Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ham, Beans, and Cornbread: Easter Leftovers the Sequal

In thinking about what to do with my leftover Easter ham I can't believe ham and beans didn't cross my mind until a co-worker brought some to lunch.  It felt like a forehead slap moment.  Derp!  How could I not have thought of this especially since I have a pantry full of beans I need to use.  I used pinto beans instead of the more traditional navy bean.  I was a little concerned that the pinto beans would become too creamy and have almost a refried bean texture, but they worked about perfectly.  The beans were soft and tender, creamy, but not mushy.  The best part of all was that I put everything in the crock pot this morning before I left for work and came home to perfectly cooked beans.  I don't think I'll ever cook beans on the stove again.  I always get impatient and take them off too soon which results in crunchy beans.

I also made a batch of cornbread, which turned out really well.  I used this recipe.  It is a Southern cornbread, so it's not very sweet.  Next time I think I'll add a bit more sugar because I guess I like more of a "Yankee" cornbread.  I did bake this in my cast iron pan, and I will continue to cook cornbread this way.  The cornbread mixed up very quickly and baked up with a delicious texture.

When I cook beans I always lay them out on a cookie sheet and check them before they soak.  This prevents any stones from making it's way into my final product.  Please don't skip this step!  It only takes a minute and is completely worth it.
 Soaking beans reading to go into the fridge overnight
 Cornbread batter in the skillet
 fluffy cornbread
 Finished product

I didn't get any pictures of the ham and beans because I couldn't get a flattering picture.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Menu Planning and Popcorn

I read a lot of food blogs.  I've noticed that a commonality among many of these blogs is the fact that the writers make weekly (or monthly) menu plans.  At first I thought this was something only practical for families with multiple children, but I noticed that bloggers without children were using menu plans too.  A few weeks ago I decided to do this myself.  I made a table in a word processing program and made a list of three meals for each day based off what was on sale that week and what I already had in the house.  It was so organized, and I loved it!  Very little food went to waste (no surprise soggy produce in the back of the fridge), and I knew what I could make ahead, saving a lot of time in the kitchen.  Last week I didn't do a menu plan because I was out of town for a few days and unsure of plans because of Easter.  I have regretted not creating a plan.  It was unorganized, and I've spent more time and had less complete meals this week because of it.  

The moral of the story is to plan!  So, I'm making a menu plan tonight for the week.  I think this will be a great habit to get into before I move in a few months because money could be tight, and I don't want to waste any food.  Plus, time will be short, and the pre-planning makes going out to dinner much less enticing.  If you want to see my weekly plan posted on the blog just send me a comment letting me know.

On a completely different note, I've been eating a lot of popcorn lately.  I tend to do that.  I won't have a food for months, and then I'll eat it every night for weeks.  I don't have a microwave, so I pop my own on the stove.  I was really intimidated by this for a long time, but it's very easy.  I put a little oil in a pan, a few tablespoons of popcorn, then I cover a pop over medium heat.  Then I add some butter, garlic salt, and red pepper flakes.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Leftovers

I cooked quite a bit of food during this Easter break, including making breakfast for my church congregation.  I'm told that not every church has breakfast after Easter services, and this is unthinkable to me.  Anyway, I didn't really take any pictures.  I guess I was a little stressed out during cooking because the oven was not baking evenly, and even though I pre-cooked the potatoes for my breakfast casserole twice, they still didn't cook all the way through.  Not my best cooking performance.  (the sausage gravy was delicious)

I hesitated to post about Easter leftovers because they seemed a little bit obvious.  However, I read things on blogs all the time that I'm cursing myself for not thinking of, so I thought maybe some of you wouldn't have thought of this either.  If you have, then just look at my pictures and smile smugly because you had already thought of this.

The first picture is of a grilled ham, egg, and cheese sandwich.  I was looking for a way to use up ham and eggs, and thought of this sandwich.  Yes, it's very simple, but so good.  For the record, I'm freezing most of the ham in small portions because my husband doesn't really like ham and I can't eat it all myself.  Sorry about the mediocre pictures tonight, for some reason I took a lot of pictures, but none of them turned out well.

This second dish used up leftover cooked potatoes (for the breakfast casserole) and other odds and ends.  I made a veggie chili with onion, green pepper, shredded red cabbage, black-eyed peas (cooked and in the freezer), a can of tomatoes, cumin, and chili seasoning.  I used the chili as a topper for the baked potato and then loaded on the siracha.  This is a great lunch to take to work.  It could also be topped with some cheese and sour cream.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


While this may seem like a strange title for a food blog, I did go to prom last weekend (I'm a teacher), and I did take a picture of the food.  The food wasn't amazing, but this was my third (and probably last) prom, and it was the best food we had.  It was an Italian buffet with a lot of choices.  There was: salad, with exceptionally good tomatoes for this time of year, potatoes, mixed vegetables, meat lasagna, chicken and penne with alfredo, tortellini and peas with cream sauce, and cheese filled bread sticks.  I tried some of everything with room for dessert.  There was Tiramisu and cheesecake for dessert.  Most of the students didn't know what the Tiramisu was, so it was funny hearing them talk about how the "chocolate cake" wasn't very good.  Overall, there was a nice variety and plenty of food.

