Monday, September 29, 2014

Simple Baked Spaghetti Squash

I kept seeing recipes for spaghetti squash on Pinterest, and really wanted to try it, especially after I had it as a side with a seafood entree last time David and I went out to dinner at Pappadeux's. I'm always hesitant to try a new food, knowing full well my hubby won't go near it with a 10 foot pole.'s true. My husband eats many different things, but will not eat any kind of winter squash. No buttternut, acorn, or pumpkin squash ever crosses his lips (except for pumpkin pie). I made this Carrot Apple Ginger Soup and he didn't like it...even though it has NO squash in it! So yeah...I've given up. :-( 

Anyways...we recently have cut out a lot of carbs in our diet. Not completely, but David and I definitely don't reach for chips, crackers, or bread anymore. I try to serve more veggies or fruit instead. I haven't really pushed the kids in this direction, If I tried to take every bit of carbs out of their diet, I would have 5 very unhappy kids. And while I'd be perfectly happy having mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, and quinoa instead of whole family would be up in arms...and this momma ain't got time for that! Right? 

My sweet Rebecca and I are the only ones who will eat spaghetti squash...and I guess I will keep trying to get the rest of the kids to try in. Meanwhile, that just means more for the two of us. ;-) 

Simple Baked Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash, wiped clean if necessary
2-4 tablespoons butter (I like 4 :-) ) 
2-4 cloves minced garlic 
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1-2 teaspoons fresh herbs (I used thyme, but you can use basil or another herb of choice)
salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

You can bake the squash 2 different ways. A) Cut the squash in half. Season with the salt and pepper. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until tender. A knife inserted in the flesh should go in easily without any resistance. B). Leave the squash whole (my preferred method). Use a small, sharp knife and stab (yep...stab) the squash at least 6 times, You need to do this or you will have a squash explosion in the oven...and let's not even imagine what a mess that would be. Bake the squash at 375 for one hour. If you push on the rind and it doesn't give at all, let it bake an additional 15 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15 to 30 minutes. If you're short on time, just go ahead and cut it in half with a big knife. Just be's going to be very hot and steamy! 

Once you cut it open, scrap out the seeds and any pulp that clings to the seeds. 

Now comes the fun part! Take a fork and scrap out the flesh. It will fall apart into strings, that look amazingly like spaghetti. See? 

Keep going until you have both sides scraped out. Now, you could serve this as is, with a little salt and pepper. But I like to add some more flavor. 

Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Melt the butter, then add the spaghetti squash. Stir it around a few times to evenly coat with the butter. We're not cooking it any more, just adding some seasonings. Now toss in the thyme (or herb of choice), garlic, and parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately, with a fish fillet, pork chops, hanger steak...anything! It's the perfect substitute for pasta. After I made this the first time, I made a bolognesesauce and baked another spaghetti squash to go with it. It was least, Rebecca and I fought over the leftovers. I did make regular pasta for everyone else. :-) 

We got our first hint of fall last week here in southwest TX by way of a "cool" front, meaning we had 2 days of highs in the upper 80's and lows in the upper 60's, plus lower humidity. I'm sure any Yankee reading this is laughing their heads off. But fall means winter vegetables are on their way, and you should be able to find spaghetti squash easily in your grocery store. Buy one, bake it, and serve it won't regret it. 

God bless your table tonight! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Finally, A New Recipe and an Answered Prayer

Hello!  I'm so sorry it's been forever since I posted.  My hard drive on my laptop crashed just after Christmas.  So we found an old drive and limped along for a little bit.  My hubby was so busy at work he just didn't have time to get it up to 100%.  Then that old drive crashed...WTH?!  Luckily the original drive was still under the 1 year warranty.  I know, I know, it didn't even last a year...what is UP with that anyway DELL!? 

So...we sent the corrupt drive off, and finally got the new one last week.  My techie spouse worked for hours to get my laptop set up again, so now I can finally blog again.  I could have gone upstairs and used the kids' computer, but loading pics from their old CPU is not fun...that's all I'm going to say. 

