Monday, May 31, 2010

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

This is a recipe we always had growing up and made often, but I don't know where it originally came from. The cookies are thin and chewy and taste kind of like brownies - just make sure you don't overbake them! The last time I made these, I had some mint chips leftover from the holidays and threw those in. The recipe calls for margarine, which I never buy, but would recommend for this recipe. They do seem to be better with margarine instead of butter.

1 1/4 cups margarine, room temp
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1. Cream together margarine and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well.
2. Combine in separate bowl flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture.
3. Add nuts if desired.
4. Drop by spoonfuls or use a scoop onto ungreased cookie sheet in preheated 350 oven for 8-9 minutes. They will seem like they aren't done, but take them out, you don't want to over bake them. They will continue to cook and flatten out on the pan after you take them out.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sweet & Sour Meatballs

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (you don’t want the beef to be too high in fat because the fat will all pool at the bottom of the baking dish after baking
3/4 cup quick oats
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Form into about 12 balls, each about 2 inches in diameter. Place in a casserole dish. Cover with sauce (below). Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Serve over rice.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard
1/4 cup barbeque sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Combine ingredients and blend thoroughly. Heat in a small saucepan until combined and sugar is dissolved and pour over meatballs. (This dish is not overly abundant on sauce so if you enjoy things a bit saucier, double the sauce ingredients.)

To Freeze: After covering the meatballs with sauce, cover the pan with two layers of aluminum foil and freeze. To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake covered without thawing for 1 hour. Uncover and bake 20-30 minutes more, until meatballs are cooked through.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Baked Manicotti

This is kind of a twist on regular manicotti - you roll up lasagna noodles instead of trying to tediously stuff manicotti noodles.

Tomato Sauce
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (in juice)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried basil

Cheese Filling and Pasta
3 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (about 2 cups)
2 large eggs , lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
16 no-boil lasagna noodles

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat oil, garlic, and pepper flakes (if using) in large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, basil and 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan chese, mozzarella cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and herbs; set aside.

To assemble, pour 1 inch boiling water into 13 by 9-inch baking dish, then add noodles one at a time. Let noodles soak until pliable, about 5 minutes, separating noodles with tip of sharp knife to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on clean kitchen towels; discard water in baking dish and dry baking dish.

Spread bottom of baking dish evenly with 1 1/2 cups sauce. Using soup spoon, spread 1/4 cup cheese mixture evenly onto bottom three-quarters of each noodle (with short side facing you), leaving top quarter of noodle exposed. Roll into tube shape and arrange in baking dish seam side down. (You should be able to fit 8 manicotti in each row, allowing all 16 to fit in the dish). Top evenly with remaining sauce, making certain that pasta is completely covered.

Cover manicotti with aluminum foil. Bake until bubbling, about 40 minutes, then remove foil.

Sprinkle manicotti evenly with remaining 1 cup Parmesan. Bake until cheese is browned and bubbly, about 6-7 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

The manicotti can be prepared right up until the baking step then covered with a sheet of parchment paper, wrapped in aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. (If frozen, thaw the manicotti in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.) To bake, remove the parchment, replace the aluminum foil, and increase baking time to 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

What I did: I did make it like the recipe says, but had a hard time with soaking the noodles. Next time I will just boil the noodles, but not completely cook them. Just enough that they are pliable though b/c they will continue to cook in the oven and I do not like mushy noodles.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Meal Planning Services

I'm wondering if anyone has ever used one of the many online menu planning services. I have looked at them in the past and thought they were too expensive to be worth it and that judging by their sample menus, we might not like the meals they plan for you. They seemed to include a lot of soup, for example, and my husband does not believe soup is a meal.

One of the blogs I subscribe to, Money Saving Mom, had a post today on one of these services. This one is E-Mealz and is very inexpensive and does not have soup on any of the sample menus I looked at. You can also cancel at any time. I'm considering trying it for a coupld of reasons. Lately I feel like I make meals that are too complicated or "fancy." We've been trying to cut our grocery budget and I feel like making simpler meals would help with that as well as actually being easier and faster to prepare. "30-minute meals" always take me longer than 30 minutes! So I have been keeping my eye out for simple, more basic meals. The recipes here seem to be very simple and quick - they can type the instructions in one little box on their meal planning sheet...

I don't think this particular service will really cut my grocery budget though. They claim to keep it around $75/week for their meals. But by the time I add in breakfast & lunch groceries, milk, etc. I don't think my total will be much different. So I wouldn't be trying it for that reason. I think I would try it b/c I have 2 kids and a newborn and don't want to have to plan meals right now! And because I want some new simple & quick recipes. And then I would probably cancel it after a few months.

What do you think? Have you tried this or other menu/meal planning services?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares

If you like traditional lemon squares, you will like these. I like lemon squares - sometimes. I do not like things that taste eggy, which most of the time lemon squares do. When I saw this and saw that there were no eggs, I had to try it b/c it's so rare to find a lemon square that is not eggy! And this has a crumb topping, so it's even better! It is also very easy to make.
1-⅓ cup All-purpose Flour
½ teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 stick (1/2 Cup) Butter, Slightly Softened
1 cup Brown Sugar (lightly Packed)
1 cup Oats
1 can (14 Ounce) Sweetened Condensed Milk
½ cups Lemon Juice
Zest Of 1 Lemon
1. Preheat oven to 350

2. Mix butter and brown sugar until well combined.
3. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.
4. Add oats and flour to butter/sugar mixture and mix to combine.
5. Press half of crumb mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 11 inch pan. (you can use a 9x13, but your layers will be pretty thin. I used an oval shaped, shallow casserole.)
5. Mix together condensed milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Spread onto the bottom layer of the crumb mixture. Top with the other half of the crumb mixture, but don’t press.
6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
7. Allow pan to sit on counter for 30 minutes after baking. Cut into squares and refrigerate for a couple of hours or until cool.
Serve cool.

Monday, May 3, 2010

BBQ Chicken Pasta

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
1 red onion, diced
3 cups water
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces penne pasta
2/3 cup barbecue sauce
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1. In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat (you could also use a large pot if you don’t have a skillet this big). When hot, add the chicken and onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is browned and cooked through. Remove the chicken and onions to a plate and set aside.

2. In the same skillet, add the water, chicken broth, penne and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until the liquid is almost absorbed, the pasta is tender and the mixture is thick and syrupy. Stir in the barbecue sauce and sour cream. Once mixed, add in the reserved chicken, onions and shredded cheese. Stir to combine and cook until everything is heated through.

Serve immediately and garnish with additional red or green onions and shredded cheese.

Recipe Source: My Kitchen Cafe