Sunday, February 28, 2010

Saying No.

Sometimes saying no is hard for me. And sometimes the hardest person to say no to is myself. Because the expectations I set for myself are a teensy bit unattainable. For example, we have tickets to the ISU men's basketball game on Tues night. Well, Wed. I am supposed to have cooking club - international theme a la Olympic style - and I really want to go. I really want to try out Asian Dumpling Soup with Vegetables but I don't think that I should. You see, we'll leave straight after work for Ames and I'm sure that I won't be home until probably 11 pm ... which makes for a very long night if I'm making some random soup I've never even tried before ... Again, sometimes the hardest person to say no to is myself. Because I want to do it all! (speaking of saying no - will someone please take the open bag of M&Ms from me??)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cheeseburger Soup

This is a soup that I've been loving for about 5 years! It's a crowd-pleaser. Lance and I always have it with a slice of homemade honey wheat bread. Tonight I also sliced up a Bosc pear. Have you had a Bosc pear? You should. You will thank me. They are sweeter and juicer than a Bartlett pear. And less gritty. Oh, I love them. This soup is very thick, especially when cooled for leftovers. It might be wise to add a little water or milk to thin it down.

Cheeseburger Soup
1/2 pound ground beef
3/4 c chopped onion
3/4 c diced carrots
3/4 c diced celery
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3 c chicken broth
3 cups cubed hash browns
1/4 cup flour
2 cups (8oz) Velveeta, cubed
1 1/2 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper

In a 6-quart saucepan, brown beef; drain and set aside beef. In the same saucepan, saute onion, carrots, celery, basil and parsley in 1 tablespoon of butter until vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes). Add broth, potatoes and beef; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter. Add flour; cook and stir for 3 minutes or until bubbly. Whisk into soup; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add Velveeta, milk, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until cheese melts. Remove from heat.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Hamburger Pasties

This recipe was adapted from the blog "Cooking During Stolen Moments"
A couple of different things to note. I did not make the gravy portion. I lost my steam and lost interest. Lance did think they would have been better with something to dip them in. I preferred to enjoy the simple flavors. I also thought that the Italian seasoning wasn't quite right ... perhaps rosemary would be a good substitution. Also, the original recipe calls to brush on egg yolk. I did that the first time and the pasties looked horrible. Like a burnt on some mustard or something. There must have been a mistake - a good pastry person knows that egg white is what you brush on. At any rate - use egg white! Lastly, the filling makes a huge batch. Huge. I used two boxes of pie crust and froze the second batch pre-baking and pre-egg white.

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 c. cubed hashbrowns
2 c. diced veggies
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 t. Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
Homemade pie crust or store-bought (enough for 3 -4 crusts)
1 egg white, beaten
1/4 T. butter or margarine
1/4 c. flour
2 c. beef stock, broth or bullion cubes
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. Italian seasoning

1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef and onion for 5 minutes. Stir in potatoes and fresh veggies, if using. Stir in seasonings. Cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 15-20 minutes. (If using frozen veggies, stir into skillet shortly before removing from heat.) Cool.
2. Cut each piece of store-bought dough into fourths and roll into a triangle. (the recipe direction say to roll into a circle - how do you do that?) Place about 1/3 c. beef filling into the center of each dough circle. Fold over, seal and roll edges.
3. Brush each pasty with beaten egg white and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until golden and pie crust is fully cooked.
4. While pasties cook, melt butter or margarine in a small saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook 2 minutes. Whisk in beef stock, bring to a slow boil and boil until thickened. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and Italian seasoning.
5. Serve pasties with gravy on the side for dipping or poured on top.

*Carrie - is this similar to your recipe? I wasn't aware they were popular in Northern MI either, until I went back to the original blog where I got the recipe!*

