Monday, September 30, 2013

Easy Ramen Noodle Stir Fry

Who doesn't love a quick and easy meal on busy weeknights? This stir fry is so delicious and can be on the table in less than 30 minutes. And it's versatile. You can choose the veggies your family likes. You can incorporate whatever meat you have available - chicken, beef, pork, even ground meat.

For ease of preparation, I used a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables. Then I noticed the blend had snow peas in it. And I hate peas! I thought, since the pods were still intact, I could just easily pick them out. Uh, no. As they heated, the pea pods popped open and little peas spread throughout the skillet! Fortunately, I was able to separate most of them from my portion and donate them to my husband who adores peas. Next time, I'll chop up my own veggies! No peas!

Here's what you need:

2 pkgs ramen noodles
1 lb meat - I used cube steak, thinly sliced
4 cups veggies or 1 pkg frozen stir-fry veggies
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP corn starch or arrowroot powder
1 teas ground ginger

Before you start cooking the meat and veggies, prepare the stir fry sauce. In a small saucepan, combine the water, soy sauce, brown sugar, corn starch and ginger. Whisk until there are no lumps. Bring to a boil and cook for one minute. Set aside. This will thicken as it stands.

Break the ramen noodles up a little. Cook according to the package directions but discard the seasoning packets. You won't need them for this recipe. Drain the noodles.

While the noodles are cooking, pour a little oil into a skillet or wok. Cook the meat until it reaches your level of desired doneness. Add the veggies and cook until crisp-tender.

Turn off the heat and add the noodles to the skillet. Pour the stir-fry sauce over all and make sure everything is coated.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Menu Plan September 30-October 6

We had such a lovely weekend here in the Deep South. The weather was perfect and our family spent some good quality time together. Let's just say I'm still the Sorry board game champion! Whoo!

This week I'm going to try some new recipes and make good use of my crockpot. Here's what I've got planned:

Creamy tomato tortellini soup

Crockpot honey sesame chicken, rice

Crockpot pepperoni pizza pasta, garlic bread

Chicken and noodles, green beans

Crockpot balsamic beef, mashed potatoes

Crockpot potato soup, homemade French bread

Cube steak and gravy, noodles

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup with Bacon

Cooler weather is upon us, and there's nothing I'd rather eat during this time of year than soup. Okay, I'd really rather eat chocolate, but that's true for every season so I guess it doesn't count as my favorite.

This particular soup is creamy and delicious. It combines chicken and hearty wild rice, with just a touch of smoky bacon. And it's so easy to prepare.

Here's what you need:

2 cups shredded or cubed cooked chicken
1 cup wild rice - I actually use a brown rice/wild rice blend
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled - you can sub a pkg of real bacon pieces
1/2 teas poultry seasoning
1/2 teas garlic powder
1/2 teas onion powder
1/2 teas sea salt
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 teas dried parsley

In a large slow cooker, stir together the chicken, wild rice, broth, water, bacon, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder and salt. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until the rice is tender.

About a half hour before serving, make a roux to thicken the soup. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour until smooth, then cook until bubbly. Gradually stir in the milk, making sure there are no lumps. Continue to cook and stir until the mixture thickens. Stir in the parsley. Pour the roux into the slow cooker and stir well. Allow to heat through for another 20 minutes or so. If the soup gets too thick, add a little broth or milk to thin it out.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Menu Plan September 23-29

Welcome, Fall!

How many of you are excited about this season as I am? The weather has been absolutely gorgeous here in the Deep South, unless you count yesterday's rain showers. But the temps are feeling more mild and the leaves are just barely gaining some color. It's my favorite time of year.

Last week I made extensive use of my crockpot. Four out of five of my weekday dinners were made in it. It was nice to let my meal cook all day without interrupting my afternoon nap - ha! I'll try to post some recipes later this week.

Now on to this week's menu:

Steak and noodle stir fry

Chinese chicken, rice

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes

Homemade chicken patty sandwiches, fries

Homemade pizza

15-bean and ham soup

Taco salad

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Coconut Curry Chicken Soup

We used to have an Asian fusion restaurant in our area that served Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine. My husband and I predicted it wouldn't last long, and we were right. Not that the food wasn't good - it was phenomenal! That type of restaurant just didn't fit the area in which we live. We're a small-town, home-cooking sort of place. The very same restaurant would have done fabulously in Atlanta or Birmingham.

I was very sad to see that restaurant go. They served a delicious coconut curry chicken soup that made my mouth water. I've experimented with several recipes until I finally found this one that is as close to that restaurant soup as it can be. And my tastebuds are rejoicing!

