil and bake 4 minutes more until crust is set and dry. Remove pie from oven and reduce heat in oven to 375. Sprinkle crust with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Let pie crust cool slightly. Cut tomatoes into wedges and drain on paper towels. Arrange tomato wedges over cheese in tart. Rough chop basil, mince garlic, and combine with mayo, asiago cheese, remaining mozzarella cheese and pepper. Spoon mixture over tomatoes, spreading to cover. Bake in 375 for 35-40 minutes until bubbly and browning. Garnish with basil leaves and serve warm.

April 5, 2010

Cake with a Kick!

Remember last week during Retro Week when I mentioned my Cake with a Kick? Well, it is finally here for you to enjoy!Adam over at Amateur Gourmet has a new section to his website and my Soft Molasses Cake aka Cake with a Kick is posted there. http://www.amateurgourmet.com/community/2010/03/cake-with-a-kick.html#comments This is a yummy cake!! So simple, but the ginger and the cinnamon really spice it up. Don’t even think about skipping the chocolate icing(and really slather it on!) The combination of the sweet and spicy is what makes this cake great! Give it a try!!


April 4, 2010

Can you be too old for Easter Egg Hunts?

In my house, the answer is no!


Today on this beautiful, sunny day my teenagers ran around like 2 year olds chasing after Easter Eggs. I think they may enjoy these hunts more then when they were very young! We often spend Easter at my sisters’ and today was no exception. We’ve had egg hunts in freezing cold but today the kids were out in shorts and t shirts. As little girls rode around the neighborhood on their bikes, my not so little kids chased eggs and battled to find the most eggs.

Will was the winner(although everyone thinks he cheated :)) but it looks like he missed one:


After the egg hunt we went in for a fabulous brunch. I’ll share some recipes tomorrow but for now I will let you ogle our dessert(courtesy of my sister, Beth):


They looked spectacular and tasted even better!!!

April 1, 2010

Retro Thursday's Cornflake Crusted Chicken

Tonight should have been takeout pizza. Oh, that would have made me so happy. No cooking, no mess. But there’s not much retro about pizza is there? I just felt too guilty to order a pizza. Three months into this and I am consumed by shame if I order out! I am not sure if this is good or bad, but Cooking to Save has definitely become the norm in our house. I tend to be one of those all or nothing people, so that doesn’t help. I’m on the plan or I’m off. The problem arises when I am off. My guess is that I could fall off the wagon in a big way. If I suddenly start writing about ordering out and eating out frequently with some great justifications, you’ll know I’m in trouble! But for now, I am plugging along. So, to stay in theme, tonight was Cornflake Crusted Chicken. Anybody remember this one? I lightened it up by soaking the chicken in buttermilk before coating instead of butter. The tenders were tender!! :) Really delicious and I served some honey mustard on the side for the kids. With some mashed potatoes and green beans, it felt like were living in the 70’s! This recipe is a keeper though; it’s also a great substitute for chicken fingers.


Cornflake Crusted Chicken(serves 6)

2 lbs chicken tenders
1pint buttermilk
4 cups cornflakes(crushed with a rolling pin in ziploc bag)
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp pepper(depending on how spicy you like it)
2 tsp paprika

Pour buttermilk over tenders in bowl and soak for 1/2 hour. In the meantime, prepare coating. In bag, crush cornflakes. Add salt, pepper, paprika and shake to mix. Preheat oven to 400 and grease 9x11 dish. After 1/2 hour drain tenders and take 2 or 3 at a time and toss in bag of flakes, pressing flakes into chicken. Place in pan. Continue until all are coated. Cook for approximately 20 minutes just until cooked through. Serve with honey mustard dipping sauce or ranch dressing.