Monday, March 24, 2014

Beef Stew

Beef stew just screams "comfort food" to me. I'm not sure why, but I haven't made it in years. I stumbled across this particular recipe on about a month ago and it was to die for! The beef literally melted in your mouth and the vegetables remained slightly crisp...far from being overcooked. When I've made beef stew in the past, I've found the meat to be rather dry and tough and the vegetables to be mushy. I read through a great number of the reviews, prior to making it, and I did take a few suggestions, in addition to tweaking it a bit on my own. The original recipe did call for 3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed, but my family prefers it served over mashed potatoes, so we omitted them in the stew. If you prefer to add them while cooking, they would be added to the pot the same time as the other veggies. As written, this recipe should easily feed 5-6 people.

1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 lbs cubed stew meat
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
32 oz beef broth (or 4 beef bouillon cubes, dissolved in 4 cups water)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces (or 1 lb baby carrots)
6 stalks celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
4 teaspoons cornstarch
4 teaspoons cold water

Combine flour, garlic powder, pepper and onion powder in large ziploc bag or bowl. Add cubed stew meat and shake to coat.

In a large pot or dutch oven, cook beef in oil over medium heat until brown. Add beef broth to pot. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour.

Stir carrots, celery, and onion into the pot. Dissolve cornstarch in 4 teaspoons cold water and stir into stew. Cover and simmer 1 hour more.

Serve over mashed potatoes.

Source: Adapted from

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crispy Baked Chicken Leg Quarters

SO very hard to believe that two years have passed since my last post! That being said, the past two years have been quite the whirlwind! We found out in early February 2012 that we were expecting our third child. I was plagued with AWFUL morning sickness, so cooking and my blog were put on the back burner. Our daughter, Alexa Rae, was born at 32 weeks and spent nearly a month in the NICU. During that time, I was feeling very overwhelmed and in quite the "funk"--didn't have the motivation to do much of anything, aside from my more routine daily activities. I was also working quite a bit more, as my husband completed nursing school. Quite to our surprise, we found out that we were expecting our fourth child the day before my husband graduated...last May 2013. We ALWAYS said we wanted four, but were stunned that it happened so quickly...our baby was only 8 months old when we found out! We have since welcomed Isabella Rose...she was born on December 28, 2013 and we are ecstatic to have completed our family. Having two "babies", sixteen months apart, has proven to be a bit challenging, but I'm finally feeling like I've established my own little routine and have really gotten the knack of being the mommy of four! I've noticed that over the past couple of years, between the everyday craziness and living on such a strict budget, I haven't been quite as adventurous with my cooking, only occasionally trying a new recipe that catches my eye. Although my husband has now graduated and is working full-time, we are still very much living on a budget, between playing catch-up with bills and the fact that I've been on maternity leave for going on 3 months. Having the four little ones makes grocery shopping next to impossible. Even if I was to go during the day, while my older two are in school, I'd still have to juggle both babies by myself--not to mention the fact that my entire cart would be occupied with an 18 month old up front and an infant carrier in the main portion. We recently signed up with Peapod grocery delivery service, per my sister's recommendation, and very much love it! It can be a bit more expensive for certain items, but I've found that if I shop almost exclusively in their sale section, it's pretty comparable to what I'd spend in the store. My husband is really good about stopping for any other random items we may need throughout the week or any sale items that catch my eye when the new ads come out. Chicken leg quarters still seem to be one of those items that are routinely on sale--I just got an almost 5 lb package through Peapod for $.99/lb. I scoured the internet for new recipe ideas and came across this recipe that we actually tried last Spring and really enjoyed. I always love finding recipes that call for ingredients that you typically have on hand and are relatively easy to throw together. The chicken was so moist and flavorful! Dark meat generally isn't my preference (I especially despise legs for some reason), but I would not hesitate to make this recipe again--it turned a fairly inexpensive meal into something that my entire family devoured! I made the recipe pretty much as is, although I didn't technically measure each of the seasonings--just sprinkled each chicken leg quarter fairly generously with each seasoning, both under and above the skin.

P.S.--I'm forewarning that my posts may be a bit sporadic while I try to get back in the swing of blogging/experimenting with new recipes! :)

Crispy Baked Chicken Leg Quarters

4 skin-on chicken leg quarters, with bone
1/2 cup soy sauce, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
1 teaspoon seasoning salt, divided
1 teaspoon dill weed, divided


Preheat oven to 375.