 My husband and I before prom.

My plate

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Charm of Midwestern Casseroles

I used to think that here in the Mid West we had no food idenity.  We don't deep fry quite as much as the South.  We don't have an abundance of seafood or strange and exotic vegetables (artichokes and avocado).  We have a few regional specialties like the horshoe and fried pork tenderloin, but at what do we excel?  I've heard that in the Mid West the only spice we know how to use is black pepper.  In many ways this is true.  I make my sausage gravy almost burning with pepper, and my dad still covers the gravy with more pepper when it gets to his plate. Besides black pepper, MidWesterners also know a thing or two about casseroles.  Even though I like to make food from scratch, I still get nostalgic for Velveeta and condensed soups all cooked up together and baked in a dish.  I don't know if Velveeta can even really be classified as a food, but damn it tastes good.   Like my Monster Biscuit obsession, this too is one of my guilty food pleasures.  Below are steps for making Turkey Spaghetti.  I'm not sure where this recipe originally came from, so I don't want to give out the recipe, but you can probably guess all the amounts and still come out okay.  I'll continue to search out what the Mid Western cooking identity really is.

 Saute onions and celery then add cubed Velveeta
 Add cream soups and broth.  Cook until melted.
 Line a casserole dish with chicken or turkey.
 Top with cooked spaghetti.
 Add cheesy mixture
Bake and serve at potluck or carry-in.  (Look for a post on carry-in etiquette soon)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Prosciutto Wrapped Pears

I love appetizers.  They make any night feel special and festive.  When I saw the recipe for Proscuitto Wrapped Pears, I knew I wanted to make it.  I didn't get home until 8:00 tonight after I had a hair appointment and grocery shopping, but I still decided I wanted appetizers for supper, and I'm glad I did.  I wrapped pear slices in proscuitto and a mixture of blue cheese, cream cheese, and almond milk.  These wraps were delicious.  They were the perfect combination of salty, sweet, and "blue cheesy" (yeah, I made that up, but it sound better than funky).  I served the wraps with parsley buttered red potatoes and more fresh asparagus.  The entire meal took less than 25 minutes to make.  I will have this again!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ugly Foods and Lessons Learned

Last Saturday I put a chuck roast in the crock-pot. I added some leftover canned tomatoes, veggie broth, garlic, pepper, salt, mustard seed, and oregano.  My plan was to have beef and noodles for supper.  Supper time came, but neither my husband and I were hungry.  We went out for the evening, and snacked on cheese and crackers.  The next day Jason just didn't feel like beef and noodles, so once again the beef sat cooked, but neglected in the refrigerator.  I knew I would want the leftovers during the week, but it was late and I didn't feel like boiling noodles and shredding the beef.  I had the "brilliant" idea of throwing the noodles in the crockpot and letting them cook overnight.  I had visions of waking up to luscious beefy noodles, but instead I got something that looked like dog food.  The noodles had turned to mush.  The flavor is fine, and I'm eating them, but I now know not to put noodles in the crockpot overnight.  Does anyone know if rice will do the same thing?

Yep, looks like dog food, but check out that asparagus in the previous shot!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


This time of year is always a little stressful and overwhelming for me.  The school year is winding down for both my high school and college classes, and I'm always behind on housework.  Plus, my dog is always a little more rambunctious (he tears more stuff up) because he has spring fever.  This year is a little more stressful with the upcoming move.  However, this is also the time of year when asparagus begins growing in my yard.  It's bittersweet because I won't have this luxury next year, but I've been looking forward to this for awhile.  I refuse to buy asparagus in the store because I know I will be enjoying this every night for 3 weeks or so.  After that I still eat it, but I've had my fill and enjoy it less.  To everyone with gardens, I hope your asparagus is thriving and you're eating your fill. 

Monday, April 11, 2011


I think I've blogged about Vitale's before, but I know I didn't have my camera then, so here are pictures of my Friday trip to Vitale's.  Vitale's is an Italian restaurant located in Macomb, Illinois.  I went to college in Macomb, and my husband's family lives there, so we always have reasons to go back.  Every time we go to Macomb I ask to go to Vitale's.  The entire menu looks great, but I always get the same thing: Arrabiatta with bow tie pasta.  This sauce is spicy, creamy heaven, and it's pictured below.  The portions are big, but I cleaned my plate because it's so good.

My husband's dish of mostaccioli with meat sauce and cheese.  (look at his beautiful model hands!)

