Jan 20, 2012

Week 2: Getting into the Groove

Before I started doing this experiment, I would come home from work and sit down and wait until dinner was ready--usually bumming around on my computer. I always felt exhausted and worn out. Something I've noticed since I've been cooking dinner every night is that I feel happier, have more energy, and feel like I can make more out of my night. It's hard sometimes, too, like on Wednesday when the day felt like it took forever to end and I didn't feel like I had really accomplished anything at work and then dinner took longer than I thought, but for the most part, I think that cooking dinner has helped me conquer the winter blues a little bit. Having said that, here's this week's menu:

Every month we have a family dinner with my mom's family, which made Sunday dinner pretty easy! My dad made a German chocolate cake (mix with canned frosting) and I made a family favorite--Hot Artichoke Dip:

2 cups mayo
2 cups sour cream
2 cans artichoke hearts
2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
cayenne pepper on top

Mix together and cook at 350 for 45 minutes. Serve with french bread or crackers.

Dad got to choose what we were going to have and he chose brats. He grilled them (in about 20* weather), and I made a pasta salad (Suddenly Salad, Caesar flavor) and cut up a fresh pineapple.

Dad had a club meeting this night, so I was going to make my crock pot meal Monday night and plug it in, but I learned something about crock pot meals--When you are gone 10.5 hours out of the day, sometimes it makes it hard. I have had to search for more crock pot meals that take 10 hours to cook. Anyway, I had to rearrange my menu a little bit, and still made something fast and yummy--BBQ Cups. These are definite crowd pleasers! I have taken them to different parties before and everyone has loved them! And they are way easy to make. We rounded out the meal with strawberries, cucumbers, and carrots.

BBQ Cups
2 packages biscuits (I use Western Family homestyle and they taste fine)
1 lb hamburger (We had some already cooked and in the freezer, which makes it easier)
dried onion (OR 1/2 fresh onion)
~1/2 cup of favorite BBQ sauce (I'm not exactly sure how much, I just put some in until it looks right, but I'm pretty sure it's about 1/2 cup. My family's favorite is Honey BBQ)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook hamburger and onion together. Add BBQ sauce and brown sugar. Mix well. Press biscuits into muffin tins. Spoon hamburger mixture into cups and sprinkle with cheese. (I forgot the cheese and had to pull them out of the oven to put it on. This became a theme this week.) Bake at 400 for 10 minutes.

For this day I made quiche. It's not Dad's favorite, but I like it and he'll eat it. Again, I forgot to add the cheese to the mix and had to sprinkle it on top. It looked pretty. :) To round out this meal I made a fruit salad using leftover pineapple and strawberries from earlier in the week, half an orange, and apple, blueberries and blackberries (all the berries were on sale last week).

Wednesday night I put together the casserole for Thursday. Right after I took out the quiche, I stuck three chicken breasts to cook in the oven, then made the rice. Here's a health tip about rice: use half white and half brown. It's healthier than white, but tastes better than brown. But the cooking is a bit different: 2 to 1 ratio of water to rice, add rice to boiling water, cook on low for 20 minutes, then turn it off and let sit for 10 minutes. This guarantees that the brown rice is cooked all the way. Anyway, I basically made two meals in one day, which was a little hard, but I also ended up with enough chicken for a recipe I'm making next week, so that's a plus! To make this a complete meal I heated a can of corn and sliced some oranges.

Chicken and Rice Casserole
1 square margarine
1 cup chopped celery (I use three ribs)
1 cup chopped onion (I did 1/2 onion)
Saute until brown
1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
Cook, then add:
3 cups chicken, shredded or diced
1 can cream mushroom soup
1 can cream chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
Put on top:
slivered almonds
buttered bread crumbs (I used panko, but that's just because that was all we had)
Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

I was so excited for this new crock pot recipe from Betty Crocker's Easy Everyday Vegetarian cookbook (I highly recommend this cookbook. I'm not a vegetarian, but there are great recipes in here)! Dad only worked half a day today, so he was able to put it in for me. A couple of things: this makes a LOT! So, you could probably halve it. We just put the rest of it in the freezer for another day (after the Experiment is over) Also, it got burned on the sides. I don't really know what to do about that. Anyway, we had 1/2 a bag of caesar salad, and a can of french cut beans with butter and salt and pepper. It was so good!

Cheesy Ravioli Casserole
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
2 jars four-cheese-flavored tomato pasta sauce (I just bought traditional, since there was already a lot of cheese in this. My favorite is Prego.)
1-15 oz can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 bags frozen cheese-filled ravioli (we bought the round ones because they were cheaper, and they really puffed up!)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional (we didn't do this. Buying fresh herbs is crazy expensive and you always have to buy more than you really need.)

Heat oil and cook onion and garlic until onion is tender. Stir in pasta sauce, tomato sauce, and Italian seasoning. Spray slow cooker and place 1 cup sauce in the bottom. Add 1 bag of ravioli, put half of cheese on. Then put rest of ravioli and cheese and pour remaining sauce on top. Cook on Low for up to 6 1/2 hours (Pasta will hold up to 30 minutes). Sprinkle with parsley before serving, if you want.

Tomorrow we are going to have BYU Creamery Pasta Salad. When I had to close and didn't want to get something from the grill, I usually got pasta salad. I don't even know if they still make it, but I liked it. We'll probably have oranges with it.

Creamery Pasta Salad
Mix together tricolor pasta, olives, green peppers, tomatoes, with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Instead of mozzarella, I'm going to use the rest of the feta from the quiche. Pour Italian dressing over top.

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