Sunday, August 29, 2010

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Nicole and Matt wanted to be spontaneous this weekend so they jumped in their car Thursday and came to visit for the weekend. The sole purpose for their visit was for us to make yummy food, take a ridiculous amount of pictures and then blog about it, here, for all (five) of you to read.

Alright, that wasn't the only reason but that is what we did for much of the time they were here.

Our first dish was a delicious recipe we got off of called Asian Lettuce Wraps. We were trying to imitate the yummy Lettuce Wraps from PF Chang.s and I think they turned out pretty darn good. Here is the recipe:

  • 16 Boston Bibb or butter lettuce leaves
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced pickled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • Asian chile pepper sauce (optional)
  • 1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Asian (dark) sesame oil


  1. Rinse whole lettuce leaves and pat dry, being careful not tear them. Set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet over high heat, brown the ground beef in 1 tablespoon of oil, stirring often and reducing the heat to medium, if necessary. Drain, and set aside to cool. Cook the onion in the same pan, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, and chile pepper sauce to the onions, and stir. Stir in chopped water chestnuts, green onions, and sesame oil, and continue cooking until the onions just begin to wilt, about 2 minutes.
  3. Arrange lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large serving platter, and pile meat mixture in the center. To serve, allow each person to spoon a portion of the meat into a lettuce leaf. Wrap the lettuce around the meat like a burrito, and enjoy!

You will notice...

I don't actually know what you will notice because I started this post months ago and I am just now finishing it. I have no idea if we changed anything in the recipe (actually, looking back I can see that we used chicken instead of beef) but I do know that it tasted fabulous and I have made it a few times since these pictures were taken.


Zucchini Alfredo

I am always looking for new ways to use up summer vegetables. I found this recipe last year on and have made it a number of times. Even if I can't grow a vegetable to save my life, other people can, and we have lots of zucchini to show for it (thanks to my generous neighbors). This recipe uses 4 cups of shredded zucchini, so it is a great way to knock off some of that zucchini in my fridge.

Zucchini Alfredo

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 c. shredded zucchini
1 c. milk
4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1/2 Tbsp. basil
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes (I burn my garlic nearly every time I make this and have to start over-luckily it is the first step, but be aware how quickly it burns when your pan is too hot). Add the zucchini and cook for 10 minutes until some of the water evaporates.
Add the cream cheese and milk and stir until well mixed. Stir in the basil, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Let simmer on the medium-low heat until the zucchini is the tenderness that you want. Serve over noodles and top with more Parmesan cheese. I always chop up chicken and cook it in oil with salt, pepper and rosemary and I think the rosemary chicken and zucchini alfredo are a great flavor combination. The alfredo is not super strong and the strong rosemary works well with it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summertime Squash and Potatoes

Do you have a TON of these? Well, I do, thanks to my parents. My own garden is not a happy one this year, but if yours is, and you need to get rid of some of these, a very memorable summertime meal when I was growing up was Dad's Squash and Potatoes. He made it a lot when I lived at home and I know he still makes it (I saw the leftovers in the fridge the last time I was there). He has passed on his love of doctored up, buttered up garden veggies to me, so I thought I'd pass it on to you. And if you are a sibling, maybe this will remind you of nice summer nights at Home.
Squash and Potatoes
one large crookneck squash (zucchini would work as well, maybe others would, too)
2-3 potatoes
1 onion
4 Tbsp butter or margarine
salt and pepper to taste
Wash and cut up the squash, potatoes and onions into thin slices (maybe a quarter of an inch?). Try to get them all the same so they will cook equally.
In a large frying pan, melt the butter. Add veggie slices and salt and pepper. Now here is a tip on the salt and pepper. I didn't measure, but I added A LOT of both. In fact, I had three year old Soux-Chef Ryan helping me add the pepper and I got a little worried that he added way too much. But no, it was perfect. And it really seemed like too much pepper. By "a lot" I mean that pretty much your veggies will taste like butter, salt, pepper and a hint of vegetables by the time you are through. Mmmm.
Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through. I served mine with cut up chicken in a mesquite spice with bread and homemade apricot jam. I love summer nights!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Easy Spinach Manicotti

I rarely make Italian dishes like manicotti, lasagna and the like, because it always seems like it will take forever to prepare, and because ricotta cheese is a little too pricey for my tight budget. But a long time ago my good sis, Nicole, told me about a cheap way to do manicotti by shoving a mozzarella cheese stick in the cooked manicotti shell. Taking that idea and adding it to a recipe I found on for easy spinach manicotti, another sister, Jen, and I (try to follow me, there are a lot of us) made a spinach manicotti, using mozzarella, Parmesan and other yummies. This recipe is easy because you don't cook the manicotti noodles first. It turned out great and even the kiddies loved it!

