Sunday, March 1, 2015

Weekly Meal Plan 3/2 - 3/8

Is the weekend really over!? Say it isn't so..... Sunday is always bittersweet because I know that the work week is almost here and that means less time with my little family. I love my job, but it is so nice to be home with my family and visit with friends. 

On Friday night we made dinner and relaxed. We really did not do too much because Ron had to work on Saturday morning and was getting ready to go to Milwaukee to visit a friend. 

On Saturday morning I made french toast for Kellen and I, and had a little help from my sous chef (pants on the head are needed for true kitchen magic)!


Later, I met my friend Kayla and kids at Badger Bouncers. Badger Bouncers is essentially a big playland for kids with a bunch of the inflatable bouncy house.  Kellen was not sold on the bouncy house at first and was a littler nervous to go inside. There were some tears, but he eventually felt comfortable to jump all around with his friends. 



After bouncing, we headed out for burgers and custard at a local restaurant. The kids were thrilled that their meals came in cars! 


After lunch, I headed to Appleton to drop Kellen and Ron's parents for an overnight and he was thrilled to find his cousin was over for a visit and to play with him. I visited for a bit before heading home to get ready for dinner with my friend Amanda. We went to one of my favorite places- Plae Bistro and out for martinis.  We joked that we are becoming old ladies because the clock hit 11 and we started to turn into pumpkins! Amanda and I have been friends since working on a Congressional campaign and then House of Representatives together- the rest is history! 

On Sunday, I met my friend Kayla for brunch and then did a bit of shopping and recipe development/cooking before Ron and Kellen got home. I have a few fun recipes for Pi Day to share next week with all of you! Poor Kellen was a little tired when he got home and the evening was .... we will call it "challenging", but once dinner came things settled down and we all got to relax and play before bedtime. 

This week is busy, but we have lots of fun stuff on the agenda. A few dinners out, volleyball, weightlifting and Ron's birthday!  We are also picking up our new car this week- I am so excited! We are taking the plunge and getting a larger vehicle and have decided on a Chevy Traverse... I have driven a Civic and a Saturn and this will be a BIG, but welcome change. 

Have a great week!

Here is what is on tap:

Monday:  Out with my Parents
Tuesday: Slowcooker Chicken Noodle Soup and Rolls
Wednesday: Happy Birthday Ron! We are having dinner at Bleu
Thursday: White Chicken Chili (In the slowcooker)
Friday:  Junk Yard Special, Potato Wedges and Roasted Green Beans
Saturday: Out for Thai
Sunday: Salisbury Steak w/ Mushroom-Onion Gravy , Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes and Peas

Friday, February 27, 2015

Cheesy Pork Chop and Potato Casserole

Thursday is normally the traditional throwback day and a change to get a little nostalgic, but we are going to have a little #FBF today.  I think everyone my age had pork chop casserole at some point during their childhood. I have a co-worker who makes a pork chop casserole often and it got me thinking about making my own variation on this retro family recipe. I make my own cream of chicken soup for recipes like this, but canned works if that is what you have on hand. I also prefer cheddar cheese, but if you like something else by all means go to town. This recipe is really easy and something you can put together ahead of time during a busy week and pop in the oven at dinner time. My favorite part of the casserole? The onions in the hashbrowns and on top of the casserole...so good. I do not make my own, but if you are so inclined you certainly could do it. One note of preparing early: add the onions on top before it goes in the oven so they do not get soggy- no one wants a soggy semi crispy onion.

My family loves this recipe and Kellen's love of all things pork has moved into pork chops. This recipe also makes fantastic leftover for the following day. I made this recipe with 4 pork chops since they were larger and had a bit of potatoes left. I loved this because I ate them for breakfast with my egg the following morning- yum! 

I am so happy that is is Friday....long week... I am also excited because my Kayla and I are taking the kids to an bouncy type place tomorrow morning. In reality I am just excited to jump around..... In the evening my friend Amanda is coming to town to grab dinner and drinks at Plae Bistro (my favorite!). 

Have a wonderful and relaxing weekend! 


Ingredients

4-6 pork chops (depending on thickness/size and how many you are feeding)
1 tsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 oz French's Fried Onion
2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2/3 cup milk
1 package of frozen hashbrowns, thawed
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
3 oz French's Fried Onion


Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9x13 baking dish withe lightly greasing with cooking spray. 

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Brown pork chops on both sides to get a nice crust and sear (about 2 minutes per side).  

While the pork chops are cooking, mix soup, sour cream, garlic powder, pepper, 3 oz onions (a regular container is 6 oz), 2/3 cup cheese and milk in a large mixing bowl. Once combined, mix in the hashbrowns and spread into the prepared baking dish. Nestle pork chops on top of the hashbrowns. Top with 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and finish with 3 oz of onions. 

