Archive for March, 2011

March 22, 2011

Sneaky Chef: P B & J muffins; Hi-Fi Fish Sticks

I am very behind on updating this blog – my apologies! We have now made four different Sneaky Chef recipes, and here are reviews of two:

1) PB&J muffins


I used almond butter instead of peanut butter, as we haven’t introduced W (age 2) to peanuts yet. I also used what I thought was fairly thick jam (Polaner All Fruit), but as you can see, it still melted into the muffins quite a lot. I also made 12 muffins instead of the 8 the recipe called for, since that’s what’s in a normal muffin pan.  These were pretty darn yummy. KG loved making them – she helped stir, put the batter in the muffin pan, and put the jelly, too.

These muffins are (not surprisingly) super-filling. We had them for breakfast before church and no one complained about being hungry until lunch – a definite win in my book!

2) Hi-Fi Fish Sticks


I owe this meal to In the Kitchen with Audrey – I liked her idea so much I had to try it. I did, however, switch things around. I baked the fish and fried the hush puppies. The fish sticks were good – everyone really liked the breading, which contains ground almonds. The hush puppies, which I made with chopped spinach, were a huge hit.

The surprise win of the meal was the salad – the kids went nuts for baby spinach. KG thinks it’s basil, which she loves, and really likes that each leaf has a “handle.” We’ve had spinach several times since, and both kids still are enjoying it!

March 18, 2011

Sneaky Chef: Lite Mac & Cheese

I knew I’d be very busy this week, so my goal when planning the menu was to make a lot of stuff ahead or toss stuff in the crock pot.

Yesterday, I went the crock pot route with a traditional St. Patrick’s menu, but today I used some of the items I made ahead earlier in the week.

When pondering make-ahead items, I stumbled on a blog entry talking about the Sneaky Chef. Most of the S.C. recipes call for make-ahead items, so that worked perfectly for us this week.

Tonight, we gave this one a try.

Not only is it a great make-ahead meal, I made it in parts. First the purees, which I then refrigerated. Then, this morning I measured out what was needed for the sauce into a pot and put that in the fridge. So at dinner, all we had to do was make the pasta, heat the sauce, and mix them together.

To say this dish was a hit would be an understatement. The kids wanted seconds and thirds. It tastes exactly like box mac & cheese, but without all that yucky processed cheese and with veggies! We’ll make again… and double the recipe next time.

March 15, 2011

Culture clash sandwich


Came home late Sunday night, so didn’t have time to go grocery shopping this weekend. What to do for Monday night dinner?

I dug some ground beef out of the freezer, flipped through the cookbook to the meatloaf section, and found a recipe that met these requirements: a) I could throw it together fairly quickly for the slow cooker and b) I had most of the ingredients.

This “meatloaf” called for salsa instead of the tomatoes/ketchup/sauce components, plus some chopped raw onion & oregano. It also called for oats instead of breadcrumbs, but I didn’t have oats, so I used panko instead. Worked great.

I also added some cheddar cheese on top after the meatloaf had come to 165, and let that melt on; then poured a bit more salsa on top (as per the directions).

The final result was this “culture clash” meatloaf sandwich. Delicious! The kids had their meatloaf with polenta and topped everything with more cheese.

March 9, 2011

Not-my-Nana’s Lasagna


(Had to take a bite before snapping the pic. Too yummy!)

As I was flipping through my cookbook while doing menu planning last weekend, I happened across the America’s Test Kitchen lasagna recipe.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m Italian (half, actually). So I should be able to make rockin’ lasagna without a recipe. But I can’t. I’ve tried. And as much as I’m sure my Nana would kill me for not remembering how she made lasagna, I don’t. Sigh.

This recipe seemed pretty easy… it even called for no-boil lasagna noodles. Now, whenever I’ve made lasagna before, I’ve always used traditional noodles, par-boiling them and then trying to make nice neat layers with sticky wet pasta. Not my forte. No-boil noodles seemed like cheating. Well, I have to say that this is one cheat I’m going to use from now on.

N0-boil noodles are so easy to use, it’s ridiculous. First off, they aren’t a giant sticky glob that has to be unraveled, and which then rips into shreds. They are nice even planks. Second, they don’t have those curly edges (at least the ones we bought didn’t) which makes layering even easier. Finally, they are perfectly sized to cook within a 9×13 pan.

I made half beef and half spinach lasagna – carefully segregating the parts as Lent is here. Just finished a piece of the spinach section for my Ash Wednesday lunch, as a matter of fact. Which is the best thing about lasagna – not only is it the classic make-ahead meal, it re-heats wonderfully.

I think, thanks to my new friends the no-boil noodles, lasagna is going to be making a regular occurence at our dinner table.

March 7, 2011

Chicken Cordon Bleu Burgers

I’ve been hankering to make chicken burgers for the past few weeks.

Last week, I finally found a recipe that I liked and could be adapted to fit what we had around:

Here’s my modified version, which was a massive success over here. I’ve got to get faster taking those photos!


  • 2 tbsps prepared yellow mustard
  • 2 tbsps honey
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons papricka
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 6 slices deli ham
  • 6 slices provolone cheese
  • 6 whole wheat hamburger buns


  1. Preheat the oven’s broiler, and set the oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source. Whisk together yellow mustard and honey in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Mix together ground chicken, onion powder, papricka and garlic salt. Form into six burgers.
  3. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat; coat with non-stick cooking spray. Cook burgers until browned on bottom. Turn chicken, and top with a slice of ham and a slice of cheese. Continue to cook until the burgers are cooked though and the cheese is melted.
  4. Place buns, cut side up, under broiler. Toast until lightly browned.
  5. Top each chicken cordon bleu burger with a spoonful of honey-mustard sauce, and serve on toasted buns.

General notes: The kids didn’t go for the ham, cheese or sauce, but loved the plain burgers. J and I liked the whole combo together.

March 5, 2011

Turnip chips redux


As promised in my original post on turnip chips, here is a photo from the 2nd batch, shown as part of today’s lunch.

This batch wasn’t quite as pretty… I cut them a bit thicker and they took longer to cook. Ah well, live and learn. They were still delish!

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March 3, 2011

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter


From my Twitter:

Italian genes breed true. Kids favorite meals this past week: gnocchi (one of W’s first 150 words) and polenta. Love it!

When I posted that, my Italian bro-in-law said I should try making my own gnocchi. “It’s easy,” he said.

Well, I couldn’t let that challenge pass, could I?

I also love sweet potato gnocchi and figured if I was going to make pasta, I’d make one of my favorite kinds. I found this recipe:

Of course, I had a couple technical difficulties.

1: I don’t have a ricer. So I whipped the potatoes with the stand mixer, then switched to the dough hook when I added the rest of the ingredients.

2: I thought it would be fun to let the kids roll the dough into “snakes” with me before I cut it into gnocchi. I am not sane. W tried to eat the dough, pulled little bits off and scattered them all over, ran over to hug Daddy covered head to toe in flour. KG thought the best part was coating her dough in the flour on the counter. But eventually we did get the dough rolled out and cut up.

I made a simple brown butter for the sauce, which I tossed with both the pasta and the broccoli. The sausage is chicken/turkey Italian from Wegmans.

Dinner was a huge hit – W had four servings of gnocchi and 1.5 sausages. Will definitely make again!