The Baker Upstairs: August 2011


buttermilk chicken and corn salad


This chicken is incredibly easy to make, and tastes great. It has a nice subtle flavor, and would be great in pretty much anything. The directions are ridiculously easy... marinate chicken overnight in 1 quart buttermilk with a few sprigs of rosemary, then grill. I ran out of Costco chicken in the freezer, so I had to use the chicken from the grocery store, which usually is not the greatest quality, and it was still absolutely delicious. I'm planning to toss the leftovers with some buffalo sauce and make buffalo chicken salads for dinner tonight. Yum!

Grilled Rosemary Buttermilk Chicken
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 quart buttermilk
5-6 sprigs fresh rosemary

Place the chicken breasts in a large ziploc plastic bag. Pour in the buttermilk to cover the chicken. Add the rosemary sprigs. Seal the bag and refrigerate overnight, about 8-10 hours.

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. With tongs, take out each chicken breast one by one, shaking off excess buttermilk and removing the rosemary sprigs. Grill for 4-6 minutes per side, until the chicken is cooked through but still moist. Tent with foil for about 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

We got a bunch of sweet corn from the co-op this week, so I decided to grill some and make a salad to go along with the chicken. I just kind of cobbled it together, using a variety of recipes as inspiration, and threw in what I had. It was pretty good, but I definitely think some green onions would have helped.

Sweet Corn Salad

3 ears sweet corn, grilled and cut off the cob
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 medium avocado, diced
1/2 cup queso fresco or feta
olive oil
white balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Mix a little olive oil and vinegar with the salt and pepper to make a basic vinaigrette. Mix all other ingredients in a bowl and top with dressing.




The tomato plants in our garden are finally producing some delicious fruit! So far, we've had five ripe tomatoes, but there are a good 4 or 5 dozen tomatoes still on the vines, in various stages of ripening. I could be irritated about the fact that nobody in my family will even touch a raw tomato except me, but instead I'm just going to enjoy that I get to eat snacks like this and don't have to share them with anybody. Especially since I'm trying to be nice to myself after slamming my finger in the back door yesterday. (I bought myself a red velvet cupcake to apologize, but I'm still feeling rather sniffy. And my blackened fingernail and swollen finger are driving me crazy as I try to go about my business.) I'm planning to do some canning, should the tomatoes all overwhelm me at once, but for now they're nice with just a little salt and pepper. Geoff and I watched a documentary last night about slow food, and eating locally, and I was thinking about whether fresh, local food actually tastes better than food from the grocery store. And then I bit into these tomatoes this morning and remembered what actual tomatoes (not the pasty little things from the store) taste like, and I was converted. Delicious.

cheesy chicken and zucchini enchiladas


I fully recognize that enchiladas (or at least my enchiladas) are not the most photogenic food on the planet. Especially since I hate cilantro (it's my nemesis) and therefore refuse to use it to garnish anything. Despite their sloppy appearance, though, these enchiladas are fantastic. I've been making enchiladas at least 2 or 3 times a month our entire marriage, but I never got excited about them until I started making them this way. They're not super authentic, but they taste delicious, they make great leftovers, and they freeze beautifully. I usually just make them with chicken and green chili filling, but I have an abundance of zucchini at the mo, so I decided to try something new. Here's how I made them:

Cheesy Chicken and Zucchini Enchiladas

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cut into small pieces
1 medium onion
2-3 cloves crushed garlic
3-4 cups shredded zucchini
2 cups shredded cheddar or jack cheese, divided
1 small can green chilies
1/4 cup flour
12-16 whole wheat tortillas (depending on how full you like your enchiladas)
2 small cans enchilada sauce (I like green sauce)
1/4 cup sour cream

Saute onion and garlic in a large skillet until translucent. Add zucchini and cook until softened and translucent. Add chicken, 1 cup cheese, and green chilies, and stir until cheese is melted. Add 1/4 cup flour, and cook until sauce has thickened. Mix enchilada sauce with sour cream, and spread a few spoonfuls of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Place filling in tortillas, roll up, and place seam side down in the baking dish. Cover with remaining sauce, and top with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling.

