Philly Cheese Steaks

Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm a chicken woman and proud to admit it. It's not that I'm scared of my own shadow or anything, it's just that I've grown chicken about cooking with any meat other than chicken. If you combine all my pork, seafood, and beef recipes together, you'll won't even equal a quarter of my chicken recipes. My husband, on the other hand, would love it if I cooked beef or pork for every meal. He considers it a Mars/Venus kind of thing--I go to restaurants and order a nice feminine chicken and vegetables dish, while he orders big burly cuts of beef, beef, and more beef.
Every once in a while I feel a little sorry for inflicting my feminine way of eating upon my entire family and get the hankering to try something different. I figured that this recipe for Philly Cheese Steaks would be a hit with them merely because it contained beef, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it too. The tender, well-seasoned beef mixed with perfectly crisp-tender vegetables and topped with ooey, gooey, melty Swiss cheese was just oh so perfect for a hot summer night. If only all beef recipes tasted as good as this I could easily see myself getting attached to this manly way of eating.

The ingredients:

Click here for printable recipe.

3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1-1/2 lbs. boneless sirloin steak
1 medium green pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium red pepper, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
paprika, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. butter
5-6 sandwich rolls (crusty rolls are good)
5-6 slices of Swiss, mozzarella, or muenster cheese

In hot oil (or on grill) brown the outside of the steak without cooking through. After browning cut steak into thin slices. Reheat oil (adding more if needed) in large skillet on medium heat; add thinly sliced steak. Season with paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. A minute or two before the steak is done cooking add the peppers and onions to the skillet, sauteing just until steak is cooked through and vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove from heat.

Split each roll and spread each half with butter, then toast lightly (either in oven or on grill). When bread is toasted top rolls with meat mixture and cheese; wrap tightly in foil. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Makes 5-6 servings.



Italian Sausage and Peppers with Pasta

Friday, August 28, 2009

This was another one of those recipes I found snooping through my Mom's cookbook cupboard while I was in Utah. I found this one on a loose sheet tucked into the back of a cookbook and knew immediately that Glen would love the heartiness of the sausage while I liked that the heavy meat is balanced out by the healthy pasta and vegetables. The kids loved it too. I found a similar recipe on Rachel vs. the Kitchen (without the noodles) and loved her idea of adding a marinara sauce in there with it too.

The ingredients:

Click here for printable recipe.

1-1/2 lbs. Italian sausages, about 12 links
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 green peppers, cored and thinly sliced
1 red pepper, cored and thinly sliced
2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
1 Tbs. dried Italian seasoning
1 lb. package rigatoni pasta, cooked according to package directions and drained

In a large skillet, saute the sausages in oil until browned. Removed sausages from pan and cut into 1-inch pieces. Set aside. Add garlic, onions, and peppers to same skillet. Cook on medium heat, stirring often, until peppers are softened slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, seasoning, and sausages to pan. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Toss sausages and peppers with pasta; place in bowl. Serve hot. Makes 6 servings.



Whole Grain Oatmeal Waffles

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My kids absolutely love having big breakfasts so much that my two older daughters will fight over who gets to make it. The busy-ness of the school year keeps it mostly to the weekends, but now in the summertime I've had to put my foot down and limit them to only a couple times a week. I felt like such a mean mom limiting their cooking time, but I found my waistline just wasn't handling the breakfast battles very well.
This whole-grain waffle recipe I found though is one you won't have to feel guilty about. It has almost no fat, is filled with healthy grains, and when topped with fresh fruit you've got yourself a healthy breakfast feast. And best of all--- my family LOVES them. They have absolutely no idea that they're healthy, they just know they taste good and fill them up! You need to try this simple recipe!

The ingredients:
Click here for printable recipe.

2 eggs, beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 Tbs. molasses
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
milk, as needed to thin batter

In a large bowl, mix eggs and buttermilk. Add oats and mix well. Stir in molasses and oil. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder; stir into the egg mixture. If batter becomes too thick, thin with a little milk.

Pour about 3/4 cup batter onto a greased preheated waffle maker. Bake according to manufacturer's directions. Serve hot, topped with fresh fruit and maple syrup or whipped cream.

To make pancakes: Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a hot greased griddle. Turn when bubbles begin to form on top of pancake. Yield 5 waffles (7-inches) or about 15 standard sized pancakes.



My Best Cake

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hi! Lara's Mom here. I used to make a similar cake many years ago and then lost the recipe. This is easier and different than the one I used to make, but is still very good.

The ingredients:
Click here for Printable Recipe.