And...David was laid off for the second time the first week of June.  Good news...he as a contract job for 4 days/week. Please pray it will become a permanent position! It will take a year recoup financially, especially since our first round of unemployment in 2013 lasted 6 months. Thank you! 

Now, on to a NEW RECIPE! I'm sorry it's been SO LONG. I also started working 2 days a week last year and well...between that, homeschooling, and five kids...I honestly needed to sleep more than I needed to blog, although I missed cooking and posting recipes dearly. 

Over the summer, we harvested some beautiful beets from the garden.  I've had beet greens in salads plenty of times, but I confess, (gasp!) I've never cooked beets before.  Of course, I didn't dream of wasting them, so I polled my Facebook friends to get ideas.  I made a yummy Roasted Beet Salad...
and borscht!  I had borscht when I was younger, but didn't like it.  Thank goodness taste buds do grow up.  I made a big batch, and didn't regret it one bit.  I used fresh dill from the garden too...amazing!  There's a few more beets ready to pull from the vegetable bed...I can't wait to make another batch.  Best of all, borscht is meant to be served cold...perfect for a refreshing, healthy, summer lunch.

 (adapted from Weight Watchers)

4 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
5-6 fresh beets, scrubbed clean and finely diced/shredded
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 cups finely shredded red cabbage
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped (plus more for garnish)
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup sour cream

In a large stockpot, bring the chicken stock, water, beets, scallions, and brown sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer (covered) for 15 minutes. Add the cabbage and dill. Continue to cook (covered) until the beets and cabbage are completely soft. 

Remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Leave the soup chunky or pureed in a blender (or use an immersion blender). My borscht was a little chunky but that was fine with me. Pour the soup into a nonreactive container (glass or plastic) and chill for 2-4 hours. 

Serve in pretty bowls with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill. Isn't it pretty? I hope you can make this and enjoy it where ever you are. It's still hotter than heck here in Houston, so a cold soup really cools us down on a scorching hot day! 

God bless your table tonight! 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Greek Shrimp and Couscous

I cannot take credit for this dish.  I got my new issue of Food Network Magazine earlier this week, and flipped through it leisurely while sipping a glass of wine that night. 

Not really...I read it quickly while the girls were folding laundry and Theresa was napping.  Yeah...that sounds more realistic, doesn't it? ;-)

But I came across this recipe, and thought it would be perfect for Fridays during Lent.  So...all my fellow Catholic foodies...take note.  This ones's a keeper!

I only took pics of the finished dish.  I wish I had more...but I honestly just can't manage these days.  Theresa just turned 2, and the child wants to be held all the time!  I think I will just super-glue her to my hip!  

Here's the link to the recipe:  

And here's the finished dish.  Looks delicious, doesn't it?  

Happy Lent everyone, and God bless your table tonight!  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Candy Dipped Jumbo Marshmallows

I know...who in their right mind would dip giant marshmallows?  

We do...we did...and we are tellin' y'all they are good.  Mighty good.  In fact, I made nearly 30 of them for the MOMS (Ministry of Moms) spring bake sale, and we sold out before the 11:00 AM Mass today. 

Ahem...did I tell you how easy these things are to make? 

No? you go then.  Make these for your favorite Valentine, for bake sales, baby showers, birthday parties...the possibilities are endless.  And the kids can help you.  Just watch out for stray fingers and eating leftover sprinkles or licking the spoon until you're all done!

Candy Dipped Jumbo Marshmallows

1 package jumbo marshmallows (Walmart sells them)
2-3 bags of Wilton Candy Melts (almond bark works well too)
Assorted sprinkles for decorating
Pure vegetable shortening (1-2 tablespoons per bag of candy melts)
Lollipop/cookie pop sticks (the bigger, taller ones work best)  

In a small deep bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water, melt the candy coating or almond bark along with 1-2 tablespoons of shortening.  I usually use just 1 tablespoon).  You can use a microwave, but I've found the double boiler method is just as simple. keeps the candy melts at the optimal temperature for dipping, and you don't have to keep running back and forth to the microwave.  Just make sure the bowl is not touching the water.  I keep the heat turned down as low as it will go on my gas range, and it works great.  