Notes: I usually make two 9x9 pans of enchiladas, with 6-8 enchiladas each, and freeze one of them before baking. Also, I really like the whole wheat tortillas more than white tortillas in this dish because they get soft and delicious, but don't fall apart or get mushy like corn or white flour tortillas.


lentil soup and crescent rolls


This week I decided to switch my grocery shopping from Saturday to Wednesday, which means that today and tomorrow I get to catch up on things I didn't make from the menu last week. I have no idea where my head was last week, but we ended up improvising or eating out several nights. I am a huge fan of pea soup, and I was really excited to a new recipe! I chopped all my vegetables and some turkey ham, and was ready to throw everything in the slow cooker when I realized that I was totally out of dried peas! Not one to give up on a delicious dinner, I threw in some lentils instead and hoped for the best. The soup actually turned out great, although I did have to add a little extra liquid (about 2 cups). I really love any kind of dried legume (peas, lentils, beans, etc.) and this was definitely the best lentil soup I've ever made or eaten. I can't wait to try it this fall/winter with dried peas as well. To go with the soup, I made delicious crescent rolls. They're light and soft and wonderful. I thought it was an awesome dinner, even if it was roughly 9,000 degrees outside and heating up the oven turned my house into a sauna. Maybe I'm just hoping that if I start eating like it's fall, it will actually become fall.

Lentil Soup
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 cup lentils
1/2 cup medium pearl barley (not quick-cooking barley)
2 cups chopped ham
3/4 cup chopped carrots
3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
6 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes (or 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf

In a medium bowl or liquid measure, combine the water, bouillon cubes and spices and whisk to combine (it’s ok if the bouillon cubes don’t completely dissolve).

In a medium round slow cooker (about 4-quart), layer lentils, barley, ham, carrots, onion and celery. Do not mix. Pour in the water/spices mixture and add the bay leaf to the slow cooker. Don’t stir! Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or on low eight hours, until the peas reach the desired creamy, soft texture. Remove the bay leaf, stir well, and add salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Serve immediately. Upon sitting and/or refrigerating, this soup thickens considerably. Simply add water or chicken broth to thin the soup to the desired consistency before reserving.

Cornmeal Crescent Rolls
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

2 cups milk
2/3 cup yellow corn meal
1 ½ tablespoons instant yeast
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
5 ½ – 6 cups flour

Heat the milk to just below a boil so bubbles are just appearing around the edges (this is called scalding milk). Add the cornmeal and cook and stir until thickened, lowering the temperature if needed so the mixture doesn’t boil (see picture below the recipe for an idea of what the consistency should be). Pour the cornmeal/milk mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl and let cool until lukewarm. Add the yeast, butter and sugar (if you dissolved active dry yeast with a bit of water and sugar until it foamed, add it now). Mix. Add the salt and eggs. Mix well. Add the flour gradually until a soft dough forms. Knead for 5-8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl covered with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.

Divide the dough into three portions and roll each into about an 8-10 inch circle. Brush the top lightly with butter. Cut into 8 wedges and roll each wedge up starting from the wide end so it forms a crescent roll shape. Place each roll on a lightly greased or silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing about 1-2 inches apart to allow for rising. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap. Let the rolls rise until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Brush with butter while still warm.


the best cookies i ever made three times in two weeks


I think it's more than fair to say that I am a cookie snob. Cookies happen to be one of those things that I can make exceptionally well, and I'm always very skeptical when people tell me about some cookie I just have to try. I like cookie shops (Ben's Cookies, Ruby Snap, etc.) pretty well, but even they sometimes fail to meet my expectations. When I found the blog How Sweet It Is, it was actually life changing for me. For the first time, I was willing to broaden my cookie horizons and step away from the cookie scoop. For the last few weeks, I've been rolling cookies into big fat balls and baking them into chubby lumps of sweet dough, and it has been marvelous. These cookies are my favorite that I have tried so far, but she has a plethora of lovely looking recipes and I want to try all of them. I can't even describe these cookies, they are so amazing. They're soft and caky, the plump blueberries burst in your mouth, the cinnamon and brown sugar make them taste like everything good about home... they're delicious in every way. (Just don't make them if you're not planning to eat the entire batch, because you will fail and fail hard.)