1 German chocolate cake mix - make and bake
1 can sweetened condensed milk
16-17 oz caramel topping (I made mine from scratch--see recipe below)
1 carton (8-oz.) Cool Whip

5 Tablespoons Butter
1 Cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup half and half (I use milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla

For caramel topping: Heat butter and sugar over low heat until smooth. Add half and half and salt. Simmer 4 minutes. Add vanilla. Stir for a minute or so.

After baking German chocolate cake as directed, make holes in baked cake with wooden spoon handle.Pour sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping over warm cake.

Cool for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Cover with whipped topping. Leftovers (if you have any) need to be kept refrigerated. Enjoy.


BLT's with Avocado and Spicy Mayo

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Summer is wrapping up quickly and the kids have been trying to live up their last couple weeks of summer break (only two more weeks until school starts!) That means lots of play dates, afternoons at the pool, and back-to-school shopping (or just lots of driving for me). I found this recipe for BLT's with a spicy twist in a church cookbook and knew it was just the ticket for a busy summer night! The spicy mayonnaise in this kicked the flavor up a notch without overwhelming the kids with its spiciness. I also loved the addition of avocados which added some heartiness and a little extra healthy oomph to it. (Wow--I was worried I made the word "oomph" up, but my spell checker says it really is a word.) If you need a quick, easy, classic, and flavorful dinner then this is just the sandwich for you! This is also a perfect sandwich to make for one or two people. I told my sister Heather about it and she loved how easy it was to just throw just one together just for herself!
Click here for printable recipe.

The ingredients:

1 large garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp. chili powder
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
8 slices of hearty bread
2 ripe avocados, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
8 lettuce leaves, torn into pieces
1 package (12-oz.) bacon

To make the spicy mayo, scrape the garlic into a small bowl and stir in the chili powder, 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, and the mayonnaise. Then in a large skillet cook the bacon in 2 batches until crisp. Pour off the fat between each batch. Drain bacon on paper towels. While the bacon cooks, toast the bread (I had my kids do this). Slice the avocado and sprinkle with a few drops of lime juice. Spread 1 side of each piece of toast with the spicy mayo. Arrange the avocado slices on 4 pieces of the toast, pressing them firmly against the mayo. Arrange the bacon, tomatoes, and lettuce on the avocado slices. Top the sandwiches with the remaining toast. Cut the sandwiches in half on the diagonal and serve. Makes 4 servings.



Greek Yogurt Cupcakes (or Best Cupcakes Ever)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Best. Cupcake. Ever.

Do I need to say more? These unique cupcakes (from Conversations with a Cupcake) are simply the best cupcakes I've ever made. They're moist, unique, with a hint of lemon, and seriously out of this world with fresh strawberry frosting. Oh and don't skimp on the OIKOS yogurt. Just fork out the $2.49 and thank me later. Go. Bake. Eat. Enjoy.

The ingredients:
Click here for Printable Recipe.

3 egg whites
1 egg
1/2 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
juice of 1 fresh lemon
1 container (5.3-oz.) Stonyfield Farms OIKOS Honey Greek Yogurt (or other honey Greek yogurt)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 pkg. (3.4-oz.) vanilla pudding mix
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 cups flour

In a medium bowl, whip egg whites until stiff. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine egg, butter, and sugar. Beat until well creamed. Mix milk and lemon juice together, then pour curdled milk and yogurt into bowl with sugar mixture. Beat until well-mixed. Add the remaining ingredients (except the egg whites) and mix well. Gently fold in egg whites and spoon into prepared cupcake papers. Bake at 325° for 22-25 minutes. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Now don't forget the fresh strawberry frosting!



Wheat Berry Salad

Friday, August 21, 2009

I have these big buckets of wheat in my house that we got as food storage for a "rainy day". I used to always grind it into fresh flour to make homemade bread with, but I've found the older and busier my kids get, the less I actually get out my wheat grinder (or bake homemade bread). I found this recipe in a little recipe book a friend compiled and I was so excited to use my wheat in some other way than for flour. I loved the hearty texture, and look forward to trying it again and experimenting with other wheat berry recipes.

**NOTE: If you do not happen to have buckets of wheat sitting around your house, you can find wheat berries at your local natural food store. Our Whole Foods grocery store sells them in the bulk section for $1.29/lb. **
Click here for Printable Recipe.

The ingredients:
1 cup hard winter wheat berries
3 cups water
1 cup finely diced red onion
6 Tbs. olive oil, divided
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
3 scallions, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

Place the wheat berries and 3 cups of boiling salted water in a sauce pan and cook, uncovered over low heat for about 45 minutes or until soft. Drain.

Saute the red onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. In a large bowl, combine the wheat berries, onions, scallions, red pepper, carrot, salt, and pepper. Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes for the wheat berries to absorb the sauce. Season to taste and serve at room temperature.