Insert a stick into each marshmallow.  I like to push it in pretty far...more than halfway, until I can feel it nearly to the top.  

Dip each marshmallow halfway into the melted candy.  Tap the stick gently with your free hand so any excess coating drips off. 

Immediately sprinkle with sugar crystals, nonpareils, etc.  I will say jumbo sprinkles don't work very well...they tend to fall off.  I stuck to smaller decorations.  

Stick upright in a block of styrofoam or in my case, the lid to a cardboard file box until completely dry.  As you can see, I used pink, red, vanilla (white), and chocolate candy coating and a variety of sprinkles.  I wanted to make several different designs for our bake sale.  If I make these again at home, I probably stick to one color of candy coating and one type of sprinkles, just to make the process go even faster. 

Aren't the so cute and pretty?  Too pretty to eat!  No...not really...not in our house anyway, LOL!  

Wrap them up in clear treat bags tied with a pretty ribbon.  Not that they'll last that long... ;-)  

I really wish I'd remembered to take a pictures of them at our wrapping party, but alas I did not.  We tied them with pink and red ribbon and put them in a large glass vase with pink and red gumdrops in the bottom.  It was SO PRETTY!  

But here's a couple of pics of them unwrapped to make up for it.  My apologies!

These are much easier to make than cake pops...and far less temperamental too.  My kids are already asking if I can make another batch for them...instead of selling them at the bake sale.  I think I will, but shhh...don't tell! 

I had a good amount of candy coating left over, so I dropped spoonfuls of all the different colors (red, pink, white and chocolate) on a cookie sheet lined with foil.  I just did it in a random pattern.  Then I took a toothpick and swirled all the colors together, and spinkled M&M's, almonds, and sweetend coconut flakes over the top.  Simple, sweet, and EASY.  I broke it up in big pieces and we bagged it for the bake sale too.  Best of wasted candy coating.  :-)

Make some of these for your next celebration...I promise they will disappear in two winks!

God bless your table tonight!  

*Note:  I made a few more marshmallows for the kids for Valentine's Day.  I put them in a tall candy dish (or try a short, wide vase) and it worked very well once the candy coating was completely set.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and they'll keep for a few days...but trust me...they're be snapped up quick!  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup

Around these here parts (lol), the flu is going around like crazy, and people are dropping like flies.  Literally.  My four older kiddos were all down for the count 2 weeks ago, and my sweet Gabriel only started to feel better last weekend.  Poor little guy!  After making homemade applesauce and letting the kids nosh on graham crackers and sprite for about a week, I decided to make a pot of soup.  I mean...who doesn't want chicken noodle soup when you're getting over the flu, right? 

I firmly believe good chicken soup starts with good stock, and that means cooking the chicken with the skin on and bone-in.  None of that "boneless, skinless chicken" stuff here!  You wanna make some hard core soup?  Stick with me...and we'll make a pot with a lot more flavor if you have the bones...all righty?  Trust me, there's nothing to it...just takes a wee bit more time.  

I used just chicken drumsticks (I had two big family sized packs in the freezer), but you can use a whole, cut up chicken, bone-in thighs, whatever you fancy.  Just please...for the love of heaven get you some chicken with bones in it...they sell cut up chickens right in the poultry case at the grocery store.  I promise...I saw some at my local Kroger just today.  ;-)

Chicken Noodle Soup

2 pounds meaty chicken pieces (bone-in thighs, breasts, legs, or a combination)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cups diced carrots 
2 medium onions, diced
2 teaspoons fresh sage or thyme, chopped 
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes (seasoned with basil, thyme, and oregano) 
12 ounces wide egg noodles +
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large pot, place the chicken and enough water to just cover the meat.  Bring to a boil and let gently simmer for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is tender (juices should run clear if pierced with a knife). 