Line a large glass baking dish with foil.

Remove excess fat from chicken quarters.

Separate the skin from the chicken, taking care that the skin stays attached at most points on the chicken. (You just want a flap. Do not remove the skin).

Brush the chicken (under the skin) with soy sauce.

Sprinkle some garlic powder, seasoned salt and dill weed on the chicken under the skin (I estimated the 1 tsp measures. Use as much or as little as you're comfortable with) and rub inches.

Arrange the leg quarters in the pan, skin side up, taking care not to crowd. They need space to cook properly.

Brush both sides of the leg quarters with soy sauce.

Sprinkle the skin with garlic powder, seasoned salt and dill weed (to taste).

Place on middle rack in over and bake uncovered for an hour.

After an hour, increase oven temp to 400 and bake 15 minutes.

Chicken is done when internal temp reaches 165 (insert meat thermometer at thickest part of breast, taking care not to touch the bone).

Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Thin Crust Pizza

First of all, please excuse my horrendous picture! We seldom eat dinner much before 6 or 7pm and by that point, the lighting is AWFUL! This pizza, however, was anything but "awful"--talk about a huge hit at my house! The kids both said that they preferred it to any pizza they had tried out--of course part of that could have been that they were involved in the whole process :) The recipe was a little unusual for me, because the dough was actually made in my food processor--as opposed to my mixer. It was so very easy to make the dough and for that matter, the actual pizza making process was simple, as well! The downside: you have to make the dough ahead of time and then wait at least 24 hours (but preferably 48-72 hrs) to make your pizza, so the dough sits in your refrigerator taunting you for a while! Trust me, it was well worth the wait and honestly-speaking, it was much easier in the long-run to divide the work. I contemplated making this recipe back in March when we had our kids' pizza-making birthday party, but didn't realize that the recipe required allowing the dough to sit for at least 24 hours...oops! We really enjoyed the dough that we used for the party, but this was equally as delicious! I made the homemade sauce that I made for their party, which is SUPER simple to throw together and freezes well if you have excess. The single recipe makes (2) 13-inch pizzas and it seemed much more filling than take-out pizza. We did struggle a little to get it as thin as we wanted and I'm wondering if it wouldn't have been easier, had we allowed the dough to sit in the refrigerator an extra day??? (I believe the dough was in there for approximately 30 hours). While the recipe calls only for cheese, we added some pepperoni and I would definitely do that again! Our pizzas were done in about 10 minutes and I served them with salad. We had about 3/4 of a pizza left, after the four of us ate, and trust me when I tell you...we're all good eaters!

Thin Crust Pizza

Yield: 2 13-inch pizzas

For the crust:
3 cups (16½ oz.) bread flour
2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. instant yeast
1 1/3 cups ice water
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1½ tsp. salt

For the sauce:
1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. red wine vinegar (I was all out, so I used Balsamic vinegar)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
¼ tsp. ground black pepper

For topping:
Olive oil, for brushing
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella

To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a food processor* fitted with the metal blade. Pulse just to combine. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube and process just until the dough is combined and all dry ingredients are incorporated, about 10 seconds. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

Add the oil and salt to the dough. Process until the dough forms a smooth, tacky ball that clears the sides of the bowl, about 30-60 seconds. Remove the dough from the bowl, knead briefly on a lightly oiled work surface, about 1 minute. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days. (After the period of refrigeration, the dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for later use.)

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate until ready to use.

One hour before baking the pizza, adjust an oven rack to the second highest position and place a baking stone on the rack to preheat. Preheat the oven to 500˚ F. Remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator and divide in half. (If you plan to freeze a portion of the dough, this is the time to wrap in plastic, place in a freezer bag and freeze for later use.) Form each half into a ball and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Spray the dough balls lightly with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

To assemble the pizza, transfer a dough ball to a well floured work surface. Flatten into an 8-inch disk, leaving a slightly thicker edge around the rim. Using your hands, gently stretch the dough to a 12-inch circle. (We used a rolling pin, per Annie's suggestion, to get the crust thin enough.) Transfer the dough to a well floured pizza peel and stretch to a 13-inch circle. (We don't have a pizza peel, nor do I know what one is, so I left Marcus in charge of stretching the pizza out as best as he could!) Lightly brush the thicker edge of the disk with olive oil. Spread ½ cup of the pizza sauce over the dough. Sprinkle evenly with the grated Parmesan and the shredded mozzarella. Carefully transfer the pizza to the preheated baking stone. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

*This dough can also be made in a stand mixer or by hand. Keep in mind, the idea is to avoid warming the dough, so a food processor or mixer is optimal.