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Meal Plan Follow-up

Thanks everyone for all of your comments about the menu planning. I will say that we do not follow our menu plans 100% of the time, but I'd say we consistently follow them 85% of the time. The real struggle is the weekends. I read food blogs all week long and get some really great ideas about things I want to make. Weekends are the perfect time for experimenting on an unsuspecting husband :) I also can be somewhat flaky and just decide that meal doesn't sound good. So then we're stuck facing the "what do you want for supper?" question. Ugh. That question just irritates me to the core.
Anywho. Erica asked what we do with all our leftovers. Great question! Both of us would much rather have leftovers for lunch than sandwiches. When I studied abroad I had a turkey sandwich every day for lunch from January to May. I have a hard time desiring plain turkey sandwiches after that stint. I have a friend who has a turkey sandwich with baby carrots every day for lunch. She's had that lunch for the last three years!
Sometimes we do make a huge batch of soup, which we will freeze and then eat later on a busy week night. For the most part, we always have some form of leftovers to eat for lunch. It's a good thing neither of us have any qualms about leftovers!
I will post later this week recipes for hamburger pasties (which went much smoother the second time around) and for cheeseburger soup! Sarah - I only get so many meals made because Lance is there to help me!
Happy cooking all!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Lance and I menu plan each week. We either do all our menus on Saturday and make our shopping list and then go shopping that day or we do them Sunday and grocery shop Monday after work. We menu plan for two reasons: 1) It eliminates the burning "what's for dinner?" question 2) It eliminates the temptation to eat out because it's easier. I know that by the time I've gotten home from work, the last thing I want to think about is what to throw together for supper. It's too much brain drain. This also helps us talk about what things we've got going on the upcoming week for activities. When we menu plan I already know what's for supper and much of the time, Lance has prepped the night before any vegetables we are using. I am home about an hour and a half before Lance, so much of the cooking falls to me these days. But Lance is a super husband and does his fair share by prepping veggies and meat the night before. So here's what the L&K household are planning this week for food.

Monday: Pineapple Chicken Teriaki Stir fry
Tuesday: Hamburger Pasties (they're weird, but we have leftovers of the filling and Lance won't let me toss it)
Wednesday: Cheeseburger Soup
Thursday: Spaghetti
Friday: Eat out with the Kitchens at Applebees
Saturday lunch: Oriental Chicken Salads
Saturday supper: Enchiladas
Sunday: Pot Roast w/ Roasted Vegetables
Sunday: Popcorn (Sunday night tradition)

Really, there's nothing here that is earth shattering. But Lance and I both appreciate consistency and I like organization. It's just who I am :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

True Confession

True confession: I have an ardent desire to see Celine Dion in concert. Burning passion to see the greatest diva of all time. I know, Celine Dion is super cool - how can you not want to go? I guess if your name is Lance (or if you happen to be male) Celine may not be your forte. I just got an email from Ticketmaster with information about Celine's March 2011 concert series at Cesar's Palace in Vegas. The show only runs for two months. I think I need to go. Regardless of the fact that ticket prices are about the same price as a mortgage payment ...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shepherd's Pie/Cottage Pie

Traditional Shepherd's Pie calls for lamb. Not a huge lamb fan. Lance and I did a lamb roast last year for Easter and we weren't all that impressed. Granted, Lance did overcook it, so that probably doesn't help it either. Overall, it tasted like beef only tougher and much more expensive. And that is all I know about lamb. I'm sure someday I'll dabble in it again, but not at this point in time.

Anywho, I've made this a couple of times and yet there is no photo. I'm not sure what happened. One thing I would suggest: this is a weekend meal. Braising beef for 2 hours is not a weeknight endeavor. But I did make two ahead of time and they turned out great. Just bake them a little longer. Also, be generous with your s&p. I made it for cooking club and it was a little bland. It could have used more s&p. Otherwise, it's mouthwatering goodness. Almost as good as the Shepherd's Pie at Dublin Bay in Ames, but not quite. It would be perfect with a slice of Irish soda bread. I used dark rye bread from Big Sky Bakery.

Wine-Braised Beef Shepherd’s Pie
Adapted from Food & Wine

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 – 2 lb chuck roast, cut into chunks
salt & pepper
1 cup carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons flour
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups red wine
1 1/2 cups frozen peas

Mashed Potatoes:
2 lbs potatoes, chopped
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 – 3/4 cup milk
salt & pepper
garlic powder

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper and add to the casserole. Cook over moderately high heat until browned on 2 sides, about 2 minutes per side. Add the carrots, celery, and onions and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and vegetables and stir until dissolved. Add the red wine and water and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer over low heat, turning the meat once or twice, until very tender, about 2.5 hours or until you can shred the meat. Shred the meat. Boil remaining liquid until thickened, about 5-6 minutes. Return shredded meat to the dutch oven and add frozen peas.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until creamy. Gradually mash in the milk. Stir in the butter & garlic powder and season with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Spoon the stew into a 9-inch square baking dish.** Spread the mashed potatoes over the stew. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the stew is bubbling, the topping is hot and golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I love.