Remove from the pot, and let cool. 
SAVE THE BROTH!  Shred the meat from the bones, discarding the skin and bones.  Chop coarsely into bite-sized pieces.  Set aside. 

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the celery, carrots, and onions and saute until tender, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.  

Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes or until the garlic is soft and fragrant.  Remove from the heat. 

At this point, the broth will have settled a bit, and you may see some fat at the surface.  Skim it off, along with any visible bits of marrow or skin.  You can leave them in, but it makes for an unattractive broth...and if you kids are like mine, you will hear cries of, "EWW...what's THAT!" at the table.  So if you want a peaceful dinner, I would skim it out.  Just sayin'.  ;-)

 Now, add the cooked vegetables to the broth, along with the chicken and the undrained tomatoes.  Bring back up to a boil and add the egg noodles.  Cook the noodles in the soup according to the package directions (probably about 8 minutes or so).  At the last minute, stir in the fresh sage, dill, and parsley.  

Ladle into bowls and serve immediately with some crusty bread for sopping if desired.  
My kids were grateful for warm bowls of comfort to ease their achy throats and stop the fever shivers.  Even the baby (who was the only one to escape the flu bug) happily slurped down a few noodles.  Yeah! 

I pray everyone at your table is healthy and stays that way!  Enjoy, and God bless your table tonight!  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Crockpot Applesauce

Sheesh, I's been a while.  I didn't disappear off the face of the earth...but cooking just hasn't been getting top billing around here these days.  When the hubby is working 75-85 hours a week, you don't really feel motivated to spend even one hour in the kitchen cooking dinner, since the kids would be perfectly happy with something simple like eggs.  Or pancakes.  Or chicken nuggets and french fries (yeah...the frozen variety).  Or deli ham slices and apples.  Thank goodness my kids are not gourmet, LOL!  

(Well, except for Rebecca, who has become an expert in making eggs in a hole all by herself.  Yeah, I'm proud of her).   

I did make a fantastic Christmas Day dinner--roast turkey, dressing, gravy, buttermilk mashed potatoes, roasted green beans, vanilla bean pound cake, and deep dish apple pie. was good.  Really good.  And what made it even more special were friends who came over to share the meal with us that day.  

Anyways... ;-)

I was motivated to make crockpot applesauce yesterday.  Apples are plentiful and in season right now, plus it's fun to buy 3-4 different kinds to make your own applesauce.  I bought 6 Golden Delicious, 4 Granny Smith, and 6 Galas.  You can honestly use whatever you fancy.  Be prepared for the lovely smell of baking apples permeating every corner of your house.  It's amazing...and you'll be so proud of yourself for making it homemade. :-)

Crockpot Applesauce

10-12 mixed apples, such as Golden Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, or Jonagold.  Use what you like!
(You can even throw in a few pears, peaches, plums, strawberries or other fruit.)
6 tablespoons light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 small strip lemon peel
Pinch of salt

Peel, core, and slice apples 1/2 inch thick.  Using an apple slicer like this one really helps.  If you buy one, make sure it's ALL metal.  The plastic frame with metal spokes type will break in no time (yes...I know this from experience!) 

Toss all the apples into your crockpot, along with the lemon juice, lemon peel, brown sugar, cinnamon stick, cinnamon, and salt.  Make sure you fill your slow cooker all the way to the top.  Once the apples cook down, it'll only be about 1/2 full, and most crockpots work better if they're half to two-thirds full.  I used both ground cinnamon and a cinnamon stick because we're fans of the spice over here.  Whole cinnamon sticks can be found right in the baking aisle of the grocery store. 

Set your crockpot on "LOW" and let it go for about 8 hours.  You don't even have to stir it, but I did every couple of hours so you can see what it looks like.

Ready for some time lapsed pictures?  Of course you are.  

After 2 hours...

After 4 hours...

After 8 hours...