Brown Sugar Blueberry Cookies
How Sweet It Is

1 stick butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon milk
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 375.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, mixing well until combine, about 2 minutes. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon with the mixer on low speed. Mix until dough comes together. Add in milk. If dough is still crumbly, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until it comes together. Fold in blueberries gently with a spatula – it is okay if they break a bit. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove dough from fridge and roll into 1 1/2 inch balls or scoop out with an ice cream scooper. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely.

southwest chicken and rice


Since dishes are one of the things I hate most about being a grownup (or maybe just a human being?) I'm always in love with any recipe that only dirties a few dishes. For this dinner, I only needed a knife, a cutting board, a frying pan, a plate, and a spatula. Awesome sauce. (And incidentally, the sauce was actually pretty awesome.) A long time ago, before I figured out how to cook very well, Geoff and I used to eat a lot of Chicken Helper meals. This meal was just slightly reminiscent of those days, but infinitely more delicious because I made everything from scratch. The night that we had it, I served it the way it shows on the website, with a piece of chicken, rice to the side, and salsa and sour cream on top. The next day, we had it for lunch with the chicken chopped up and the rice and chicken rolled up in a flour tortilla. Finally, I had it for lunch yesterday in a bowl with a slice of pepper jack melted on top. No matter how you serve it, it's totally delicious. And easy. And comfort food. Yum.

Southwest Chicken and Rice
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn
4 ounces cheese (used a combination of Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar)
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
Salsa and sour cream for serving

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper on both sides. In a large pot, heat the canola oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook until golden, about 3 minutes on each side. The chicken will cook more in a subsequent step. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

To the pot, add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder and cumin and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook until the edges are just slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the broth and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Return the chicken to the pot. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook at a simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter or plate. Stir the black beans and corn into the pot. Add the cheese and cilantro. Season the rice mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the rice with the chicken, adding salsa and sour cream, if desired.


rainbow cookies


These cookies are pretty much perfect. When I started making them, I figured I would switch back to my standby chocolate chip cookie recipe when I got bored of them. Instead, the old recipe has been permanently replaced! The texture is amazing, they're beautiful, and I can't stop eating them. Definitely a keeper recipe. I'm very particular about my cookies, and I love these ones!

Giant Rainbow Cookies
How Sweet It Is

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I usually have to add an extra few tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) of salted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup mini m&m’s (or something else that you love)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix the butter and sugars until they are combined (and look like the first picture above). Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and stir until mixed. Gradually add flour and mix until a dough forms – it will look crumbly at first, but it will come together. I even used my hands to help at one point. Fold in the m&m’s.

Divide the dough how you choose (1/4 cup portions for 18 large cookies or 2 tablespoon portions for 36 smaller cookies). Shape each portion into a ball with your hands then pull each ball into two equal pieces. Turn each half so that the rough side of the half (what used to be the inside of the ball) faces upwards and then squish both halves together. Place the dough rough-side up on a baking sheets. If you’re doing large cookies, I’d leave about 2 inches in between each.

Bake for 12-15 minutes (large cookies) or 8-12 minutes (small cookies) or until the edges are slightly brown. The centers should be soft and puffy. Do not over bake. Let cool completely then dig in!

These also happen to be my tiny assistant's favorite cookies, and she loves helping me make them!


the best tacos ever


Geoff and I just might have an obsession with wings lately. Ever since we discovered Wing Nuts, we can't get enough. We only like boneless wings, and our favorite are spicy buffalo. When I saw this recipe for buffalo chicken tacos, I just couldn't pass it up. Especially since we had roughly all the ingredients in the house. They came together super fast, and were incredibly delicious. I served them in fajita size tortillas, and topped the chicken with grated cheddar cheese, blue cheese dressing, and romaine lettuce. I don't think I've ever seen Geoff so excited about anything I've cooked. It was a combination of his two favorite things to eat: mexican food and wings. Geoff : buffalo chicken tacos :: Abby : m&m cookies. These are definitely going into our rotation.

