Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Baked Ziti With Mini Meatballs

I have a special place in my heart for baked ziti. It was my favorite dishes to get as a child and I still remember going to Sabarro's as a kid to get a plate for dinner.  I haven't had Sabarro's in years, but have created the recipe at home in the past.  The other day I was hungry for ziti and came across this recipe from Gonna Want Seconds.  It sounded so good! I loved the use of three cheeses and fresh herbs.  The recipe takes a little time because of the meatballs, but I assure you it is worth the extra steps because it is absolutely delicious!  I love baked pastas because they are so homey and delicious, but they also make great lunch leftovers- when you have two busy adults and a toddler this is important. 

The meal is pretty heavy and I don't see it coming on the menu often in the summer months, but it is perfect for a drizzly day or for a crowd. 


Ingredients

1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 Cup bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbl milk
3/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup flat leaf parsely, choped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 lb lean ground beef
1/4 - 1/2 cup flour, for dredging
1 lb ziti pasta
2/3 cup fresh basil, julienned
5 cups marinara sauce
3 cups whole milk ricotta
2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan


Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, eggs, milk, 1/2 cup of the Romano and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Add beef and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Shape into bite-size meatballs. Roll each meatball in flour to coat.

 In a large pot, pasta cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander and set aside. Do not rinse pasta with water.

 In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add meatballs in batches, turning after 3 minutes. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown.  Remove meatballs to a plate.

 In a large bowl, combine the Marinara sauce and ricotta and mix well. Add the cooked ziti , fresh basil and meatballs and mix gently.

 In a large greased baking dish  pour in pasta mixture. Sprinkle the mozzarella, Parmesan, and remaining Romano over the top.  Bake until top is golden brown and bubbly, about  40-45 minutes.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Roasted Potatoes with Lemon, Oregano and Feta

There is restaurant in Green Bay that makes something called Greek Fries. It is french fries with malt vinegar, oregano, salt, pepper and feta. It is amazing. They are probably one of my favorite comfort foods, but not close to our house at all (probably a good thing).  I decided to make a version at home for us without having to make a trip to the restaurant. We served this with Grilled Citrus Basil Chicken and it was amazing. 

I loved the flavors of the herbs alongside the lemon and tangy feta.  These potatoes hit the spot perfectly for our favorite fries- without the driving and cost. 

We have everything set and currently counting down the time. Kellen is going to Ron's parents for an overnight before we leave so his Grandparents can see him before we leave. Ron and I are going to grab dinner and see Godzilla (I am excited about this!). I have a *giant* soft spot in the heart for science fiction movies...they are my guilty pleasure. 


Ingredients

2 lbs red potatoes, quartered
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
1 Tbl dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 Tbl olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese


Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. 
Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside. 
Place potatoes into a large bowl. Toss with lemon juice, oregano, salt, pepper and olive oil until evenly coated. 
Arrange potatoes on the baking sheet and place in the oven (Discard excess liquid in the bowl because you just need to coat the potatoes). Roast for 40-50 minutes. You will want to check to make sure potatoes are tender and have browned. 
Remove potatoes from oven and transfer to a serving dish.  Top with feta and enjoy. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Grilled Grapefruit Horseradish Skirt Steak

Time for May Crazy Ingredient Challenge! 


 The theme for this month was wasabi (or horseradish) and grapefruit. Since I have had all things grilling my the brain I went for a steak. Ron and I have really been enjoying grilling skirt steak, and I decided that it would be the perfect carrier to my marinade. When creating the marinade I thought our challenge ingredients hit the nail on the head for the building blocks of a great grilling marinade. I would have never thought to use these two ingredients together, but the combination was delicious. The natural sugars from the grapefruit caramelize nicely and the flavors from the horseradish are mild, but come across perfectly. Ron kept exclaiming how delicious the steak was- we will certainly be making this flavor combo again!

Our hosting has changed hands to Dawn of Spatulas on Parade.  Pop over to her site and say hello, or to get info on how to join this fun challenge. 

Tonight we are headed out for sushi for my sister's birthday. We are going to a place that is relatively new, but rivals my other favorite spot.  Kellen has tried sushi on one other occasion and enjoyed it....I am excited to see if he is still a fan! 


Ingredients

2 lb skirt steak
1 Tbl prepared horseradish
1 1/2 tbl Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 olive oil
2 tbl fresh thyme, chopped 
1/4 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp pepper
2 juice of two grapefruits


Instructions

Mix horseradish, Worcestershire, garlic, olive oil, thyme, grapefruit juice, salt, pepper in a bowl. Place steaks in a large resealable bag. Pour over skirt steak and let marinate in the refrigerator at least 8 hours or overnight.  Heat grill to high and grill steak 2-3 min minutes per side (I would not recommend cooking skirt steak over medium temperature because it can get chewy).  Remove meat from grill and allow it to rest for a few minutes.  To slice, cut each piece of skirt into a 3 to 4 inch section with the grain. Then, slice each of those sections into thin strips about 1/2- 3/4 inch thick against the grain. Serve immediately. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 5/19 - 5/25

Happy Monday!

This week needs to fly by because I am so pumped about our trip next week! 

This weekend we were in Lake Geneva for a pig roast with my co-workers. It was super fun and I loved hanging out with everyone. We went without Kellen and were able to go out for drinks with my co-worker and her boyfriend- tons of fun was had by all.  We ended the weekend with brunch at a place called The Baker House.  Originally a summer home built in 1885, Baker House has been a sanitarium, speakeasy and back to a private residence before becoming a bed and breakfast. I heard they are having a Great Gatsby themed party in June!  On Sunday evening we celebrated my sister-in-law's birthday with a delicious cookout. Kellen got to try out the big trampoline and absolutely loved it. 

This week we are prepping for our trip to France.  I am so excited, if you couldn't tell already, and can't wait for next Monday. Many people have asked us about flying with Kellen at 18 months and, honestly, I am really not stressing about it. I do have a plan and army of troops (aka wrapped little gifts, books, peanut butter and suckers).  My view on travel is that if I wait till my child is perfect I will never leave my house. I am prepared for crying and a difficult 8 hours, but I am also prepared for it to be smooth with a few bumps. Last time we flew with Kellen it was 4 hours and went very smoothly. I also know once I get there I will not care (hopefully!) what happened on an 8 hour plane ride.  

Here is what is on tap: 

Monday: Grilled Grapefruit and Horseradish Skirt Steak, Buttered Parsley Potatoes and Green Beans
Tuesday: Out for sushi for my sister's birthday
Wednesday: Spicy Beef Tacos
Thursday: Molasses and Coffee Marinated Pork Chops, Wild Rice and Corn
Friday: Crabcake Sandwiches, Old Bay Oven Fries, and Fruit
Saturday: Out to Dinner
Sunday: Grilled Cheeseburgers, Baked Beans, Cottage Cheese and Mixed Fruit

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Grilled Citrus Basil Chicken

Time for June's Improv Cooking Challenge! 

The theme for this month was lemon and lime. I was excited when I learned we were using these ingredients because I felt there was a lot of room to be creative! 

Initially,  I was thinking of doing a dessert or a spicy chicken in the crockpot using lemon lime soda for tacos, but I decided that grilling was mandatory because of the beautiful weather are starting to have.  I came up with a very simple marinade and added a bit of fresh basil and garlic. This chicken is absolutely delicious.  The flavors from the lemon, lime, basil and garlic are very prominent and very fresh. We also crumbled a little feta over the top of the chicken and it was perfect with the citrus flavors. I did not want this to be a sweet chicken, but if you wanted to add a little orange juice or agave for sweetness it would work nicely. I also highly recommend marinating as long as possible. I often see recipes that say to marinate 1-8 hours and I always go for the max. To me, longer marinating time = more flavor.  I think this would be delicious wish fish or pork as well. I can't wait to make it again! We served this with roasted potatoes with lemon, oregano and feta (recipe posting soon) and it was the perfect side to complement the chicken. 

If you want to join the fun of the Improv Cooking Challenge visit Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for details! 

Next month's theme is berries and cream....I think I already know what I am going to make! 


Ingredients

1 1/4 lb chicken breasts (4 pieces)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lime zest
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 limes
1 Tbl apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl fresh minced basil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp black pepper
Not pictured: Crumbles feta, optional topping


Instructions

Mix all ingredients besides the chicken in a medium bowl. 