Bake for 45-60 minutes or until pork is cooked. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Ale Sauce

I have another amazing pork tenderloin recipe on the menu today! I have cracked out a few different recipes over the past few months, but this might be my favorite one. I love mustard in sauces and decided to give it a try with beer. I could not just use any beer and opted for one of my favorite types- amber ale. I opted add a shallots and a bit of cream as well. The result was a velvety sauce rich in dijon flavor with a slight bitterness from the amber ale paired with marinated and seared pork- amazing!  This gives me a serious hankering for a mustard sauce…. This recipe is super easy and quick for a nice weeknight meal. Kellen loves pork tenderloin and this was right up his ally of favorite things. 

Speaking of Kellen- his first swim class went awesome! The instructor even commented on how well he could kick his legs in the water and he was brave enough to jump off the side (with help from Grandma of course). I am really hoping that this enjoyment continues because it is so nice for him to have something he could do year round (and that we both really enjoy).  

Tonight we are headed to dinner with Ron’s family to celebrate birthdays. We have a few bunch of birthdays close together and we opt to grab dinner together in February and May to celebrate. It is always a lot of fun and I am excited to see the family! I am also excited for a nice big glass of cabernet as well- yummy! After dinner we will come home and relax and watch the first episode from the new season of Survivor! I am a big Survivor fan and Ron is just starting to jump on the bandwagon after watching last season.  The concept of white collar, blue collar and no collar interests me and I think the dynamic will be interesting (especially when they merg).  




Ingredients

1 pork tenderloin (about 1 lb)
1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
1/2 cup amber ale
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Three sprigs of fresh thyme
1 Tbl olive oil
1/8 cup Dijon mustard 
1 cup amber ale 
1 pint heavy cream 
1 shallot, minced


Instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk Worcestershire sauce, 1 Tbl mustard, 1/2 cup amber ale, 1/8 cup olive oil, thyme springs and salt. Place pork tenderloin in a resealable bag and pour inthe the marinate tossing to coat. Place pork in the fridge and allow it to marinate for at least 8 hours (you can do less, but flavor will be better the longer you marinate). 

Remove pork from marinate and heat 1 Tbl olive oil over medium-high heat in an oven safe skillet. Brown pork tenderloin on all sides.

Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the pork registers 155-160 degrees. Remove from the oven, tent with foil to keep warm, and rest for while you prepare the sauce (about 10 min).

Add the shallots to the same pan used to roast the pork. Saute over medium heat for about a minute. Add the beer and scrape the cooked bits from the skillet. Whisk in the cream and dijon. Allow the sauce to slightly simmer and reduce for about 10 minutes (the sauce should be thick enough to heavily coat a spoon). 

Slice pork tenderloin and spoon sauce over the top. Serve immediately. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Grilled Pesto Chicken Bacon Sandwich with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Do you watch Chopped? It is one of my favorite food shows. I love the surprise and anticipation of what the basket ingredients are going to be fore the pull back the black wicker tops!  Well, I am sure that you can imagine my excitement to learn about the Chopped At Home contest with Sargento Cheese. The rules were simple- create a dish using the following basket ingredients: Sargento Chef Blends Shredded 6 Cheese Italian, chicken breasts, red peppers and greek yogurt. The cheese blend had mozzarella, smoked provolone, romano, fontina, asiago and parmesan cheese-yum!

I decided that I was going to enter and I knew that I could come up with something super tasty with the basket ingredients.  My first thought was to a stuffed chicken, but that seemed a little safe to me and I decided on a sandwich. However, I wasn't going to make any old sandwich- I wanted a big meaty two hands and a stack of napkins sandwich.  I wanted to roast the peppers because I knew it would blend well with the cheese and yogurt to make a delicious sauce for my chicken. I also settled on smoky bacon, sweet onions and a handful of peppery arugula to give a big punch of flavor.  The sandwich has lots of components, but they are all simple and can be prepared at different times to fit your meal time schedule.  I also opted to use a bolillo roll for the sandwich because I love the size for a chicken breast and it makes the perfect sized bite.

My husband loved this sandwich and devoured his portion before sneaking off to find more bacon.  We both agreed that the sandwich was super filling and needed to be back on our meal plan as soon as possible! So hearty and delicious.... The pesto compliments the sweetness of the red pepper and onions, the salty smoky bacon is fantastic and the fresh arugula is the perfect touch of sharpness. 