Buffalo Chicken Tacos
How Sweet It Is

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce (I used Frank’s Buffalo Wing)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4-6 4-inch tortillas

for toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled gorgonzola, avocado, shredded lettuce or cabbage, green onions, cilantro, ranch dressing and extra buffalo wing sauce for drizzling.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. In a large bowl, combine corn starch and flour cayenne and garlic powder. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour mixture. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and once it gets hot, add chicken and brown on both sides – about 3-4 minutes per side. You can add the additional olive oil through cooking or once you flip the chicken. Once the chicken is done, set it aside in a bowl and toss with 1/4 cup of buffalo wing sauce.


banana bread

We have had major problems with fruit flies this week. I have no idea how they got started, but they've been threatening to take over the house. As such, I decided it was time to clean the kitchen top to bottom, ajax the drains, and get rid of all fruits and vegetables on the counters. Lucky for us, we had a nice little collection of spotted bananas that were just begging to be made into banana bread. It's not hard at all, especially when you have a little person to smash your bananas for you. Smashie smashie.

We decided to bake four mini loaves instead of one big loaf, and they were absolutely delicious, and cute to boot.

We used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen (love that site) and it was perfect. It smelled perfect, it looked perfect, and the tiny loaves made adorable presents to share with our neighbors. (I know! Who knew I could be social?) This is definitely going to be my go-to banana bread recipe. Much better than any I have tried before. I should probably go eat another piece, just to be sure, though.

Banana Bread
Smitten Kitchen

3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter
3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.


garden pesto

Our garden has finally stopped being such a colossal disappointment. I definitely do not have a green thumb, but I figure it shouldn't be too hard to grow a few vegetables, right? Well, last year we failed miserably. This year, however, we have four tomato plants going strong, although so far all of their tomatoes are various shades of green. We have some peppers that so far don't seem to have done much. And, wonder of wonders, we have a few things you can actually eat! A few days ago, I picked the first of our zucchini! I'm planning to saute it with a little olive oil and garlic and have it for a side dish this week.

And our basil plant has been outdoing itself, and has completely repopulated its leaves since a few weeks ago when I stripped it pretty much bare. Of course, that was the perfect invitation for me to strip it bare again.

The last time I stripped it, it was to make pesto for dinner, and it was so delicious that I couldn't wait to make it again. It's the easiest pesto ever. In fact, it's so easy that I let Abby make the whole thing. (And she's 4.)

To a food processor (or a Ninja, if you're cool like me) add 1-2 cups basil leaves, a handful of walnuts or pine nuts, 1/2 - 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, and some olive oil. Pulse until everything is combined, and add olive oil until it's at the right consistency. You can store it in the fridge for a week or two, or in the freezer for a long time. And it's delicious. Can't wait for more of those basil leaves to grow back.


bean, rice, and cheese burritos

One of my favorite easy lunches is burritos from the freezer. I like to make a dozen or so at once so I'm prepared when we have lunch emergencies. I've experimented with different fillings, and these are the ones I like the most. Once they're reheated, I like to pour salsa or hot sauce on top, and add sour cream and fresh avocado. They're also good enchilada style, with enchilada sauce and melted cheese on top. Yum!

Mexican Rice
The Pioneer Woman

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 whole large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups long grain rice
1 can rotel (10 ounce)
1 can whole tomatoes (14.5 ounce)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth (more if needed)
1 teaspoon cumin (more to taste)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions and garlic, then cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add rice and garlic. Stir constantly, making sure the rice doesn’t burn. Cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Add Ro-tel and tomatoes. Stir to combine and let cook for 2 minutes. Finally, add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 additional minutes or until rice is done. Add more liquid as needed; rice shouldn’t be sticky.

