Sausage and Potato Skillet

This is a quick dish that I know I can turn to after a hectic day because it takes very little thought and hits the table in a jiffy.  It is also made with pantry staples, so its great for times when I haven’t been able to menu plan or prep for the week.

Sausage and Potato Skillet

4 small red potatoes, cubed

3 tablespoons water

1 pound smoked kielbasa, cut into slices

1 small onion, coarsly chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped or sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

5 or 6 strips of bacon

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp ground dried thyme

lots of cracked black pepper

Place the cubed potatoes and water in a dish.  Cover tightly and microwave about 5 minutes on high or until tender.  Check and stir halfway thru.  Drain off water once they are done.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook the bacon until crisp.  Remove to a paper towel and then crumble.  Drain the fat from the skillet.

Add to the skillet the kielbasa, onion, pepper, and garlic.  Saute until onion is tender, then add the potatoes and saute another 3 minutes or until potatoes are slightly browned.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, thyme, and pepper. Then add it to the skillet.  Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered 3-5 minutes or until heated thru.  Top with the crumbled bacon and serve.


Finally!  I found one lonely package of basil at the store.   I guess I have never tried to buy basil at the store before {especially in the winter} because I grow my own in the summer.  It is one of the few herbs I can successfully grow in my garden!

Anywho, I was finally able to make a batch of pesto that I have been craving for a few weeks!  I love to use pesto to just simply coat some pasta for a vegetarian meal as I am showing here {gnocchi}.  You can add grilled chicken breasts to the pasta if you chose, but it is definitely wonderful without.  Pizza sauce is another great use for pesto.  And also, the pasta with pesto is great hot or cold.  Enjoy!


1 slightly packed cup of basil leaves

2 peeled garlic cloves

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 – 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

salt and a lot of black pepper

1/3 cup EVOO

Process the garlic, nuts, and basil in a food processor to make a paste.  Add the cheese and s&p and process some more.  Then stream in the EVOO while the processor is on.  Taste and adjust as needed with more s&p if needed.

If using as a pasta sauce, reserve some of the pasta’s cooking water to add as needed when mixing the pasta with the pesto.  It just makes for a smoother and evenly coated pasta dish.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I bet all wives have at least one thing that their husband requests they make that is just like their mom made (or their grandma, or whoever).  The husband will sometimes even get a copy of the recipe so that all the wife has to do it make it.  But, for whatever reason it still doesn’t turn out just right.

These cookies are that recipe in my world.  Tim’s grandma made these cookie and so there is no other chocolate chip cookie that can stand up to them.  To Tim, they are the ultimate chocolate chip cookie.  To me, oatmeal cookies have raisins in them, not chocolate.  But whatever, I’ll try to make them just as well.

And after each attempt (and fail), Tim says something like “did you mix them by hand or with the KitchenAid?  Grandma always mixed them by hand.”  Of course I used my mixer, its 2010!!  Or he’ll say, “did you remember the dash of cinnamon?”  Um, no that’s not written on the recipe card!  Or “did you use the right kind of oats?”  ???!!!  Frustrating!!

So, even though they never are just right for Tim, they are still pretty dang good!  They puff up in the oven, but flatten a lot as they cool, ending up a little crispy on the edges, and a little chewy in the center.  Very tasty even though they piss me off!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is exactly how the recipe reads:

1 cup shortening {I’ve used 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup Crisco before and all butter without much difference}

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, unbeaten

1 tsp hot water after eggs {huh?}

1 tsp vanilla

1.5 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 cups oats

1 package chocolate chips

Mix into cookie dough.  Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes or until brown.

Menu 2-21-10



Breakfast for Dinner

Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers {seen here}

Spaghetti and Meatballs


Fish on Friday

Chili Lime Cashew & Carrot Soup {seen here}

Things I want to bake:

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Enchilada Casserole

This is a really versatile dish inspired from a Pillsbury recipe booklet from the grocery check out lane.  You could use cooked chicken, beef, or pork.  I thought about adding beans and  I omitted the green onion and tomato topping.  This was a great and fast meal to whip up.


2 cups cut-up cooked chicken {I used 2 cups of ground beef that I cooked with onions and peppers}
1/2 cup salsa
1 can enchilada sauce
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
2 cups coarsely broken tortilla chips
4 medium green onions, sliced (1/4 cup)
1 medium tomato, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 cup shredded Cheddar


1. Heat oven to 350°F. In medium bowl, mix cooked meat, salsa, enchilada sauce and corn.
2. Place tortilla chips in lightly greased 8-inch square (2-quart) glass baking dish. Top with meat mixture. Sprinkle with onions, tomato and cheese.
3. Bake 30-40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. If desired, arrange additional tortilla chips around edge of dish.

Pizza Pasta Bake

This is a homemade version of a meal I prepared all the time while I was in college.  The meal I made at that time, came in a box and you just boiled the pasta, then stirred in the meat sauce, sprinkled on cheese from a packet and baked it. {*cough*Banquet Homestyle Bakes*cough*} I thought it was fantastic at the time and it easily served myself and my 3 roommates.  But looking back now, I’m sure it was full of preservatives and other “fake” ingredients.