Source: Annie's Eats

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Oven Fried Perch

Believe it or not, I have not fallen off the face of the Earth! "Craziness" is too mild of a word to describe my life at the moment. My husband just completed his first semester of nursing school, but throughout the course of the semester, meal-planning was a bit challenging. Last semester, he worked (2) night shifts and I've been trying to pick up as many shifts as possible at the hospital, in addition to raising two very active little ones! Not only has it been difficult to muster up the energy to cook, but it's hard to experiment much while living on such a strict budget. I've become quite the little "couponer" and find that most everything I purchase is purchased almost exclusively with coupons (aside from meat and produce, of course), which doesn't always give me much to work with! This coming semester appears as if it will be a little easier, primarily because my husband will only be going to school 2 days/week for the first 8 weeks and he'll be able to work (2) day shifts. The problem, though, is that even when he and I work day shifts, it means we don't get home until at least 8-8:30pm, so we're generally looking for very quick meal ideas! This particular recipe was perfect for last night! I defrosted a package of perch fillets and I'm not exaggerating when I say that between prep and cooking time, my meal was complete in 15 minutes! That gave my husband just enough time to put the kids to bed and take a quick shower, so we could both enjoy a meal together at the end of a very long day! (I forgot to mention that I spent probably close to 6 hours at three different grocery stores with my 3 year old...enough said!) While I do generally prefer a more "crisp" coating, it was very tasty and certainly more healthy than frying. We will definitely make this again!

I hope everyone had a very nice holiday season! Wishing all of you a very Happy (and healthy) New Year!!! Oh, and just as a little side sister, Sarah, just started a new blog--make sure to check it out! (Amateur Foodie)

Oven Fried Perch

1 lb Perch Fillets
2 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese - grated
1/2 Cup Dry Bread Crumbs
1/2 Tsp. Thyme
1/4 Cup Milk
1 Tbsp. Margarine, melted


Combine bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and thyme in a shallow bowl. Dip perch fillets in milk and then coat each fillet with bread crumb mixture. Lay in single layer on greased shallow baking pan. Drizzle with melted margarine. Bake in oven at 450 degrees for approximately 10 or until perch flakes easily with a fork.

***Serves 2*** (Perfect for a late night meal for my husband and I, but definitely not enough food for more than 2 people, so make sure you adjust your ingredients accordingly!)


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Kick Off with Haas Avocados Recipe Contest!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hass Avocado Board featuring Hass Avocados for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I LOVE avocados and look for any excuse to incorporate them into a recipe or meal!  We seldom have a family get-together that does not include a giant bowl of my Mom's guacamole, which is absolutely to die for!!!  Personally, I love to slice avocados and serve them with most any type of sandwich--especially a nice, grilled chicken sandwich!  Plus, you can never go wrong with a refreshing bowl of Avocado-Corn Salsa or adding chunks of avocados to quesadillas!  My mouth is watering just thinking about the endless possibilities!  What I love most about avocados is that not only do they enhance everything they are incorporated into, but they are exceptionally good for you!  One-fifth of a medium avocado (1 oz) has just 50 calories and contributes nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, making it a nutrient-dense food choice.  They're also wonderful in the sense that that they contribute to the "good fats" in one's diet.  Over 75% of the fat in avocados is unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), making them a great substitute for foods high in saturated fat.  

Now, onto the exciting part!  Hass Avocados is holding a "Kick Off with Hass Avocados Recipe Contest"!  There are 2 ways to participate:

(1) A weekly sweepstakes where they will give away a box of avocados for 14 consecutive weeks!  Every week during the course of the campaign, a box of Fresh Haas Avocados will be given away to one lucky winner.  That's 14 chances to win!!!!

(2) A recipe contest where the winner will win a trip for FOUR people to the Rose Bowl Game ®!  (This trip includes round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, participation in a Rose Bowl Game ® Welcome Reception, admission to the "behind-the-scene" Rose Bowl Parade decorating site, sightseeing tour of Pasadena, admission to the Rose Bowl Game ® on January 2, 2012 and more!!!)  Just enter your Avocado Game Day Recipe in the contest and a screenshot of your contest entry in your post, if's as easy as that!

