My youngest son will not eat cheese unless it’s stuck to pizza or pasta. If I hadn’t seen the child come out of my own body, I may question whether he’s mine (did I mention he particularly dislikes feta and despises yogurt?). But man, oh man does that kid love pizza and pasta. Literally every day after he gets picked up from school he asks if we’re having pasta. When that answer is (almost always) a no, he asks if we’re having pizza or bread. If they are all “nos,” temporary hell will ensue. When it comes to eating dinner, he’s basically a garbage disposal no matter what, but he has the typical toddler gene that gives preferential treatment to carbs. (He must be mine after all.)

Obviously, I knew this meal would be a hit. It’s a fairly standard baked pasta dish with a pizza twist. Typical pizza ingredients like sausage, pepperoni, and mushrooms (I also added green peppers) are added to a tomato sauce that really is reminiscent of pizza sauce – also, I swear it smells like pizza while it’s cooking.

This is extremely easy to throw together. The pasta cooks in the oven, so there’s no cooking it beforehand. The mushrooms are microwaved to get rid of their moisture, and the sausage is crumbled into the baking dish without even being browned. I was a little leery of that last thing, knowing that browning sausage can add more flavor and uncooked sausage does not look particularly appealing in globs on top of uncooked pasta. But, it turned out fabulously and, hey, if you’re familiar with how Lou’s makes their pizza, which is to put a literal layer of pressed in, uncooked sausage onto the crust before baking, it may make this even more “pizza-like” in your mind. :)

 

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My youngest has taken after his older brother and become food-obsessed. The upside is my kids are not picky. The downside is I’m not sure how we’ll afford to feed these children without taking out a second mortgage on our house in a few years. Ian wants to watch me make dinner but, weirdly, has zero interest in helping. If he had his way I would hold him with one arm while trying to chop and stir with another. It’s not my favorite stage. He’s always in the kitchen asking, “What for dinner mom? Can I see? WANT TO SEE. Chicken in oven? Whassat? Bread? We have pasta? WANT PASTAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!” My husband tries to keep him occupied but it’s sometimes futile and he has stuff to do, too.

When you have a near-2-year old clinging to your leg and whining about food, the last thing you want is something that takes a long time to cook. This is one of the reasons I really like marinating food because I can just throw it in the pan when I get home. Roasting yams is hands-off after the first few minutes and I only cook green beans for 3ish minutes, so these types of meals are frequent in our house as of late.

We’ve had this marinade on chicken (breasts and thighs) and pork (chops and tenderloin), and I’m sure it would be good on steak too, if you’re not too much of a steak purist. It reminds me of a not-spicy jerk marinade, but of course if you want some heat you can add a minced habanero, more hot sauce, etc. to suit your tastes. Next time I plan on replacing the brown sugar with honey, which I’m sure will be equally delicious and eliminate refined sugar. Oh, and I’ve also made it without bothering to cook the onion (just chopping it finer), which works too. Laziness wins often around here.

The ingredient list for this is long, but likely contains ingredients you already have in your pantry. Plus, this makes a decent amount of marinade, so you could likely get 2-3 meals from it, depending on how many people you’re cooking for. I like to freeze extras in gallon-sized bags, so that when you’re ready to use it, you have enough room in the bag to place your meat.

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Weeknight Porchetta

February 25, 2015 · 3 comments

in pork

I know the bacon craze is dying/has died out but the truth is bacon is timeless. I mean, any time you wrap something in bacon, it’s going to be good, regardless of whether it’s the hip thing to do or not, right? Right. I’ve combined pork tenderloin with bacon quite a few times (what Z referred to this past weekend as “double pork!”), so it’s no surprise that when I saw this recipe, it immediately grabbed my interest and got made pretty quickly.

What I love about pork tenderloin, or really any roasted meat, is that it’s so easy to just cook alongside potatoes and/or vegetables for a complete meal.  After you put it in the oven, your work is done. It’s rare I roast pork tenderloin without searing it first and, since that increased the cooking time, I decided to do larger cut redskins rather than sweet potatoes or fingerlings, which seem to cook a little more quickly. About 10 minutes before the pork was done I threw in some broccoli. Once the pork came to the correct temperature, I removed it and let the broccoli and potatoes continue cooking for about 10 minutes while I rested and sliced the pork.

Although not required, I do think this benefits from applying the rub in the morning/afternoon and letting the pork tenderloin absorb the flavors more prior to cooking. We made this on a weekend (take that, recipe title!) so doing so in the afternoon was not a problem, but the rub is pretty quick to put together so  you should be able to do it in the morning before work if you’d like.