In honor of Valentine's Day, a post about things I love (yes, I realize that yesterday was Valentine's Day, a day late, a dollar short)

Baby Soft perfume
The song "Everything" by Michael Buble - I especially love the music video
Dermont Mulroney in My Best Friend's Wedding
Fritos with my chili
The soccer head butting game on Wii Fit
Clare de Lune
Trois Gymnopédies: Gymnopédie No. 1 (Lent et Douloureux)
Photoshopping shiny noses out of pictures
Silence in our house
Fire kisses (our cat gives wet nose kisses)
45 minute car trips by myself where I get to pick the music
Privo shoes
My Old Navy jersey skirts - (black, navy, grey blue, brown - I bought one in each color)
New desktop wall paper from every month

I love all of these things along with the implied: Jesus, Lance, family, friends. :)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Things that I always have on hand.

This post is prompted by a discussion we had the other day at a potluck lunch at work. My friend, Libby, is pregnant (baby brain) and had forgotten to purchase kidney beans for her chili. She called Erika before work and Erika stopped by Hy-Vee to get the beans for Libby's soup. At lunch I told Libby she should have called me because it's one of those things that I always keep on hand in my pantry. And that got me thinking about things that I always have on hand ... please keep in mind if Iowa was bombed by terrorists, there would be ample food supply at the Knaack household. :)

But here's my list of standard staple items:
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Tomato soup
  • Chicken broth
  • Kidney beans (dark red, light red, and white)
  • Chili beans
  • Yeast
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Coffee
  • Brown sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Chocolate chips
  • Bread flour
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Cornbread
  • Rice (brown and white)
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Oatmeal
  • Pasta (multi varieties)

Keep in mind, this is only pantry and some refridgerator items. We also have things like milk and butter. But who doesn't? What items at your house are "standard" list?

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Omigoodness. Is anyone else ever exhausted by the time they get to Thursday? I tell you, every time Thursday, 2:30 pm rolls around, I feel like I am going to slump over in my chair and fall asleep. Somehow I manage to guilt myself into going to my workout class at 4:30 pm and get myself home awake. But the horrible thing is when I have homework ... my brain just quits I tell you! I've got most of a post finished and I should be "proactive" and "start" my lit review that is due Saturday. (It's not as bad as you might think, I've got my lit review from my research methods class that I can recycle so writing a 12 page fluff paper in one day is "managable"). I think it's bedtime.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thai Cashew Chicken

This is the recipe I'm supposed to demonstrate at work. I think it might be a mistake. I'm not sure if I have enough filler words ... I need to practice. But lots and lots of people have really enjoyed eating this at my house or making it on their own. It can be a lot of chopping, but if you do your vegetables ahead of time, it comes together really fast. This is one of our favorite things to eat! (PS - sorry for the crappy picture. It's not my finest)
1 bunch of green onions
1 lb chicken breast, cubed
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
3 T oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 c carrots, sliced
1 c celery, sliced
1/2 c edamame
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 T minced fresh ginger
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1 1/2 c chicken broth
2 T soy sauce
2 t cornstarch
1 t sugar
1/2 c roasted cashews
Cooked brown rice for serving
Chop onions, separating white and green parts. Toss cubed chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a wok over medium heat. Add oil and stir fry chicken until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add bell pepper, celery, carrots, edamame, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and white onions to wok and stir fry about 5-6 minutes.
Stir together broth, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, then stir the mixture into the vegetables in the wok. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, around 2 minutes. Stir in cashews, green onions, and chicken + juices. Serve with rice.
I also usually add whatever vegetables I have on hand. This can mean anything from broccoli to sugar snap peas. Add what you like! It's what I do!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Meatball Subs

Omigoodness, the ultimate comfort food. We made these almost a month ago for some friends that had a baby and they were a huge hit. I mean huge. No wonder, they were ooey, gooey, and so yummy. In fact, my mouth is watering just a little bit. Our friend Jon, is one of the best people to make a meal for because he loves everything and thinks everything is wonderful. It's nice to have an unconditional eater around :)

1/2 onion, cut into thin strips
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1-1/4 cups prepared spaghetti sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
4 rolls hoagie rolls, split
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
1 egg
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1.Heat oven to 350°F. Combine meatball ingredients in large bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Shape into twelve 2-inch meatballs. Place on rack in broiler pan. Bake in 350°F oven 25 to 30 minutes.
2.Heat 2 tablespoons water in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add onion and bell pepper; cook and stir 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add spaghetti sauce, basil and meatballs; heat through, stirring occasionally. Serve in rolls; with melted provolone cheese slices.