Refried Beans
Budget Bytes

1 lb. dry pinto beans
1 medium onion
1 medium jalapeno
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
10-15 cranks cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp salt
6 cups water

Spread the dry beans out onto a baking sheet to pick through them and remove any stones or bad pieces. Place the beans in a colander and rinse with cool water.

Slice open the jalapeno and remove the seeds and ribs by scraping with a spoon. Dice the jalapeno and the onion. Place the onion and jalapeno in the slow cooker along with the garlic, cumin, chili powder, and black pepper. Do not add the salt.

Add the sorted and rinsed beans to the slow cooker along with 6 cups of water. Give everything a good stir to distribute the seasoning. Secure the lid and cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 8. It's okay if they cook longer, they'll just be easier to mash.

After cooking, remove as much water as possible and reserve it in a bowl. Mash the beans and add the reserved water back in as needed. Make the beans a little thinner in texture than you'd expect because they will thicken as they cool. Season the beans with salt at this point. By adding salt at the end, you'll need to add less and the beans won't be so tough. I used approximately 1 Tbsp but add a little at a time until you're satisfied. Serve warm!

The cheese is queso fresco from Costco (I could eat that whole bowl with a spoon), and the tortillas are the fresh tortillas from Costco. I like to make all the ingredients, set them up on the counter, and then assembly line it. Dump a little of everything on your tortilla...

... roll it up and add it to the stack...

... then put it in a sandwich sized ziploc bag, squeeze the air out, seal it, and put it in a big gallon size freezer bag. When you're ready to eat one, just pop it out of the bag, wrap it in a paper towel, and microwave 2-3 minutes.

The rice and bean recipes are massive, so I ended up with 18 burritos for the freezer, 2 burritos for dinner that night, and two meals worth of rice and beans to go in the freezer. I love stocking the freezer!


peanut butter cream oreos


I know a lot of people have been making homemade soft Oreos/whoopie pies lately, but I'm a little slow to jump on the bandwagon. It always just seemed sort of difficult. And then I had lunch at a friend's house, and she showed me how incredibly easy it is to make them. A few days later, the craving struck (again! why is it always striking?) and I whipped out these babies while Geoff was in the shower. (Yes, he showers for an inordinately long time.) They're not going to win any awards for creative or sophisticated cooking, but they certainly put a smile on Geoff and Abby's faces.

Peanut Butter Cream Oreos

1 box devil's food cake mix
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs

Mix all ingredients. Shape into balls, place on baking sheets, and flatten slightly. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, let cool on baking sheet.


1-2 T butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
powdered sugar
milk (optional)

Mix butter, peanut butter, and vanilla. Add powdered sugar until desired consistency. I dumped in a little too much powdered sugar, so I added a teaspoon or so of milk to level things out. Spread on cookies and sandwich together, then stuff your face. Yum!


turkey burgers with romaine slaw


This recipe was totally delicious! Not to mention healthier than the way we usually make burgers. We always do turkey instead of beef burgers, but then I usually top them with cheese, pickles, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, and lettuce. It was kind of nice to have a simpler burger, with just the romaine slaw on top. With some sweet potato fries and canned pears, it was an awesome summer meal. Abby had a quesadilla instead (like she usually does) and refused to even touch her fries. At least little sister seems interested in food. She tried carrots for the first time last night, and was totally delighted by them.

Turkey Burgers with Romaine Slaw

1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 scallions (green onions), finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 leaves romaine lettuce, thinly sliced crosswise (about 2 cups)
1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
4 soft rolls, split and toasted

In a medium bowl, gently combine the turkey, mustard, thyme, scallions, salt and pepper. Don’t overmix. Form the meat into four ¾-inch-thick patties. Heat the oil in a large 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties until completely cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Toss with the lettuce and carrot. Serve the burgers on the rolls, topped with the slaw.

