Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Halfway homemade pizza

I'll tell you a secret.  Anything you make at home has a heckuva better chance at being better for you than if you order in.  Pizza is no exception to that rule, it really gets a bad rap healthwise when they pile on full fat cheese, greasy full fat meat, brush the crust with butter, etc.  I'll give you no argument that it tastes heavenly, but I'm always guilt ridden when I've got a full belly of 'za.  The problem is, I can't just stop eating the's in my blood, my DNA, or wherever those weird, cheesy, fatty cravings hide out and pounce on you from.

I guess I can't really call this homemade because I use store bought crust and store bought sauce but come on...I wanted to watch a movie and hang with my dude instead of whipping up food from scratch! I should at least get points for not ordering in...

This is a way to lessen your guilt after downing your fair share of pizza pie.  Here's what you need:

1 can Hy-Vee refrigerated pizza dough
1 can/jar your fave pizza sauce
whatever meat toppings you want to throw on it (can bacon and turkey pepperoni are good ones for flavor that dont pack much fat/calories)
whatever veggie toppings you want to throw on it
mozzerella cheese (2% if available, fat free doesnt melt very well)
italian seasoning
fresh basil

From here on out, it's pretty much up to you how bad/good for you your pizza will end up being. I used mini turkey pepperonis which are pretty much harmless, and then threw on all sorts of veggies to spice it up! 

My original intention was to grill pizza because I've seen it on so many blogs and cooking shows but to be honest, we were hungry, and I didn't want to risk ruining it and having to start over!  So we went with the tried and true...

First thing is first, we did thin crust because I don't want all the carbs from the thicker can choose which way to do it by how thin you roll it out.  I used a regular baking sheet...make sure to spray it with Pam first so the crust doesn't stick to the pan.

Spread with your favorite sauce...I've tried them all and this is by far the best in my opinion! I also minced some fresh garlic and stirred it around in the HAVE TO have fresh garlic on's like state law.

At this point, it's pretty self explanatory. 

Layer your toppings!  As I said, I used mini turkey pepperonis and mushrooms on the whole thing.  Then I added fresh spinach and cherry tomatoes from the garden to one side....

And sour kraut and banana peppers to the other side (thinking that if this spicy side hurt J's weak stomach, he had a whole non-spicy side to fall back on)....

You also see slices of greyere and fontina cheese mixed around on the top of the pie, I had about 1/4 cup of each left laying around after the 5 cheese lasagna I made the other day, so I distributed that before shredding 1 cup of reduced fat mozzerella and spreading it on top of the whole pizza.  An easy way to cut fat is to cut cheese, so the less cheese you use the better off you'll be (I could've gone with less than what I did).  I sprinkled the whole thing with italian seasoning and some fresh basil I cut off my plant (I can't explain how much this MAKES the pizza), and got ready to throw it in the oven and get to the couch....

425 degrees for 20 minutes and you're in business....

Cut it up and enjoy!  For some reason, square pieces make me feel at home.  Maybe because you don't have to have crust for the middle pieces? Don't ask me.  I will say that we will be doing this a lot more often to save on cash and calories in the was a hit!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stovetop chili mac

I'll be the first to say that this wasn't my favorite meal, nor was it Justin's.  It probably won't make it to our menu rotation.  But it's always good to try new things, that's how you discover the best recipes!  There wasn't anything particularly wrong with this, it had decent flavor and it was pretty just wasn't our cup of tea.  We like creamier, saucier pastas...this was good but just not something I would ever crave.  We all have different tastes though so some of you out there may love the stuff! It would be great for people with kids I would think, or people who do not like spicy food, or people who really love chili. 

I had this saved to use as a zucchini recipe but am done with my zucchini crop so I omitted that part, but you are more than welcome to include it.  I have discovered lately how great wheat rigatoni is though so it will be making more appearances in my cooking even if this particular recipe won't...

1/2 box rigatoni (I used wheat)
3 garlic cloves
2t of chili or cayenne powder (optional)
1 small yellow onion, diced (I used dehydrated onions my mom had given me since I didn't have any fresh at the moment)
1 lb lean as you can get hamburger (97/3)
2t ground cumin
1 can of corn
1 can black beans (not in the recipe, I added this to bulk it up since I didn't have zucchini)
1 small zucchini
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup sour cream (I used fat free)
shredded cheddar cheese

Cook the hamburger like normal in your skillet, and when it is browned add all your veggies, spices, and garlic...

