Rack of Lamb

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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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven 375˚F.
  2. In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat.
  3. In a medium bowl mix freshly chopped herbs and breadcrumbs. Set to the side.
  4. 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!” 
  5. In a small bowl combine garlic and brown mustard. Using a pastry brush, brush all over both racks of lamb.
  6. Once coated with the mustard sprinkle the breadcrumb-herb mixture over the entire rack of lamb. Repeat for second rack of lamb.
  7. Cover the ribs of the lamb with aluminum foil to help prevent burning.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. To serve the lamb chops, cut in between the bones.

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This was the finished lamb before the kids started eating. Look at the gorgeous pink center.

Bruschetta

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This is probably the easiest thing I can make. Brings a little summer time inside during those cold winter months.

Don’t let the fancy name fool you. It doesn’t require a lot of prep time, simple to make and uses fresh herbs and vegetable. I am talking about bruschetta. Great on it’s own or as an appetizer to any meal. Make a little or a lot, this recipe could not be any simpler. You can serve it on top of crackers or my favorite way toasted baguettes with a little sprinkling of mozzarella cheese on top. So yummy.

Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (yellow or red)
  • 2 Tbs basil, thinly chopped
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 ts minced garlic
  • 1/4 ts salt
  • 1/4 ts pepper

Directions:

  1. Stir all ingredients in a medium size bowl until everything is well combined. Serve on with crackers or baguettes.

Tip: Sprinkle some grated cheese on top and make it even better. I use mozzarella or parmesan when I want to jazz it up!

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This is one easy dish to make that is sure to please. Make it for a group or keep it to yourself, cause honestly something this yummy, who is going to want to share? 🙂

Saving Time and Money

        I don’t know about most of you, but I am not rich and probably will never become rich. With the economy in the shape that it is in now, I do all I can to save money. And with having a full schedule with work, school, and extra-curricular activities, I just want to relax and have some extra time to unwind with the family. Especially during the holiday season, nothing is more important to me than family.

So, how do I do it and still have time and a little money? It took a lot of trial and error to figure out what works best for us as a family. I won’t lie. It did take some time to figure out, but at the day’s end, it was worth it. Not only can I feed my family of five great tasting food ,but I can do it without breaking the bank. Nothing is wasted.

I want to bring to you my eight ways to save time and money. Funny thing is with a little planning, saving time and money tend to go hand in hand.

1. PLAN. This sounds easy, but it is probably the hardest thing to do if you are not used to planning. Since we get paid bi-weekly, I go food shopping every other week. I plan what we are going to have for dinners for two to four weeks in advance. And I don’t do this alone. We do it as a family during dinner time–which is the perfect time to talk about food.

2. SHOPPING. When you head out to go food shopping, figure out if there are items on your list that you can buy in bulk and save. Usually the answer is yes. Items like cereal, rice, sugar, flour, grains, to name a few, are great for buying in bulk. Make sure to check the expiration date, I know that my kids will not go through cereal in two weeks especially during the school year. And buy your meat in bulk too. Separate and wrap it yourself and you save a bunch. This takes no time at all to do, either.

3. COOK. Again I know this sounds easy, but with everything being prepackaged and ready to eat, people forget that you can make the same thing at half the price and get twice as much.  An extra added bonus: when you cook with fresh ingredients you are not taking in all the preservatives that are in the prepackaged food. Learning to cook at home is learning to cook healthier. So not only is it budget friendly it is also body friendly. I call that a win-win. A great example of this is my maccaroni and cheese. I can get all the ingredients for $11 (that is with the bacon) and that make enough to feed 12 people. Making it less then $1 per serving. I can even show you how to make a steak dinner with asparagus and small red potatoes for $17 that will feed 5 people. Do the math, where can you get a steak dinner for under $4 per serving?

4. COUPONS. I know that everyone knows how to clip coupons. But did you know that you can save between $15-$30 on food shopping? Look for coupons that come in the Sunday, online coupons and even with apps. For example, with the app coupons and the item on sale, I only paid $6 for a 14lb turkey for Thanksgiving. Don’t go downloading every coupon app out there, just use the apps for the stores you would use the most.

5. BUY LOCAL. This is by far my favorite thing to do. Not only are the prices better but the flavor is the best. During the spring and summer months we visit our local farmer’s market and PYO (pick-your-own) places for some of the best tasting food. Not only are you getting a great buy, you are helping support your local farmers and community. And it is a great way to get some quality time in with the family.