***For more information on how the winner is chosen, be sure to check out their Facebook page!***

I would very much encourage everyone to sign up (on the contest site) to receive free emails with recipe ideas and nutrition information--you'll receive great ideas once per month!  If you enjoy avocados as much as I do, you may also want to check out these avocado recipes and tailgating tips and recipes!  Enjoy!

Visit Sponsor's Site

Friday, July 22, 2011

Super Simple Chicken

Yet again, I have gone quite a long stretch without blogging, but things have been SUPER busy around here. My husband has officially been accepted into nursing school (and will start next month)--it's been quite a long journey, but there's FINALLY a light at the end of the tunnel! He'll graduate in May 2013 and I couldn't possibly be anymore excited--just two more years and then hopefully we can return to some degree of normalcy! He's taking two summer courses (both of which have required an ungodly amount of time), while we both work as much as possible and spend time with our two crazy little kids! Due to the fact that we're always running in different directions and we both work long shifts at the hospital (and get home generally after the kids are in bed), we haven't really had anything too fancy...hotdogs, pizza and tacos have been making regular appearances on my weekly menus, as have those quick, frozen skillet meals! Starting this Fall, I will be home Monday through Friday (and working weekends exclusively), so I will have MUCH more time to cook and experiment with new recipes--especially since my son will be going to school all day, starting this year, and it will just be my daughter and I home during the day. Bless her heart, she's got quite a little sweet tooth, so I'm sure you'll see an increase in my dessert posts, as well!

As for my recipe, I must admit...if I had my way, I normally would prefer to have my husband grill split chicken breasts! He always manages to cook them perfectly and I just prefer that "grilled" taste. Unfortunately, the night we made these, I knew he wouldn't be home until close to 8pm and since I had to be up for work at 4:30am, I didn't want to eat dinner too late. I generally don't have the best luck preparing baked chicken, especially bone-in chicken breasts...they tend to be on the drier side and not overly flavorful. This recipe, however, was the PERFECT alternative to grilling and will come in most handy in the winter. It took all of 5 minutes to prepare the chicken and while the original recipe stated that you should bake them for 1 hr to 1 hour and 15 minutes, I found ours to be fully-cooked after approximately 45 min. (Definitely watch them carefully!) I seasoned each breast very generously, with each of the seasonings and they were bursting with flavor and were so moist, that the juices immediately flowed out upon cutting into them. While I think the leftovers would be great reheated on a low oven, I'm actually looking forward to cutting them up and making a nice, hearty salad...sounds like a refreshing, light meal idea with this intense heat! I hope everyone is staying cool and enjoying their summer!

Super Simple Chicken

4 bone-in chicken breast halves, with skin
4 tablespoons butter
dried basil
garlic powder
Kosher salt
1/4 cup lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Place chicken breasts in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Add lemon juice to bottom of dish. Dot each breast with 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine, then season each breast generously, with each of the above seasonings.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 1 hour. (Make sure to check around 45min to avoid over-cooking!)

Source: Adapted from

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops

Grocery shopping has become one of my ultimate frustrations lately, as the prices of fresh meat/poultry/fish are nauseating! We've about had our fill of chicken, so I spent a little more than I normally would on a family-sized package of center cut pork loin chops. I figured the pork would be a bit healthier than red meat and ever since I tried breaded pork chops not that long ago, I have been in search of other variations. I realize I just posted a Parmesan Baked Perch recipe, so I apologize for the back-to-back "Parmesan-themed recipes", but I knew I couldn't go wrong with a recipe from Giada! My husband and I both felt that this recipe was a keeper and my son loved these chops so much that he even requested a second one! This is definitely another great, quick, weeknight meal!

Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops

2 large eggs
1 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan
4 (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick) center cut pork loin chops
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
*optional lemon wedges for serving*


Whisk the eggs in a shallow bowl to blend. Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl or plate. Place the parmesan cheese in a third shallow bowl or plate. Sprinkle the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Coat the chops completely with the cheese, patting to adhere. Dip the chops into the egg, then coat completely with the bread crumbs, patting to adhere.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pork chops, in batches if necessary, and cook until golden brown and the center reaches 150 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to a plate and serve with lemon wedges.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis (