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The Adventures of Nick & Brittany

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Meal Planning

Sausage and Bell Pepper Pasta

This dish is so easy and delicious.  We are not big pasta fans around here but we love this. It has 6 ingredients and is super simple to put together.  The most amazing and important component of this pasta is the sausage- my favorite kind is Johnsonville’s New Orleans Spicy Smoked Sausage (that’s a mouthful).  I would really recommend using this kind or something equivalent like another brand of Andouille or spicy sausage.

IMG_6323

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

2 bell peppers (any color), chopped

1 package of Johnsonville New Orleans Spicy Smoked Sausage, sliced thin

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jar of pasta sauce (we like 4 cheese pasta sauce from Harris Tetter/Aldi)

angel hair pasta

1.) Cook onion, peppers and sausage over medium-high heat with a tsp. of oil until onions and pepper soften and fat is rendered from sausage, about 15 mins.

2.) Add minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds.

3.) Add in pasta sauce and turn to medium-low heat to simmer covered for 30 minutes (longer is better if you have time).

4.) Serve over pasta with grated Parmesan on top.

I like to serve it with these dinner rolls: http://moneysavingmom.com/2013/11/30-minute-rolls.html

Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

This is was my first time making homemade bread by myself and I don’t think I could have picked a better recipe- this loaf was phenomenal!  This bread is kneaded by hand so I am really thankful that the lady I nanny for has baked bread with me before and taught me how to knead and ‘throw’ the dough by hand (if you don’t have experience doing this I am happy to show you :)). The recipe calls for a wood pizza peel and some cornmeal to keep the bread from sticking.  Because I didn’t have either I lined a baking sheet with aluminum rubbed with some olive oil and it worked just fine!  The only other adaptations I made were to make the egg wash with a tablespoon of olive oil instead of water and to sprinkle salt on top along with the Rosemary.  It was wonderful hot out of the oven by itself or served with olive oil and black pepper for dipping.  I estimated the total cost for this loaf to be approximately 1 dollar (using dried Rosemary).  The cost could be further reduced by buying the yeast in bulk.

Here’s where you can find the recipe:

http://www.ahintofhoney.com/2011/04/rosemary-olive-oil-bread.html

Hope you will try it!

 

 

Middle Eastern Pita Sandwiches with Mint Yogurt

I love America’s Test Kitchen.  Their recipes are simple, call for few ingredients and are always keepers!  This one was no exception- AND  it calls for ground beef (something I always have on hand because its cheap and freezes well).

recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s “30 minute Suppers” Spring 2009:

4 (8 inch) pita bread rounds

1/2 onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

2 Tbs. lemon juice

salt and pepper

1 lb. 85 percent lean ground beef or ground lamb

1 Tbs. vegetable oil

1/2 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh mint

1.) Cut top 2 inches from each pita round.  Process pita scraps, onion, 3 cloves of garlic, oregano, 1 Tbs. lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper in food processor to smooth paste.  Transfer mixture to large bowl, then add beef or lamb and mix until well combined.  Divide mixture into 12 equal balls, then press into 1/2-inch-thick patties.

2.) Heat oil in large skillet over med-high heat until just smoking.  Cook patties until well browned and cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes per side.  Transfer to paper towel-lined plate and tent with foil.

3.) Whisk yogurt, mint, remaining lemon juice, and remaining garlic in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Warm pitas in microwave 20-30 seconds.  Place 3 patties in each pita and top with sauce.  Serve with lettuce, tomato and feta cheese.

I made ours with 93 percent lean beef and whole-milk Greek yogurt.  If you wanted to make this recipe healthier you could use 2 percent or fat free Greek yogurt- although the full fat is AMAZING and totally the reason why I gained 10 lbs. during my 7 week stay in Turkey. 🙂

More freezer meals

We have been busy lately… traveling, spending time with family and friends and getting sick with a terrible virus that lasted over a week :(.   Also, I have been working on testing out some new recipes and old ones as freezer meals using the book Don’t Panic- Dinner’s in the Freezer, as my main resource for freezer technique and several delicious recipes!  It is a pretty awesome book– I have been pleased with all the recipes I have tried and feel more competent in my freezer cooking abilities after reading it.