Place chicken in a large ziplock bag and pour in the marinade. Squeeze out the air and seal. Allow chicken to marinate in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Heat grill to medium heat. Remove chicken from the bag and discard excess marinade.  Grill chicken about 5-6 minutes per side.

Remove chicken from the grill and allow it to rest for a few minutes before serving.  


Monday, May 12, 2014

Weekly Meal Planning 5/12 - 5/18

Happy Monday! 

I had a great Mother's Day weekend with my family.  It was full and busy with lots of fun activities. Saturday we met up with friends at our local zoo. Kellen loved the zoo and thought the monkeys and otters were a blast to watch. The weather was great and the animals were all playing.  After to zoo we made a stop at the park, but did not stay too long because our little guy was getting tired. 

On Sunday, we started off the day with a gift from Ron and Kellen. They bought we a new jewelry box (which I desperately needed! ) and we had brunch at one of our favorite restaurants. I had a dish that was a play on Eggs Benedict, but it used grouper cakes and fried eggs....delicious.  In the afternoon, we played outside and napped. Naps were followed by a trip to visit my mom for dinner. We feasted on Indian take-out- a favorite for all of us! 

This week we starting to get ready for our trip to France at the end of the month. I am also having a sushi date with a few girlfriends. This weekend we are heading to Lake Geneva for a pig roast with some of my co-workers. A few months ago we participated in a bowling fundraiser and raised over a certain dollar amount to qualify for the roast. The winner was picked randomly and it was us! Ron and I are both excited to a little one-on-one time before our family vacation. 

Here is what is on tap:

Monday: Basil Chicken in a Coconut Curry Sauce and Brown Rice (I might make this with Shrimp)
Tuesday: Citrus Basil Grilled Chicken, Baked Beans, Cottage Cheese and Salad
Wednesday: Out with Girlfriends for Sushi
Thursday: Scalloped Potatoes and Ham and Salad
Friday:  Grapefruit Horseradish Marinated Skirt Steak, American Fries and Roasted Green Beans
Saturday: Lake Geneva for a Pig Roast
Sunday: Pizza

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Jack and Coke Steaks

Time for May Secret Recipe Club

Secret Recipe Club

This month I received Amy's Cooking Adventures and was excited because she has a blog full of delicious recipes. I almost made Crispy BBQ Quinoa Burgers, but had a hankering for a juicy steak.  I decided to try her recipe for Jack and Coke Steaks. I love what the grilling process does to marinades that contain sugar. It creates the perfect sweet char which, especially on steak, is delicious. The steak is slightly sweet, slightly spicy and a little salty...i.e. fantastic.  I kept the marinade the same, but I did not score the steak and sprinkled a bit of salt prior to grilling because we like a mild saltiness to our steaks.  Ron and I really enjoyed these steaks and loved trying something different than our normal salt, pepper and garlic blend.  If you are a Jack and Coke fan.....or really just a steak fan give these a try because you will not be disappointed! 

I hope you are all having a fantastic Mother's Day how every you choose to celebrate it! I will have more details on our adventures in my weekly meal plan! 


Ingredients

½ cup Jack Daniel’s Bourbon
1 cup Coca Cola
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp hot sauce 
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp black pepper
2 lbs New York Strip Steaks (About 3-4 Steaks)
Salt


Instructions

Whisk together all of the marinade ingredients (except the salt).  Place the marinade in a zipper bag with the steaks and massage to coat.  Place the steaks in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight. Turning the steak once to make sure they evenly marinate in the mixture.

About 30 minutes before cooking, remove the steaks from the refrigerator to bring them closer to room temperature. Pat excess wetness from steak and season with salt. 

