Monday, March 29, 2010

Spinach artichoke casserole

This was a recent throw together meal that turned out really well. It was supposed to be chicken and rice, but without any rice in the house... Well, that wasn't going to happen. The very idea of a late afternoon run to the grocery store with two preschoolers---it strikes fear into my heart. Having those two crazy men around means that I'm getting very good at both preparing ahead and substituting for any ingredients that I don't have. ~smiles~ The grocery store is no longer a place of quiet and refuge. ~dies laughing and picks self up from floor~ But, they do make my life interesting.


Spinach artichoke casserole

2 cups cooked chicken, chopped or shredded

1 lb spaghetti noodles, cooked (save 1 cup of the cooking water)

1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

10 oz spinach, blanched (this was spinach I had blanched and frozen ahead)

2 T butter

4 T flour

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup milk

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus extra for the top

Melt butter and add flour to make a roux. Add broth and milk to roux, whisking all the time, until thick and bubbly. Add cheese until it melts. Season to taste with salt and pepper (go easy on the salt if your broth is salted, because the cheese is salty as well).

Mix white sauce, chicken, artichoke hearts, and spinach together. If mixture is too thick, thin with a bit of the pasta cooking water. Place in a 9x13 dish. Top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 until bubbly and browned on top, around 30-45 minutes.


This post is part of Bedlam and Beauty's Tasty Tuesday. Lots of great ideas over there. Check it out!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

In season burritos

We used to live in a great, trendy, hip sort of town. Ah, it was great.

Too bad there are no jobs there.

But I digress.

The town had an awesome little trendy, "farm to table" type restaurant that had an interesting twist on the food. Everything was cooked with a Latin and/or Caribbean feel. We always left wanting more, more, more of their food.

So, these days, we live in an area populated with many, many Latin restaurants. I could eat authentic Columbian, Peruvian, Salvadorian, or Mexican food any day of the week. And, while I love those places, it's not quite the same as Salsas. Since I was craving the food last week, I had to make it myself.

The burritos turned out very well. Enjoy!

*as a disclaimer* This recipe fed both my husband and me. My boys ate cheese quesadillas this night. I think one tasted his collards, both snubbed the potatoes (as usual), and neither ate the chicken (also as usual). More for us!

Potato, collard, and chicken burritos
1 chicken breast, roasted, meat removed from bone and shredded
1 potato, cubed and roasted (400 for 45 minutes until brown and crispy)
1 lb collards, washed and cut into strips (or buy the prepackaged ones)
4 cloves garlic
1 T oil
red pepper flakes
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 lime
1/2 onion, chopped
4 oz monterey jack cheese, shredded
flour tortillas (this made 5 burritos for us)

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed skillet. Add garlic cloves and red pepper flakes to taste and allow to brown slightly (30 seconds). Add collards and stir to coat in oil. Once collards are all coated, add about 1/2 cup of water, and cover skillet to cook greens through. Cook collards to desired doneness. (We like about 15 minutes) Heat tortillas in cast iron skillet until warm. Build burritos with collards, potatoes, shredded chicken, jalapeno, juice of lime, onions, cheese, and cilantro to taste. Serve with hot sauce (we like Valentina). Enjoy!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Date night, simple style

Sometimes, you go with an old faithful. The one that never lets you down. Week in, week out. Still yummy, still special, still fun.

So, that's what this week's date night was all about.

Cranberry spritzers.

And calorie-filled take-out.

Throw in a game of Monopoly, and we're transported right back to the last vacation we took without babies (where the TV was broken, and a Monopoly game saved the week).

Ah, good times. So, bring on the old faithful.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Making dumplings

I recently got to take 3 cooking classes at our local international market. A class on eggrolls, on Chinese Hot Pot, and a class on dumplings. Now, for most of my life, ask me about dumplings, and I'm going to go on and on about my aunt Mitzi's fabulous chicken and dumplings. I'm dumpling challenged, so I tend to buy the frozen ones. But, my aunt Mitzi's dumplings are something of a legend.

I digress.

The Chinese Southern Belle (this is her mom) does not make dumplings like aunt Mitzi. Not at all.

But, oh, the dumplings she does make. Yum!! They were so good.

Evidently, it is important to have dumplings that stand tall and don't slump. I think I got it down. I've bought the ingredients, and I plan on trying my hand at them this weekend. I can't wait!