 

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The good news is, since my last post about bread failures, I’ve successfully made two yeasted breads. The bad news is, since my last post about bread failures, I’ve successfully made two yeasted breads.  ♥ Carbs ♥

Lagana is a Greek bread that is typically made and eaten on “Kathari Deftera,” which is literally translated to “Clean Monday.” It is the day that starts 40 days of Lent before Easter. For those celebrating Orthodox Easter, it’s this coming Monday. On Kathari Deftera, typical Lenten diets, like not eating meat, are observed, but most also do not eat certain types of fish or anything “with blood,” or dairy products.

Lagana is a long, ovalish shaped flatbread that many liken to focaccia. It’s incredibly easy to make and great with any number of dips or simply just olive oil.

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I used to have a bag of masa harina in my cabinet at all times, but then when my last bag ran out, I kind of…forgot about it for a while. Recently, though, after randomly remembering my love for tamale pie, I reinstated the bag-in-the-pantry scenario. And it has been lovely.

Masa harina is so much fun to use (not to mention, delicious). It’s mostly simply used in making homemade corn tortillas, but it can be used in corn cakes, to thicken soups and chilis,  pancakes, muffins – whatever. It’s pretty versatile and adds that unmistakable corn/tortilla flavor to everything.

One of the first things I decided to make with my newer bag was dumplings. Because dumplings are basically cures for the winter blues. I’m pretty sure I read that in a science journal.

For the base of the chili, I essentially used this recipe but made it heartier by using more chicken (also, switching to thighs) and less broth. As for the masa dumplings, I already made them as part of a different recipe, so I used those.

This was a big hit with everyone, and I look forward to making it again (and again). The leftovers were also great (yes, the dumplings do get kind of soggy but that doesn’t bother me at all and my husband even remarked that “anything you make with masa is good but for some reason this leftover chili was really good.”)

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You know  how there’s all this research now that points to people who think cilantro tastes like soap/tin foil actually having something in their DNA causing that reaction ? I wonder if there’s something similar with beets. I hear people say a lot that beets taste like dirt and they don’t taste that way to me at all. Sure, they are earthy but they are fabulous. Growing up, the beets were my second favorite part of Greek diner salads (after feta, obviously). And now I love them as chips, roasted, or really any way. My whole family likes them. Fuchsia hands after handling them (or eating them, if you are a 22 month old) are their only downfall.

(sidebar: I just did some of my own “research” and discovered that there is an organic compound in them called geosmin that some people don’t like the smell of and may cause that dirt reaction. It’s also present in spinach, mushrooms, and lettuce. So there you go.)

I liked the sound of this salad from the getgo. Beside beets, it has wheat berries, which I’ve just started eating more of, and pumpkin seeds, which are so great. Some of the pumpkin seeds are crushed up finely and used in the vinaigrette so their flavor is laced throughout and the rest are sprinkled on top, giving a little texture to the salad. This salad is good at room temperature (how we had it the first day) or cold (how we had it as leftovers) so it’s nice for a gathering because you can make it ahead.

This recipe called for celery leaves but I realized too late that the celery in our fridge was just ribs. So, I ended up using the beet greens in their place. Worked wonderfully. Also, my store was out of golden beets, which are sweeter, so I used red beets. If you’re just coming around to beets and you find yellow, that may be an easier transition for you.

 

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Over the years, I’ve become a lot more confident in making yeast breads/doughs. I don’t make them that frequently but I’ve had enough success that I’m not as…scared? Worried? Crossing my fingers and praying in the corner? So, I thought for sure I could dust off the old bread maker I hadn’t used in ages and it would be even easier than the old fashioned way I’d become comfortable with. On a day the kids and I were home alone together, I decided it would be a fun and easy activity for them to help with. We dumped everything into the bread machine and waited. What we got was a barely risen, dense loaf. A cheesy, garlicky brick.

I’m still not entirely sure what happened. Everything seemed okay going in. But it really killed my confidence because it’s a bread machine! It does the work for you and is supposed to be foolproof! The next week I wanted to make a new yeasted loaf recipe but the store was out of an ingredient I needed. Taking both things as a sign, I decided to take the easy way out and just make some beer bread.

I stayed pretty basic with this one, just mixing in some garlic powder and cheese. You could of course add herbs, peppers, swap out the cheeses, whatever you want. The loaf will be done in less than an hour and you will end up with a tender bread with a nice crust. No machine, finger crossing, or…ahem…swearing necessary.