Bad Kitty

At 5 am I awoke to a terrific crash. I'm a pretty sound sleeper and Lance is an even sounder sleeper. I sent Lance out to investigate but he came back with no results. He said he couldn't find anything and Fire was lurking around with a guilty look and a very bushy tail. When I got home tonight and went to turn on the computer, I figured out the source of our early morning crash.

Our fern usually looks like this. If you look at the bottom of the picture, you will notice a heat register. When the heat kicks on, the air causes the fern fronds to to wave a little, enticing Fire to investigate. I can only imagine that Fire was investigating a little too closely and CRASH the plant tipped over.

This was how the fern looked when I found it this evening.

The investigation has been closed.
Culprit: Fire
Motive: curiosity and dancing fern fronds
Punishment: being chased by the vacuum

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chicken Fried Rice

It's a chicken fried rice version- just health-a-fied. I put in extra vegetables. Because everything is better (and meals stretch farther) with extra vegetables. When Lance and I got married. He didn't eat Chinese food. Or rice for that matter. But his horizons have expanded in the 4.5 years we've been married and now he loves Chinese and Thai food and is okay with brown rice. He really prefers white rice, but most of the time I make brown rice because it's better for you. This is what we had today after church. If you make your rice ahead of time, this meal is a breeze!

4 egg whites
1/2 c. green onions, white and green parts separated
2 garlic cloves minced
12 oz uncooked chicken, cubed
1 c. carrots
2 c. cooked brown rice
1/2 c. frozen peas, thawed (or add them in half way through the cooking of the chicken if frozen still)
1 c. broccoli
3 T soy sauce

First make your brown rice. It will take the longest, right around 45 minutes.
Cook egg whites and set aside. Saute garlic and separated white onions in a wok with a little oil for about 2 minutes. Add chicken, carrots, and broccoli. Saute chicken until it is golden brown. Stir in egg whites, cooked rice, peas, green onions, and soy sauce. Cook 2 minutes more and then serve!
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Friday, February 5, 2010

I want to be a neutered housecat.

Seriously, I could think of worse things in life than being a neutered housecat.

Well, unless your owner locks you in a giant rubbermade tub and thinks it's funny.

Isn't that the life? Naptime all the time?

I'm a crazy cat woman. I even watch Cats 101 on the Discovery Channel on Saturdays. But isn't Fie Fie cute?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Survival Mode

This is me. Trying to stay afloat. Trying to balance. Trying, trying, trying. I'm somewhere in the middle between sinking and floating. So basically, survival.
Lance and I had an interesting conversation last night. He's attempting to get into grad school for the fall and we started talking about how long he thought it would take him to get through. His answer: 3.5 years. My answer: WHAT!?!? His plan was to take 3 credits a semester. I told him that was lazy and last semester I took 9 credits and got 4.0. Lance's response: yes, and look what it's turned you into. Blar. I do well under pressure. Anyway, 6 credits is standard. Lance has always gotten by on being smart. Not by trying hard. Me, on the other hand, needs to try hard. Not so much blessed with easy intelligence like my other half ...

Anyway. Survival mode. This means less interesting food. But this salad, oh, it's a keeper. It's so stinking delicious. I should make it every Saturday for lunch. Hmmm... there's a thought. This recipe is from my friend Katie who keeps a record of their two girls, Hallie and Harper. Let me just say this, those girls are beauty-ous! They have good genetics, they can't help it :)
Oh yes, going back to the point of this post. This is Katie's aunt's recipe and it's yummie.

Oriental Salad Dressing
1/3 c. white vinegar
1/2 c. sugar
2/3 c. oil
1 T soy sauce
1/4 c. sweet and sour sauce
1/2 c. mayo
1/4 t. garlic powder
2 t. sesame seeds
1/2 poppy seeds

Cook vinegar & sugar in saucepan until sugar dissolves. Take off heat and wisk in oil, soy sauce, sweet & sour sauce, and mayo. Add seeds and garlic.
Serve on salad with rotisserie chicken, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, green onion, cabbage and carrots. Top with sliced almonds and chow mein noodles. This can also be made into a wrap.

It's very similar to Applebee's Oriental Chicken salad. I love it.