Oatmeal Dinner Rolls

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This is a recipe I discovered while visiting my parents a few weeks ago. My Mom loves these whole grain rolls (she substitutes half of the flour with whole wheat flour), because they're still light and soft enough that they don't taste as heavy as other whole grain breads. They've got a soft, slightly chewy texture and the flavor the butter and brown sugar brings to them is unique and delicious! We served these to guests who eagerly gobbled them up and wanted to know the recipe. We were feeling kind of lazy when we made these, so we didn't put any effort into rolling them out or shaping them, but even still they're pretty in their own simple way.

Click here for printable recipe. 

The ingredients:

2-1/3 cups water, divided
1 cup oatmeal
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 Tbs. butter
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. active dry yeast
4-5 cups flour (I used half white, half whole wheat)

Directions:  In a saucepan, bring 2 cups water to boil. Stir in oats; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 1 minute.

Stir in brown sugar, butter, salt, and remaining water (1/3 cup). Transfer to a mixing bowl; let stand until mixture reaches 110-115 degrees ( I run my mixer to help cool it off). Stir in yeast. Add 3 cups flour; beat well. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; (or knead in mixer) and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; turn once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down; shape into 24 rolls. Place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. Makes 2 dozen.



Banana and Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My kids eat bananas like they're little monkeys, which means I buy bananas four or five pounds at a time. Although my monkeys kids usually eat them all up before it's even time to go back to the grocery store and get sad that we've run out, it's also not that uncommon that a few bananas go brown and mushy before their time at which point I quickly toss them straight in the trash. I know I could be more creative in using them up, but I just don't care for banana bread and freezer space is way too tight at our house to worry about saving monkey food. Plus it's not like bananas have feelings or anything....
One day my sister was visiting and got a little upset that I was wasting perfectly good mushy bananas, so she begged to make something with them. Now I may claim to be on a diet on any given day, but on any given day it is highly unlikely that I will ever turn down delicious treats...especially when they're made by someone else. So it was that Banana Whoopie Pies came to be. She used the "pie" recipe from King Arthur flour and the filling and glaze from another site (that I completely forgot to write down). They were out of this world delicious and now I'll be purposely buying extra bananas just so we can have this treat again!

The ingredients:
Click here for Printable Recipe.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups (3 medium) mashed over-ripe bananas
2 large eggs
2 cups whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur's white wheat flour)
1 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips (optional, we didn't use these)
3/4 cups chopped walnuts (optional, we didn't use these)

2 pkg. (8-oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment paper.

For the cookies: In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, and salt until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, and then the bananas. The mixture will look curdled; that's okay. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Whisk together the flour and baking soda; add to the banana mixture, mixing until evenly combined.
Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then mix for 1 minute more. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts just until combined.

Scoop the dough by the quarter cup for large cookies, and the tablespoon for small cookies. Allow plenty of space between them.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the tops spring back when lightly touched with your finger, and the edges are light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring the cookies to a rack to finish cooling completely before filling.

For the filling, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add sugar, vanilla, and peanut butter and mix until combined. Spoon mixture into a pastry bag with the end cut off. Pipe filling onto the flat sides of the whoopie pies and then top with another cookie. (We just used a plain old spoon for this job, rather than a pastry bag).

For the chocolate glaze, melt all ingredients in double boiler or a glass bowl in the microwave. Mix until smooth. Do not overheat. Drizzle over whoopie pies.



Cheese Tortellini with Corn-Scallion Sauce

Monday, August 17, 2009

Each Wednesday our local newspaper, the Washington Post, publishes a section totally devoted to one of my favorite subjects...FOOD! It reviews restaurants, spotlights local chefs, compares different brands of food, and of course has lots of recipes. While I enjoy reading this section, most of the time the recipes are just not my style so I just skim right over them. A couple of weeks ago though most of the recipes featured corn as the main ingredient and I ended up cutting out half of the section excited for all the new recipes I could try. I started off by making the corn broth which was the base for most of the recipes and while I did like the corny (hehe!) flavor it provided, I think it would've been just as good with plain vegetable broth.

This recipe was one that caught my eye right away for its kid appeal. It turned out a little more liquidy than I expected (based on their pictures), but the flavor on this vegetarian dish was great and as expected the kids loved the noodle and corn combination.

The ingredients:

Click here for Printable Recipe

4 tsp. butter
4 tsp. olive oil
8 scallions, white and light green parts, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cans (15-1/4-oz. each) whole kernel corn
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup corn broth ( click for link or just use vegetable broth)
1 package (19-oz.) frozen cheese tortellini
Salt, pepper to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the butter and oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter has begun to foam, add the scallions and corn; cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes, until the color of the corn becomes more intense.

