Confessions of an Unintentional Domestic Goddess

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Penne with Ham & Asparagus

Yum. That’s all I can say. I’ve been making this dish for years (and yes, my children whine about it! Well Done!) and we really enjoy it. I snap up as much fresh asparagus as I can when it’s on sale. LIke last week. When I bought 4 lbs. Don’t judge. Seriously, we put away 2lbs on Easter. My favorite way to prepare it is to flash steam it for about a minute or so in about 1/4″ of water. Although I’ve heard grilling is good too, I’m so trying that this summer.

In the meantime, I’ve been putting my best asparagus recipes to use. I bought a ham at HoneyBaked Ham for Easter and guess what! I have leftovers, and yes that was intentional. I love their ham, besides it freezes well, so I’ll have some for later. I broke out this recipe a couple of nights ago and I’m telling ya, the HoneyBaked Ham really made a difference. It’s natural ham, not the processed stuff from the deli. The flavor and texture was amazing in this pasta dish. And….I took pictures! Don’t everyone applaud at once! ūüôā We had leftovers, which hubby usually takes to work. After eating it Monday night, and yesterday for lunch, when I tried to give it to him again, he gave me the face. Oh, ok. He’s had enough. So I took it to work and shared w/my boss & my cohort in crime. Cohort – Nikki loved it. Boss, not so much. He’s a meat & taters kinda guy and even though there’s meat in it, there’s no taters, AND there’s green stuff! But he did say it was good, minus the green things.

You’ll be so proud of me….I took pictures!

Penne with Ham & Asparagus

1 lb fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed & cut into 1″ pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion diced
2-3 fresh cloves of garlic
4 C uncooked penne pasta
1/2C half & half
4oz cream cheese cut into chunks & softened
1/4 – 1/2 C freshly grated parmesan cheese (not the bottled stuff)
1 lb HoneyBaked Ham ham – cut into bite size pieces
salt & pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
1. Cook pasta according to directions on pkg.
2. While pasta is cooking, saut√© the asparagus & onions approx. 5 min or until tender. Press garlic cloves into pan (you can just mince it if you don’t have a garlic press) cook another 2-3 minutes.
3. Pour in half & half & add cream cheese, stirring to help cream cheese melt.
4. Add ham & stir, salt & pepper to taste.
5. Drain pasta, tossed to coat all with sauce. Sprinkle parmesan over the top & toss to mix. Serve w/a salad & some crusty bread & you’re good to go!

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Tools of Torture AKA Chicken Piccata

Remember I mentioned the short ones in my house and how they like to complain? I thought maybe they’d be getting old enough now to try new things and like them, they’re 9 & 12. Honestly. We took them on a cruise 3 or 4 yrs ago and my daughter was brave enough to try octopus, and claimed to like it. Fast forward to mom’s home cooking, nothing doing!

My husband loves capers. Any time we go to an Italian restaurant, or any restaurant for that matter, he gravitates toward menu options containing artichokes or capers, or both if he’s really lucky. We recently spent a weekend in Eureka Springs, AR and tried a new restaurant which got me thinking about changing things up, as I am wont to do. I decided it was time I try my hand at chicken piccata. It’s not really as intimidating as I’d thought. I suppose it was the capers I was afraid of. So not scary, they’re just little pickled flower buds. Hah. I never knew that. They’ve been around for thousands of years. Interesting.

Here is what mine looked like. Please refrain from licking your monitor. ūüôā

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Super Simple Chicken Piccata

3 or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, flattened to about 1/2″ thickness
1/2 C flour
salt & pepper to taste
2tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp capers drained
1/2 C white wine
1/4 C lemon juice
1/4 C water
3 tbsp butter cubed
hot cooked angel hair pasta

1. Put oil in skillet and heat on med-hi.
2. Dredge chicken breasts in flour, season with salt & pepper and put in skillet. Cook approximately 5 min on each side, or until chicken is browned and is no longer pink inside.
3. Remove chicken to plate & keep warm.
4. Put capers in skillet, slightly smash to release brine & heat through (about 30 seconds).
5. Pour white wine into skillet & deglaze, scraping browned bits from the bottom. Heat to a low boil and allow wine to reduce for approximately 2 minutes, or until wine is reduced to half.
5. Pour in lemon juice and water, bring to a boil again. Add in cubed butter. Stir until sauce thickens.
6. I used angel hair pasta just because the sauce is a lighter sauce. Put chicken on pasta & top with sauce. Be sure to eat the capers too!