While doing this, boil your water and cook your rigatoni on another burner...

Drain the noodles and add the sauce to the pot...mixing throughly.  Serve topped with shredded cheese. It was good for one meal and I was completely satisfied afterwards, just not something I want to fight over the leftovers for or put on my make again list when I have sooooo many other recipes printed out to try...

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Frozen sweet corn

This is Justin's mom's recipe and I can't thank her enough for giving it to me a couple summers ago...this is my 3rd year doing it (which means it's my 3rd year having sweet corn to cook all through the winter)!!  I don't know how I lived before. I literally cringe when I have to use canned corn for something.  It just isn't the same....and those of you from Iowa know exactly what I'm talking about. 

This year I did 5 dozen ears.  Sounds like a lot but when you have to go through the Fall, Winter, Spring, plus some of Summer before the corn comes up for sale again...5 dozen doesn't sound like much.  We still have to ration it toward the end, but I don't have the freezer space to make much more.  I threw around the idea of canning it this year but the more I read on it, the more I found people saying you don't get the flavor you get from freezing it.  So here we go...

Shuck your corn.  This is the absolute worst part if you don't have a helper.  I hate it.

I hate it so much I went and got a beer to help me.  Shameless plug for the lover's company on my coozie...

OK, the corn is shucked....if you didn't notice it's dark out now.  Told you it sucks to shuck 5 dozen ears by yourself!  Doesn't help that I am a little OCD about getting the little hairs off the cobs because I hate when they get in my teeth.

Now is a good time to show you all the nifty devices that I have bought over the last couple years to help me with the part that's next: cutting the corn off the cobs.  This one was the first one I found in some little kitchen shop in a strip mall with my mom, thought it would be worth a wasn't.  Totally useless, which I would have known if I have my brain that day.  This thing would only take off 2 rows of corn at a time even if it did work without feeling like it was taking my fingers off....maybe if I wasn't doing 60 ears of corn at a time that might be ok. 

This one was the second try...bigger cutting area AND is shaped to the roundness of the corn...has to be better, right?  Wrong.  Serious design flaw and almost cut my arm right down my wrist pulling it down the corn.  Suicide by corn cob cutting, anyone?  Not the way I want to go out....

I finally gave up on buying these gadgets and have discovered that once I actually bought a set of good knives, the bread knife in the set works amazingly well.  Not much effort, just cut to the cob and go.  So this is what we use now.  Whew, that was rough. 

Candy (Justin's mom) used to use an electric knife, he said that worked pretty slick but I never wanted to go out and buy one.  Maybe next year?

I mentioned my OCD with the silky hair in the corn after shucking it.  This was my miracle product when I found it in the store...I was so excited that someone made something to cure my problem, and even more pumped that the time doing this would be cut in half since I wouldn't have to be picking each hair out by it's lonesome.

It didn't work.  Well, technically it did at first.  But when you're doing the volume I do, the hairs just get wrapped up in the bristles and make the bristles not work after a few ears.  So in the end, what I've learned is....don't buy stupid shit from kitchen stores unless you know it's going to work.  Read up on it first!

OK, now that we've got all that taken care of...we cut the corn off the cobs and into a roaster pan.  Justin came home just in time to help with that part! Notice I needed a couple more beers after the shucking part...don't judge the greasy hair, it was hot on my run that night!

After your roasting pan is full, transfer to the stock pot and continue to cut....

Once all your corn is cobbed (is that what you call it?), put it on the lowest setting burner you have on your stove and add 1/4 gallon skim milk, and 4 cups light butter.  Let simmer for an hour or so (lid on), stirring very frequently making sure to move around the corn on the bottom to prevent burning. 

The original recipe calls for half and half instead of skim milk, but I wanted to lighten the calorie content up a little and skim works just fine taste and consistency wise.  Candy also roasts hers, but I didn't have a roaster pan big enough so doing it in the stock pot has worked well for me.

After corn is cooked (yes, you can taste it now, go ahead), you bag it up.  I get freezer bags which I fill with 1 and 1/2 cups of the corn plus liquid, remove all air from the bags before sealing, and stack in the freezer.  That seems to be the perfect portion for Justin and I for one night's dinner, so I can just lay one bag out for us, and if we have company, lay extra out as needed. 

