Deliciousness

Really, there is hardly anything better in the world than Eggplant Parmesan. If you’ve never cooked with eggplant, I urge you to try this very simple recipe. Even my kids ate it. Even the neighbor kid ate it! And it’s great for filling people up without meat. I think I found it on a recipe card several years ago, but a Google search showed me that it is a Food Network recipe. So credit to Juan-Carlos Cruz (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/eggplant-parmesan.html).

eggplant parm

Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients
1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup egg substitute
1 medium eggplant, sliced into 6 (1/2-inch) rounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and then minced
1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
2 (15-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place bread crumbs on a shallow plate. Pour egg substitute onto another shallow plate. Place a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet. Take a round of eggplant, dip it into the egg substitute until fully covered, and then drag through the bread crumbs until completely coated; transfer to a wire rack. Repeat for each round of eggplant and then bake in oven for 15 minutes.

While eggplant is baking, heat olive oil in a 5-quart nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the chili flakes and stir to incorporate. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and stir to blend completely. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the basil, and remove from heat.

Remove eggplant from oven and leave oven at 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a medium-sized casserole dish (about 13 by 11 inches) with the eggplant rounds. Pour the tomato sauce over the eggplant. Top with the cheeses. Bake for 30 minutes until cheese is soft and bubbly. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice SNOW DAY Soup

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Finally! The first snow day of 2015. . . and the kids had the day off school anyway! Oh well, slows life down a bit and makes me want to snuggle under a blanket in front of the fireplace. Also makes me eat my way through hibernation and NEED this soup. I found the recipe on Lauren’s Latest and will link to her at bottom of post. In my house, this recipe must be doubled (or the last guy to the pot won’t get any!). Happy Hibernating!

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup onion, diced

4 ribs celery, chopped

4 large carrots, peeled and cubed

6 cups good quality chicken broth

3/4 lbs. chicken breasts, cubed

1-6 oz. box Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice

1 1/2 cups half and half

1/3 cup all purpose flour

plenty of salt and pepper

Directions:

In large pot, heat butter and olive oil. Saute onions, celery and carrots on medium low heat for 10 minutes to soften. Season vegetables with salt and pepper. Pour in chicken broth and cubed raw chicken. Raise temperature to medium high heat to poach chicken in cooking liquid. Once chicken has cooked and become opaque, pour in rice and seasoning packet that came with the rice. Cover and reduce heat to simmer lightly for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. In small bowl, whisk cold half and half with flour until smooth. Pour into soup pot and reduce heat completely to low. Cook 10 minutes or until rice is softened completely and soup has thickened slightly. Taste and season accordingly. Serve hot.

http://www.laurenslatest.com/creamy-chicken-and-wild-rice-soup/

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

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Middle school daughter wanted to have a few friends in for NYE this year. I sat on my hands and let her do all the party planning. Even let my husband take her shopping for food and supplies. Whew, that was hard! But on my last minute grocery run on Dec. 31, she asked for a veggie tray. It was cute to see a 13-year-old panicking about having enough food for her guests. By 4 pm on NYE, the veggie trays in the produce section are pretty picked over. So I decided I’d make one myself, but didn’t think about the dip!

We did have some Hidden Valley Ranch dressing in the fridge, but I remembered that a while back I bought some dry buttermilk to try to make my own ranch dressing mix. I hate the “mystery packets.” Besides having the buttermilk in the pantry, I had ALL of the other ingredients in this recipe on hand! So, I’m telling you — it’s very easy to make and much more delicious than the bottled kind! I even made two dips from it: fattening for the kids (sour cream) and skinny for the adults (plain yogurt)! Yum!

HOMEMADE RANCH DRESSING MIX

Yield: About 1 cup

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

FOR THE BULK HOMEMADE RANCH DRESSING PACKET MIX:

1 cup Dry Buttermilk

2-1/2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley, divided

2 teaspoons Dried Dill, divided

2-1/2 teaspoons Garlic Powder

1-1/2 teaspoons Onion Powder

1-1/2 teaspoons Dried Onion Flakes

2-1/4 teaspoons Kosher Salt

3/4 teaspoon Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Coarse Ground Black Pepper

1/2 teaspoon Paprika

1/4 teaspoon Cayenne

FOR BUTTERMILK DRESSING:

1/2 cup Mayonnaise

1/2 cup Sour Cream

3 tablespoons Bulk Homemade Ranch Dressing Packet Mix

2/3 to 1 cup of Buttermilk

FOR DIP:

1 cup Sour Cream

2 tablespoons Bulk Homemade Ranch Dressing Packet Mix

DIRECTIONS:

In a small food processor or blender; measure and add in the dried buttermilk, 2 tablespoons dried parsley, 1 teaspoon dried dill. Place the remaining 1/2 tablespoon parsley and 1 teaspoon dried dill off to the side. Measure and add in the onion powder, dried onion flakes, kosher salt, sugar, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Turn on the processor and let it run until all the spices are blended into the buttermilk powder.