6. QUALITY SPICES. I know it is easy to go to the store and buy what they have. I used to do that for years, then I found myspicesage.com, and I will not buy from anyone else ever again. They have the best selection that rivals any store. You get a large amount for the price you pay, and they give you free samples to try. The flavors are so rich, that you really only need to use half the normal amount a recipe calls for. Using less and getting more out of it, saves even more money.

7. WASTE NOTHING. This is something we do all the time. We compost all of our scrap fruits and veggies and use it for compost soil in the spring for our garden and flowers. We save a ton of money by using the compost for our flower and vegetable pots instead of purchasing soil from a store. If you have some heals of bread left–face it, it happens–don’t throw them away. Make croutons or bread crumbs. My favorite thing not to waste is egg yolks. I like my eggs without the yolks but instead of throwing out the yolks I save them to make vanilla or chocolate pudding.

8. CANNING. I love canning! I love making jelly, jams, marmalades, soups, sauces, syrups, lemonades and canning the fresh fruits and veggies from the summer. We haven’t purchased jelly from the store in over four years. I won’t lie, this one takes the most amount of time to do. But knowing that my family is eating healthier is the only reason I need to keep doing it. Plus canning soups and sauces make for quick easy meals after long days at work. I get 95% of my stuff from Ball. Added bonus: when you have finished a jar you don’t throw it away just put it in the dish washer and use it again. This does take a little money to get started but pays for itself in no time. Just remember to use fresh lids and replace rusty rings. 🙂

I am not saying that if you do these eight things you are going to see a ton of money left over. You may start to see you are able to buy better quality foods and make that budget stretch just a little bit more. Don’t get discouraged if it takes time to get into the rhythm of doing things. Anything worth doing takes time to do it right. And remember this works for me and my family everyone is different, find what works for your family and budget.

My Swedish Meatball

I remember my mom making Swedish Meatballs growing up, using a mix from a package. I loved it! Only problem was when I grew up and moved away, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I looked in three different grocery stores, speciality stores, and even Walmart. Nothing. I was heart broken. Once in awhile my mom would send me some packets so I could have them when I wanted Swedish Meatballs.

I have old cookbooks around my house that were my mother-in-law’s, so I started looking in there for a recipe so I would not have to keep trying to find the packets. And I did! My only problem was that it had things in it that we don’t eat, like ground chuck and a lot of butter, I have not had ground chuck in about 10 years. I knew I had to make this healthier, yet still keep that yummy flavor. You can add flavor to food without adding fat, but you can’t tell that to some people.

These meatballs turn out so tender and moist. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, get in there and mix it up!

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

  • 1 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, unseasoned (2 slices of toasted bread will work if you are out of bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 ts nutmeg
  • 1/4 ts all-spice
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 2 TBS flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl combine your ground turkey, onion, garlic, and bread crumbs. Once everything is well combined, make golf ball size meatballs.
  2. In a large skillet, pour in about 2 TBS of olive oil and heat. Once oil is heated add in the meatballs one at a time. Don’t turn over the meatballs until they are ready, turning too soon will cause them to rip and tear apart. They will be ready to turn when they are easily moved with a spatula.
  3. Once all meatballs are completely cook through, about 10-15 minutes, remove from pan and set to the side.
  4. In the small skillet pour a little bit of the broth in first and deglaze the pan. You want to get all the yummy flavor on the bottom of the pan that is left over from the meatballs cooking.
  5.  Pour the rest of the beef broth, flour, heavy cream, nutmeg, and all-spice. Stir so there are no clumps of flour in the mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Once everything is cooked and well combined, add the meatballs back in the skillet. Cook until the sauce has thicken up.

Serve over egg noodles.

Honey-Wheat Bread

I hate wasting money. The other day I was thinking that I have milk, flour, yeast, butter, and honey. Why am I buying bread when I have everything I need to make bread?! The only thing I didn’t have is wheat flour and I wanted to make honey-wheat bread. So I started to do some research on bread making since the first time I did it was not so good. But I have made my husband’s favorite bread Nissua a few times and everything came out perfect. How hard could this really be.

