Like many families around the world, when it comes to holidays, we all have our traditions. Growing up for me, it was going out for Easter lunch with my mom’s side of the family and later that night dinner with my dad’s side. As we grew older it started to change to eating dinner at home with mom and dad then desert at my aunt’s house. Things change as the kids get older, but being with family is and always has been at the core of my family holidays.
Being far away from my family, the holidays can sometimes be a little sad, so my husband and children pretty much let me cook what ever I want. I stick with my tradition of honey ham for Christmas and Easter and my roasted turkey for Thanksgiving. Nothing crazy simple and elegant.
Well this year I decided to rock the boat. Crazy! Rack of Lamb! Yup, that’s right! I tried cooking rack of lamb for Easter lunch with no back-up plan, so if it sucked ,we were eating peanut butter and jelly. I spent a week looking up recipes and watching videos to see how the pros do it. And let me tell you, that made it even worse. No two recipes were the same. Even the temperature and amount of time kept changing. How was I going to make this and have it come out perfect? Answer: do what I always do, combine recipes and hope for the best.
My son, who is usually done eating after round one, ate three lamb chops before finishing his mashed potatoes. And my girls who would normally trim every ounce of fat off their meat, ate everything without hesitation. I would say it was a hit. The lamb turned out medium-rare and tender. It just melted in our mouths, and the fresh herbs made a world a difference. We may have found our new Easter tradition.
Rack of Lamb
- 2 racks of lamb (1 1/2 lbs each)
- 2 Tbs fresh chopped thyme
- 2 Tbs fresh chopped rosemary
- 1 Tbs fresh chopped basil
- 1 Tbs fresh chopped parsley
- 1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs, I used old french bread and pulsed it in a food processor
- 1/2 cup brown mustard
- 1/2 Tbs minced garlic
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Pre-heat oven 375˚F.
- In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat.
- In a medium bowl mix freshly chopped herbs and breadcrumbs. Set to the side.
- Season each rack of lamb with salt and pepper on both sides. Then place lamb in skillet and brown on all sides. Remove from heat and place on cookie sheet. Repeat for this step for second rack of lamb. Remember in the words of Gordon Ramsey, “No color, no flavor!”
- In a small bowl combine garlic and brown mustard. Using a pastry brush, brush all over both racks of lamb.
- Once coated with the mustard sprinkle the breadcrumb-herb mixture over the entire rack of lamb. Repeat for second rack of lamb.
- Cover the ribs of the lamb with aluminum foil to help prevent burning.
- Make sure to place your oven rack so your lamb sits directly in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping half way through. This will get you a medium-rare lamb. You can adjust the time to get the doneness you want, just be careful not to over cook the lamb.
- Remove from oven and wrap with a loose foil tent. Let rest for 15 minutes. This will help get the juices back into the meat.
- To serve the lamb chops, cut in between the bones.
This was the finished lamb before the kids started eating. Look at the gorgeous pink center.
Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. In cuisine, alla cacciatora refers to a meal prepared “hunter-style” with tomatoes, onions, herbs, and sometimes wine. Cacciatore is popularly made with braised chicken (pollo alla cacciatora) or rabbit (coniglio alla cacciatora). Basically the hunters would use what they could gather in the woods, and use gamey meats like rabbit, venison, etc. I will have mine without Thumper and Bambi please.
I am not really sure of how chicken was introduced, though one story is that if the hunter returned home empty handed his wife would go out back and kill a chicken and add it to the vegetable stew.
Another story is that the chicken got into the hunter’s vegetables like carrots, onion, and celery. And when the hunter caught the chicken, he became the dinner for the hunter and his family.
There are so many different variations of this dish based upon ingredients available in specific regions. For example, in southern Italy, cacciatore often includes red wine, while northern Italian chefs might use white wine. Some variations include bell peppers and mushrooms mixed in with the vegetables. I wish I had mushrooms on hand when I made this meal, the sauce would have gone great with the flavors of the mushrooms.
Chicken Cacciatore – “Hunter Stew”
- 2-3 lbs chicken, I used boneless/skinless thighs and breasts
- 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium red onion, thinly sliced root to tip
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup white or red wine, I used red wine.
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 ts salt & pepper
- 1 ts dry basil (or 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped)
- 1 ts dry parsley (or 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped)
- 1 cup flour
- 3-4 large carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stocks, chopped
- 1 Tbs Italian seasoning
- In a large heavy pan heat 2 tablespoons of oil.
