Food Glorious Food- Cheddar Baked Chicken

It’s been too long since I’ve shared a recipe (Because you know I’ve been having a love-hate relationship with my kitchen and all). One of the first Pinterest delights that I tried was a recipe my friend Cathy had pinned called Cheddar Baked Chicken. It is an absolutely amazing dish and always a hit at our house.  It might not be the most healthy because of the Ritz crackers and the sauce, but it sure does taste delicious and there are plenty of substitutes out there: check out this list for some great substitutions. While writing this, I decided I might just try a healthy alternative version of this next time I make this dish just for kicks and giggles.

4 Large Chicken Breasts
1/2-1 whole block Cheddar Cheese
1 Sleeve Ritz Cracker (or substitute)
1/2 cup milk
1 Egg
Any Spices you might like

For the Sauce:
1 Can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
1 TBS butter

Preheat your oven to 400°
Squish up your Ritz Crackers in the cracker sleeve and then dump the crackers crumbs into a bowl. (If you prefer to use a food processor have at it, I just view it as one more thing to clean up so I skip it.) Add salt, pepper and whatever spices you like to the crackers.
Shred your Block of cheese into another bowl.
Mix your milk and egg into a third bowl.
Grease a large glass baking pan.
Cut up your chicken breasts into about 3-4 pieces per breast.
Dip your pieces of chicken in the milk mixture, then the bowl of cheddar cheese. Press the cheese into the chicken, then dip into the crackers.  Lay the breaded chicken in the pan.  Repeat for all the chicken pieces.  Sprinkle any leftover cheese and crumbs on top of the chicken in the pan.
Cover the pan with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes until chicken is golden brown.

For the sauce:
Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until thoroughly heated. Pour over chicken (or in the case of little persons put on the side so they can dip.)

Pair with some veggies or a salad and you have a delicious meal you will be taking requests for in the future.


Simple Meals

I planned M-F on the meal menu this week and I desperately need to stop at the store for some fresh produce to go along with the main courses. . . Monday, was well, very Monday like, so when I left work the last thing I wanted to do was face the grocery store.  I had planned on making sausage as the main part of our meal last night, but was unsure of what I would be able to scrounge up for sides.  I ended up settling on kidney beans and peas. . . Talk about simple meals.  It took all of 20 minutes to prepare so we got an extra long outside play session in before dinner and I would not take back those extra 20 minutes of bouncing on the trampoline and toddler giggles for anything.  The sausage I cut into bite size pieces and threw in the skillet to warm.  I dumped a can of kidney beans in a pan with a little garlic and boiled some water for the frozen pieces. . .and I added about a tablespoon of butter, just for a touch of flavor.  Such an easy dinner.  I am happy to report the babe ate everything on his plate (with the exception of a few peas he just couldn’t manage to get on his fork) and then proceeded to steal some of MY kidney beans.  Dinner doesn’t have to be a lenthy complicated affair.

This dinner promted a discussion about cold foods we can eat during summer, as I believe kidney beans, cold on a salad are absolutely heavenly and a mom in my mommies group suggested cold kidney beans as a snack for toddlers, what a great idea!  Her suggestion started the wheel are churning in my head for healthy cold summer salads.  My hubby isn’t a big fan of mayonaise based pasta salad and neither am I, I’m going to see how he likes a vinegrette based one, but I also am thinking bean salads, maybe broccoli salads, I’m sure the possibilities are endless. . . I will definetly report back on what I come up with but any suggestions are more than welcome.


Clean Eating Taco Salad

Instead if normal tacos we have been eating a taco salad version of tacos as of late. It’s delicious and simple, right up my alley and you can modify to include whatever veggies are a hit in your house.

In a skillet brown your meat (we use ground turkey but you could use ground beef, venison or whatever meat you like).  When the meat is browned add in Taco Seasoning and about 1/8-1/4 cup of water and let simmer for 10-20 minutes so the meat sucks up the flavor.  Add this point I also like to throw in onions, bell peppers and a can of black beans to the meat mixture.  I also boil some corn kernels while the meat is simmering.  While the food is stewing on the stove I grate some cheese and cut avocados and lettuce.  If I have any taco shells I’ll heat them up.  (If I don’t I just use tortilla chips.)

To put together make a bed of lettuce, add your meat mixture, the corn, then garnish with tomatoes, avocado and cheese.  We also throw Salsa (and maybe a little sour cream) in the mix to.  Crumble up some taco shells or tortilla chips for some crunch factor and Bam . . . Clean Taco Salad.

Easy, peasy.  Cheers and Happy Eating!


Happy Dinners

My husband and I were discussing how enjoyable dinner has been lately.  One of the main reasons dinner has been enjoyable is that we have been working really hard at avoiding snacks before dinner with the little one.  I am not a snacker so this isn’t hard for me, but my husband likes to munch when he gets off of work. The little one has a snack in the car on the way home from school but if he get’s home and sees his Daddy eating he wants to try that snack out too!  If Daddy lets him then dinner can turn into a grumbly affair where the babe takes two bites and proclaims he’s “all done” and stands up in his chair waiting for us to take him out because he’s full on snacks and doesn’t want to eat anything else.

My husband and I had a discussion about snacking in front of the babe over a week ago.  Okay it wasn’t really a discussion it was a forced educational experience for my husband.  I pointed out to him what I just explained above.  He grumbled a little but also stated he understood.  I explained to my husband that he could still snack himself, he would just have to become stealthier about it and not let the babe see him snacking.

If you think institution of no snacks before dinner is easy, let me warn you it can be a little painful at times.  A few times the babe would go to the refrigerator or cupboard and ask for milk or a snack while I was in the kitchen preparing dinner. After his one after school snack I now have to tell him NO to any other snack (although I will let him steal a tomato, or a bite of cheese or other tidbit while I’m cooking if he’s “helping” me cook) .  I tell him no and he moves into totally meltdown mode with protests, crying, and laying on the kitchen floor. He is quite stubborn and sometimes these antics can last for quite a long while, but I try my hardest to mean No when I say No so I let him carry on with the world is ending routine.

I’ve also instituted dessert for the little one.  If he eats his dinner than he is allowed to have dessert which can be anything from a cupcake or cookie, to fruit or his current favorite yogurt raisins.  If he doesn’t eat a good portion of his dinner he does not get dessert.  I leave his dinner on the table for a while in case he had a bad night and if he asks for dessert I tell him he can’t have any because he didn’t eat his dinner, but if he’d like to eat some of his dinner then he can have dessert.  This usually does the trick and he will let me feed him what’s on his plate until I’m satisfied and hand over dessert.

These few little changes have made our dinner routine so much happier.  I challenge you to try for a week and see if it works for you too!

Cheers and Happy Eating!

Garlic Parmesan Shrimp

This recipe is dedicated to my girlfriends who are not big into the culinary arts.  My friends seem to either fall into one of two categories. . . The Cooks. . .These are the ladies who seem to know everything there is to know about the kitchen and make cooking and all the strange terms and sometimes gadgets involved seem like a breeze,  and The Non-Cooks. . . these are the ladies who struggle in the kitchen, who don’t want to be in the kitchen and who have perfected the art of take out.  I used to be a Non-Cook.  I didn’t turn myself into a Cook until I was almost in my 30’s, (and even then I didn’t get decent until I learned the law of the budget which meant cooking meals at home and not ordering out or going out more than once a week if I’m lucky).

These shrimp are delicious, easy and can be used as an hor d’oeuvre at a party or be used as the base for a main dish.

Butter/Olive Oil/ (or other vegetable oil depending on your preference)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Rise your shrimp and pat the water off the shrimp, or leave the shrimp sitting out in a strainer for a little bit until they dry off some.  When the shrimp are dry throw them in a bowl with about two TBS of olive oil/butter, 2-4 cloves of diced garlic (I squish two cloves through the garlic press), about a 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper to taste and a few shakes of basil/oregano/parsley (you can choose one, two or all three I prefer all 3 and a few shakes plus some more).  Mix the shrimp around so all the flavors get equally distributed then transfer the shrimp in a single layer onto a baking sheet (covered in tin foil for easy clean up).  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until shrimp or pink and firm.  Squeeze the other half of lemon on the shrimp when you pull them from the oven.

For a more detailed recipe go to:
(And then stop and browse her other yummy recipes!)

If eating as an appetizer mix up some cocktail sauce (that would be ketchup and a dab of horseradish sauce) and go to town.

There are several ways to use this as part of a main course for dinner, these are two of my favorites.

Option One: Lay the shrimp on top of a bed of pasta with alfredo sauce (and add a vegetable like broccoli or peas to round it out).

Option Two:  Stir fry some vegetables (Use what’s in your fridge spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots,  onions, whatever you have!  Throw the veggies in a skillet with some butter or olive oil and maybe some spices to taste). Boil some rice, mix it all together and turn it into yummy parmesan shrimp stir fry!

Simple.  Yum.  Happy Eating!

I Forgot to Take Something Out to Thaw. . .AGAIN!!!

If you’re anything like me you experience occasional bouts of forgetfulness. If there is one area I excel at in the forgetfulness category it is when it comes to remembering to take out something to thaw for dinner. Since this can become a problem, (especially if you are a repeat offender), I’m going to share with you how I deal with this problem. First and foremost I always have a few items around for back up! Most of my back up meals can be added to your grocery list for just a few dollars or you might already have the ingredients and just need help putting them together.

Back up Option #1: Breakfast for dinner can be a great back up plan as most people have a few eggs lying about and even the ingredients to make pancakes or waffles (even if you don’t have any pre-bought mix a little flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, eggs, milk and butter and now you do have mix.) Bacon or sausage or fruit/veggies on the side and just like magic you have a meal.