Here's what you need:

2 TBSP butter
1/2 onion, diced
1 TBSP green curry paste - found in the Asian aisle in your grocery store
1 1/2 teas minced garlic
1 TBSP minced fresh ginger - you can sub 1/2 teas ground ginger
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
4 cups (32 oz carton) chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
1 TBSP fish sauce - look in the Asian aisle
2 teas curry powder
1 TBSP brown sugar
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 TBSP lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook until softened. Add the curry paste, garlic, ginger and red pepper. Cook for another few minutes until the red pepper is softened.

Stir in the broth, coconut milk, fish sauce, curry powder, sugar and chicken. Heat until warmed, but don't boil. Add the lime juice and salt and pepper. Garnish each serving with cilantro. This recipe makes 4 servings.
For a more hearty meal, serve this over rice or noodles.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Menu Plan September 16-22

Fall is coming! Here in the Deep South, we had some lovely cool mornings over the weekend. It's my favorite time of year, so I'm excited to welcome the new season. What's your favorite season?

I'm going to stick with an easy menu plan this week as I still deal with tiredness issues. I've stuck to my supplement schedule so hopefully I'll be feeling better soon.

Here's what I've got planned:

Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes

Indian butter chicken, rice

Chicken and bacon wild rice soup, homemade french bread

Philly cheese steak sandwiches, fries

Brown rice and bean burritos, corn

West Virginia pepperoni rolls

Crockpot chicken tacos

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning? Repost from 2010

I originally posted this on September 11, 2010. 

I was on my way to work on that beautiful September morning, listening to the radio as always. The first plane had hit, and the DJ's were discussing what could make a plane veer off course that much. Then the second plane hit. I could hear the disbelief in their voices when they realized it wasn't a coincidence that two planes could hit the Twin Towers within minutes of each other.

When I got to work, my co-worker had the TV on in one of the attorney's offices. We sat there in stunned silence and watched the news coverage. I remember sliding out of the leather chair onto my knees when the first tower fell. It was inconceivable to me that the lives of countless people had just been wiped out.

By this time came news of the Pentagon being hit. We were under attack. In my lifetime.

It was simply unbelievable.

Charles was driving to Atlanta to a telecom trade show with a co-worker and another friend. As they neared the city, the electronic traffic signs over the interstate said "Due to national emergency, the airport is closed." He called me on his cell phone to find out what was going on and I cried as I told him the news. When he arrived at the trade show, the large screen TVs that had been set up around the Georgia World Congress Center were all tuned to the news. Nobody bustled around the booths and spoke of technology. Everyone was glued to the TVs.

I left work and picked up Mr. Lego from the babysitter. He was only 7 months old. When I got home, I sat in front of the TV all afternoon, holding him close. I called my mom just to hear her voice. I cried as I watched the horror unfold.

For the first time in my life, I realized the depth of hatred that these people had for us and our freedoms. I had grown up in the 80's when communism was the enemy and nuclear war was the biggest fear the country faced. When the Cold War ended, we got complacent. And underestimated the threat that terrorists posed. Oh, there had been terrorist attacks on Americans on foreign soil. But I guess like most Americans, I thought we were safe within our own borders. How wrong we were!

September 11, 2001, changed everything.

May we never, ever forget.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Garlic Sesame Noodles

My daughter's favorite Asian side dish is this one - garlic sesame noodles. She likes it even more than rice. It's a snap to throw together, so I like preparing it.

Here's what you need:

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 TBSP rice vinegar
2 TBSP sesame oil
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP honey
2 teas minced garlic
2 teas sesame seeds
8 oz. thin spaghetti noodles, cooked and drained

In a small sauce pan, combine the ingredients except the spaghetti noodles. Heat over low, stirring until the honey is melted. Pour over the noodles and toss to coat.
The Princess likes to eat hers with chopsticks!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Menu Plan September 9-15

I got nothing done last week. Nothing at all. I am suffering from a Vitamin D and iron deficiency, recently diagnosed. At least now I know why I'm so tired. So every day last week, I took a nap. And nothing got done. Charles disagrees. He says I look more alert, so clearly napping was what I needed to get done! Thank God for an understanding husband who cares so much for me!

I tend to balk at such diagnoses. I mean, I know so many people who suffer from debilitating illnesses. A little vitamin deficiency is nothing compared to that. But guess what? It IS a big deal. Left untreated, Vitamin D deficiency can play a role in autoimmune disorders, depression, and weakening of the bones. And that's just a few of the potential problems.

So I'm a vitamin/mineral regimen designed to boost my D and iron levels that will hopefully help me to feel better. My doctor warned me it could take some time, though. I want to take a pill and feel better in the morning. We'll recheck the bloodwork in six weeks and see if I've made any progress. My body will let me know, too.