Me enjoying my pasta.  I wish I had ordered one to take home with me.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Clean out the Cupboards

I can officially announce that I will be moving in the next couple of months.  While I am a little upset about leaving and a little excited about starting a new chapter in my life (and actually living in the same house as my husband), I'm overwhelmed by the thought of packing.  I'm not organized at all, and I'm a bit of a hoarder, so it will be traumatic because I know I'm going to have to get rid of a lot of stuff.  Thinking ahead I need to clean out my cupboards.  I have lots of dried beans, rice, pasta, and canned goods.  I don't want to pack up all this stuff, so I'm going to try and eat as much as possible before I leave.  My goal is to use at least one item a day and not buy any new canned or dried goods.  This means I may have to get creative with my meals.  Fortunately, I am creative with food, and this will save me some money.  I'll be starting grad school in the fall, so these money saving skills will also come in handy.  Stay tuned to see what I make.

Tonight's meal used a can of tuna (yeah, not very ambitious, but it's what I was in the mood for, and it used some of the condiments in my fridge, which I am also hoping to tackle).  I made tuna salad, toasted ciabatta and mushrooms and onions sauteed with Worcestershire sauce.  

In addition to the tuna I also had oats for breakfast, and I used a meal from the freezer (homemade chicken noodle soup)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Quick and Easy Red Pepper Goat Cheese Pasta

It always amazes me when people tell me they simply don't have time to cook.  I look around at many of my co-workers lunches; many are leftovers from the night before or home-cooked meals, but just as many are pre-packaged, frozen meals.  I know that many of my students get these same meals or take-out simply because the parents are "too busy" to cook.  

I guess because food is such a priority in my life I make the time to cook, but it's not really that much time.  The pasta below took about 3 minutes of active time, and the rest was letting the pasta water come to a boil, and then waiting for the pasta to cook.  Now, I did plan ahead and already had the red peppers cooked, but even if you had to chop and cook the peppers, you could do this while waiting for the water to boil.  

Make cooking a priority!  It's better and cheaper for you and your family!  I can't imagine how much my grocery bill would be if I had to rely on a lot of processed foods.  I would really have to change the way I eat.  The quality would be not as good and the meals would not be as exciting.  If you have about 20 minutes then make this pasta.

Red Pepper Goat Cheese Pasta

8 oz cheese ravioli or tortellini
4 oz soft goat cheese
1/2 cup chopped, cooked red pepper (could substitute roasted)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon capers (optional)
2 Teaspoons lemon juice (optional)

1. Start salted pot of water for pasta.  Meanwhile, cook peppers (saute in olive oil until soft, but still retaining a little crunch).  

2. Place cooked peppers and goat cheese in large bowl.

3. Cook pasta according to package direction.  Drain, saving 1/2 cup of pasta water.

4. Add pasta to bowl with goat cheese and peppers.  Stir to melt goat cheese adding pasta water 1/8 at a time until a "sauce" forms from the melted cheese and water.

5. Top with Parmesan, capers, and lemon juice.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Birthday Bonanza

In addition to going to St. Louis to eat for my husband's birthday we also ate at home.  It was an entire weekend of stuffing out faces with decadent goodies.  Hmmm, now that I think about it, that's not so different from normal.    Maybe we have a problem.  Oh well, on to the goods.

On Friday night we had appetizers for supper.  We like to do this every once in awhile because it seems special.  We sat on the couch watching terrible movies and eating, eating, eating.  Below is our spread, and we had lots of leftovers.

 From left to right you see a veggie tray with broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, and red, yellow, and green bell peppers, and homemade ranch dip in the center.  The plate at the top contains wheat thins.  In the right tray we had toasted ciabatta bread, bacon wrapped little smokies with brown sugar, goat cheese, colby jack slices, and hot artichoke dip.  The bottom plate has triscuits.
 Close-up of meat and cheese tray
 Veggie tray

On Sunday night, my husband's actual birthday, we had T-bones, steamed broccoli with black truffle salt, and goat cheese mashed potatoes.  It was a beautiful night, so we ate outside.  After supper we had a Cinnamon cake with chili chocolate butter cream.  You can find the recipe here.  The cake wasn't pretty, but oh so good. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bad Blogger

I went to St. Louis on Saturday, and I made sure to take my camera with me, but I didn't take any pictures.  My husband and I had lunch at Roosters.  We always go here when in town.  I had the creamed spinach crepe, which I always get because I think about it longingly when I order anything else and a side of potatoes.  We both enjoyed a Bailey's and coffee crepe for dessert.  Seriously, if you are in or around the St. Louis area you have to check this place out.  The crepes are fantastic, and they have a huge bloody mary menu.

We ended up at Eclipse for supper.  We stayed at the adjoining hotel, Moonrise, on our honeymoon in November and loved it.  I was not disappointed with the restaurant.  I can't wait to stay at the Moonrise and order room service from Eclipse.  We started out our dinner with an order of Mussels and Prosciutto and olive toasts.  Both starters were great, but I was in love with the mussels.  The portion was huge, and I might order them with a salad next time for a meal.  If it wouldn't have been tacking I would have picked up the bowl to drink all the tangy mussel broth.  I have the Berkshire pork medallions for my entrĂ©e.   The pork was tender and flavorful, and the corn cakes that came with the meal were well seasoned and had a "homey" feel to them.  Jason had the scallops which were rich and delicious.  We will definitely be returning, maybe I'll even bring my camera next time.