I knew how I wanted my bread to taste. I wanted fluffy, light, and not bland. I think that I found that perfect balance in this recipe. I am never going to buy bread again. Not only that it really did not take that long. Sure three and half hours but you only really do anything for maybe about 45 minutes from start to finish of actual work. The rest is waiting for it to raise and bake. And while you are waiting you can do other things around the house. Or watch a movie like I did, just pause it when it is time to do things.

Honey-Wheat Bread

Honey-Wheat Bread

  • 2 packages active yeast (1/2 ounce)
  • 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 3 cups wheat flour
  • 2- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Directions:

  1. In  a small bowl mix 1/2 cup warm water and yeast. Set to the side for about 10 minutes.
  2. In a small sauce pan warm milk, butter, and salt. Be careful not to burn the milk.
  3. In a large bowl place wheat flour, milk mixture, honey, and yeast. Using a mixer, beat on low for 1 minute, scrapping down the sides. Then beat on medium until everything is completely combined.
  4. Using a wooden spoon or heavy duty spatula, add remain flour 1/4 cup at a time, making sure to mix completely. Add enough flour to make dough easy to handle.
  5. On a lightly covered surface knead dough for about 8-10 minutes until it becomes smooth and springy. Grease the bowl with cooking spray  or oil. Place dough inside bowl, and turn to get coated with oil. Cover with a hot, moist towel, and let rise for about an hour in a warm place or until it doubles in size.
  6. Punch down dough, and divide into two. Roll each piece into a rectangle about 18×9 inches. Fold into thirds using the smaller end. Then fold that into half and roll out into a 9×9 square. Roll dough up tightly. Pinch ends together and tuck under. Place dough into a greased bread pan seam side down. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover with a hot, moist towel and let rise for about an hour in a warm place or until it doubles in size.
  7. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place pans in middle of rack and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on the top. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack.

Makes 2 loaves.

 

 

 

 

 

Best School Snacks Ever

Ever go to the mall and get one of those big salty pretzels, if so then you definitely love these. If you never have then your taste buds are in for a big treat. I got into making these cause because I forgot to buy school snacks for my kids one week and needed something quick. The first time that I made these I have to make two batches because the first batch was gone before I was even able to get the last one salted. The cinnamon version is my favorite, then again I like anything sweet.

Soft Pretzels

Cinnamon cover Pretzels

Ingredients:

  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt or cinnamon, for topping

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water.
  4. When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is all shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution and place on a greased baking sheet.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, until browned.
  6. Once done brush melted butter over pretzels and sprinkle with salt.

Easy Italy

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About ten years ago I had a chance of a life time. In my senior year in high school my school went to Italy. I fell in love the art, culture, people, and the food. Seeing everything in person beats looking in a book any day. And the food. Nothing beats a freshly made pizza from a brick oven brought to your table on a warm spring afternoon.

I can get 36 raviolis from one batch, you could save half for another day or for lunch one day. But then again it is so good you may not want to stop eating it. This is a great make a head meal for those cold winter nights when you want something warm to eat but don’t really want to cook. Enjoy.

Ravioli with Pasta Sauce

  • 2 1/3 cup flours
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12oz ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. Mix the first five ingredients together until a ball is formed.
  2. On a floured surface knead dough for about 8-10minutes until soft and elastic. Let rest for 10minutes.
  3. Mix cheese together and set aside.
  4. Split dough in half and work in batches. Roll dough out to very thin (1/8 inch). Cut dough into shapes, using a biscuit cutter works great. fill each piece with 1/2 tbs of cheese filling.
  5. Make sure to seal the edges completely.
  6. From there you can either cook right away for 8-9minutes or you can freeze them. Place ravioli on cookie sheet and place in freezer. Once completely frozen place in an airtight container.

Note: After you fill the ravioli and to not but the fresh ravioli on top of each other, they will stick and be gross. Trust me I have done that before. You should get about 36 raviolis.

Pasta Sauce

  • 6 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 2-3 onions, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves

Directions:

  1. Saute onions ans garlic together until fragrant.
  2. Add tomatoes.
  3. Cook until very hot.
  4. Add salt and pepper and Italian seasoning to taste.

Note: I have learned that I want my sauce to taste like sauce and not tomatoes with a ton of extra stuff in it that is not healthy. Freeze any left over sauce and enjoy for another day, if you can.