One of the meals I have adapted to a freezer meal is our favorite enchilada recipe from Skinny Taste (http://www.skinnytaste.com/2010/02/chicken-enchiladas.html#more).   According to Don’t Panic… you can make the entire casserole as the directions state and then freeze it to reheat it later but I decided for freshness sake I would make the enchilada chicken filling and the sauce and freeze each separately to later thaw and then ensemble the dish.

I doubled the recipe and we had some that night:

Delicious chicken mixture that goes inside the enchiladas.

Another freezer meal success was a recipe from the Don’t Panic book.  These wings were so simple and so delicious.  I made 2 lbs. for dinner tonight and froze the remaining 2 lbs. and sauce for later.  I also had to make some extra sauce for basting at the end.  I used this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnahgARLdsU) to learn how to cut the wings because this was my first time cooking with them.

Kansas City Hot Wings:

Recipe from Don’t Panic- Dinner’s in the Freezer

4 lbs. chicken wings

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1 T. Tabasco sauce

1 cup Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce

Rinse chicken wings in cold water.  Mix together vinegar, Tabasco sauce, and barbecue sauce.  Place chicken and mixture together in a freezer bag and freeze.  Thaw chicken in the fridge the day before cooking.

On cooking day, preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking pan with foil.  Drain chicken wings, reserved remaining sauce.  Arrange wings on foil-lined pan and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and increase the temperature to low-broil.  Baste wings with remaining sauce and return to oven.  Broil for up to 30 minutes, turning and basting wings every 5 minutes, until crispy.

Freezer meals for a beginner

* I’m the beginner so if anyone reading this has any good freezer meal ideas they would be much appreciated!! 🙂

I have been very unmotivated lately to make food for dinner when I come home.  This is not a problem for my husband who loves my cooking (Nick’s addition to this post)  but  is completely content to eat cereal or order pizza out but is definitely a problem for me because I don’t really enjoyed either of those things.  When I come home I want a nice meal but am usually lacking energy, motivation and time to plan, shop and cook in the few precious hours I have after work when I otherwise could be spending them with my husband, or tackling the bottomless laundry pile that has been sitting in our bedroom floor since we got married :/

This weekend was a pretty low key weekend for us  (most of our weekends are) and I was praying Saturday morning about how I could use my time well that day when the idea to plan  and execute  some freezer meals popped in my head.

I did some research on freezing food and decided to make 2 batches of  3 different recipes coming to a total of 22+ meals (11 dinners for the 2 of us)  to be used this week and next month.  I realize that when most people plan and prepare freezer meals they do a whole lot more than this but I figured that this, being my first time, I would start small (lest I get intimidated and trash the effort all together).

I tried one new recipe (barbecue pulled chicken) and two tried and true recipes (Southwestern stuffed bell peppers and Teriyaki chicken).  The homemade barbecue sauce for the chicken wasn’t the best in my opinion, a little to tomato-ey so next time I will just dump Nick’s favorite barbecue sauce into the slow cooker with 3 lbs. of chicken to cook on low for 6 hours instead.

With the barbecue chicken you can make a freezer kit consisting of 3 lbs. of chicken and barbecue sauce in a freezer bag that you can just thaw and dump in the crock pot later or you could make up a batch and freeze some of the shredded chicken to thaw and use for sandwiches later.

For the Teriyaki chicken I just assembled a freezer kit filled with thinly sliced boneless skinless chicken about .75- 1 lb in each bag along with our favorite Teriyaki marinade.  I will just thaw the chicken pack overnight in the fridge and then dump it into the skillet to cook.

Teriyaki Chicken:

Serves 2

.75- 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken sliced thin

1/4 c. soy sauce

2 Tbs. water

2 cloves garlic minced

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

1/2 Tbs. sesame oil

2 Tbs. brown sugar

1 Tbs. flour

Dash of ginger powder

Whisk together everything but the chicken. Place sliced raw chicken breast and sauce into one freezer bag.   Thaw overnight in the fridge before cooking.

To cook,  dump contents of the bag into a skillet and cook on medium-low heat until chicken is done.   To thicken up the sauce, remove the chicken from the skillet once cooked , add 1 Tbs. flour and whisk on med-high heat until it forms a thick glaze.  Then add chicken back in and stir to coat.  Serve over rice and vegetables or fried rice.

