September 27, 2012

Chicken and Rice - Super Easy but Partially Processed Version

Chicken and rice should be easy. But let me tell you a little story. It was several years ago. We had gotten a dog from the local animal shelter that day. My husband was flying out of state the following morning. The dog was skittish and kept going to the bathroom in the house. I was completely clueless about training dogs (still am) and kept taking him outside to go to the bathroom, leaving my 2 year old in the house unattended. The dog would grab onto the leash with his mouth and play tug-of-war.

It was not a good night. 

I made chicken and rice in the oven.

The rice didn't cook properly.

My husband was sick on the airplane the next day.

I did not attempt chicken and rice again.

Until last Friday when I was asked to make a dish for my women's group. I was given the recipe. I followed it precisely. It took twice as long to cook as the directions claimed.

Why would I attempt chicken and rice again?  I don't know.

But I did last night.

Now do not make fun of me for waffling, as I am known to do. This dish has one can of cream of chicken soup in it. And a packet of onion soup mix I know, I know. I am still trying to wean off processed foods, but if you have read my Happy Homemaker Monday posts then you know that I am a little busy. So, instead of trying the from scratch version I referenced above, I went to this version from AllRecipes.com:


It was delicious.

The chicken was sooooo moist. And everything was tasty. Yum.

So here it is for my future reference and yours:

Easy Chicken and Rice

1 C uncooked rice
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 7/8 C water
1 package onion soup mix
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

spread rice on bottom of 9x13 baking pan
place chicken breast on top of rice
mix cream soup and water, pour over chicken
sprinkle with onion soup mix
cover with foil
bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours

remove from oven and serve

*We returned the dog to the shelter the next day and got a kitten instead.

September 25, 2012

My Most Popular Recipe

By popular, I mean the most requested by my kids and my sister (which I take as a particularly wonderful compliment because she is a much better cook than I), and which recipe I have given out more than others. And it is so ridiculously easy. Not particularly healthy though.

I was surprised to find that I did not already put it on the blog. I guess I didn't bother because I already know this one so well that I don't need to write it down. I make it so often that I stockpile lasagna noodles when they are on sale.

So here it is:

The Easiest Lasagna Recipe Using Regular Lasagna Noodles Ever. No, really.

Once again the ingredients are important, so pay attention to my notes, please. Thank you.

Abt 8 regular lasagna noodles (not the no cook kind, although you are not going to cook them ahead of time)
Abt 24 oz ricotta cheese. Now let's talk a minute about the cheese. I have lived just about all of my life on the east coast in a heavy Italian populated area. So we do not put cottage cheese in our Italian cooking instead of ricotta. Is it just as good? I have no idea, because I have never tried it. It may be easier to spread than ricotta, but I'm sticking with the ricotta.  And by the way, around here it is pronounced rig-GOT, not rick-cot-a. But if you do not live in a heavily Italian populated area, (or in the northeast) and you asked for rig-got, they probably would have no idea what you are talking about. And no one laughs at you if you say rick-cot-a instead. They just think that you do not have an ounce of Italian in you. I'll have you know that I am 1/500 Italian. I don't think that counts.

And while we are talking about Italian pronunciations, do you know that there are still pizza places around here that spell it APIZZA? It is pronounced a-beets, not peetsa. But really it is just the old timers that call it a-beets; peetsa has become the norm. But when I was a kid I didn't understand why there was an A in front of the word pizza.

Ingredients?  Oh yea,

lasagna noodles (see above)
ricotta cheese (see above)
1 pound (or thereabouts) of mozzarella cheese, shredded (pronounced mootz-a-rella, and some drop the a at the end)
abt 1/4 C parmesian cheese
32 ounce tomato/pasta sauce.  Here is the thing. You do not want a thick, sweet sauce like Ragu or Prego. I buy Sclafani, but that may not be available nationwide. My sister used Francesco Rinaldi marinara and it was very good too.


Lastly, and optional, 1 pound ground beef

The great thing about this recipe is that you can easily adapt it to your liking, and measurements do not have to be exact. The sauce is really the most important choice you are going to make.