Back up Option #2: A quiche or frittata in a pie dish (if you don’t keep around a frozen pie crust or are scared to make one from scratch). The main ingredients are eggs, milk, cheese, maybe flour and whatever veggies (or meat) you have and want to add to the mix.  This option takes a little longer in cook time, but it will still get you a hot and healthy meal that doesn’t require a trip to the grocery store.

Back up Option #3: Bean and Cheese Quesadillas.  I always keep tortilla’s around, add a can of refried beans, some cheese and any veggies you might have on hand (if you have any left over meat from a previous meal you can chop it up and make this a non-vegetarian meal), and you have a meal. This one is great if you’re in a pinch for time or if you have a toddler that goes from fine to starving in 2.2 seconds.

Back up Option #4: Pesto Pasta/Spaghetti Aglio Olio.  Who doesn’t have some dried pasta laying about in the pantry?  Cook your pasta and add some pesto sauce. (This is a great item to keep in the fridge or freezer) OR if you don’t have Pesto you can add Olive Oil, Garlic, Pepper, Salt and Red Pepper Flakes and magically you have Spaghetti Aglio Olio (which is just fun to say). With both of these you can eat just pasta or spice it up with some veggies.

Back up Option #5: Fish Sticks. (We don’t do frozen chicken fingers at my house but you could do them instead of Fish Sticks). Maybe not the healthiest of options but the babe adores fish sticks and getting to have a little tiny bowl of sauce to dip in. It’s also super quick, easy, and low stress.  Pair off with some steamed veggies and a quick meal is made.

Back up Option #6: If you have some sides at home and just forgot to take the meat out to thaw, you can always pick up just the meat on your way home and subtract the money from next week’s budget since you have it on hand for later.  This should take at most 10 extra minutes to your commute, which isn’t much to sacrifice to avoid fast food take out.

Now, that being said while you’re making dinner tonight, take out tomorrow’s meat to thaw.  If you do that you will have to refer to this page one less time.

Cheers and Happy Eating!

Crockpot Pork

Being a working mom is a delicate balance.  Cooking is a necessary evil when you want to eat healthy and you live on a budget.  While I have made peace with cooking for the most part, sometimes I go through stints where I don’t want to have anything to do with it.  Luckily for me I own a crock pot!  One of my favorite simple crockpot recipes is crock pot pork.

All it takes is 1 pork loin, 1-2 cups of water, and your choice of spices, and veggies (this of course is optional).

Put the pork loin in the crockpot and generously sprinkle on some spices (garlic, pepper, chili powder, tony’s, whatever you like) add enough water to cover the pork loin about ¾ of the way (about 1-2 cups depending on the size of your crockpot). I also like to throw in onion, red pepper, carrots and potatoes so I have a fully cooked meal when I get home.

Easy Peasy.

Cheers and Happy Eating.

Salmon with Asparagus and Couscous

I am far from what anyone would call a cooking genius.  I honestly didn’t even really learn how to cook until I was almost 30.  I asked my husband on numerous occasions if he was certain he wanted to marry me because of all the women he had dated I was probably the one with the least culinary ability. This knowledge of the past women in his life made me feel inferior, so I buckled down and taught myself how to cook.  I started with a few recipes here and there and soon I found I could borrow this and that from a recipe and then jazz it up to my standards.  I found that chopping vegetables can really be rather peaceful.  I found that I didn’t mind cooking after all, (really it’s the cleaning part I am not so fond of).  While I still find myself googling terms my more advanced culinary friends like to throw around to impress (or confuse) me,  I have learned that some of the most flavorful meals I have cooked for my family have also been some of the simplest.  Here is one of my favorites.

Salmon with Asparagus and Couscous

Prep Time 15 minutes  Cook time 35 minutes (these are approximate as when you have a little person tugging on your pant legs at any given moment sometimes the prep takes a little longer)

For the Salmon

Place a piece of tinfoil in a baking dish long enough to wrap around the salmon.  Place the salmon in the tinfoil.  Drizzle a little Olive Oil over the Salmon (for those of you more technical about 2 TBS),  squeeze in half a lime, a few crushed garlic cloves, some salt and pepper, some basil and whatever other spices you may prefer, close the tin foil and pop in the oven.  Cook at 425° for 35 minutes

For the Asparagus

Wash and cut off ends of Asparagus.  Place the asparagus on a baking sheet. (For easier cleaning you could cover the baking sheet with tin foil.  Sometimes I do this and sometimes I think, no the environment girl, don’t be lazy, 2 minutes to clean the pan) Drizzle with olive oil, crush a few garlic cloves, squeeze the other half of the lime and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  I put this in the oven when the Salmon has cooked for about 15 minutes so the Asparagus cook time is about 20 minutes (we like ours a little on the crunchy side)

For the Couscous

Follow the directions on the package.

Voila, a healthy, simple and relatively easy meal that even my non cooking sister can make, and is toddler approved.

Cheers and Happy Eating!