For the stuffed bell peppers I combined everything that will go in the bell peppers to freeze, except for the rice.

Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers:

Makes 5 stuffed peppers

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained.

1 c. (4 oz.) shredded pepper-jack cheese

¾ c. medium salsa

½ c. frozen corn, thawed

½ c. chopped green onions with tops

1 tsp. chili powder

½ tsp. ground cumin

1/3 c. uncooked long-grain white rice

5 green bell peppers

Thaw overnight in the fridge before cooking.  Cut tops of peppers and remove seeds and ‘insides’.  Combine rice with mixture.  Stuff peppers.  Place peppers in crock-pot and cook on Low for 4-6 hours.

I am so excited to have meals for this week planned and a few for next month in the freezer!

Easy Taco night sans MSG

This combination of meat, rice and seasonings is a staple in our house- its cheap, doesn’t take much time and super flavorful!

What you’ll need:

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 large clove of garlic minced

2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced

vegetable oil

1 cup of rice (white or brown) cooked

2 Tbs. butter

Cumin powder, Chili powder, Dried Oregano, Chopped fresh Cilantro, Salt and pepper.

1.) Saute the garlic and diced peppers in a few Tbs. vegetable oil on medium heat until the pepper soften up.  Add the ground beef, breaking it up into smaller pieces.

2.) When the meat is cooked, add the cooked rice along with the 2 Tbs. butter and turn down the heat to low.  Add the chopped cilantro, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.  Add a pinch of dried oregano.  Let the flavors meld for a few minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.

3.) Serve with soft or hard taco shells, sour cream, guacamole, cheese, salsa, fresh lime, etc…

Crock Pot Pulled Pork

This was my first time making any kind of pulled pork, and actually this was my first time cooking pork.  Ever.   I’m not any kind of barbecue expert but this was delicious.  Even though it is a vinegar based barbecue the vinegar taste was not very prominent which is great because you can individually add as much or as little vinegar sauce to the pork as you’d like.  Also, cooking it in the crock pot for 10 1/2 hours made the meat really tender and moist.

I cooked 6 1/2 lbs. of pork for 10 1/2 hours on low using the recipe below, although I only cooked the meat in half the vinegar sauce.

http://momswithcrockpots.com/2012/03/crock-pot-pulled-pork/

Easy Chicken Parmesan

This is a delicious and simple recipe! I especially love the tomato basil mixture in lieu of marinara sauce.

Easy Chicken Parmesan

(adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour, 2 large eggs (whisked), 1 cup panko bread crumbs, 1 cup shredded parmesan, 6 thin cut boneless skinless cutlets*, 10 Tbs. olive oil, 1 pint cherry tomatoes quartered, 1 clove garlic minced, 2 Tbs. finely chopped basil.

1.) Pat chicken dry.  Season with salt & pepper.  Set up breading station with flour in one bowl, eggs in another and Panko breadcrumb and Parmesan mixed in the third.

2.) Dredge each cutlet one by one, first in the flour, then eggs, and then in the Parmesan mixture.

3.) Heat 3 Tbs. oil in a skillet over medium heat until simmering.  Cook 2 cutlets at a time until golden brown and crisp (approximately 2-3 minutes on each side).  Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and repeat with remaining 4 cutlets.

4.) Toss cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil and 1 Tbs. olive oil in bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Top chicken with salad.

* I make my own cutlets by buying Boneless Chicken breasts and pounding them until they are an equal thickness all the way around and then cut them into 2-3 pieces.  For this recipe I cut them in two to make bigger cutlets.

Save More Clip Less

Below is the link to the free e-book by The Peaceful Mom

http://thepeacefulmom.com/2011/08/19/free-e-book-save-more-clip-less/

I really enjoy following this woman via her blog as she chronicles their journey as a family of six living on less than 28,000$ a year.  She has a lot of helpful tips on her website for organizing, planning and feeding a family on a tight budget.  I was really excited when I saw this book on her blog and thought I would share it! I will update with a quick review when I finish it.

**Also, while we are on this topic, Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts are on sale in my area at Food Lion for 1.99$/lb. (When chicken is this cheap I buy it in bulk and freeze it).

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