Feb 18, 2012

Week 6: Getting Appreciated

Well, I've only got two more weeks to go now! I realize that there are women that do this everyday--and that most of them are cooking for more than just two people. And truthfully, I hope I get to be one of those women someday. But it still doesn't take away from the fact that this has been a tough little Experiment I've created for myself! I don't think it would be so hard if I hadn't given myself those rules at the beginning of it. But it's also been fun trying out new recipes (which I would never do for just myself) and learning more about crock pot cooking.

Sunday was this month's family dinner, so I didn't have to make an entire meal. Instead, I tried a new recipe for a potato casserole and we took a green salad.

Swiss Potato Bake (from Bless Your Heart)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 lbs red potatoes, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese (I was able to buy exactly 2 cups from the grocery store in the deli section)
4 tbsp butter, divided (I used margarine since we didn't have any butter)
2 cups chicken broth (1 can)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray 9x13 pan. In a small bowl mix all spices. Place 1/2 of potatoes in the baking dish, sprinkle with 1/2 the seasoning and 1 cup of cheese. Dot with half of butter. Repeat layers with remaining ingredients. Pour chicken broth over the top. Bake for about 1 hour or until golden (30 minutes into the baking time, the bake was starting to get golden but the potatoes weren't done yet, so I covered the pan and cooked for another 15 minutes).

We had one of my favorites on Monday! Fettuccine al Fredo. I love this recipe so much. It's really rich, but so creamy and flavorful. I used to ask for this every year for my birthday dinner. To round out the meal, I heated a can of corn and we had left over green salad. I did make a half recipe since it was just for the two of us, but what is below is the full recipe.

1/4 c margarine or butter
1/4 c flour
8 oz cream cheese (I usually use neufchatel because it's cheaper and less fattening. Slightly.)
salt and pepper
1 1/2 c milk
1/2 c parmesan cheese

Melt butter. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk and cream cheese. Stir over medium heat until thick. (Just keep stirring. It seems to take forever until, voila! It's super thick.) Pour over noodles, sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Toss and serve.

For our Valentine's Day meal I planned Engagement Chicken--mostly because I thought it was clever. :) There's some story that goes behind the name about how every girl that made it for a boy ended up getting engaged to that boy. It was in a magazine or something. Anyway, because of when I get home, Mom kindly offered to get it together and put it in the oven for me so we could eat at a reasonable hour. I am a little bummed because this was going to be my first time cooking a whole chicken. I made rice, half a bag of Caesar salad, and strawberries.

Engagement Chicken
1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs)
1/2 c fresh lemon juice, plus 3 whole lemons--including 1 slice for garnish
1 tbsp kosher or coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
fresh herbs for garnish (ie rosemary, sage, thyme, or 1 bunch flat leaf parsley)

Position oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400. Remove giblets from chicken, wash inside and out with cold water. Let chicken drain, cavity down, in a colander for 2 minutes. Pat chicken dry with paper towls. Place the chicken breast-side down in a medium roasting pan fitted with a rack and pour the lemon juice all over the chicken, both inside and out. Season chicken all over with salt and pepper inside and out. Soften lemons by rolling, then prick 2 whole lemons three times each with a fork and place them deep inside the cavity. If one lemon is partly sticking out, that's fine. Put chicken in oven, lower temp to 350 and roast for 15 minutes.

Remove roasting pan from oven and turn chicken breast-side up. Return chicken to oven and roast for about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (I feel like it's always taken way longer than this) or until meat thermometer reads 165 and the juices run clear when the thigh is pricked. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving. Here's the secret: Pour the juices from the roasting pan on top of the sliced chicken--this is the "marry me juice." (That was in the recipe. I'm not making this up.) Garnish with fresh herbs and lemon slices.

We had one of the daddy-man's favorite meals--Enchilada Casserole. Super easy, 5 ingredients, no rolling involved. For a complete meal we had orange slices.

Enchilada Casserole
10 corn tortillas (the smaller ones)
1 lb ground beef (we had some already cooked in the freezer)
1-20 oz can red enchilada sauce (I kind of used the big can of sauce instead of the medium, they turned out fine, just a little saucier than normal)
onion (usually I would dice the onion and cook it with the hamburger, but since the meat was already cooked, I just sprinkled on the layers)
cheese, cheddar or taco blend

Spray 9x13 pan and layer tortillas, meat, cheese, sauce, and repeat. Bake uncovered at 350 for 30 minutes. Top with sour cream, avocado, lettuce, and/or olives.

The new crock pot recipe of the week comes from Betty Crocker's Easy Everyday Vegetarian cookbook. It's a Winter Vegetable Stew. I don't think my dad liked it too much, and it isn't really my favorite either, though it's good. I think we gave it three out of five stars. I put it together the night before. We had the other half of the Caesar salad from earlier in the week.

Winter Vegetable Stew
1-28 oz can of italian-style tomatoes (haha, I did it again! I'm pretty sure I did not use this big of a can of tomatoes. I really should pay attention to these things better! I thought the regular sized can of tomatoes was plenty though.)
4 medium red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (all veggies cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
4 stalks of celery
3 carrots (totally missed that there were carrots in the recipe--but I was talking on the phone while making it, so . . .)
2 medium parsnips (I had never seen a parsnip before.)
2 medium leeks (never used leeks before either!)
1-14 oz can vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
3 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp cold water

Put everything except cornstarch and water in crock pot. Cook on low 8 to 10 hours. In small bowl, mix cornstarch and water; gradually stir into stew until blended. Increase heat setting to High, then cover and cook for 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.

Last week, as I was cleaning up from dinner, the dad-i-nator says "Since you've been doing such a good job, how 'bout I take you out to eat sometime next week? We could go to the Greek Souvlaki." So that's what we did today! I was talking to my mom about how I had started thinking "Is this what I'm going to be doing for the rest of my life when I get married--trying to think of a different salad to go with dinner every night?" And she said, "That's why you get to be taken out to dinner sometimes." It was nice to know that Dad appreciates what I've been doing for him these past 6 weeks, and it was really nice to not have to cook dinner or clean up afterwards.

We had bought a rack of spare ribs when they were on sale last, so I just cut it in thirds, stuck them in the crock pot, put a bottle of barbecue sauce on them, and cooked them for 8 hours on low. With them I tried a new kind of potatoes. For the work, I didn't seem them as anything really fantastic. We also had a green salad.

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