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I know a lot of women complain that their husbands refuse to eat soup or salad as a meal, but I’m lucky that mine does not mind in the least (of course, if he did, uhh too  bad, since I’m doing the cooking). He regularly asks for fattoush and would be fine eating a Greek salad with chicken every week. I like salad a lot, too, but when fall and winter come around, they just don’t come to my mind as much, I guess. I always want hot foods, comfort meals, stews.

Enter this salad that my friend Josie recently posted. It’s a riff on her favorite summer salad, and it’s great. You take your favorite winter vegetables and roast them alongside lean chicken, then toss everything with some salad greens, cheese, and a lemony dressing. You get to have your wintery foods (my entire family thinks roasted vegetables are the bee’s knees) but stay healthy and not eat something that feels so heavy.

You can change this salad any way you’d like, really. Josie used brussels sprouts and cauliflower but we all know about my extreme dislike for cauliflower, so that wasn’t going to happen. Instead I opted for brussels sprouts, acorn squash, and mushrooms. We stuck with chicken and gouda but there’s no reason you couldn’t switch those out for a different protein or cheese, and of course you can use any kind of greens you want. Any way you make it, you should make it.

 

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If you’re a long-time reader, you’re bound to have noticed the near absence of fish on this blog (or, maybe you’re happy about it). I’m just not much of a seafood person. Shrimp and I are cool, but everything else is just kind of…meh? To be clear, it’s not that I have a real dislike for most seafood, it’s that I don’t have a real like for it. When given protein options, I would choose anything else. Doing the math, I have just calculated that I average 1 fish post every 2 years (in which I complain about how I don’t really like fish. But  you know if they got posted, then they’re actually good and we’ve had them more than once).

My husband, though, loves fish (you’d think he was the Greek one). He asks me to make it occasionally and I usually just say, “no.” (I know, I’m great.) This week, though, I finally decided to agree to his request and went on the lookout for something I would like. A quick search came up with this recipe, which looked like a hit.  I’ve mentioned before that prosciutto makes basically anything better. As for lemon, garlic, and butter, those are just requirements.

The fish was indeed a hit. Now, I won’t say it’s my new favorite protein (Zachary, however, told us, “Fish is my third favorite protein. First is lamb chops, then meatloaf.”) but I did like it, which is saying a lot. Ian had been battling a stomach bug and this was the first full meal he ate and he did so in full—including asking me for some of my fish. Tom loved it but Tom would love anything with fish since he rarely eats it, so take that for what it’s worth. :)

Have I mentioned that I don’t really like broccoli, which we also  had with this meal, either? God, I was basically the best wife ever this night. To be fair, I do sort of like it now, but really only in one application, which is roasted with olive oil, lemon juice, a little crushed red pepper and sometimes garlic and/or parm. You could toss anything in those ingredients and I’m bound to like it (just kidding, cauliflower will never fall into the “like” category for me).

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My older kid is usually pretty good about being gracious at dinnertime. Sure, we sometimes have those moments where he JUST DOESN’T WANT _____ or he is appalled at the audacity I had to mix his rice with the rest of the meal, but generally speaking he thanks me at the end for “making this yummy dinner.” Also, he has a pretty great lunch program at school, and he likes it a lot, but he often tells me that my food is better. He knows how to win me over.

The night we were supposed to have this meal, the commuter train was really late, which meant pick up and getting home was also really delayed. I had pretty much no time (or inclination, at that point) to cook. So we stopped by the grocery store and picked up a rotisserie chicken and some sides. Zachary told me it was “the best chicken [he’d] ever had” (fresh off the heels of him telling me the TJ’s boxed mac and cheese I made the week prior was “the best dinner ever”)…so maybe he doesn’t know how to win me over after all.

But, I know how to win him over and it’s with anything remotely Mexican. Beans? Yes (he has asked to take beans to school for breakfast, no joke). Sour cream? A food he would gladly just eat out of the container with a spoon. After he had this dinner, my place as “best cooker ever” was restored.

The only real changes I made to this recipe were to add paprika and reduced the amount of broth based on similar recipes (because I am no stranger to Hamburger Helper-ish meals), which worked well. As the title indicates, this is basically a one-pot version of chicken chili + macaroni. It’s hard to go wrong.

This meal is healthy – lean chicken, whole wheat pasta, protein-packed beans. It’s fast. It does not suck to clean up. Your kids will like it (but be warned: it may cause stains on your shirt from toddlers grabbing your arm to ask for more).

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