So here is what you do:

Brown ground beef if you are using it, then add sauce and 3/4 C of water and heat. (If you are not using ground beef, you can pour the sauce right from the jar into the lasagna pan without heating it first and don't add water)

Layer ingredients in a 9x13 baking pan as such:

@ 1/3 sauce
@ 4 lasagna noodles - uncooked (or as many as will make a nice layer in your pan. Snap off some of the noodle to make it fit.)
@ 1/2 of ricotta cheese
@ 1/2 of shredded mozzarella
@ 1/8 C parmesian cheese (I do not measure, just give it a good shake all over)
@ 1/2 of remaining sauce
another 4 noodles
rest of ricotta cheese
rest of mozzarella cheese
1/8 C (or good shake all over) parmesian cheese
rest of sauce

Yes, the noodles will slip around on you as you try to spread the ricotta. It will get messy. No one cares. Just do the best you can, but don't worry, it will still taste great.

Cover pan
Bake @ 375 for about an hour (edges should be bubbly)
Let sit for about 10-15 minutes
EAT!

This is a very saucy version (hence why it is important to choose a good sauce), so serve some bread with it to help eat up the sauce.

It seems like a lot of work because I go on and on, but it is really easy, as lasagnas go, and everyone loves it. It will be whipping up two for my brood. It was my soon-to-be 14 year old's birthday dinner request.

Maybe I will take pictures and add them later. Maybe.

September 24, 2012

Happy Homemaker Monday September 24


Go and see Sandra's blog for more Happy Homemaker posts. I am grateful to Sandra for hosting this every week and giving me the opportunity to reflect on my life and role as homemaker. Too often I spend my time thinking about the how overworked I am, but this gives me the opportunity to reflect on the joys that can be found, and the reason why I choose to be a stay-at-home mom.

The Weather
Today's high is 64 degrees, so it is a little bit cooler, but that means AUTUMN IS HERE, my favorite season, so I will take it! The sun is shining and I am warm and comfortable in my long pants and sweatshirt, so life is good. Bring on the soup!

On My Reading Pile
The New Testament and my student and teacher's manuals.

On My TV
We managed to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail this weekend. Still have The Dead Poet's Society (we love that movie). Next on our Netflix queue is We Bought a Zoo.

On This Week's Menu
This is fair weekend for our family. Our boy scout troop works all weekend emptying over 400 trash cans at the fair to raise funds for the troop. My husband manages the event so he is gone Thursday - Sunday. The boys will be there Friday-Sunday, and even my daughter is going Saturday to get some volunteer hours in for school. I do all of the driving back and forth.

Monday - chicken soup, rolls and butter (made this for last night but it wasn't ready in time, so dinner is done!)
Tuesday - lasagna, salad, bread (14 year old's choice for his birthday celebration, which is actually on Friday but since they will not be home we are celebrating Tuesday), cake
Wednesday - chicken and rice casserole, broccoli
Thursday - roast beef sandwich melts with vegetable soup
Friday - probably pizza or calzones - not sure who will be here for dinner
Saturday - It's a women's conference for me, and I get fed!
Sunday - Hmmm, pot roast with potatoes and carrots and warm rolls

On My To-Do List
This will be much better than last week. We still have crazy schedules between cross-country, piano lessons, dance, boy scouts, church youth group and the fair, but there is a lot less juggling going on this week. Today I have to write my grocery list for tomorrow so I can go first thing in the morning while they are well stocked and less crowded (found that out on Saturday morning). Also, lots of laundry, lesson planning for the week and straightening up around the house. Tomorrow is grocery shopping and cake baking for my son's birthday, Wednesday I would like to tackle my bedroom which is a MAJOR mess and clean my bathroom. My goal is to have my house in decent shape for the weekend so I can just enjoy it without anyone around to mess it up!

What I am Creating
Lessons for my seminary class

Homemaking Tips
I started separating my bananas instead of leaving them as a bunch so that I could fit them on my fruit stand more easily, and we have found that they last longer and get less bruised. So separate your bananas, people!

Looking Around the House
My oldest is sleeping, everyone else is working or at school. The washer and dryer are going. I see lots of stuff to organize and put away. But it is quiet and peaceful!

On My Camera
Nothing new on there

On My Prayer List
My kids (my own and my students)

Scripture
John 3:21 "But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."

I have been so stressed out these past two weeks that I have forgotten the most important thing is that I am serving God. This week I am going to work on keeping that in the forefront of my mind. I am sure He was not pleased with my complaining. Keeping focused on doing His work will help me to prioritize too.

Have a wonderful week!

