There is a new peace in our household. Brian's first week at his new job is providing that peace. It's financial, sure - the stress and weight of that is gone. It's the peace that comes from having health insurance again - to be able to go to a chiropractor when my sciatica twinges, or to simply get new glasses. Yet it's also a new sense of happiness in him. His new job makes him happy, so happy in fact that he began laughing in the middle of the night last night, only to roll over and tell me he had been dreaming of someone in his office. I won't tell you why it's funny. Suffice to say, it's total "guy humor." Apparently engineering is still a male-dominated field and there is only one brave woman in his entire building. I send her my love and admiration. :)
This November has been a pretty magical month. I wrapped up the 30 Days of Thankfulness today and reflected on most of the things I listed: talents, family, friends, children, Brian, marriage, house and home, coffee, Big Bird, new employment, an unexpected sleep-in until 9:30am, and Christmas among other things. I have been clothed in thankfulness this whole month and feel as if I've built a bridge from Thanksgiving to Christmas with this attitude.
There's one thing I'm thankful for that I didn't really ever post, and that's my cookbook. It's done. I have the first copy in my possession and it's a really amazing feeling. It's not perfect, and that's ok with me. It's still pretty darn good. :) I will be placing everyone's order that has pre-ordered this Friday, and anticipate, then, that those cookbooks should arrive at my home by the following Friday. That means I'll be shipping out the week before Christmas, or will have them here for pick-ups that week. Either way, that means if you want a cookbook for Christmas, please place your order by Friday!
I also have been busy in the kitchen and have neglected to share, so shame on me. I am still obsessed with crockpot concoctions as it really is my favorite way to get dinner done in the fall and winter months. I love prepping something earlier and not having to rush around at 4:30pm to get dinner done, since that is probably the absolute worst time of day for my children and also rather depressing for me to dirty the kitchen once again with no hope of getting it cleaned-up before morning. So, I've added a crockpot label to better help people sort, and as always, you can find "crockpot" as its own section in the recipe index. Something else I've been slacking off on is photographing my food. What can I say? It's winter, it's dark by the time I plate things up, and we actually have no overhead lighting in our dining room. A problem that might actually be remedied now that we have disposable income. :)
|I have this one, slightly blurry, because this was a prep-ahead. That's morning light you're seeing on my dining room table. :) This was a layered salad I made. Recipes to come!|
Jessica Seinfeld's Crockpot Lasagna, altered very slightly :)
Yield: 8 servings
8 to 12 lasagna noodles, broken into whatever size pieces you need to get even layers.
48 to 60 ounces of crushed tomatoes (I had the large 28.8 ounce cans and used 2)
2 T dried basil
3/4 t garlic powder
1 1/2 t ground oregano
1 to 2 T sugar (optional and to taste)
a dash or two of red pepper flakes
a pinch or two of nutmeg
about two pinches of sea salt and a pinch of pepper
1 small box (like 6 ounces) of frozen chopped spinach, drained and thoroughly squeezed
about 1 1/2 C shredded mozzarella
about 1 C parmesan
about 1 C ricotta cheese
Combine the ricotta with the egg and 1 T of sugar, beating with a fork until smooth. Combine the crushed tomatoes and all the spices and seasonings, including another tablespoon of sugar.
In a crockpot sprayed with Pam, spread about a 1/2 C of the sauce on the bottom. Break up the lasagna noodles and form a layer all the way around the bottom. Spread more sauce, then the spinach, then mozzarella, parmesan, then the ricotta. Add more broken lasagna noodles, more sauce, spinach, mozzarella, parmesan, then ricotta. I did about 5 layers in mine. Top the last layer with just sauce and the cheeses, but no ricotta. Cover and cook on low for 3 1/2 hours.
Next up is a new chicken dish I tried thanks to Pinterest and was a hit. Again, I altered it very slightly, but apparently the point of origin for this one is Paula Deen.
Sweet n Spicy Bacon Chicken
Yield: 4 adult servings
3/4 C brown sugar
2 1/2 T chili powder
1 t sea salt
4 chicken breasts, butterflied open then cut all the way through (leaving you 8 whole breasts total)
1 pound of bacon
In a 350 degree oven, par-cook the bacon on a parchment lined baking sheet until halfway done. Just enough to get them started. Meanwhile combine the brown sugar, chili powder and sea salt in a bowl.