Now, you can leave it chunky like I did, or pureed it further with an immersion blender/regular blender for a very smooth texture.  I used to do that when Theresa was just starting with solids, but now she eats it no matter what. ;-)

Let the applesauce cool until it's a manageable temperature for kids before consuming with gusto.  I like it a bit warm, but 3 of my 5 kids prefer it cold, so you can certainly chill it in the fridge for later.  

We love this applesauce plain, or with pancakes, waffles, or on warm biscuits.  And let's not forget pork hubby's favorite.  He has fond memories of homemade applesauce with pork chops growing up. Best of all, it makes the whole house smell like apples and cinnamon all day...who doesn't love that?  

All righty guys, I've got to run. I've had 4 out of 5 kids down with the flu this week, but everyone is watching a movie with their juice cups and blankies right I had a few minutes to bang this post out for you. 

God bless your table tonight, and Happy New Year!  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Baked Chicken Flautas with Spanish Rice, Refried Beans, and Cilantro Cream Sauce

Yesterday, I got a serious craving for some Mexican food.  I'd pinned a yummy looking recipe for Baked Chicken Flautas some time ago...and decided to make them last night for dinner. 

Wow...these were really good.  Baked...not fried!  Which means they are healthier...but not short on flavor at all.  I did make a few changes from the original.  I added some canned, diced green chiles instead of jalapeno...less heat for my kiddos.  I used half a package of taco seasoning for 8 chicken thighs because every time I leave the spice cabinet open, my little wee one runs off with a (gasp!) glass jar of something.  I decided to play it safe!  And I used fajita sized tortillas instead of burrito sized ones cut in half...just because I though it would be less prep time. 
There's plenty of meat leftover to make more, or you can freeze it to make something else later.  We are definitely going to make these again sometime!
Baked Chicken Flautas with Spanish Rice, Refried Beans, and Cilantro Cream Sauce
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (use chicken breasts if you prefer)
1 bottle of beer
2 cans low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups fresh spinach
Fajita sized tortillas
1/2 to one whole package of taco seasoning mix (I usually go light on it)
8 ounces (1 large can, or 2 smaller cans) diced green chiles 
Queso quesadilla (found right in the shredded cheese section)
Bring the beer and chicken broth to a boil over high heat.  Add the chicken.  When the liquid comes back to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.  Let cool and shred meat with your fingers.  Mix in the taco seasoning and green chiles.  Reserve 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the cooking broth.  Bring it back to a simmer, add the spinach and stir for a couple of minutes or until bright green and wilted.  Remove from the pot, drain excess liquid, and roughly chop.  Set aside.
Oil a large baking sheet, and preheat the oven to 450.  Spread out one flour tortilla and put 1 tablespoon of chicken in the middle.  Add 2 tablespoons of queso quesadilla and a bit of spinach (you can leave it out for all the spinach haters in your house).  Roll up very tightly, and place seam side down on the baking sheet.  Repeat until you've made enough for your crew...I made 12, and it was just enough.

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, turn the flautas over, and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until light golden brown and crispy.  Mine only needed 15 minutes of baking.

Serve warm with salsa, guacamole, or this awesome Cilantro Cream Sauce.  It's our favorite! 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, diced small
1 cup long-grain white rice (substitute brown rice if you prefer, but add and additional 1/4 cup broth and at least 30 minutes to the cooking time)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 envelope Sazon seasoning mix (optional--I really like the flavor and color it adds to the rice.  You can find it in the international/mexican aisle)
In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over moderate heat.  Add the onion and carrot and let it saute for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and rice, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Carefully pour in the chicken broth, the tomato paste, salt and pepper, and Sazon if desired.  Stir once or twice, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the rice is tender, and all the broth is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork and serve. 
Open a can of premade refried beans.   Or make some from scratch.  Either way, there's no judgement here.  :-) 
Four out of my 5 kids gobbled these flautas up.  Rebecca ate nearly 3, with rice and beans...I only ate 2!  Goodness gracious.  Didn't someone invent a way to stop kids from growing yet? ;-).
Okay...I hope you satisfy your own craving for some tasty...and healty...Mexican food.  God bless your table tonight!