Spinach Manicotti
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
chopped fresh spinach (about 1 1/2 c.)
1 egg
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 c. water
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a 9X13 pan, spread 1/2 c. spaghetti sauce (or whatever is needed to cover the bottom of the pan). In a medium bowl whisk the egg and add italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper and stir well. Add spinach, Parmesan and 2 c. mozzarella cheese and stir to combine. Mix remaining spaghetti sauce with water and set aside. Using a small spoon (or your fingers) stuff the uncooked manicotti noodles with the cheese mixture until they are full. Lay them side by side in the 9X13 pan. Pour remaining spaghetti sauce/water over all the manicotti and top with 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until noodles are cooked.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Blueberry Pancakes

So we have been consuming a lot of blueberry pancakes recently with all of the yummy and cheap blueberries around. Matt found this recipe for today's breakfast and we really liked it. They weren't too runny or dry like some can be, but came out delicious. This recipe can also be made into an "instant" pancake mix if you follow the Food Network's recipe, courtesy of Alton Brown, but I chose to do a third of the recipe for just one batch, as follows:

Blueberry Pancakes
adapted from the Food Network


2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. sugar
2 eggs, separated
2 c. buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk on hand, keep this in mind- For every cup of buttermilk needed, put one tbsp. of lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup and pour milk in to equal 1 cup.)
4 tbsp. melted butter
2 c. fresh blueberries (or other delicious fruit desired)


Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients and set aside.

Whisk together the egg whites and the buttermilk in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the melted butter.

Combine the buttermilk mixture with the egg yolk mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don't try to work all the lumps out. Add blueberries now or sprinkle them on top after pouring batter on to griddle.

Cook them, eat and enjoy them, and if you're lucky like us, your blueberries will be so juicy they'll pop when you eat your pancakes.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cowboy Cookies

I got this recipe is from the Sisters Cafe, which I have gotten many recipes from, because I was searching for a new cookie to try. I was feeling ambitious and so I split the dough into four bowls and added different chips and nuts to see what I liked best. I'm posting these cookies because they came out so plump and soft! They came out perfect and I think some of it had to do with the fact that you refrigerate them for a couple hours before you bake them. Try them!

Cowboys Cookies

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans or shredded coconut(opt.)

In a large bowl stir together the oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

In the bowl of your mixer blend the butter and sugars until smooth, ab0ut 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. Blend in vanilla

Using a wooden spoon, stir in dry mixture, half at a time. MIx in chocolate chips and nuts. Refrigerate dough for at least 1-2 hours.

Heat oven to 350. Spray baking sheet.

Using a scant 1/4 cup per cookie shape dough into balls and slightly flatten. Place about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12-14 minutes. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completly.

**To change it up--**

Omit the chocolate chips,cinnamon and nuts and add:
2 cup white chocolate chips (I didn't have white chocolate chips so I tried butterscotch chips which were surprisingly good:)
1 cup dried sweetened cranberries

I did four variations of the ingredients (chocolate chip, chocolate chip and pecans, butterscotch, butterscotch and cranberries) and while I liked them all, I still love just a basic chocolate chip cookie:)

Chicken Roll-Ups redone

I grew up eating Chicken Roll-Ups. They were quick, they were easy, and they were good. However, I found myself comparing the sauce (cream of chicken soup) to the memory of when I had cream of chicken soup minus the chicken at the hospital when I had my appendix out, and so I revamped it a little bit so as to give it a little better flavor. But I didn't stop there and just kept adding things until I got this. Beware that I usually just add in a bunch of seasonings and flavors until it tastes good, so these are rough estimates. Enjoy!

Chicken Roll-Ups redone:

1 1/2- 2 c. cooked chicken (I use less chicken if I add more spinach)
8 oz. cream cheese
frozen or fresh spinach (I used about as much spinach as chicken... 1 1/2 c. ish)
lemon juice (I either cook the chicken in lemon juice or add it in when I mix the ingredients, probably 2-4 tbsp.)
italian seasoning
3+ tbsp. melted butter
2 cans crescent rolls or biscuits

For sauce:
2 cans cream of chicken soup
sour cream (about 1/2 c. or a little more)
milk (1- 1 1/2 c., or until desired thinness)
italian seasoning

For topping: (I used the leftover topping I had from making this ziti and it was awesome. You can also use italian breadcrumbs)
1 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 c. Italian breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon romano cheese, grated
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix topping ingredients and set aside. Soften cream cheese. Mix chicken, cream cheese, spinach, lemon juice, and seasonings (to taste) in a medium sized bowl. (I used frozen spinach and mixed it in without thawing it and it came out great.) Press crescent rolls flat and put even amounts of cream cheese filling onto rolls. Fold dough over and seal the edges to make mini looking calzones. Dip each roll into melted butter, then into ziti topping (or Italian breadcrumbs) and arrange side by side in 9X13 pan (I use round cake pans). Top with any remaining topping and bake uncovered for 20 min. or until dough has cooked through.

For sauce:
Mix cans of cream of chicken soup, sour cream, milk, and seasonings (to taste) over medium-high heat stirring occasionally.

Serve sauce over rolls and enjoy.

(The picture shown does not have ziti topping.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunshine Pancakes

This recipe for pancakes is from my mother-in-law, Kathy, and has been handed down and around and through and now has been passed on to me. It takes a little longer than the recipe I use for my every day breakfast making (because you cut in the margarine), so I like to use it for dinner pancakes (which happens more than it should at our house).
Sunshine Pancakes
1 1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. soda
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1/4 c. margarine
1 egg
1 c. milk
Combine flour, baking powder, soda and powdered sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the margarine. Add the egg and milk (I ended up adding about 1/4 c. more milk) and stir together. Your batter will be lumpy from the little butter chunks,
but when you bake it up the butter melts and mmmm, it is like eating a buttery piece of sunshine!