- In a large bowl mix together flour, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Once everything is combined coat chicken pieces on both sides. Place chicken in the hot oil and cook 5-6 minutes on both sides. Once chicken is done remove from pan.
- In the same pan that the chicken was cooked it add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook until the onions are tender. Add the parsley and stir to combine.
- Slowly add the chicken stock to pan. Using a spatula deglaze the pan. Bring to a slow boil.
- Add in the 1/2 cup wine. Bring back to a boil. Boil on medium-high for 5 minutes.
- Return the chicken to the pan and continue to cook until the chicken is completely cooke all the way, about 30-40 minutes.
We served ours over white rice. You can serve it over pasta, rice or potatoes. I hope that you enjoyed this little trip to Italy as much as we did. What country will our taste buds take us to next time?
Besides chocolate my other addiction is Pinterest. If you ever look at my boards they are filled with crafts, food, clothes, gardening, and whatever else hits my fancy late at night. LOL
During one of my late night scrolling I saw this recipe with a flank steak and feta cheese. I hate feta cheese, to me it smells like stinky feet. I am not eating anything that smells like stinky feet. And flank steak can be expensive when trying to feed a family of five. So I changed something’s and I think it looks even better then the original. I swapped the flank steak for a cheaper cut, and then I swapped the feta cheese for swiss cheese.
The Swiss cheese has a mild, sweet and nut-like flavor that is not over powering and tastes great with the spinach and steak. Plus it melts so smoothly inside the roll.
Skirt Steak wrapped in Swiss Cheese and Spinach
- 2 lb skirt steak, trimmed
- 5 sliced of swiss cheese
- 8oz of fresh spinach, wilted down
- salt and pepper
- Remove as much of the fat as you can from the meat. Be careful not to remove the meat. This takes some time but the end results is worth the extra time.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the steak.
- Layer the swiss cheese the entire length of the steak. Then layer the wilted spinach on top.
- Starting at the small end of the steak roll up the steak. Using tooth picks to keep the steak roll closed.
- Pre-heat oven to 375˚ F. Place in a baking dish. Wrap with foil and place in oven and cook 45 minutes or until the desired temperature as been reached.
Note: Adding a sprinkle of fresh parsley on top before you cook really helps give it that little extra something. But then again something this yummy really doesn’t need it.
I served mine with brussels sprouts and cheesy mashed potatoes. Even my picky eats had no complaints. Before I could take a picture of the inside to show the swirls of steak, spinach, and cheese it was gone! My husband even asked if we were eating it again tomorrow. I think this meal was a hit 🙂
There is this restaurant that we like going to from time to time that used to serve this veggie beef soup. It was so good! One bite, and I was hooked. The last time we went, I ordered my soup as normal only to be served simply veggie soup, so I asked what happened. I was informed that they never served veggie beef soup. I know that they did, I had it many times before. Instead of arguing with the manager I just said okay and moved on.
But this got me thinking about how hard would it be to make veggie beef soup. I started looking at recipe after recipe. No two were the same. The basics were about the same, veggies and beef but nothing else. So I combines several different recipes with the parts that I liked and threw everything into my slow cooker and walked away.
Now you may have notice that I love my slow cooker, I won’t deny it. But with this soup it makes even the toughest of beefs just melt in your mouth. You don’t even need to chew the meat… okay maybe a little so you don’t choke. 🙂
Veggie Beef Soup
- 1 lb beef tips
- 2-3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 4-5 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1/2 lb green beans, make sure to cut the tips off
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 5 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 cup Italian seasoning
- 2-3 Knorr beef cube
- 1 Tbs parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 6oz can of tomato paste
- 1 ts salt
- 1 ts pepper
Tip: Make sure to have big chunks of the veggies. Having small sizes can cause the carrots and potatoes turn into mush. And you don’t want to eat mush for soup.
- Put everything into the slow cooker. Make sure to add the salt and pepper this will help bring the flavors together. Adjust the salt and pepper if needed.
- On low for 8-10 hours or high 6-8 hours. I prefer high temp, I think it gets the meat more tender then the low setting. But that is really up to you.
Tip: You can substitute the tomatoes, paste, and Italian seasoning for 1 16oz jar of pasta sauce. This will work but you won’t have that fresh from the garden taste.
See another easy meal to have ready for you when you walk through the door after a long day at work. You don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to have a hot meal ready these days just need to learn to make what you have work for you not against.