To butterfly the chicken, simply cut it lengthwise along the side to the point where it appears that you still have 2 whole chicken breasts. This, most likely, is an actual proper chicken breast portion size, not the behemoth thing you originally had. If you don't believe me, weigh it. A serving of chicken should be 3 to 4 ounces.
Dredge the chicken through the rub, then top with the bacon (break up pieces as you need to cover the breast) and a little bit more of the rub. Set it on the same parchment lined baking sheet you par-cooked the bacon on and cook until the bacon is crisp - about 20 minutes. Done! I served this with a big fat salad and crockpot mashed potatoes.
Crockpot Mashed Potatoes
Yield: 8 to 10 servings (I needed leftovers for the next night's meal)
3 pounds of peeled and quartered potatoes
1/2 C chicken stock
1/2 C milk
1 C butter, melted
1 t sea salt
several pinches black pepper
1/2 t white pepper
Add the peeled and quartered potatoes to the crockpot. Combine the chicken stock, melted butter, milk, and spices and add it to the crockpot. Cook on high for 4 hours. Mash with a potato masher or electric beaters once done, right in the crockpot. Season more if necessary.
This one was inspired by another Pinterest find. All kids eat things with tomato sauce and noodles, so I'm forever looking for interesting ways to combine them. This was pretty good. It was lighter feeling and tasting than a traditional pasta dish, and I can imagine would be very comforting on a sick belly. It was very filling, too, which I liked, and couldn't have been easier to put together. My one beef is that it doesn't hold very well.... meaning the leftovers are just not as good as the original serving. The noodles get all sloppy, soaking up all the soup-sauce, and it just kind of breaks-down. I should have taken the leftovers and frozen them immediately - then it probably would have held-up.
Crockpot Rigatoni or Lasagna Soup
Yield: 8 servings
1 pound ground sweet italian sausage
1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
1 t garlic powder
2 28 ounces cans crushed tomatoes, whole tomatoes (that you then crush) or stewed tomatoes in puree
1 pound rigatoni noodles or lasagna noodles, broken slightly
a dash of sugar
2 T dried basil
1 t ground oregano
a dash of nutmeg
sea salt and pepper
parmesan cheese, for serving
In a skillet with a little olive oil, brown the italian sausage with the onion until done. Sprinkle with garlic powder and sea salt and pepper.
In a crockpot sprayed with Pam, add the tomato product and the seasonings. Add the sausage mixture. Cook for however long you need it to - all day on low if you're going to work, or just an hour or so if you're at home. In the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking, just add the noodles of your choice. (OK, so if you can't to do the 20 to 30 minute thing for the noodles, go ahead and add them earlier - you'll just have soggy noodles. But it'll still taste good!). :) Serve with parmesan cheese on top.
I'm also forever looking for new ways to make turkey smoked sausage, if you hadn't gathered that by my rather large sausage section in the recipe index. It's a cheaper meat protein and also very family friendly since I can brand them as hot dogs to my kids. :) Last night I made a simple rosemary honey mustard glaze that went on them and it was delicious! I served it with potato pancakes from the leftovers of the crockpot mashed potatoes and a layered salad.
Rosemary Honey Mustard Glaze for Sausage
Yield: enough for 1 1/2 pounds of sausage
2 T crushed dried rosemary
2 T dijon mustard
1/4 C yellow mustard
1/4 C honey
2 T sugar
plenty of sea salt and pepper
Combine everything in a bowl. Cut the sausage in halves lengthwise, then the halves into thirds. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then set a cooling rack into the baking sheet and spray it well with Pam. Set the sausages cut size down and spread glaze on them. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Turn them over with tongs, brush more glaze on them, and bake another 15 minutes. Eat.
Yield: 6 servings
1 head romaine lettuce
1/2 small sweet onion, chopped
1/2 pound bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
2 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
1/2 C frozen peas
1 small broccoli crown, chopped
1/2 C croutons
3/4 C miracle whip
a dash of sugar
sea salt and pepper
1/2 C parmesan cheese
In a bowl layer the lettuce, then the onion, the bacon, the peas, the egg, then the broccoli. Reserve the croutons until you're ready to toss it. Spread the miracle whip in an even layer, then the sugar, salt and pepper, and parmesan cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you're ready to eat - up to 24 hours in advance or as little as 5 minutes in advance. :) Add the croutons and toss. Ta da! :)