Throw them in the freezer and enjoy all year long! It's a lot of work but soooooo worth having sweet corn year round.  I wouldn't lie to you. And neither would anyone that's eaten it at our house for Christmas or a random February dinner.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Chicken prosciutto 5 cheese lasagna

Rich. Creamy. Cheesy.  This is my go to lasagna recipe from now on.  Ive made lasagna before, a ton of times actually.  I used to try to skinny it down by using turkey instead of hamburger, using fat free cottage cheese instead of ricotta, etc.  It was lasagna, but it wasn't lasagna like this.  This was the best lasagna I've ever made in my house, hands down.  AND I made it up myself...

I find myself in the freaky cheese section (this is what I call the imported and "neater than mozzerella" section) of the grocery store often, trying to figure out what to do with them.  I love cheese...all kinds. I used to come home from school and eat slices of farmers cheese for a snack.  String cheese is always in the work fridge in case I need it.  I love me some feta on a salad and can't live without the little Skinny Cow cheese wedges for snacks.  But I don't do fancy cheese, it makes me nervous. 

I have been seeing lots of other bloggers posting about gruyere and fontina for grilled cheese or mac and cheese or other very common recipes so I looked them up online. Both mild cheeses and perfectly made for melting (think: fondue), why haven't we met before?  So I bought a couple hunks and thought I would figure something out for them.  Also got some havarti so will be looking for suggestions for that if you've got any to send my way....

Anyway, Mama Hofer is a huge pasta fan so I wanted to try these out on her.  I had to make sure I didn't spice the dish up at all in case baby H isn't a fan of the heat like I am, so I wanted it to have some flair in other ways...which means, add some freaky cheese!  And it worked...oh man, did it work. Here's what you need:

6-8 slices of prosciutto
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 jar spagetti sauce
1 can mushrooms
3-4 cups fresh spinach
3 cloves minced garlic
2 cups shredded mozzerella (I used reduced fat)
1 small container ricotta cheese (I used skim)
1 small container cottage cheese (I used fat free)
1 cup sliced fontina
1 cup sliced gruyere
italian seasoning
1 box lasagna noodles
*I would have added some diced green chiles, onion, and some crushed red pepper if I weren't cooking for someone with baby on board

First thing is first, I take short cuts wherever possible.  I don't want to live in the kitchen in order to eat well (half the time I'm starving by the time I get home so the quicker to dinner, the happier I am), so I will take any shortcut possible to ensure less time spent working, more time spent spooning cheesy lasagna in my mouth.  These have been around for a while and if you're not using them, you're dumb.  There's no other way to put it.  I used to hate working with hot noodles to line the lasagna pan, and wouldnt make it for that fact alone.  These are a freaking miracle, I'm telling you.  No taste sacrifice either...bonus puntos to you, Barilla!

OK, now that we've got that out of the way....season your chicken breasts with Lawry's, garlic powder, italian seasoning, and ground black pepper.  Over-seasoning is the way to go here, when you think you've got enough, add more.  The chicken needs to be very flavorful to stand out in this dish.  Bake at 425 until done (20-25 minutes). 

Shred the chicken and add it to a large skillet, along with your garlic, spinach, mushrooms, and prosciutto (cut up into bite sized pieces). 

Stirfry for a hot minute, to wilt the spinach and cook the mushrooms a bit.  Everything else is cooked so you can add your sauce to the skillet to let it all meld together.

Let the sauce simmer on low after it comes to a boil. Mix your ricotta and cottage cheese together in a bowl.

 Put some sauce in the bottom of your greased baking dish so the bottom layer of noodles doesn't stick, and then start layering your lasagna.  One layer of no boil noodles, one layer of the chicken mixture, one layer of the ricotta mixture, then noodles again.  Now some chicken mixture and then the fontina and gruyere layer, then noodles again.  Now some more chicken mixture, and the finale of mozzerella topped with itailian seasoning.  I did this the night before and threw it in the fridge with some tin foil on it...

I was a little nervous how it would be with chicken since this was a first for me.  I was not disappointed.  It's a good way to cut calories but not lose taste. Bake at 425 degrees for 30-40 minutes and serve it up! Sweet shadow on this pic but I was too hungry to care about taking a new one...