September 20, 2012

We Have Become the Cleavers


For about a year, while our cable company was in the process of switching to digital, we were able to watch the non-premium cable stations, which included TV Land. We became big fans of Leave It To Beaver. That 50's/60's housewife personification fascinated me. Why would you want to do your housework in a dress? Change clothes to go to the store? How did she make such elaborate meals with that little kitchen?

We have become THAT family. But only in one way. We have decided to eat dinner in the dining room! I know! That's just crazy! (P.S. I do not use my china - the plates are too small.)

We haven't used our dining room lately for anything but a place to put stuff that doesn't even belong in there. It is too small for family gatherings like Thanksgiving. But it fits our immediate family just right.

For awhile we ate in the dining room for Sunday dinner to make it special. Then we stopped for some reason. For a long time we had our family computer in there. The room was an absolute mess during that time in our lives. But since we finished the basement and moved the computer downstairs (or switched to laptops), the dining room has become a lonely place. 

Until now. We have started eating dinner in there every night (every night that we are home to eat dinner, that is). But the reason we are doing it isn't to make dinner special (although it sort of does) or to make use of our dining room (although it is nice to use it), but to make our kitchen table

HOMEWORK CENTRAL

See, there is a certain person in our family who is struggling with doing homework. Well maybe not struggling, because he/she is just not doing it at all. So, homework is now done at the kitchen table. Even though the two other high schoolers are good about getting it done, they have agreed to come to the table to do their work too. 

Words cannot express how much I love it. It is my favorite site. I don't know why. I have even had just the neighbor's daughter sitting there doing her homework (while my daughter, her best friend, slept on the couch instead of joining her). Loved it. The idea of my working on dinner while they sit so close to me...hey, I will even get them a glass of milk if they ask : ) . Sometimes it is later and I am sitting down with them to work on my seminary lesson while they do their homework.

And there are discussions! Last night it was about the Dred Scott decision. And they help one another! It is probably because it is new and its novelty will wear off, but right now, it is our family at its best.


(this was actually taken this past summer while they were working on summer math packets, but you get the idea)

September 17, 2012

Happy Homemaker Monday September 17


How happy am I?  Hmmm, I think, if I give myself time to think about it, that in spite of being a little stressed and overwhelmed, yes, I am happy!

Go to Sandra's blog for more Happy Homemaker Monday posts.

The Weather
68 degrees, sunny and clear, blue skies, 57% humidity. A perfect day.  So why are my windows closed? Hold on while I go open some...

On My Reading Pile
Oh, to be able to read for fun again. I am trying to finish up the Jessica Darling series, Perfect Fifths. I have had it on my kindle since last year. We went camping this past weekend and that is a good time to read for entertainment, but I don't know if I will be able to finish it, there just isn't time for reading during the school year. If I have a few moments while I wait for someone, I usually do sudoku.

The New Testament - I am teaching this to 5 high schoolers every morning. Today I am preparing a lesson on Matthew 4 and Luke 4.

On My TV
See above - no time. Apparently last Thursday was the premier of Glee and we missed it.  From Netflix we have Dead Poet's Society and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

On the Menu for this Week
Monday is almost always pasta night, so I am going to attempt to make lentil sauce. I say attempt because it takes awhile and I don't know if I'll have time to pull it off.  We indulged in a lot of bacon while camping, so a meatless meal is appealing!

The rest of the week will be slow cooker dinners. It's a crazy week, with something to do every night. Yuk.

On My To-Do List
laundry, always laundry
menu plan
groceries and gas
cook dinner
pick up boys at high school at 5
bring one boy to another's house for a cross country dinner
bring other boy home for dinner (I am anticipating that he will not want to go - I just found out about this dinner)
bring boy to piano lesson at 7
Tomorrow I have to be at the high school for the required parent driver's ed class (2 hours), then watch rest of cross country meet, bring everyone home.
Wednesday I have to work, then go to a DCF training meeting (for foster parenting) - must get rides for 3 kids to church youth group
Thursday is meet the teacher at the high school (for 3 kids, don't know how we are going to pull that off), plus piano, dance, and boy scouts. Oh, and driver's ed for my daughter, which means no piano but I have to pick her up from school  at 4:15, and then pick up the boys at 5:50.

I think I want to scream. There is more but I am tired of writing it and I'm sure you do not want to read it. I hope this explains the sparse answers written above.