Husband and I were quite pleased with the resulting meal. It was delicious and different from my normal repertoire. My kids, who will eat a jar of pickles or pickled okra faster than any human should (they’d even drink the pickle juice if I let them) refused the capers. Flat out. And they didn’t care much for the sauce either. My son refused to eat the pasta and my daughter developed a sudden belly ache. We thought it was a perfectly lovely meal, they missed the boat. Some day they’ll appreciate my kitchen experimentation!

Enjoy!

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Penne Beef Florentine

I love this dish! My children even love it, which makes me like it that much more! And once again, it’s a meal in a pan, but hey, who can complain about that? Less dishes to clean, right?¬† I must apologize, I didn’t get any pics, we were starving and ate it¬† before I could get my camera out!

Penne Beef Florentine

1lb ground beef

1 pkg whole wheat penne (12oz)

3 cloves garlic pressed

1 pkg fresh spinach (2oz) chopped

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

2 cans tomato sauce (8oz)

1 can beef broth

1-1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 C shredded mozzarella

What to do:

1. brown ground beef with garlic. drain.

2.cook pasta according to pkg directions in salted water. drain.

3. put tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth, Worcestershire in with beef.

4. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until sauce begins to thicken.

5. Add spinach and stir until spinach is wilted.

6. Toss beef/tomato mixture with pasta. Sprinkle cheese on top and cover until cheese is melted.

There you go, can’t get much easier than that! If you like your spinach pieces larger, you can just do a coarse chop, or even leave the pieces whole. We discovered last time that my son likes the spinach to be in tiny pieces. Ok with me! If that will help him eat it better, I’m all for it! Let me know what you think, it’s Italian-esque, without being typical Italian.

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Tuscan Chicken

By now, if you’ve been hanging out with me on a regular basis, you know I love me some Italian food. I think in a former life I really must have been Italian. I love the food, the wine, the language sounds incredible (although I know not a single word besides names of pasta), the scenery. A trip to Italy is at the top of my bucket list. So, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that when I found this recipe, I ran around in little circles like a yippy dog (minus the tinkle on the floor!). It’s delicious, and even better, EASY!¬† Are you ready???

I know, right? Makes me hungry right now!

 

Tuscan Chicken

1C chopped onion

1tbsp minced garlic (or several cloves pressed)

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 can Italian diced tomatoes, drained

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1C each chopped red and yellow bell pepper

1tbsp olive oil

3/4 tsp salt (or to taste)

1/4C shredded parmesan

2/3C chicken broth

hot cooked pasta (I prefer linguini)

1. saute onions and peppers in oil 4 to 5 min or until crisp tender

2. add garlic and cook 1-2 min or until veggies are tender

3. place chicken in a resealable bag and flatten to 1/2″ and place over veggies

4. add tomatoes, broth, vinegar and salt

5. bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken juices run clear and sauce is slightly thickened. Serve over pasta and sprinkle with parmesan.

See what I mean? EASY! If the red and yellow peppers are way expensive (like most of the time around here) it works well with green peppers as well, they just give a different flavor.

This is how I like it! A green veggie on the side and nice glass of zin to go with! Mangia!

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And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….

Hey everyone! I have not shared any recipes the past few posts. I had other things on my mind, but tonight, food is on my mind! Delicious, easy, healthy, meal-in-one-pot kind of food is on my mind. Sound good? Well, pull up your cuppa joe (or vino)¬†and take a gander at what I’ve got today!

Creamy Bowtie Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli

10 oz uncooked whole wheat bow tie pasta

3 to 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2″ thickness and cut in half

2 C spaghetti sauce

2 to 3 cloves of garlic minced (or pressed)

¬†3 tbsp¬†Italian salad dressing (I use Ken’s Italian with aged Romano)

4 oz reduced fat cream cheese

2 to 3 C broccoli florets

shredded parmesan

1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Add broccoli for last 3 minutes of cooking.

2. Heat dressing in a large non-stick skillet on medium heat. Add chicken and garlic. Cook 5 min. Turn chicken and continue cooking until chicken is cooked through.