Picture this, the kids are complaining that they are hungry and you just walked through the door and are tired. But you are calm and ready. You got this, cause you had dinner cooking all day long in your slow cooker. Now that you are home it is time to eat without having to worry about what to cook or who is delivering.
Just like many families out there, my is busy and there are days when I think will it ever stop. Enter the slow cooker. OMG this is the best $40 I have ever spent. Ten minutes of prep time in the morning and that is all it takes to give your family a hot and healthy meal any day of the week.
Chili, soups, stews, pasta sauce, roasts, and even ham! I love coming home to the house smelling yummy and dinner ready to go. Who ever invented the slow cooker had busy families in mind and I thank them. And not even for busy weeknights, I want to spend time with my kids before they are all grown up. Start dinner in the morning and you have the rest of the day to play, hang out, go shopping, whatever you want.
Pork Roast with Potatoes & Carrots
- 3-4 lb pork roast
- 5-6 large russet potatoes, peeled
- 7-10 large carrots, peeling
- 1/2 medium onion, sliced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup water
- Place potatoes and carrots on the bottom of the slow cooker. Pour in 1 cup of water. Place pork on top with the fat side facing up. Layer onion slices on top of pork roast. Sprinkle salt and pepper over entire slow cooker.
- Set time for 8-10 hours on low or 5-6 hours on high.
And there you go dinner for the family in ten minutes! Enjoy your hot, healthy meal and relax.
I hope that everyone had a great start to the new year.
This Lemon-Herb Baked Chicken is my husband’s new favorite meal. Packed with flavor and easy to make and very little oil added. I think this whole meal cost me about $9 total. Yup, you heard me $9 meal to feed a family of 5. Now that includes the chicken, potatoes, carrots (not shown), lemon, and herbs. That is not bad a deal, you can’t even get a meal like that at a restaurant where I live for 1 under $10.
When shopping look for chicken that is antibiotic free and no water added. You may pay a little bit more but what you get for flavor is well worth the extra dollar and your chicken won’t shrink when cooking. Normally when the chicken shrinks it has had water added, so you are paying for water and not meat. And that is not helping you feed your family for a better price.
Lemon-Herb Baked Chicken
- 4-5 lbs whole chicken
- 1 Tbs spoon olive oil
- 2 Tbs parsley, finely mince
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 1 Tbs water
- 1/2 ts salt
- 1/2 ts pepper
- 2 Tbs basil, finely minced
- Pre-heat oven 375˚
- In a small bowl whisk together parsley, basil, water, oil, salt and pepper.
- Using a 9×13 pan place chicken in the center and arrange potatoes around chicken. Pour lemon juice over potatoes and chicken. Pour the herb mixture over chicken.
- Take the zest of the lemon and sprinkle over entire dish. take the rind of the lemon and stuff it inside the chicken to boost the lemon flavor.
- Cover with tin foil. Bake for 1 hour. Remove tin foil and continue baking for 1 hour or until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the chicken. You don’t want to eat raw chicken, gross!!
We have all had pasta salad in some way shape and form. Mine usually consisted of pasta, dressing, and cherry tomatoes. Most people have had it this was and I love this way, it makes for a great side dish at a cook out. But when trying to figure out what to feed kids, it lacks something. It needed more to make it a complete meal and had to be healthy too.
I took the basic idea and added some more veggies and thin slices of ham. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have some type of cheese in it. It needed to be a cheese that wouldn’t melt in the heat or have it’s flavor get lost with all the other flavors. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated was my answer. Cost just as much as the pre-shredded but doing it yourself gives it a better flavor. 🙂
Ultimate Pasta Salad
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced ham
- 1 box pasta, I used rotini
- 1 zucchini
- 1 summer squash
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup Italian dressing
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a medium pot bring water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain.
- Cut the zucchini and squash into 1/2 inch chunks and quarter them.
- Place tomatoes, zucchini, squash on a cookie sheet. Add the ham strips. Pour 2 tbs of Italian dressing over and mix until everything is coated.
- Cook over the grill or in the oven on 350˚ until the veggies are slightly tender but still have a crunch to them. You don’t want to over cook and have it become mush.
- In a large bowl mix together the pasta and cooked veggies. Add the Italian dressing and mix until everything is coated again.
- Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over and give a quick toss. Serve warm or chilled.
This makes for a great summer time meal that won’t wear you down or heat your kitchen. 🙂 My favorite part is that you can make it a head of time and have an easy afternoon playing with the kids instead of worrying about cooking dinner. Summer time = fun time 😀