If you want to enter check out Food Networks page for Chopped At Home. The first round ends March 2nd and then voting for the semi-finalists of round one starts. If a dish does not make it past round one you can submit a new one for a remaining round.  I am sure it is a long shot, but it would be really fun to win (or even make it to the semi-finals!).

Tonight my friend Emily is stopping over for a little SVU action and Ron is going to grill burgers (we have been on a “summer food” kick).  I am also anxiously awaiting a call from my mom to let me know how Kellen’s first swimming class went!  


Ingredients

1 red bell pepper
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt 
3/4 cup Sargento 6 Italian Cheese Blend
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts  
1/2 cup pesto
One large sweet onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons of butter
8 slices bacon, cooked crisp
1 - 1 1/2 cup fresh arugula
4 rolls bolillo rolls, halved lengthwise


Instructions

to roast the pepper:
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray it with cooking spray. Remove the top of the pepper and slice in half. Remove the seeds and place skin side up on the baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes or until skin is charred and pepper is tender. Remove peppers from the oven and place the peppers into a resealable bag. Allow the pepper to rest for 15-20 minutes. Remove peppers from the bag and peel off the blackened skin. 

Place chicken between two pieces of wax paper and pour to ½ inch thickness. Place chicken in a large resealed bag, add pesto and gently toss to coat. Seal bag and place in fridge for at least an 60 minutes or up to 8 hours.  

In a medium rimmed skillet, cook onions and butter over medium-low heat until the onions are caramelized and medium golden brown. When the onions are done cooking remove them from the heat, and  cover to keep warm.

While chicken marinates and onions cook, place roasted peppers, yogurt, cheese and pepper into a food processor or blender. Pulse till smooth and set aside.

Heat grill to medium heat. Remove chicken from marinate and grill chicken 3-5 minutes per side or until no longer pink.  Place cooked chicken on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread red pepper and cheese mixture over the bolillo rolls. Place on a baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes, but keep an eye to make sure the rolls do not burn.  Remove the rolls from the oven and layer fresh arugula on the bottom bun. Place chicken breast over arugula, followed by crispy bacon, caramelized onions and the remaining half of the bun.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

English Muffin Bread

Welcome to February's What's Baking!

We were challenged to bake bread this month and I immediately knew that I wanted to try my hand at the popular English Muffin Bread recipe that has been popping up on all sorts of blog recently. Ron and I love english muffins and they have been on my cooking bucket list for a long time (soon I will try to make them!). The nooks and crannies are what gets me with an english muffin. I love mine fresh from the toaster with a bit of peanut butter. I love how the warm muffin melts the peanut butter....I am drooling just thinking about it. I decided to use a recipe for English Muffin Bread from Playing with Flour (original recipe is from Cook's Country) because the recipe was simple and received great reviews!

This bread could not be easier to make! The thing that takes the longest is waiting for it to rise, and beyond that the oven does all the work! I was impatient waiting for the bread to cool, and was so happy to see tons of nooks and crannies when I sliced the bread to try a piece. I spread a little of my favorite wild blueberry jam from Bonne Maman on a fresh slice of bread and it was fantastic! I love fresh bread and am so happy for challenges like this to make me try something new and delicious.

Tomorrow Kellen is with my mom for the day and he has his first swimming lesson! I am so excited for him, and can't wait to hear all of his stories! He loved swimming so much the last few times we went I couldn't help, but sign him up for class to give him more time in the pool.


Ingredients

2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/2 Tbl sugar
1/2  tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups whole milk, heated to 120 degrees
Cornmeal, for pan


Instructions

Whisk flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl. Make a small well in the center and add the warmed milk into it.  Stir with a wooden spoon until combined and dough starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl.

Lightly spray plastic wrap with vegetable oil and tightly cover the bowl.  Let sit in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.  

Spray a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pans with cooking spray and dust with cornmeal. Give dough a stir with knock it down a bit.   The batter will be sticky and should fill the pans about 2/3 of the way.  Use a spatula to push the dough into the corners.  Cover the pans with greased plastic wrap.  Let sit to rise for 30 minutes. The dough should rise near to the top of the pan.

Bake in a 375 degree oven, in the middle rack for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through.  The internal temperature of the finished loaf should be 200 degrees when done.  

Makes 1 loaf


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Weekly Meal Plan 2/23 - 3/1

Happy Monday!

Hope you had a great weekend!  On Friday, we had dinner with my parents, but not before a bit of vehicle excitement. On the way to dinner Ron’s car started making a clunking sound and we quickly went home to grab our other car, drop off his at the shop and switch cars….all in a lovely snow storm. I was feeling a bit stressed and crabby, but was very thankful to my big glass of cabernet when we finally made it to the restaurant.  After dinner, we headed home and settled into bed early because we have lots on the agenda for the weekend.  On Saturday, this little guy was up and ready for swimming in the late morning, but not before a big breakfast of yogurt, raspberries, a waffles and turkey sausage.  Kellen loved breakfast at home on the weekend and I love to make him his favorites!


After breakfast, I ran around to get my grocery shopping done and flowers picked up for a Blessing Way the following afternoon. I spied these babies on the shelves (new this year is sour watermelon)! My sister and I are big Peep fans, and always get excited when they pop up…esp the  pink bunnies. 


In the afternoon, we went swimming with our friends and had a fantastic time! Kellen is a little fish and loves the pool. He is actually starting swim class with my mom This week he was really excited when we talked about it, and I hope he continues loving it!  During the afternoon I ran around a little more before heading home to get ready for burgers and gifts at our friend’s house. The kids are all close in age and were so fun to watch run around together!  We left around 8 to get Kellen home for bed and catch up on an episode of Cold Justice  (love that show).

On Sunday, I prepped for my friend's Blessing Way. A Blessing Way or Mother's Blessing stems from an old native american ceremoney to honor a mother-to-be. The blessing is all about nurturing and celebrating motherhood.  There are many different things you can do, but we opted to a rock ceremony, a cord ceremony and a candle ceremony. We also sipped a little raspberry leaf tea. 







and of course there was henna for the mama-to-be and guests. Do you like my dragon tail? I wanted dragon tails and chains- Mother of Dragons & Breaker of Chains (could I be a bigger Game of Thrones nerd right now?)!



We enjoyed spaghetti with meat sauce, caprese salad and garlic knots for dinner.  I also made a few mocktails for the group- blood orange and pineapple!  We had such a lovely evening- I was sad when it was over!

  

Ron and I cleaned to house and relaxed with Kellen for the remainder of the evening.  However, the weekend was not complete until my friend Emily sent me this gem. I of course needed to pass it to my creepy-ass doll loving sister because I love to scare her. Her response was classic and I just needed to share this bit of hilarity with you this morning!

This week, like I mention before, Kellen starts swimming! We are also heading to Appleton to have dinner with the Lecker Family. We normally like to grab dinner together to celebrate birthdays since we have two clusters of birthday in February and late April/early May.  This weekend I am looking forward to drinks and dinner with my friend Amanda for a little post birthday celebration! 
Have a great week!
Here is what is on tap:
Monday: Chicken Sandwiches for Chopped Challenge
Tuesday: Pizza
Wednesday: Burgers with Caramelized Onion, Bacon Brie Burgers and Potato Wedges
Thursday: Out with the Leckers
Friday: Creamy Balsamic and Herb Chicken, Roasted Potatoes and Roasted Brussel
Saturday:  Out
Sunday: Lunch- Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion Dinner-Roasted Herb De Provence Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Green Beans

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lemon Basil Vodka

Whoo Hoo it's Friday (and time for a cocktail??) It is also time for February's Crazy Ingredient Challenge.



The ingredients for this month is lemons and basil- two of my favorite things. I love citrus and herbs, and we play around a lot with different flavor combinations at our house. However, one thing I have been really wanting to make was an infused vodka. One of my favorite summer drinks is vodka on the rocks with a splash of lemonade and, since it is SO cold right now, anything to remind me of summer is a necessity.  I have made other infused vodkas in the past and knew this combo would be a winner.  After my batch was ready I used my vodka with a small splash of lemonade and it brought me back to sitting on my deck relaxing in the summer time....ahhhh.... Another awesome use for this vodka (besides drinking it all yourself...) is to bottle it up and give it to friends for a little winter pick me up. 

I was worried that the basil flavor would be covered by all them lemon, but it did not get muddled at all. I have already been thinking of different fruits to make more vodka....I think my next will be strawberry basil, but that will have to wait till summer.

Tonight we are headed out for dinner with my parents, and tomorrow a swimming birthday party with our friends. On Sunday, I am co-hosting a Blessing Way (and making spaghetti) for our friend and mama-to-be. So excited! 

If you are interested in joining our challenge, stop over to Dawn of Spatulas on Parade to say hello and to get more information.  I am excited to see what everyone else made, and what next month will bring! 


Ingredients

6 lemons, sliced very thing
1 bunch of fresh basil, torn int pieces
Vodka
2 large mason jars


Instructions

Evenly layer lemons and basil between the two mason jars. Pour vodka into the mason jars and screw on the top to seal. Store in a cool dry place for 3-4 days. 

Remove tops and strain. Pour into bottles and store in the fridge.