The only thing I burnt that night was the one thing I didn't make from scratch...garlic bread.  But Bradley saved the day by scraping off the burnt part for everyone!  His Iowa shirt ruined dinner more than the burnt toast did :)  I loved me some Hofer time, can't wait till next time! Now it's time for a run to melt off all that cheese I ingested last night...

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Baked cheese sticks

If you haven't tried you need to get on that.  It's my new obsession...tons of great recipe ideas, plus crafts, DIY projects, neat products, just all around great ideas that leave me sitting there thinking that I HAVE to try each thing. So I save them all on my account and try them as I get time...this came from pinterest and has been on my list since the minute I saw it.

I had extra eggroll wrappers from the buffalo chicken eggrolls the other day, plus Cynthia is literally a cheese stick connoisseur, the cheese stick master, and the judge of all things cheese...and as luck would have it she was coming for dinner on Thursday with her hungry baby Hofer belly.  Perfect! 

This is almost too easy to post as a recipe.  Like I feel like I'm cheating the blogging world of a recipe when it really only has 2 ingredients and takes 2 seconds to whip together.  But hey, I'm a sucker for a shortcut so here goes.

string cheese
egg roll wrappers

That's literally all you need.  No playing.  Now there were a couple of things I learned though.  Apparently "light" string cheese is just smaller pieces of the normal string cheese.  Less calories, yes...but very tricky wording, string cheese manufacturers.  I've got my eye on you.  So I would get the full sticks next time as I was left wanting a little more cheese in each stick. 

Wrap the cheese up in the egg roll wrappers. 

Put on baking sheet. 

Sprinkle with italian seasoning and garlic powder (recipe didnt call for that, I just thought they needed some sort of seasoning). 

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.  Done.  Finished. Complete. 

Remove from the oven and let cool, serve with marinara sauce or ranch.  Results?  They were good for homemade cheese sticks.  Nothing like you would get in a a restaurant, but I think that's because they're not fried, and what in the world isn't better when it's thrown in a hot grease pit to crisp up?  Nothing, that's what.  But my thighs can't handle fried cheese all the time, so this is a decent substitution in my book.  Killed the craving and was a perfect appetizer to the main course which will be posted in a moment...get excited, because this was DELISH!

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Spicy seafood enchiladas

I'm not sure when Justin got an old man stomach, but he's a full blown wuss anymore when it comes to spicy foods....which is a problem for me.  It's not that he doesn't like hot food, he just can't handle it anymore...I guess that's what happens when you turn 30! :)  I really didn't think these were all that spicy, but he had a hard time with them.  His loss!  Actually, he ate the whole thing and liked it, it's the aftermath that kills him.  So I decided after this dish that I should be a good girlfriend and start toning things down for his digestion, it's not too tough for me to season my food spicier after it's cooked.  Man, I must really like him...but I will never give up on teasing him that the dog can handle hotter food than him in his old age.

Anyway, this was adapted from quite a few recipes I had looked at previously to decide how to do these.  These beef enchiladas are a favorite at our house, and clicking on that link will also give you more of a demo on how to roll these bad boys up if you need it.  I've wanted to broaden our horizens and make seafood enchiladas after the chicken ones I've made turned out great too.  Justin was leery, Mexican and seafood together freaked him out a bit...but not anymore! 

Here's what I used:

1 lb shrimp
1 lb crab meat
2 cans Rotel diced tomatoes with green chiles
1/2 a white onion, diced
1 bag 2% shredded Mexican cheese
6 carb friendly wheat tortillas
1 jar verde sauce (green chile sauce)

You know the drill....coat your skillet with Pam instead of oil or butter.  Add the shrimp, crab, tomatoes, onion, and a handfull of cheese as well as a few T of the verde sauce to the skillet.  You don't need to cook this for long, just warm everything and mix it well over medium heat. 

Pam your baking dish as well, and heat the tortillas in the microwave for 25 seconds to keep them from ripping when they are folded into enchiladas.  Lay them in your baking dish like so...

Cover with the rest of the verde sauce and cheese...

