How I plan dinners

Usually I stand in the kitchen and ask myself, “What will I NOT HATE that I can make tonight without too much trouble?” And then I answer myself, “Cold cereal it is!”

No, I’m joking, obviously.

I do have to cook so the people in the house don’t starve. The trouble is, I really HATE meal planning.

I know people who have wonderful little calendars planned out with each meal for the week all written down, and they buy all the ingredients in advance to fit each dinner so that both grocery shopping and cooking are a model of efficiency.

This is SO NOT ME.

I have mentioned before my model for food shopping, which is basically just throwing stuff onto my cart at random. (Click here if you want to see an illustrated version of that.)

And whenever I try to assign certain meals to certain days of the week I feel trapped and suddenly lose my appetite for whatever I’ve planned.

It feels like Food Slavery to me. But of course, we have to eat SOMETHING.

So here’s what I do.

When I get back from the store and start putting away all my random purchases, I make  list of all the meals I can possibly make from the stuff I just bought.

(While I’m saying to myself, “Why did I get this again?” and “Oh shoot, I forgot some essential thing!” of course.)

I post the list on the refrigerator. Then when it’s time to make dinner, I can look at the list and pick something, crossing it off after I make it.

ACTUAL PHOTO FROM MY FRIDGE

So.. THERE.

Don’t say I never put anything practical on this blog. Have you SEEN my new recipe tab?!

Perfect Mashed Potatoes?

Image result for perfect mashed potatoes
image from foodnetwork.com

Before Thanksgiving I found myself interestedly reading about how to make the PERFECT mashed potatoes.

(See this youtube tutorial on the subject, if you’re interested,)

I watched a video on Facebook, read a top ten list, and even listened to a radio broadcast once. (My husband has his truck’s radio dial on AM talk.)

Finally it came time to make the potatoes on Thanksgiving day. What did I do?

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It turns out I’m too lazy for perfect mashed potatoes…

Operator Error

Yesterday I made dinner in the crockpot before going out for the day. It’s nice to have that chore all done, I said to myself.

When I came home, I expected the stew to be percolating cheerfully on the counter, its many flavors mingling into the savory mix my family enjoyed eating. 

But when I sniffed the air, I could smell nothing. Oh no! Something was wrong.

With trepidation I approached the kitchen. The crockpot was right where I left it, on the kitchen counter, stone cold.

Apparently, IT HAD NEVER BEEN SWITCHED ON. I hate it when I do things like that.

crockpot

 

Also, the knob fell off again. So maybe it wasn’t all my fault.

And maybe it’s time for a new crockpot…

Funeral Sandwiches

Otherwise entitled “Putting the FUN in Funeral!”

Wait, was that tasteless? Well, these sandwiches aren’t!

(See what I did there? What a segue! I really should be in journalism, right?)

I saw these sandwiches on Pinterest and immediately remembered eating them when my grandmother would have Ladies’ Parties. Well, I’d eat them after the party of course, since I was a kid and not a Lady.

My grandmother did not call them funeral sandwiches, but I think it’s a good name.

Look at that picture (not taken by me)! Awesome, right?

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients for the sandwiches:

  • 24 King’s Hawaiian Rolls
  • 24 slices deli slice Honey Ham
  • 24 slices deli slice Swiss cheese
  • Mayonnaise

For the glaze:

  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  • 4 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon finely minced onion (or 2 tsp. dried minced onion)
  • Poppy seeds, for sprinkling

Instructions

1. Cut the rolls in half and spread the insides lightly with mayonnaise. Lightly oil or spray baking pan with Pam. Line the bottom of a baking pan with the bottoms of the rolls. Layer the ham slices, then cheese and place the top half back on.

2. In a medium bowl mix together the melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, brown sugar and onion. Pour the entire concoction over the buns, drenching each one. Sprinkle each sammie with poppy seeds. Cover tightly and marinade anywhere from 4-24 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes, uncovered or until cheese is melted and bun tops are a bit golden. Serve warm!

Don’t Mess With My Dinner

image from papajohns.com
image from papajohns.com

I ordered a pizza one day last week with a “plan-ahead” order.

I know what you’re thinking: Me? Plan ahead? That’s crazy talk! But on this occasion I did.

Amazing, huh?

But I digress…

The pizza was supposed to be delivered at 5:30. By about five p.m. I was getting hungry, and at 5:30 I was looking out the screen door every five minutes to see if the pizza guy had arrived yet.

At 5:45 I looked out and saw the Papa John’s delivery car parked on the street. “Yes!” I thought. “Finally!”

Then I saw the delivery guy walking BACK to his car from my next-door neighbor’s house. With an EMPTY insulated delivery bag!

“Oh no,” I thought. “Oh no no no no no. The neighbors STOLE my PIZZA! And I’m flipping STARVING!!”

I thought about how I’d have to point out to the delivery guy his mistake, and how he’d have to go all the way BACK down to the Papa John’s store and get me a new pizza. Which would take FOREVER. (Did I mention I was hungry?)

Then I thought about the neighbors eating MY pizza. Grrrr. I envisioned walking next door and confronting them, ripping my six-cheese-thin-crust right out of their greasy little hands. 

And then… Oh joy of joys!!… The guy took a new, FULL, insulated delivery bag from the back of his car. He waved cheerily at me, fortunately unable to see my glowering face through the screen door.

I hopped out there as quick as a rabbit with my new, happy, I’m-getting-to-eat-finally face on. Yay for dinner!

The neighbors are lucky they didn’t steal my pizza.

You mess with my food, I will cut you.

Chocolate Pudding Cake… in the CROCKPOT!

CROCK POT CHOCOLATE CAKE   1 box chocolate cake mix  8 oz sour cream  1 pkg instant chocolate pudding  1 cup chocolate chips  4 eggs  3/4 cup oil  1 cup water  Mix all ingredients together. Pour into lightly greased 5qt crock pot, metal coffee can or Crock Pot Cake Bake pan. Cover.  Cook 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
image from pinterest.com
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 (3.4 oz) box cook-and serve chocolate pudding
  • 1/4 plus 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 3 Tbsp chocolate sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  1. Coat the crockpot with cooking spray. Or better yet, put a crockpot liner in it.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, pudding mix. 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and add milk, oil, and vanilla. Stir gently until batter is smooth and then add chocolate chips.
  3. Pour the mixture in the prepared crockpot.
  4. In yet another bowl, stir together chocolate sauce and remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Pour in the boiling water and stir until smooth.
  5. Pour the second mixture on top of the batter in they slow cooker.
  6. Cover and cook on HIGH for 2 1/2 hours until the cake is puffed and the top layer is set.
  7. Let stand 30 minutes with the cover on, then serve with ice cream.

Above is the picture from pinterest; here’s the crockpot cake that I actually made:

IMG_0401

This came out pretty well, although I’m not sure the cinnamon was the best idea.

Still, it did set up as an actual cake, with a nice soft center.

Baked Shrimp Scampi

Baked Shrimp Scampi
foodnetwork.com

This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe I made last week. Delicious!

Of course, my version was slightly less pretty. And I took out some of the complications.

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Here’s the recipe, with my modifications in (Notes):

Baked Shrimp Scampi

  • 2 pounds shrimp in the shell
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic 
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. (Note: I took the tails off. I don’t like shrimp shells in my food.)

Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined. (Note: I don’t have all of this stuff. I used minced garlic from the jar and then replaced the other spices with a seafood seasoning blend. I used plain old bread crumbs instead of panko. The egg yolk I used as directed.)

Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. (Note: This makes it look fancy. Since I cut the tails off I couldn’t do this, but I’ll trade fancy-looking for shell-free food.)

Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. 

ENJOY!!

IMG_0246

Macaroni and Cheese

macncheese

I saw a new way to make mac and cheese on pinterest.

The difference is: You cook the noodles in the milk instead of water. 

I know, right? CRAZY. But it was really good.

It was super creamy, but did not use any butter or cream. There was only skim milk and cheddar cheese.

Now, I haven’t done the calorie math on this, but it’s got to be healthier than regular mac and cheese. (Especially when paired with frozen broccoli, as above. Bravo to me! Ha ha.)

The only drawback was that it required more standing and stirring than I usually prefer. (I’m lazy like that.) In my experience, it took longer than the 25 minutes on low for the milk to thicken; I think it was more like 35 minutes.

Still, this was some good pasta.

Revolutionary Mac & Cheese
Source: Cate’s World Kitchen  adapted from White on Rice

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dried pasta
  • 2 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup loosely packed cheddar cheese, shredded by hand
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard, can omit and substitute nutmeg instead
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions:

In a small saucepan, add pasta and milk.  Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until pasta is soft, stirring frequently and ensuring milk does not boil.

Turn heat off, add cheese & salt & and stir to combine.  Stir in the mustard or nutmeg & cayenne a little at a time, to taste. Cover and let stand for a couple of minutes, then stir again and serve. If not creamy enough, add milk a little at a time, and gently stir.

If you would like to bake it at this point, place in a baking dish and top with a generous sprinkling of cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 10 minutes until cheese has melted.

How do you stuff an Oreo inside a cookie?

oreo3

Yesterday I made Oreo-stuffed chocolate-chip cookies.

Two words: De. Lish.

I will put the recipe below, but first of all, to answer the question. How do you get the Oreo INSIDE?

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Basically you make the cookie dough with extra flour so it holds together well, and mold the cookie dough AROUND the Oreo.

oreo1

 

Form it into giant dough balls. You see?

oreo2

Recipe:

  • 8 oz (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 10-12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 pkg Double Stuf Oreo Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add butter and sugars to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, and baking soda with a wire whisk until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Add the chocolate chips and mix until combined.

Use an ice cream scoop to place a scoop of cookie dough on top of an Oreo cookie. Place another scoop on the bottom of the Oreo. Seal the edges together by pressing and cupping the dough in hand until the Oreo is completely enclosed. Shape into a thick patty. Repeat with remaining cookies and dough.

Place the stuffed cookies on the prepared baking sheet a couple of inches apart and bake for 11-15 minutes, until the cookies are cooked through. Let cool for 5 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.

Source: © 2012 The Picky Palate Cookbook by Jenny Flake