Transfer the ranch mix into a jar or container {that has a tight-fitting lid} and add in the reserved parsley and dill. Whisk to combine.

2 tablespoons of the ranch mix is equivalent to one packet.

Store in the fridge for 3-4 months or in the freezer for 6-8.


Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Stew

chicken stew

Sometimes I want a hot dinner ready even though I have a busy day and/or evening. I am pretty picky about what I’ll dump in the Crockpot, though. No Campbell’s soups, no ground beef. Kristin sent me this one that fits the bill. It’s just like the ever-popular slow cooker taco soups, but no ground beef! Perfect for a Monday!

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

1 15-16 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-16 oz. can of kidney beans

1 15-16 oz. can of corn (drained), some like Mexicorn. I used a cup or 2 of frozen corn bc that’s what I had on hand.

1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes w/ chiles (can use plain diced tomatoes if you are avoiding spicy foods)

1 1.25 oz. packet taco seasoning (had to measure my homemade seasoning with a shot glass!)

1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts – I used 3.

Instructions:

Mix everything together in a slow cooker except chicken. Lay chicken over top and cover. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3/4 hours. 30 min. before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Can top with cheese, sour cream, or tortilla chips.

Number of servings: 14.

Orig. found on SparkRecipes.

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

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(not my best photo ever!)

This easy chicken soup is made with a light and refreshing lemon broth, orzo pasta, and vegetables. It is healthy and perfect for a cold day!

I found it at Two Peas & Their Pod, but I prepared the chicken a bit differently because I had boneless, skinless thighs in the refrigerator. Lately my husband is loving the flavor and moisture natural to chicken thighs vs. the way breasts tend to become dry so easily.

So, first I rinsed, salted and peppered the thighs and then cooked them in a bit of olive oil right in my deep soup pot. They didn’t take long. I removed them to cool and started sauteing the vegetables without even cleaning the pot. However, if you picked up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery, shredding that meat would work well, too!

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil (1 for chicken, 1 for vegetables)

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced (you know I use jarred garlic!)

2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1-2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

8 cups chicken broth

zest of 2 lemons

juice of 2 lemons (about 1/3 cup)

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 cups orzo pasta

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat (cook chicken if needed). Saute onion, garlic, carrots, and celery until tender, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the chicken broth, lemon zest, lemon juice, bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes or until orzo is tender. Add the cooked, shredded chicken and heat for about 5 minutes.

3. Remove the pot from the heat. Discard the bay leaf and stir in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve warm.

No More Jarred Spaghetti Sauce

I used to make pretty good weeknight spaghetti using Prego as a base and adding sauteed onions and ground beef. I would also doctor it up a bit with some Italian seasoning, garlic, a dash of cloves, and a bay leaf or two. But now that I’ve greatly reduced the amount of ground beef we eat and am trying to eliminate processed foods, no more Prego/jarred sauce! I needed a quick red sauce for those weeknights when I crave pasta. Sometimes I have a good sauce in the freezer from a weekend “all day in the pot” adventure, but not always. Last night I tried this easy variation, and Tim pronounced it “the best sauce you’ve ever made.” He might have just been really hungry. Anyway, here it is. If you Italians have a better one, I’d love to try it (30 min. or less, please!). 

1 (15 oz) can petite diced tomatoes

15 oz tomato sauce (I try to buy this in the carton as the cans can leach yucky stuff into the tomatoes.)

6 oz tomato paste

1-2 tablespoons sugar (adjust to your taste)

1/2 teaspoon basil 

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I always use too much; it was spicy!) Adjust to your taste. 

Can substitute a teaspoon of Italian seasoning for herbs. 

Simmer in a pot for 20-30 minutes. Season again to taste.