3. Drain pasta and broccoli and return to pan and set aside.

4. Add spaghetti sauce and cream cheese to chicken. Cook on medium/low heat until cream cheese is completely melted and mixture is well blended.

5. Coat chicken with sauce, remove from pan and keep warm.

6. Add sauce mixture to pasta/broccoli and mix well.

7. Place pasta in bowls and place chicken on top, sprinkle with parmesan.

Serve with a nice green salad and you’re good to go!

Doesnt’ that sound terrific? It is! so quick and easy, all of the major food groups and it comes together in¬†about 20¬†to 30 minutes. Oh, another tip, rather than throwing away the broccoli stem, I chop it up and put it in the pot with the rest of the broccoli. It cooks up nicely and there’s no need to waste it!

Enjoy! And let me know what you think!

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I AM the sneakiest mom EVER!

Yes, that’s my new title! I’m feeling very proud of myself today and I may just break my arm patting myself on the back! Why, you ask? Well, here’s the deal.¬† Last week I bought a spaghetti squash just because I wanted to try something new. I do that, try new things, more recipes than actually foods, but hey, I’m adventurous so why not?

Yesterday while my children were at school, I cooked the spaghetti squash in the microwave, cut it open and strung it out, then I put it in a bowl and in the fridge, so they didn’t see where the ‘pasta’ came from! I made a delicious spaghetti sauce and meatballs to go with it. I will say, the ‘pasta’ had a different texture, a bit of a crunch that I wasn’t expecting. It wasn’t bad, but it had more of a texture than the pasta I normally use. Before putting the food on the table, I tossed the ‘pasta’ with the sauce and put meatballs on top with some shredded parmesan.

When I put the ‘pasta’ on the table I told my children that it was a special Italian pasta that’s very expensive and I found it on sale and wanted to give it a try. We sat down and dug in.¬† The kids were a bit hesitant at first, but they actually¬†ate it! My daughter ate several bites and then complained that she didn’t like it. But she managed to get it all down! My son held up one bite and said, ‘This looks like pumpkin guts!’ You know, the stringy stuff you pull out of a pumpkin when you’re carving it? yeah, with the sauce on it, the ‘pasta’ had an orange tint to it. It was all I could do to not spew sauce and noodles all over him! He was closer to truth than he thought he was, but hey, who am I to tell him he’s eating the pumpkin’s cousin?

Will I serve it again? I would definitely, if I thought I could get away with it twice, but you know what they say about lightning. I’ll do it again maybe when they are a bit older. will i¬†tell them what it is? Hmm, good question? I dunno. My¬† 10 yo¬†son still believes in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, I don’t know that I”m ready to burst that bubble just yet!

So….what veggies ¬†have you slipped into your food lately?

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Delish pasta for one!

I was hungry and I was solo. Something that doesn’t¬†happen often in my world.¬†Hmmm, what should I have for dinner? I am free! Free to eat things that are green, or sauteed, or steamed or spicy, without hearing, ‘eeewww I don’t like thaaaat!’ I opened my fridge looked around and had the usual, ‘there’s nothing in here’ moment. I wanted some simple pasta and remembered that I had blanched some fresh asparagus and put it in the freezer. Ok, now we’re talking. Here’s what I came up with.

8oz fresh asparagus, steamed and cut into 1″ pieces

3 slices bacon, cut into 1/4″ pieces

1tbsp olive oil

1/2 tbsp butter

1 clove garlic

4 to 6oz whole wheat spaghetti

In a skillet, cook the bacon until it’s crisp, drain on paper towels.

In a large pot, cook the pasta until it’s tender

Put asparagus in skillet with bacon pieces, add butter, cook on low heat for just a minute or so to bring everything to temp. Press garlic into skillet and stir. Add a pinch of salt if desired.

Drain pasta and toss with asparagus/bacon mixture. Top with shavings of parmesan and/or asiago. Mmmm it’s nice and light, but packed with flavor and yummy goodness! Enjoy! This can easily be doubled to serve more, or altered to your tastes with more or less of the asparagus and bacon. This and a glass of wine and I was a happy girl!

