Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sausage and Bean Stew

Things that I can prep or cook ahead of time are an absolute MUST for keeping my sanity.  Which I think is why I am such a fan of crock-pot cooking and one-dish meals.  During the school year, just about everything that we eat is a casserole, stirfry, soup or stew.  Lately Sunday has been our cooking day - we get everything for the week prepped, cook the things we can, and then we are good to go for the rest of the week. 

This Suausage and Bean Stew is one of those meals - easy to make, easy to enjoy.

Sausage and Bean Stew

1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves minced garlic
4 slices bacon
1 lb chicken sausage (any flavor - we used roasted red pepper)
2 cans navy beans
1 can red kidney beans
2 C. frozen sweet corn
1Tbsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
2/3 C. water (use the water from rinsing out the cans of beans)

If the sausage is not fully cooked, then brown before using.  Cook the bacon until crispy and cut into pieces, set aside.  Cut the sausage links in half, and then in 1/4 inch slices.  Dump all ingredients (except bacon) into a crock pot and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.  Add bacon with about 10 -20 minutes left.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Birthday Cake

My husband is addicted to Skittles.  He keeps a giant jar of them in his desk at work.  He keeps a giant jar of them above the refridgerator.  The external motivator that we used to potty train our daughters was Skittles (aka "Daddy Treats").  Skittles are, to him, the perfect snack, ending to every meal, and solution to any sort of hunger twang or bad taste in the mouth.  With one exception - he picks out all the yellow ones. 

Yes.  You read that right.  I am married to a man who buys gigantic bags of Skittles, opens them, and picks out every. single. yellow skittle and tosses it before he fills up his Skittles jars.

So for his birthday, I decided to make him a "Skittle" themed cake.

This is very similar to the cake that I made last year for my girls' birthday...but that was before I started this blog.  Maybe I'll post a pick at some point, it was a caterpillar, and pretty cute (if I do say so myself).  But the best thing about this Skittles cake is the fuity frosting.  Yup.  That's right.  White cake, fruity frosting.  Delicious.

I used the "White Cake" recipe in the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook.  I will post the recipe at some point, too.  But not now.  Now I want to focus on the frosting.  Very, very easy.  And very, very good.  It pairs perfectly with the cake.  A spot-on combination that I would urge you to try:

Jello-Cream-Cheese Frosting

Beat 4 oz. of softened cream cheese (use the real, full-fat stuff) until smooth.  Add 1 tsp. vanilla and 1/8 c. granulated sugar, and 1 box of your favorite flavor of jello and beat until smooth.  Add 1-1/2 C. heavy whipping cream all at once and beat until stiff peaks (start on low or it will splatter everywhere).  For vibrant color, add some food coloring.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dried Tomatoes

What do you do when you have about eight pounds of tomatoes that you need to use quickly...before they die in the bag that your grandmother-in-law brought them over in??

I made dried tomatoes.  Just like Sun-dried Tomatoes that you can buy all fancy-like at the store.  Except mine were dried in an oven, not with the sun.  It was a good thing I decided to go the oven route - the day I did this the sun decided to hide behind giant rain clouds.

Cut the tomatoes in half (mine were "plum" tomatoes, so they were small, you may want to cut in fourths or eighths if your tomatoes are large).  Dump into a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil, stir to coat. 

Arrange in a single layer on cookie sheets/jelly roll pans (you'll want it to have and edge).  Bake at 250 until dried out and shriveled, around 6 hours or so.  Enjoy in chili, stew, pasta, etc.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Punched-up Pasta

When my husband and I cook, we try to add in some "healthy extras" whenever we can.  For the sake of our girls (who hesitate to eat anything green), and for the sake of our own health as well.  Sometimes it is as simple as sprinkling some ground flax seed on our oatmeal or adding a few tablespoons of wheat germ in with the flour when making brownies or cookies.

And sometimes it is as simple as this pasta.

We started with the "Piccolini" pasta made by Barilla:

It's this cute little pasta - just the right size for little mouths (my daughters', not mine).  And - bonus - they have some that is made with veggies cooked into  the pasta, so it has a serving of veggies right from the start.

Then, we browned some very lean (93/7) ground beef with about half an onion and a green bell pepper (both diced small) and a big spoonful of  minced garlic.  Add that to your favorite bottled pasta sauce (we like Target's Archer Farms brand), and then stir in a half a can of pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling, just the pumpkin), about 2 cups of frozen corn, and a can of diced tomatoes.  Add about a 1/2 tsp. or so of Italian seasoning and let simmer for just a couple minutes to get everything cooked/heated through. 

Mix it all together and --- voila a quick and healthy dinner.  Serve with cottage cheese on the side and you've got all your food groups covered!