What I am Creating
lessons on the New Testament for my seminary class

Homemaking Tips
got nothing

Looking Around the Home
I see a mess. If I was smart I would have hired someone to come clean my house while we were camping. My kitchen table is filled with my lesson manuals and my scriptures. I hear the washer and the dryer going, and a few frogs chirping outside.

From the Camera


Some good looking boys ready to go to a church activity two weekends ago.

On My Prayer List
My kids, including my seminary kids.

Bible Verse
"...Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste..."
Luke 2:15-16

Let us now go, and they came with haste.  Someday, someday, I hope to be like those shepherds, and seek the Lord with that kind of eagerness.

Have a wonderful week everyone!

September 12, 2012

Delicious Pork Tenderloin

I recently rearranged my kitchen, and by doing so got reacquainted with some of my cookbooks. Meanwhile, I had a pork tenderloin in my refrigerator with yesterday's date on it. I had originally intended to try a slow cooker recipe, but didn't get to it last week, and could not remember where I found the recipe to try. (Hate it when I do that.) So, last night, with about an hour and a half before dinner needed to be ready, and a pork tenderloin to cook, I went searching for a recipe (I can make them without a recipe, but I wasn't in the mood to wing it. So, I looked through a couple of cookbooks to no avail, then I pulled out this one,


which I purchased through a school fundraiser. ANYWAY, I tried the following recipe, WHICH WAS ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS, and as you can see I have not eliminated soy sauce from my diet. Don't yell. I did use low sodium though. This marinade is similar to other ones I have used, but I think what makes this so  awesome are the sesame seeds. I think I love their flavor as much as chocolate. Really.

I left some things out, due to the level of picky-ness in this family, so I will include my usual notes.

Sesame-Soy Pork Tenderloin

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce (the recipe calls for low sodium, it's not just me)
1/4 cup honey
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t chives (did not use)
1 T sesame seeds (yes, yes, yes!)
1/8 t ground red pepper (did not use)
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin (I used 2 1/2 pounds but the same amount of marinade, it was plenty)

Mix marinade ingredients together
Brush tenderloin with marinade (I pour some marinade on the raw meat and then use a brush to spread it, that way I am not infecting the remaining marinade with germs from the raw meat, just in case I want to use it for something else, although in this case I didn't).
Place in in a baking dish
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes (mine took about 45 minutes, but my pieces were bigger), brushing with marinade until an instant read thermometer reads 155 degrees (mine read 160 - it was still delicious).

I actually baked them on one side for about 20 minutes, then turned them over, poured on some more marinade, baked for another 20 minutes, turned again for a few minutes, and one last turn for a few more minutes. When it was done there was some marinade floating in the pan, I just poured in a quart of hot water (after removing the meat to a cutting board) to let it sit until I was ready to clean it so that it wouldn't get sticky. Often I will line the pan with aluminum foil to make clean up easier, this time I forgot.

So easy, so delicious, EVERYONE like it, even with the seeds; this is definitely a keeper.

September 7, 2012

Perfect Crockpot Chicken

DON'T LAUGH AT ME.

Because you figured this out a long time ago. I'm a slow learner.

I finally found the magic formula for making chicken in a slow cooker. Well, at least boneless, skinless chicken breasts. And at least in my slow cooker.

Start with frozen chicken breasts.

One quart water (for 4 -8 chicken breast halves)

4 bouillon cubes (yea, I know they are salty - I do not keep the broth, although the frugal homemakers who DO NOT HAVE A WATER RETENTION PROBLEM would want to strain it and freeze it for future use)

Cook on high for 4 hours. (Just until the liquid starts to bubble in the cooker)

Remove chicken, cut up, shred, or leave whole (although pieces will fall apart if you are not careful)

Add favorite topping such as barbeque sauce, salsa, gravy, whatever.

Last night I shredded the meat, drained the liquid from the pot, threw the shredded chicken back in the pot, added salsa (heated first in the microwave) and shredded cheese.  I kept it in there for just a few minutes until everything was gooey and it was ready for tortillas. My family ate it up. And the chicken stayed tender.

I know you are not supposed to be able to ruin meat cooked in a slow cooker, but I find that if it is in there too long, it immediately dries up when you remove it from the pot. At first it will look nice and juicy, but then, EVAPORATION, and poof, you have dry, stringy meat.

So I am thinking the key is the AS SOON AS THE LIQUID STARTS TO BUBBLE part.

Will try a pot roast soon to see if my theory is correct.