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How do I love my garlic? Let me count the ways

To borrow a line from my favorite poet seems the best way for me to begin this¬†ode to my favorite herb/spice. I grew up in a house where my mother’s repertoire of spices was seasoned salt, table salt, garlic salt. Oh, and there may have been a jar of onion flakes and garlic flakes¬†too, but you get my meaning. As I have grown and expanded¬†the horizons of my palate, I have come to really love my garlic. My husband was teasing me one evening as I was cooking, every pot on the stove had garlic in it! Yes, it is pungent and gives bad breath. However, it really has ¬†many health benefits as well.

HISTORY & HEALTH: Garlic has been used and known for thousands of years. In fact, models of garlic were found in the tomb of King Tut. It has antibacterial properties and can boost the immune system. Next on the list is cholesterol and high blood pressure. It has been shown to possibly decrease cholesterol levels and therefore affecting blood pressure. Mosquitoes don’t like people who use garlic, which is a really nice thing! And of course, we all know that VAMPIRES don’t like garlic, so obviously Bella didn’t eat any!

HOW TO CHOOSE: when choosing a bulb, or head, of garlic at the grocery, look for nice, white, papery skin. If you see any green shoots coming out of the top, separation of the cloves on the bottom, or cloves that crush easily or are soft, that bulb is old, put it back and move on. I was a Pampered Chef consultant for a while and my joke to my guests about choosing the right head of garlic, I would simply think of my lovely husband, white and tight! Just remember “WHITE AND TIGHT’ and it will be a good choice.

STORAGE: Fresh garlic should be stored in a dark cool place. Think of where you store potatoes, not in the fridge, that will affect the flavor of the garlic.

HOW IT COMES: There are many forms garlic comes in and depending on how you want to use it, it can be odorless and not give bad breath or as stinky as you want to be. Let’s see there’s fresh, powder, salt, flakes, minced in a jar, roasted at the deli. When using fresh, you can mince it, slice it, chop it, or use a press and crush it. The amount of flavor you want will dictate how you prepare it. Crushing it in a press will expose the most of the oils and give you a stronger flavor than any of the others.

ROASTED: To roast a head of garlic, cut off the top half, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in heavy duty foil (or use a garlic baker) and bake at 350F for 35 to 45 minutes. This changes the flavor of the garlic, making it very mild and almost nutty. You can use it in cooking for a different, almost smoky taste. Or, one of my favorite ways, spread it on fresh, crusty bread. The cloves become very soft and spread almost like butter.

PEELING: If you are going to chop, slice, or mince your fresh clove of garlic, the easiest way to get the skin off is to lay the clove on a cutting board and use the heel of your hand and the flat of a knife. Lay the knife flat on the clove, sharp edge pointing away from you, and give it a good smack keeping the heel of your hand toward the dull side of the knife. This will just crack the clove enough to make the skin easily come right off.

CRUSHING: To crush the garlic, all you need is a good garlic press. I love this method because there’s no peeling required! Just put the whole clove in the press and give it a good squeeze. The press likely came with a little plastic scraping tool, use that to scrape the garlic off the press. Left behind in the well of the press will be the skin of the clove, throw it away. Here’s my favorite press https://www.pamperedchef.com/ordering/prod_details.tpc?prodId=26463&words=GARLIC PRESS

(no, this is not my website and I get nothing from sharing this with you, other than knowing you will have the best garlic press out there!)

FRESH VS JARRED: I have to tell you, I used to use the jarred minced garlic because I thought I was too busy to mess with peeling/chopping/mincing/pressing the fresh garlic. Well, I was completely wrong! Ok, so chopping/mincing/slicing does take a little longer than scooping a bit out of a jar, but the difference in flavor is so worth that little bit of time! It is truly amazing the difference the fresh made in the flavor of my meals. My problem with the jarred garlic, as with anything that is jarred/canned, you have no idea how long it’s been in that jar and it seems to decrease¬†the intensity of the flavor.

If you want the health benefits of garlic without actually eating it, there are supplements that come in capsule form and will not give you bad breath. And for as long as I’ve taken them, i really have not had an issue with them coming back up at all.

BULB (OR HEAD)¬†VS CLOVE: Garlic grows beneath the surface and sends shoots out of the ground. The bulbs are white and contain anywhere between 10 and 20 cloves each. It is very important to know the difference between a ‘clove’ and a ‘bulb’. I heard a story once of a newly wed making 20 clove garlic chicken, but she didn’t know the difference and thought the bulb was a clove! Needless to say, her dish was very stinky, but her sweet husband ate it and told her he loved it!