I'm keeping my meals simple this week. The easier, the better. Here's what I've got planned:

Crockpot roast beef, carrots and potatoes

Herb crusted tilapia

Sesame chicken and rice

Baked egg rolls, sesame noodles

Asian meatball subs, fries

Chicken verde tacos, corn

Cheeseburger soup

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Homemade French Bread

After pretzel bread, this is the bread my family requests the most. The bread is crusty on the outside but soft and tangy on the inside. The vinegar in the recipe lends a sourdough taste to the bread that's fantastic!

This recipe makes two nice-sized loaves. If we're having company, it's definitely nice to have two loaves with only one prep. Sometimes I cut the recipe in half to just make one loaf (I'll share the measurements at the end of this post) if it's only my family. I've never frozen this bread - it usually doesn't last long enough to make it to the freezer. But I imagine it would freeze just fine as long as it's wrapped tightly to prevent freezer burn/drying out.

I will warn you ahead of time, this bread does take a while to prepare. Make this when you have an afternoon to spend babysitting the dough. It's definitely worth the effort!

Here's what you need (2-loaf measurements):

Homemade French Bread - click here for a printable version.
2 1/2 cups warm water
3 TBSP sugar
2 TBSP yeast
2 TBSP white vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil - you can use vegetable or canola oil
6-7 cups flour
1 TBSP salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, sugar, yeast and vinegar. Allow to sit until the mixture is bubbly, about 5 minutes.

Add the oil, 6 cups of flour and salt. Gradually add more flour until the dough is soft and not sticky. I usually start with about 1/2 cup and work my way up until I've reached 7 cups total.  With the dough hook attachment, knead for 5 minutes. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can also do this by hand with a wooden spoon. Transfer to a greased ovenproof bowl if you don't use the stand mixer. You're going to put the dough into a warm oven so it rises quickly, giving it lots of lovely air pockets. If you use the metal bowl that comes with the stand mixer, pour a little olive oil into the bowl and make sure your dough is greased so it doesn't stick.

Make sure your oven has enough room to hold the bowl of dough. I have to move my top rack down to accomodate mine. Now turn your oven on to 200 degrees. While the oven is heating, boil about two cups of water. Pour the water into an ovenproof pan, then pop it into the oven. When the oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Place some foil over your dough bowl, then put the bowl into the oven.
Because the oven is warm, it won't take long for the dough to rise to the top of the bowl. Mine took about 30 minutes. Make sure you use pot holders to remove your metal bowl from the oven. It gets hot. Gently punch the dough down, scraping any dough from the sides of the bowl. Place the foil over it and return to the oven for another rising.

You'll want your dough to rise at least three times in the oven. Once it's risen enough times to suit you, take it out of the bowl and shape into loaves. Put onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Brush with a beaten egg. The egg wash gives the loaves their wonderful shiny crusts.  With a sharp knife, make three or four slashes on top of the loaves.

 Allow to rise for another 20 minutes. You'll see the slashes expand a little and the loaves might get wider.
Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. The loaves are done when they sound hollow if you tap the bottoms. This is where the parchment papers comes in handy. You can just tilt the paper a little to give yourself room to tap the bottoms!
Doesn't that look amazing?
This bread is so delicious warm! If you cut it while it's still warm, though, use an electric knife to get even slices and avoid crushing the bread.

Now here are the measurements for one loaf. Just follow the same directions for mixing, kneading, rising, shaping and baking.

One loaf:
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP yeast
1 TBSP white vinegar
2 TBSP + 2 teas oil
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 TBSP salt


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Menu Plan September 2-8

 Our Labor Day weekend got off to an interesting start. My dishwasher went kaput. I mean, it's dead. My sweet husband has been helping me with the dishes since, and I've enjoyed spending time with him over a sinkful of suds. And that's saying a lot, since washing dishes is my least favorite kitchen chore. Growing up, dish washing duty fell to me, the only daughter. I have NOT grown fonder of it over the years. But sharing the chore with my love wasn't all that bad.

And while he has not complained a bit, he did not delay in researching new dishwashers and taking a trip to Lowe's to find me a new one. I sure do love him!

Now on to this week's menu (that we'll probably be eating off paper plates until the new dishwasher arrives and is installed):

Labor Day cookout with friends

Beef stew over rice

Garlic Chicken Noodle Bake, broccoli

Balsamic pot roast, mashed potatoes

Brown sugar rubbed pork chops, corn on the cob

Grilled burgers, pasta salad

Chicken corn chowder, cheddar biscuits

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.