Monday, February 27, 2012

Chunky Marinara sauce

This recipe originally came from the same freezer book as the last 2 recipes.  However, I added to it.  I doubled the recipe, added carrots, removed the sugar, added lots more spices, and still didn't like it as much as my regular spaghetti sauce.  I did like the use of lots of extra veggies.  I chopped them in the food processor so that went quick.  I loved that for all of the veggies except the onions.  I always hate to chop onions in the food processor because for some reason they end up smelling to strong, plus they get a little over-processed and a little too wet - even when not truly over-processed.  Anyway, if making this again, I would definitely chop my onions by hand.  I'd also probably leave out the green peppers - sub in some red, but maybe not as many.  I thought this had a bit too strong of onion and green pepper flavor.  It does get posted though, just to remind me that I can add celery and carrots to my regular spaghetti sauce and it works well.
This is how I made the double batch.  Some of my substitutions were of necessity, some just creativity.\


  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 large onions, finely chop (hand chop -they are better I promise)
  • 3 large green peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 large red pepper, finely chopped (I actually use the mini sweets, but I use about 1 regular pepper's worth)
  • 6 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 6 carrots, finely copped
  • 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes (I actually ended up using 8 15 oz, but just because it is what I stock in my pantry.  Definitely if just purchasing for this I would buy the bigger cans)
  • 2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon basil
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  1. In a large skillet heat butter over medium high heat.  Add onions and saute until onions are soft and translucent.  Transfer to a 5-6 quart slow cooker.  (This barely fit in my 5 quart and I mean barely.  I had to stir very carefully.)
  2. In the same skillet, heat oil and add the remaining vegetables.  Saute for 3 minutes.  Add garlic and saute for a couple more minutes.  Transfer to slow cooker.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to slow cooker.  Stir well.  Cook on low for 6-8 house or on high for 4-5.  Remove bay leaves.  Cool completely if planning to freeze immediately.
We used 1/2 of this or so for spaghetti the first night I made it, then used some for the pizza bites I made the next day.  The rest went into the freezer.

pizza bites

Here is the other appetizer I tried from the Freezer book.  Again I haven't tried them, and I will update the blog when I do.  Again, this recipe called for way more ingredients than was necessary.  Luckily I only had 2 cups of marinara left and I adjusted the mozzarella accordingly.  It turned out to be the perfect amount for 1 package of egg rolls.  So glad I didn't follow the recipe.  I would have had lots of left over sauce.
I did make some pepperoni, but I will just warn they are a lot easier to make with just cheese.  If making them with pepperoni, be extra careful closing them so the pepperoni doesn't rip the egg roll.
These were super time consuming.  Egg rolls usually are.  I love knowing what is in them.  They are healthy - except for the pepperoni which was actually turkey pepperoni, so better than the regular stuff.  I also like the healthiness of the marinara sauce I made.  (next post.)  Lots of veggies in there.


  • 2-2 1/3 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 package wonton wrappers (I cut a small rectangle off of mine because they were not square.  I suggest that if planning on folding them into triangles.)
  • 50 slices pepperoni (Optional -I used about 20 slices turkey pepperoni and put 1 slice in 20 of the wontons)
  1. In a large bowl, stir together marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella
  2. Place 1 wonton on a clean surface.  Place 1 slice pepperoni (if using) on the wonton - I sliced mine in quarters and found it easiest to place them in a triangular shape (1 piece in the bottom corner, then 3 right above that going diagonally across filling 1/2 of the wonton) before adding the cheese to make them the easiest to fold.   Top with 2 teaspoons cheese mixture (I used a 1/2 Tablespoon and heaped it just a bit to make approximately 2 teaspoons.)
  3. Lightly wet 2 adjacent sides of the wonton.  Fold on a diagonal and seal edges.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.  (I thought this was a bit speedier to do making 4 at a time.  4 wasn't too many for the edges to dry out too quickly and it was faster to pepperoni 4, cheese 4, wet 4, then seal 4.  It was also way faster not to use the pepperoni -may have been faster to use if I hadn't cut it, but I thought it would be cuter that way.  I'm also not sure how well it would have fit uncut.  I honestly think i'd just make them with no pepperoni next time.  I'm trying to use less meat anyway.  I just had some in the fridge and wanted to use it, but I don't think the time involved to add it is worth it.)
  4. Freeze in a single layer on a wax paper covered baking sheet.  (I used 2 and barely squished them all on there. - don't let them touch when freezing of they will stick together.)
After freezing
  1. The book only gives the option to fry these at 350 for 4 minutes.  I plan to try and spray them with cooking spray or brush them with olive oil or something and bake them in the oven.  I've also thought of making them like pot stickers with just a little bit of oil in the bottom of the pan.  When I actually get to that point, I'll update the blog.  In the meantime, I have to write and know what I did.

Mozzarella sticks

This recipe comes from a book I  have out from the library right now called The complete Idiot's guide to easy freezer meals.  I checked it out when I was very into trying lots of different freezer meals.  I haven't found too much I'd like to try as far as a meal goes, but there were a couple appetizer/lunch ideas I wanted to try.  This was one of them.  Unfortunately the jury is still out on how they taste because they are still in the freezer.  However, the book goes back to the library tomorrow, and if I don't blog it soon, I'll forget what I did.

This original recipe called for a lot more ingredients that I actually ended up using.  I'm editing down to the amounts I used.


  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1 1/2 cups flour (I can't remember here if I used the full cup and a half.)
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs (I couldn't find my other container of breadcrumbs, and this was all that was left in the one I could find.  However, it worked perfectly and I was glad I hadn't wasted more -original called for 3 1/2 cups.)
  • 20 sticks of mozzarella or string cheese
  • marinara for dipping 
  1. On a plate, beat 2 eggs with a fork.  Place flour on another plate.  Pour bread crumbs into a large plastic bag.
  2. Prepare a baking sheet by covering with waxed paper. 
  3. Using tongs (or you fingers - I couldn't get tongs to work well) dip 1 string cheese in the egg.  Let excess egg drip off over the egg plate, then roll the egg coated cheese in flour.
  4. Dip the cheese back into the egg mixture rolling to coat.  Let excess egg drip off.  Place in the bag of breadcrumbs and shake to coat.  Remove cheese from the bag and place on prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining cheese adding the extra egg when necessary.
  5. Freeze mozzarella sticks on the baking sheet.  Once frozen, transfer to a freezer container or zip top bag.
After freezing
  1. These can either be fried in oil at 350 for about 4 minutes or baked at 400 for 8 minutes.
  2. Serve with marinara sauce.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

heart shaped hand pies

For valentines day I totally wanted to make something simple and chocolate.  I was really leaning towards this (chocolate) ....but I didn't have almond meal.... and we had already had this (more chocolate) for breakfast.  Then I saw this post at our best bites.  I opted to go with the sweetie pie pops, but #1 I had no lollipop sticks.  #2 - wouldn't have mattered, there was no way I was taking that much time to make something so tiny and cutsie.  Boys just don't appreciate it.  However towards the end of that post, they did mention you could make them hand pie size.  That size 1 recipe of pie crust will make 6 hand pies.  Perfect.  I really wanted to make apple but alas, my apples were past usable, so I opted for cherry (DH's vote.)  They really weren't to hard to make, and turned out super cute.  I did use our best bite's pie crust recipe -because it was easier than anything else, and I used the idea for filling from their site as well -found here - you must scroll to get to this part.  Here it is all put together the way I made it.  Of course if you want super wonderful directions and pictures click any of the links to our best bites.  I still have no photos on my current computer so my blog remains photoless.
These were pretty good.  I liked them quite a bit.  How well they were received by the kids depended on how much they liked cherries. :)

Pie crust (Make while you toddler is napping and put in the fridge for later.  :)

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon shortening (I used butter flavored)
  • 1/4 cup ice water

  1. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.  Cut in the shortening until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
  2. Add water a Tablespoon at a time and toss until the dough comes together.
  3. Pat into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge until ready to use.
Cherry filling (certainly you could spice this up some, but I was going for ease. -you probably only need to make about 1/2 this much for just 6 pies)
  • 2 cups cherries (I used frozen pie cherries which I defrosted in the microwave -no pre-planning on my part)
  • 2 or 3 Tablespoons sugar (I think I used 2 heaping Tablespoons because the cherries are a bit tart.)
  • 2 -3 Tablespoons flour (again, I used heaping Tablespoons and I think 3 this time because the cherries were plenty juicy
  1. Mix together in a bowl.
To make the pies
  1. Roll out dough on a floured surface and cut out 12 heart shapes with a cookie cutter.  Mine was about 3 1/2 inches across.
  2. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining with parchment paper.  Place 6 of the hearts evenly spaced on the parchment.  Add a little cherry filling.  Notice the key word.  I thought I was putting a little and leaving enough room for the top - wrong!  They leaked out all over the place.  Of course I took advantage of that and brushed the juices over the top of the pies so they had a sweetish pink glaze, but that is beside the point.  I was super glad they were on parchment because they made a mess.  My fault to be sure, but messy.
  3. Top the pies with the remaining 6 heart shaped crust pieces.  Now, if you didn't make a juicy mess, you may need to wet the edge with water to seal the hearts closed.  I certainly didn't.  With or without the water, seal the edges of the heart pies together by pressing down all around the edge with the tines of a fork.
  4. Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes.  (Sorry not sure exactly how long they ended up taking.  I'm thinking it was closer to the 30 end for this size.)
Note -with my remaining cherries and crust I did make 1 pie in a jar.  I just pushed the crust into the bottom of the small canning (jelly) jar and filled it as full as I dared with cherries.  Pretty sure mine was 1 size smaller than those used on our best bites.  While I'm hear, I have to say I just clicked on their cupcake link.  Now I need to try those.  Yum!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

bacon quiche

So, one of my freezer meals was supposed to be a quiche.  I never made it.  I had it on my menu for this evening and planned to just make it normally, but the thing called for 1/2 cup mayo, 1/2 cup milk and only 3 eggs (for 2 quiches)  I just couldn't imagine making a quiche with mayo and it tasting good.  I went to our best bites to check out their ideas and found a zucchini quiche.  Although I like zucchini and have one in the fridge, DH doesn't like it and I felt like sparing him.  Plus I'd rather toss the zucchini in some muffins or waffles.  Point being, their quiche used no milk.  I liked that idea because my problem with quiche is that it always comes out too moist for my liking.  I figured no milks, no extra moisture right?  So, I kind of ended up just making up my own recipe.  Turned out to be the best quiche.  Everyone loved it (except Aaron which surprised me because he likes eggs.)  So I'm actually blogging this right away so I don't forget it.

  • 2 store bought frozen pie crusts, thawed  (remember I had some of the ingredients from the original recipe which was a freezer meal.  Feel free to make your own crust. I personally love my push in pie crust - totally no fail. -You could probably leave out the sugar for this recipe)
  • 4-6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (or buy precooked and cut with scissors)
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic
  • dash garlic and herb seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash of oregano
  • 6 oz shredded swiss cheese
  • 8 eggs
  1. Saute onions in butter until fragrant.  Add the garlic and saute a minute or 2 more.  I added my salt and pepper here too, but you could just add that to the eggs.  Remove from heat and set aside to begin cooling.
  2. In a large bowl (I always use a measuring bowl with a spout so it is easy to pour.)  Beat eggs, with seasonings.  Add Cheese and whisk again.  Add bacon and onions and whisk again.  Divide evenly between the 2 pie crusts.
  3. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.  (both my recipes said 40-50, and I checked at 30 thinking I was just going to cover the crust.  I left it in for 5 minutes more, because I'm so used to quiche being to moist for my liking but I could have taken it out after 30 minutes.  However, it was not rubbery or anything after 35.)
  4. Let cool slightly and serve.  (I let mine cool while I made green smoothies.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chocolate cherry puff pancake

So, last night I saw this recipe at two peas and their pod and decided to do my own spin on it for breakfast this morning by making it more like our peach puff pancake which everyone really likes.  Aaron didn't care for it, but Benjamin couldn't get enough of it.  It wasn't overly sweet, and no one put syrup or even powdered sugar - nothing on it.  (Maybe Aaron would have liked it more that way.)  I thought it was a nice change to peach puff.  I liked the cherry/chocolate flavor, but then again, I really like cherries, and I really like chocolate.  :)