this week's menu

Sunday: cajun meatloaf (didn't get to it last week) and salad
Monday: turkey burgers with romaine and carrot slaw, sweet potato fries
Tuesday: grilled salmon, mashed potatoes, salad
Wednesday: lasagna soup (also didn't get to it last week)
Thursday: burritos with queso fresco (yum!) and fresh tortillas
Friday: homemade pizza
Saturday: lasagna, garlic bread, salad

treats: rainbow cookies (I think I have baker's block)


pizza, delicious pizza


Pretty much our whole marriage (all 8 1/2 years of it), I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to make homemade pizza. I don't know why, but my dough is always too thick and bready, the toppings slide right off, the cheese never melts the way I want it to, and it doesn't get nice and crispy on the bottom the way I want. As you may have noticed, however, I have recently become obsessed with Mel's Kitchen Cafe, and have been trying out not only her recipes for pizza, but her methods as well. The result... a profound improvement in my pizza baking.

I made the above delicious pizza on Friday night, and Geoff was quick to say that it was the best pizza I have ever baked. I topped it with grated fresh mozzarella from Costco, turkey pepperoni, mushrooms, and black olives. To bake, I sprinkled a piece of parchment paper with cornmeal, shaped the dough on it, topped the pizza, and then baked it on my pizza stone at 500 for about 10 minutes. It was perfect! The crust was crispy on the bottom and chewy in the middle, the toppings stayed evenly distributed, and the pizza even reheated super well the next day. Not to mention it was totally beautiful. We're trying to make it a tradition to have homemade pizza night once a week, and this was a great start.

Easy Pizza Crust
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 T yeast
1 T honey or sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups flour

Preheat oven (with baking stone) to 500. Mix together water, yeast, sugar, and salt, then add flour. Knead until smooth. Let dough rest 10-15 minutes, then roll out into two crusts. I usually shape my crusts on the preheated pizza stone (sprinkled with cornmeal) or on a sheet of parchment paper. Add desired toppings, then bake on pizza stone for 8-9 minutes.

Quick Pizza Sauce
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender and blend until desired consistency.

freezer cooking

I always start with the best of intentions. I buy a bunch of food at Costco, and plan to go home and process it all, and then I get busy (or lazy) and before I know it, everything is threatening to go bad and I'm in a rush trying to take care of everything so I don't waste food. Last week I found myself in this situation, and had to do a day of freezer cooking, although I hadn't really planned on it.

First off: taco meat

I'm sure everyone knows how to make taco meat, but this is the way I do it. I start with 2 packages of ground turkey (somewhere around 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 pounds), and add 1 medium diced onion and 2 grated zucchini. I also like grated carrots in there, but I happened to be totally out. Sometimes I also add a few cloves of crushed garlic and some salsa, but again, I was out. I let the meat and veggies cook until they're totally browned, then add taco seasoning. I buy the big McCormick shaker from Costco, so I honestly have no idea how much I add. I think it's the equivalent of one of the small packets from the grocery store.

I let the meal cool for a little while (so it doesn't melt my freezer bags) and then separate it into portions. We tend to go a little light on the meat, so 2 packages of ground turkey will make 8 meals for us. Each packet of meat is enough for 4 soft tacos, 2 burritos, 2 taco salads, or 4 servings of taco soup. I squeeze all the air out of the bags, roll them up, and seal them with a cute label from the computer (because I'm a major nerd).

Also threatening to go bad: strawberries and mangoes

We drink a crazy amount of smoothies in our house. Abby is really picky, but she loves smoothies, and it's a good way to get her to have some fruits that she otherwise wouldn't touch (pineapple, blueberries, kiwi, etc.). Often I just buy frozen fruit from the grocery store, but I like to freeze my own as well. Between the co-op and our trip to Costco last week, I had 4 ripe mangoes and 4 pounds of strawberries that were about to go bad, so I chopped them all up, flash froze them, and put them in bags for smoothies.

I have pretty much perfected the art of smoothies, for my family at least. Here's how I make them:

1 cup orange juice or vanilla soy milk
1 6 ounce yogurt (any flavor, I love Tillamook yogurt right now)
2 cups frozen fruit (any kind works)
1 banana

I throw everything into my ninja and blend until it's totally smooth (I don't like chunks in mine). If it's too thick, I add more juice or soy milk. We have smoothies with dinner at least twice a week, if not more often. Yum!