Add the buttermilk and corn broth (or vegetable broth); bring to a boil, then add the tortellini and toss to combine. Cover and reduce the heat to medium; cook for about 4 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the heat.

Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Transfer to a wide shallow bowl and sprinkle the cheese on top, if desired. Makes 4 servings.



Zucchini Soup

Friday, August 14, 2009

I love fresh food straight from the garden, but alas I have a shady yard that will barely even grow grass, yet alone a bounteous garden. Over the eight years we've lived here in our home though I have found a little sunny spot in our front yard in which we've planted carrots, peppers, fresh herbs, and strawberries. Although it is a small space, my kids are in love with our tiny little garden. They run out there every day to check on the progress, to water it, and even occasionally they'll help me weed it without complaining.

Due to the miniature size of our garden, in the past I've mostly been consigned to buying in-season fruits and vegetables from the grocery store. Recently though my sister-in-law has started a produce co-op that totally ROCKS! She gathered a big enough group to be able to purchase in large quantities from a produce wholesaler. So now we get a wide variety of produce, at wholesale price, and we get to try things we've never tried before. Thanks Karey!

Zucchini is one of those things I think I'd heard too many jokes about. Why, when everyone always tries to get rid of it, would I ever want to purchase zucchini? However, one recent week after the co-op distribution, I suddenly found myself with the proverbial plethora of zucchini that everyone teased about and I was one of those people frantically searching for creative recipes to use them up. This Zucchini Soup recipe I found over at Sister's Cafe was DELICIOUS! My kids gobbled it up without complaint and we all went back for seconds. I made it again for my family in Utah and they also loved the simple, healthy, vegetarian meal. It's actually convinced me to BUY some zucchini on purpose so we can try this again.

The ingredients:
Click here for Printable Recipe.

1 cup chopped onions
2 Tbs. butter
3 cups sliced zucchini
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup half-and-half
Garnishments: Grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, crumbled bacon

In a large cook onions in melted butter until tender. Add sliced zucchini and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender (about 15 minutes). Add salt and pepper. Cool slightly. Pour mixture into blender and puree it. Stir in half-and-half (or milk). Return to saucepan and reheat, but do not boil. Garnish with grated cheese, sour cream, and crumbled bacon. Makes 4 servings.



Fresh Fettuccine with Roasted Chicken and Spinach

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I found this recipe tucked away in the back pocket of my Mom's cooking binder. The ingredient list looked intriguing and I was not disappointed with the results in the slightest. The flavor on this dish is FANTASTIC and I love the way it all came together--looks wise and taste wise. This one's definitely going in the keeper files and would be great for serving guests!

The ingredients:
Click here for Printable Recipe.

1 container (9-oz.) fresh fettuccine
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cups shredded roasted chicken (from 1 roasted chicken)
1 cup spinach, finely chopped
1 cup fresh arugula, finely chopped
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
Zest of one lemon
salt and pepper, to taste

Bring large pot of salted water to boil.

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, broth, and lemon juice and bring to a boil and reduce heat. Add the chicken and simmer just until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water just until tender (about 2 minutes).

Add the spinach, arugula, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, pine nuts, and parsley to the chicken. Toss in the pasta and mound in a large pasta bowl. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and lemon zest and serve hot.



Crunchy Cookie Sandwiches with Cream Cheese Chocolate Filling

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hey, AnnaLisa here. While my sister, Lara, is taking a little vacation from the blog, I thought I'd take this opportunity to type up one of the recipes that I made a while back. These cookies came from the Taste of Home book called, "Grandma's Favorites" which is a title I can relate to well. ;) I really like how unique these cookies are with their cornflake-y, crunchy cookie sandwich combined with the sweet creamy filling. My nieces and nephews really liked them too.

Click here for Printable Recipe.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup crushed cornflakes
1/2 cup flaked coconut

1 package (8-oz) cream cheese
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups (12-oz.) semisweet chocolate chips, melted

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Add oats, cornflakes, and coconut.

Shape into 1-inch balls and place 2-inches apart on greased baking sheets. Flatten with a glass dipped lightly in flour. Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

For filling, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the chocolate; mix well. Spread about 1 tablespoon on half of the cookies and top each with another cookie. Store in the refrigerator. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.



About This Blog

My name is Lara and while I'm definitely not a gourmet cook, I do love preparing tasty, healthy meals for my family. Finding new recipes to try and sharing the ones we've already fallen in love with is a passion I've had since college and the reason why I've started this blog! With five kids, I'm usually in a hurry, so you'll find most of these recipes kid friendly and simple to make.

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