  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups cherries (I used frozen pie cherries - just regular cherries, not cherry pie filling)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 425.  Toss the cherries with 1 Tablespoon of sugar.  Place butter and sugared cherries in the bottom of a 9 X 13 pan and put in the oven until butter has melted. (it is fine if the oven is still pre-heating)
  2. While the butter melts, Combine remaining ingredients in a blender.  Blend until smooth, scraping sides if necessary.  
  3. Once butter has melted, pour chocolate mixture over the butter and cherries.  Bake for 25 minutes or until set in the center and puffed on the sides.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Barley and Almond Casserole

This recipe is from another new book I got at Christmas.  I can't say that I have used it as much.  Mostly because I've been doing a lot of freezer meals.  However, this is the direction I want to go with my cooking.  It is called A word of Wisdom; Seasonal grain Based, low animal product, whole food recipes.  I have only made 2 recipes from this book.  This one was delicious.  Loved it.  The other one was gross.  I actually wrote in the cookbook -Yuck! -1 Star.  In theory it looked good - they were cabbage rolls.  I've had some that are delicious, but this one didn't have you boil the cabbage first, so it didn't end up getting cooked well, and was therefore hard to eat.  I can eat raw cabbage, I can eat cooked cabbage, but something about half way in between cabbage just makes it difficult to chew and eat.  Then the sauce had tomato, lemon, honey and allspice. I thought it sounded interesting.  I never recommend that combination.  To me the honey and the lemon with the allspice ended up tasting something like a cough drop, so it was like a tomatoey cough drop.  YUCK.  Anyway, that was the recipe I didn't like.
This is the recipe I did like.  It was so good and made the house smell so wonderful when it was cooking.


  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds (I used sliced)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup barley (I used whole barley, not pearl.  I worried about that, but it turned out fine.)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cup stock (I used vegetable)
  • 1 cup minced chives or green onion (seasonally optional) I only used a couple of green onions -maybe 1/3-1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley (seasonally optional, I used maybe a Tablespoon or 2)
  1. Heat 2 Tablespoons butter in a saute pan.  Add almonds and toast.  Set aside.  Melt 1/4 cup butter and add barley and onion.  Saute until tender.  (This part smells soooo yummy)
  2. Add almonds, parsley, chives, salt and pepper.  Add stock.  Bring to a boil and pour into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.   
  3. Bake at 375 for 1 hour.  (I think I probably covered this with foil.   Directions don't say to though.)
I remember I worried about this having enough stock because usually you need 2-1 ratio.  I can't remember, but I probably did up the stock to 2 cups especially since I was using whole barley, not pearl.  (This is why I should blog more regularly)  I have modified the directions to how I made it. 
The original also had an optional white sauce.  It was an extremely basic white sauce and I chose not to make it.  