Throw some tin foil on top and bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving or they will fall apart when dishing out of the pan.  Justin goes plain jane but I add lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, and sour cream to mine!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Prosciutto wrapped pork chops

Because why wouldn't you wrap your pork in more pork?  I've done this a couple times for easy grilling nights, and it's always a hit (which is nice because it literally takes 3 minutes to prepare before throwing on the grill).  Prosciutto is not something I keep laying around because jeeeeeeez, it's expensive!  I did have sort of an obsession with it for a while though when Mom and I ate at a wood grilled pizza place and we had some on our yummy and salty! 

Prosciutto is an Italian dry cured ham, so it's basically thinly sliced cured ham that doesn't even need to be cooked.  Most of the time it's served uncooked, but the grill crisps this up nice and tight to the pork chop to leave it with almost a ham crust...yes, I said ham crust.  Thank me later...

2 pork chops
4 slices prosciutto
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Rub your pork chops with olive oil and season with freshly cracked salt, pepper, and rosemary.

Secure 2 slices of prosciutto to each pork chop with toothpicks...

Throw them on the grill on medium low heat (you want to cook them slowly), and flip after 10 minutes.  When pork chop is no longer pink inside....serve.  You can write me a thank you note tomorrow. 

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I will admit I take the easy way out with my pickles.  I suppose if I'm going to the trouble to can and pickle my cucumbers, I should have my own pickling mixture and do it from absolute scratch.  But I don't.  And I don't really care to.  Canning is such a time consuming activity that I will cut corners where need be.  It is so rewarding though to walk into the basement and see rows of pickles, salsa, etc and know that you grew the food, made the food, and canned the food.  Call me Grandma, but I like the feeling of accomplishment and the "living off the land" vibe I get from the whole process. This is my second year doing pickles and salsa, and I'm hoping to do tomato sauce this year as well.  I usually freeze my sweet corn but am throwing around the idea of canning it too this year, just to save on freezer space. 

Anyway, this lady is a lifesaver.  Meet Mrs. Wages.

Mix this bag with 7 and 1/3 cups water and 3 and 1/3 cups white vinegar, bring to a boil, and you've got yourself some pickling mixture.  Easy as that.  Which is very nice, becuase the rest of the process takes some time.

Mmmmm, makes the house smell all sorts of pickle-y.  First step in the canning process is the fill your stockpot up with water and get it to boil. I usually add some salt to it, throw the lid on, and let it sit for a half hour or more to get up to a rolling boil.  This is a BIG pot if you can't tell by the comparison picture!

While the water heats up, I get out my sanitized jars and lids, and start cutting my cucumbers into pickle spears and slices for sandwiches...I do both kids.  Your jars need to be clean and have no chips in the rim of the glass or they won't seal for you, which means your pickles will rot if you leave them out.  The ones that don't seal will stay in the fridge for quite a few weeks but can't be left unrefridgerated.  Fill your jars up with as many as will fit, and make sure to leave a little room at the top so the pickles will be submerged in pickling liquid when the lid is shut.

I bought a simple canning kit which was like $15 or so, and it has come in pretty handy.  It came with some rubber tongs to grab the jars in and out of the boiling water as well as a large bottomed funnel to get the pickling juice into the jars like so...

Fill to the top and secure youe lid.  When the jars are tightly sealed, you need to submerge them with a wire basket into the boiling water.  NEVER put the jars in the bottom of the pot right onto the burner.  They will crack and break immediately on direct heat.  Believe me, I know.  I lost a good portion of salsa last year due to this mistake.  Seems very obvious looking back but for a first time canner, I had no idea.  Lower the basket into the boiling water and make sure the jars are fully submerged and getting boiled from all directions, as well as not touching each other on the sides, as that can cause breakage too. 

Put your lid on and let the water boil for 25 minutes before removing the jars with your rubber tongs and setting them on a towel to cool.  You will continue to hear the jar lids popping as you go about your business because they actually don't seal until they are cooling.  I was pretty pumped that all of mine popped this year, so we had none that needed to be eaten right away....pickles are better if you give them a week to themselves to hang out and party in the juice. 

Since you can only do so many jars at once and they take a half hour per batch, there is a lot of down time once you're actually in the canning process.  So I was switching loads of dishes and loads of laundry, etc while each batch would boil.  In the end, I had 16 jars of pickles sitting on the shelves of the basement, after about 3 hours of work.  Not a bad little Saturday...

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