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat and cook to desired temperature.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Garlic Butter Baked Salmon

I absolutely love salmon, but Ron is just so-so on it. I am always on the lookout for salmon recipes that I think he would enjoy. Recently, I saw Garlic Butter Baked Salmon posted on So Tasty, So Yummy and thought it sounded delicious! We love roasted garlic and I thought the flavors sounded amazing.  I have made roasted garlic butter before to use on potatoes and bread, but over a baked fish was sure to result in a tender and flavorful dinner. As suspected, the salmon was wonderful. The garlic butter flavor was rich and sharp, but went great with the hint of lemon and freshness from the parsley.  Verdict on Ron? He thought the salmon was delicious! I would not go as far to say that he wants salmon more often, but this was a step in the right direction. I serves this with roasted red potatoes and grilled asparagus- perfect sides dishes. 

If you are looking for a new way salmon recipe give this a whirl!

Last night I attended a surprise baby shower for my friend Angie. She is in town for a few days then en route to her new home in Seattle with her husband.  Plans changed a little for Friday (in a good way) because we are having a girls dinner with her at a favorite restaurant, Plae Bistro!  This Saturday we are taking a trip to the zoo with Kellen and a few friends in the morning and are going to have a cookout in the park later in the afternoon.  
Fingers crossed for nice weather!


Ingredients

1 whole garlic bulbs
3 tsp olive oil, divided
2 tsp butter
1-1 1/4 lb salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 Tbl fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fresh parsley, minced


Instructions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the flaky shell  from garlic and cut the top off the garlic bulb. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil and wrap in heavy-duty foil. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until softened. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Squeeze softened garlic into a food processor.  Add butter and remaining oil. Cover and process until completely blended; set aside.

Place salmon in a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with lemon juice. Spoon 1 tablespoon garlic butter over each fillet. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes (Salmon should be medium rare-medium, cook longer if you would like at a higher temperature). Sprinkle with parsley.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 5/5 - 5/11

Happy Monday!

This weekend was a lot of fun! We spend time in Door County after my sister-in-law's half marathon. We went to a favorite Italian restaurant called Del Santo and ended the weekend with breakfast at one of our favorite stops- White Gull Inn. The kids enjoyed playing outside with Grandpa and Grandma, and were exhausted by the time the weekend was over.

On Sunday, Ron and I grilled brats and enjoyed the nice weather. I am getting excited about starting our garden and am hoping we will get everything in the ground right after we return from vacation at the end of May. Ron and I have been plotting out what we would like to try this year and one thing is certain for us- peppers, tomatoes and herbs. The rest is up in the air.

This week we are up to our normal activities, but today I am meeting a few other mom's and our Doula at a local coffee shop to do an interview with a local new station on placenta encapsulation. I am really excited that we are given the opportunity to speak more about this because it is something my family is very passionate about. When the story airs I will post a link.

It is suppose to be nice this weekend and I am hoping for a visit to the zoo for Kellen with a few friends!

Here is what is on tap:

Monday: Beef Enchiladas, Homemade Refried Beans and Yellow Rice
Tuesday: Brat Pasta
Wednesday: Out
Thursday: Out
Friday: Spicy Lemon and Lime Grilled Chicken, Roasted Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus
Saturday: Pizza
Sunday: Brunch with Ron and Kellen & Dinner with my Parents

Treats: Strawberry Basil Shortcake

Friday, May 2, 2014

Cinco De Mayo Favorites!

Ron and I were in Mexico on Cinco De Mayo a few years ago during a family vacation. We did not know if there would be a celebration while we were there, and quickly learned that it is not a celebrated holiday(at least not in the are we stayed).

That being said Ron and I always follow to traditional of making a favorite Mexican style meal on May 5th.  This year we are planning on Beef Enchiladas, refried beans, yellow rice and Rick Bayless Summer Margaritas.....I am already drooling.

If you are looking for recipe for your Cinco De Mayo celebration I complied a list of our family's favorites! 

Tequila Lime Shrimp with Chorizo Mashed Potatoes


Chicken Mole Enchiladas


Creamy Chicken Enchiladas


Taco Burgers


Crockpot Cheddar Beer Chicken Tacos


Creamy Chicken Taquitos


Beef Enchiladas


Mexican Meatballs


Beergarita Chicken Tacos


Restaurant Style Queso


Barbacoa Beef Tacos


Sweet Pork Tacos with Cilantro Ranch Dressing


Chorizo, Black Bean and Quinoa Bake


Sriracha Beef Tacos


White Chicken Enchiladas


Tres Leches Cake