Here’s one of my favorite, extremely simple and delicious recipes involving garlic and it goes really well with pasta.

Garlic Bites

1 can 5 count Grands biscuits flaky layers cut into 1/8ths

2 to 3 cloves of garlic

1tsp Italian seasoning

1 to 2 tbsp butter

Melt the butter in an ovenproof 8″ skillet/frying pan. Press the garlic into the pan, add the Italian seasoning and stir. Cook just long enough the garlic gets soft. Place the biscuit pieces into the pan and toss to coat all the pieces.

Place the pan in a preheated 350F oven and bake about 10 min, or until the biscuits are golden brown. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and invert it on a serving plate. Enjoy! This is so delicious and so easy. You can use more or less of the garlic and butter, whichever you prefer.

Now that I’ve got you up to date on the garlic, I think I”m going to go and have some on my Cheerios! (Just kidding, I can’t have garlic for breakfast, it’s a little early yet, but lunch isn’t out of the question!)

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If it SUCKS it’s Not My Fault!

I have a standard disclaimer I use when trying a new recipe:¬† If it sucks, it’s not my fault, it’s a new recipe!¬† I have had to use that on more than one occasion.

I used to be the cook in a rut.¬† Monday: chicken and rice.¬† Tuesday: spaghetti.¬† Wednesday: pork chops.¬† Not exactly, but you get my meaning.¬† Then something amazing happened.¬† I became a Pampered Chef consultant and was forced out of my box.¬† Don’t get all wound up, I’m not trying to sell anything, I hung up my PC apron a couple of years ago.¬† But what happened was I learned to expand my horizons in the kitchen.¬†

I learned that things that look difficult or complicated are not always what they appear to be.¬† I cooked things before doing a show because I didn’t want to do a new recipe ‘cold’ and have it turn out looking really awful.¬† That’s not the best way to sell kitchen gadgets, when the rep can’t even use them.¬† My husband really enjoyed being my guinea pig and my neighbors loved it!¬† I’d ring the doorbell and be standing there with a plate full of something with a smile on my face and they were oh-so-happy to see me!

I have tried some recipes from cooking magazines or cookbooks that looked good on paper, but in reality were not that great.  Others have been a bit more involved, but absolutely amazing.

Incredibly, I have found that when reading a recipe, I can now realize when it has too much spice for us, or not enough.¬† And I’ve learned that simply because a recipe calls for something that I know we won’t like, doesn’t mean I have to include it.¬† Cayenne pepper is great for some people, but my children and myself don’t really care for the super spicy foods, and these things are just fine without the added heat.

I have what I call ‘Happy Accidents’ in my kitchen.¬† I have ended up with some amazing recipes because of my haste.¬† I read a recipe once, decide that it looks good and I want to try it, make my list and begin preparing the food.¬† silly me, I may not have read the recipe all the way through the second time, when I’m actually cooking and after passing the point of¬† no return, look at it and¬† go “OH CRAP!’ I really messed up and have to wing it from there.¬† I have come up with an Italian stew recipe, a cookie recipe I call ‘Pecan Pie cookies’, a pasta recipe Beef Penne Florentine.¬† All of which came from my mistakes, but turned out well.

Don’t get me wrong, they don’t always turn out so well.¬† I have had some that were absolutely repulsive.¬† I tried a sweet and sour chicken recipe in the crock pot that was so bad, my husband wouldn’t even eat it, and that’s BAD!¬† I forced it down because I wanted my kids to eat dinner, but I think they ended up with peanut butter and jelly that night!

So, the next time you try a new recipe, feel free to use my standard disclaimer:¬† If it sucks, it’s not my fault, it’s a new recipe!

Oh, I’m trying a new recipe right now, a crock pot beef stew recipe I found in one my favorite cooking magazines.¬† It called for cream of mushroom soup, condensed tomato soup and an envelope of dry onion soup mix.¬† Of course, that wasn’t enough for me, I added a can of beef broth, salt and pepper, and about 5 whole cloves of garlic!¬† I’ll let you know how it turns out!

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