So with this homemade version, I still get to take a trip down memory lane to my college days, but I feel better knowing what ingredients go into the meal.

Pizza Pasta Bake


1/2 pound ground beef {or ground sausage or turkey}

1/2 package of turkey pepperoni, coarsely chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

dash of red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1 cup tomato sauce {homemade sauce recipe found here}

2 Tbsp water

approx 1 heaping cup dry short pasta such as elbow macaroni {Sorry measurement is vague, but I just used 3 handfuls of macaroni – just call me Rachel Ray I guess!}

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided


Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a baking dish and set aside.

Boil water and cook pasta.

Meanwhile, brown the ground beef in a large skillet with the onion and peppers.   Cook until beef is no longer pink, then drain.  Return to skillet {off heat} and stir in the pepperoni, seasonings, 2 Tbsp cheese, tomato sauce, water, and cooked pasta.  Stir everything together and spread into prepared baking dish.  Top with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serves 4

Menu 2-15-09


I really want to make some freezer meals this week, so I’ll be preparing half for us to eat that night and freezing the rest.  My freezer is practically empty right now, so it is definitely time!




Jambalaya (will this freeze well?)

Baked Pasta with Hot Italian Sausage

Soup of some kind




Red Velvet Cupcakes

I made these for valentine’s day and they were super cute and delicious.  Red velvet isn’t my favorite cake flavor, but it is so fitting for valentine’s day!

Red Velvet Cupcakes



2-1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk

1 bottle (1 ounce) red food coloring {I used a little less than 1 full bottle}

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream, milk, food color and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Do not overbeat. Spoon batter into 30 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.  {I used 12 muffin cups, 4 mini heart shaped pans, and one medium sized heart shaped pan.}

3. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely. Frost with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

Beat 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened, 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened, 2 tablespoons sour cream and 2 teaspoons McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 1 box (16 ounces) confectioners’ sugar until smooth.

Pineapple Chicken

I think that most home cooks are constantly hunting for new ways to prepare chicken dishes.  I like to serve chicken at least twice a week and really try to prepare it a variety of ways to keep it from being boring.  Thankfully chicken is a really versatile meat.  I adapted this particular recipe from a Vera Bradley cookbook that was given to me by a former coworker.

I thought it was pretty tasty overall.  The pineapple flavor really wasn’t too strong, as I feared it would be.   I do think it was missing a little something, but I can’t put my finger on it.  Although I did omit the teaspoon of rosemary and the slices of lemon that were supposed to be added with the pineapple.  I don’t think that they were what I was missing.  So,  I’ll definitely make this again and will try to come up with what was missing. I will also either use less chicken or make more sauce next time.

Tim hasn’t tried it yet, so I can’t give his response…but I can probably guess that he won’t really like it.  He’ll eat it, but it probably won’t be his favorite.  Now that I have thought about it, I remember that he is not crazy about fruit and meat together.  Oh well!

One other thing I may do in the future is turn this into a grilled meal.  I’d like to try using a variation of the sauce as a marinade, then grill the chicken and pineapple.  I would probably make extra sauce as well to serve on the side in that case.  Tim would probably like it better grilled too.

Pineapple Chicken

3 or 4 chicken breasts, cut in half

one 20 oz can of sliced pineapple, drained and juices reserved

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 tsp of Dijon mustard

2 tsp of Worcestershire sauce

2 heaping tsp of corn starch

salt and pepper

{Again, the original recipe called for one tsp of rosemary and the slices of one lemon, but I omitted both.}


Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Season the chicken breast halves with salt and pepper on both sides.  Place in a hot skillet to brown on both sides for a couple of minutes. Then transfer to a large baking dish that has been sprayed with Pam.

Drain the pineapple and reserve the juice.   Set aside the pineapple slices.  Mix the juice with the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, rosemary, and corn starch.  Pour it over the chicken.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or just until chicken is done.  Remove from oven and add the slices of pineapple {and lemon if using} in among the chicken, basting everything with the sauce.  Return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Serve over rice.

Pork Chops with Beer and Bacon Gravy

I’m almost too embarrassed to post this because of how unhealthy it is, but what the hell.   I thought it was tasty, but Tim did not like it so I won’t be making it again.  I served it over couscous, but on the show Ray-Ray served it with boiled baby red-skinned potatoes that she dressed up with paprika.  I also cut the recipe in half.

Pork Chops with Beer and Bacon Gravy


{Source:  Rachel Ray @}

This is the full recipe:

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, just over 1-inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus a drizzle
  • 2 thick slices smoky bacon, diced 1/4-inch {even though I cut the recipe in half, I still used 2 slices of bacon}
  • 1 medium onion, diced 1/4-inch
  • 1 rounded tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 bottle amber to dark German beer
  • 1/2 cup stock
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish {I omitted because I put parsley in the couscous}


Season the chops liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chops and cook, turning once, until caramelized and the meat is just turning firm, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove to a platter and cover with foil, reserve.

Add a drizzle more oil to the pan, add bacon and brown for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the onions and saute over medium heat with the bacon until soft, 6 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle in flour, stir for 1 minute, then add the beer. Cook until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes more, then whisk in the stock. Remove from the heat and season with pepper. Pour the gravy over the chops, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

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