Lemon chicken {freezer meal} + book review

Blog?  What blog?  I have gotten very bad at blogging as of late.  A fact that has bitten me in the rear a couple of times when I went to look for a recipe I had made to see how I had changed it and low and behold, I hadn't bothered to even blog it.  Oops.  Part of my problem has been a husband who has been exponentially more busy at work lately - lots of trips to china, late hours.....  That equals 1 mom at home with 4 busy boys much of the time alone.  2 of my busy boys were involved in school sports until last week.  One was in cross country, followed almost immediately by basketball, the other was in wrestling which started practicing the second week of school.  Between games and busy life, blogging sadly fell by the wayside.  Well, happy day, Basketball is over!  Wrestling is over!  I can't tell you how much more time I have in my day not having to go to pick up my boys at 5:00 everyday.  Tons more time.  Of course now I've volunteered to be soccer coach for the next one down.  :)  However, that is low key.  Practice is 1 day a week not 4-5, and games are 1 day a week for 1 hour, not 2 hours - some of the wrestling tournaments that were 13 hours long.
So, enough of my busy life, point is, I actually stopped cooking quite a bit.  I got a book at Christmas that was some Freezer meals and for DH's last 2 trips to China, we've had freezer meals most nights.  Life saver.  I love the book I have.  It's called Once-A-Month cooking Family Favorites Can't say all of the recipes are the greatest in the world.  We've had our definite favorites, and the ones we haven't cared for as much, however, I love the setup of the book.  It is different from other types of freezer meals because it is just 30 different meals, not make a quadruple batch of 3 recipes.  For a 1 month cycle you make 30 meals.  It does take all day, and it is better to start the day before, but I love the convenience once the meals are done.  I also love how the book has everything set up for you.  If you want to choose to do an entire cycle, the grocery list is done, and there is even a list of how to process everything.  For example it will say dice 5 onions (13 cups), dice 2 bell peppers (2 cups)...  The ingredients are to be used throughout the many meals made, but all the chopping is done at once.  Then you chop meat, and it will tell you, Slice 8 chicken breasts into strips (4 for this meal, and 4 for the other)  Then it gives you steps to cook the meals so you have some simmering while you are just tossing others in a bag.  I will say I followed the directions well for the first 2 week cycle I did, but the second 2 week cycle I'd already made 2 of the meals just as regular meals, and I didn't follow the directions as well.  I did a bunch of quick chicken meals the night before, rather than between simmering....  You can rearrange as you see fit, but the first time, I was all about sticking to the directions.
So, I do like the book.  Our meal this evening is from the book.  I do have to say that the meals do not always include any vegetables or anything, so I do usually have to add a veggie and/or fruit, and/or green smoothie to our meal, but that is easy enough.  I always purchase fresh fruits and veggies weekly.  I also have to say that this makes shopping super easy.  I only have to buy fruits, veggies, milk and eggs a lot of the time.  I didn't even go to the grocery store last week because I did bountiful baskets and got milk, eggs and cheese at costco.  Wahoo.  Such a time saver in more ways that one.  OK, enough gushing about the book.  On to the recipe right.
I chose this recipe because #1 it was absolutely delicious.  Super tender chicken.  Which was an absolute surprise because the chicken was microwaved.  Originally I looked at this meal, and even commented to my neighbor - the chicken tonight is microwaved, I'm afraid it will be rubbery.  So far from the truth.  I keep having dry chicken or pork from the oven.  Keep buying thermometers.  I'm determined mine are off.  By the time the meat is up to temp, it is dry.  Anyway, total tangent, but because of that, I was even more impressed with this chicken.  I also liked it's lemon flavor.  It was pretty strong, and relatively tart, but I really liked it like that.  A lemon chicken that tasted like lemon, and not a lemon pie.  :)  This was also a super easy meal to prepare.  -SUPER EASY.  Not only the actually cooking, but also the prep of putting it in the bag to freeze.  How can you go wrong?  Easy to prepare and delicious.  YUM

Oh, and also forgot to mention that on one of those China trips the thing that died while my husband was gone was the computer.  (also a huge reason I haven't been blogging - can't do it from the ipad.)  The worst thing about that is that I don't have any of my pictures.  Hopefully that will get remedied and I can go back to posting pictures, but until then, I'm using an old work laptop and I'm not installing picasa or worrying about adding pictures here.  Good thing I have 2 memory cards that are 16 GB each right.  I should be good for quite a while.


  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (I did cut mine in half because they were very large, but I still used 4)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (I did squeeze mine fresh)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped sweet peppers (I always buy the mini sweets at costco.  original recipe just called for red bell pepper)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic (I used jarred here)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  1. Mix all ingredients in a 1 gallon freezer bag;  Label and freeze.  (Could it be any easier?  -I do recommend freezing it flat or it won't defrost in 1 day in the fridge)
To serve 
  1. Take out of the freezer the night before and put in the refrigerator to thaw.
  2. Place in a microwave safe dish and cook on high for 5 minutes.  Baste the chicken with the juices, turn, and microwave for 3 more minutes.  (I do have to say, this took a lot longer than 8 minutes for me.  I just kept doing 2-5 more minutes depending on how pink the chicken still was, and/or what it was measuring on the thermometer.  I think it ended up taking something like 16 minutes rather than 8.  Still quick though.)
I Served this over brown rice.  Can't remember what veggie we had - probably a green smoothie, and maybe something else like green beans or something.  I just can't remember.  What I do remember is how tender and juicy this chicken was.  


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