And, if they are a failure, well, there are always frozen dumplings in the freezer for "real" chicken and dumplings.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The generosity of others

Usually, I pick the drinks on date night. I like seeing what I can come up with, and let's face it...I get a lot of praise and admiration for my drinks, but the Tomato King would probably be fine with just plain old seltzer, even on Saturday nights.

Me? Not so much.

So, this week, he was very generous, and he made the drinks. We had....get ready for it....


Man, I love that boy.

Thanks to the very generous mark downs at my local store, we had these beautiful salads.

And, thanks to my generous mother, who was "cleaning out the freezer and just happened upon these steaks". Hey, mom, I noticed that the date on them was only a week old. But, I love your generosity nonetheless!!

These yummy roasted sweet potatoes completed the meal.

I love it when a date night comes together beautifully. Celebrating our marriage in a tangible way. Week after week. Day after day. Even when my toddlers are crazy, and my husband has worked too many late nights. At the end of the week, I'm still really happy to be living my life. And, if that's not what it's all about, then I don't know what is.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Weekly meal plan

Ah, Friday, and payday, and the start of another meal plan.

In my last 2 week cycle, I really saw the blessings of God. I took a meal to a friend with a new baby, entertained my inlaws for 3 days, bought all our regular groceries, and I still ended up with $5 left at the end of the week! So, rejoice with me that my money stretched so far. And we didn't even notice it at all. Not one little bit. How fun is that??!?

This week, I'm planning to cash in a gift certificate my husband won at Christmas. I'm picking up my honey baked ham on Sunday afternoon, so that'll be a few suppers, and it should provide lunches for much of the week as well.

Friday: black bean soup over rice

Saturday: eggs, toast, grits (breakfast), IKEA $1 meatballs (lunch), Longhorn takeout (supper--using up another Christmas gift card)

Sunday: bagels (breakfast), ham sandwiches, maybe soup if we get home in a timely manner (lunch), pasta with ricotta and broccoli rabe, beet salad (supper)

Monday: honey baked ham, creamed corn, green salad

Tuesday: kofta kabobs, hummus, pita bread, tzatziki sauce

Wednesday: spaghetti ham pie, salad

Thursday: salmon croquettes, rice, some sort of veggie

As always, orgjunkie has a huge party with lots of bloggers and their meal plans every Monday. Check it out!

Monday, March 1, 2010


I'm very, very Protestant. My three year old is in the midst of the many "whys", and we have a little routine when he asks why something is that something.

"why are you protestant?"

"Well, buddy, I was born protestant. My mother was protestant. My father was protestant. I was born this way, and I'll die this way. I'm a protestant."

All that to say, growing up, Lent was some sort of foreign concept. Something those people did. With the chief definition of those people being, well, Yankees, of course.

Somewhere in high school, I got interested in Lent, though, and I figured out that it was a fast of sorts. And, I tried it out. I think the first few years were about just doing it because I could. Over the years, most years, I've fasted from something during the Lenten season. I'm still not completely sure of all this Lent stuff, but these days, it's a good time for me to fast and pray and draw closer to God. All good things.

I've talked my sweet husband into fasting along with me, too.

This year, I gave up, wait for it... Cokes!! As any reader of this blog can tell you, I love cokes. And, being from the south, "cokes" is a category that includes anything with bubbles. So, I'm bubble-less for 40 days. Sounds silly, but I really do enjoy my carbonated beverages. ~smile~ And, for me, one of the big parts of fasting is a bit of a continual reminder that I'm giving something up and an opportunity to replace that object with prayer.

So, instead of enjoying a coke during naptime, I'm enjoying some quiet time with God. Instead of strapping my babies in the backseat and rushing to Sonic for a happy hour drink before the 4:00 cut-off time, I'm throwing up a flare prayer to help me make it through the afternoon.

And, it's been a sweet time.

This year, Mike gave up sweets (oh, my!), but we also decided to do something new. We are fasting from meat on Fridays. Technically, this isn't that hard for us. We almost always eat meat-less at least one day a week. We like beans, and this isn't a huge hardship. But, for us, the beauty has been in the joint fast. It's been surprising to me to feel so connected to him in this time of fast.

We've fasted before, but giving up different things. To us, there's just something different this time about giving up the same thing. I love this journey, and the turns and twists it takes us on. Always learning something new. Figuring out a little bit more about "kingdom come" and a little bit more about marriage. Sometimes together. And sometimes without a lot of pain on the way there.

Always a good thing.