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.

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Pork Roast Served with Potatoes & Carrots

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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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Easy Pasta, Many Flavors

Spinach Pasta and Chicken Alfredo

I had to been a really good girl for Santa to bring me a pasta maker from Christmas and I am so happy that he did. This is hands down the best pasta we have ever had, then again it is homemade I should have know better to doubt it. What I didn’t expect was how easy it was going to be! I have made 3 different flavors of pasta so far: classic, spinach, and roasted red peppers & garlic pasta. Each one has been so simple make. Each one only had a max of FOUR ingredients. I bet you have everything you need to make at least the classic pasta.

I have made pasta before using a rolling pin and pizza cutter. So you don’t need to have the pasta maker to make it just strong arms. So don’t think that you need the special pasta machine to make it! I am going to show you step by step how to make spinach pasta. This is my favorite pasta, especially when you top it was Alfredo and chicken. See picture above. Homemade of course, but that is for another post. 🙂

Spinach Pasta

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups of flour
  • 6 oz spinach, steamed & pureed
  • 2 eggs
  • dash of salt

Directions:

  1. Using a large pot and a steamer basket, steam spinach. About 5 minutes. Once spinach is done puree the spinach in a food processor.

    Steaming spinach

    Steaming spinach

  2. In a large bowl, place flour at the bottom and make a well. Crack two eggs into the center of the well and add a dash of salt.
    Eggs inside a flour well.

    Eggs inside a flour well.

    Slowly add the pureed spinach.

    Pureed spinach add to the flour and egg mixture.

    Pureed spinach add to the flour and egg mixture.

    Combine until a ball is formed.

  3. On a lightly floured surface kneed the pasta ball until smooth and elasticy. About 5-8 minutes.

    Spinach pasta ball ready for kneading.

    Spinach pasta ball ready for kneading.

  4. Wrap the pasta ball in plastic wrap and let rest for about 15 minutes. <- Hint: Before placing the ball in the plastic wrap dust with flour, that way the pasta will not stick!

    Spinach pasta ball resting inside a plastic floured wrap.

    Spinach pasta ball resting inside a plastic floured wrap.

  5. Work in small batches!!!! Keep your work surface lightly floured at all times. You will be glad you did!!!You can do this part with a rolling pin and knife or use a pasta maker.
  6. Form a small circle by hand and run it through they highest setting on the pasta maker. As you are rolling it through with one hand guide it through the other end with the other hand.

    This is 1/4 of the dough cut into half and formed into little disks.

    This is 1/4 of the dough cut into half and formed into little disks.

  7. When the all of the pasta is out fold in half and dust with flour and repeat. Once the pasta has gone through the roller again fold in half, dust with flour and roll through the next setting. Keep repeating until the desire thickness is reached. <- Just remember to fold in half and dust with flour between each rolling. This helps keep the pasta from sticking to the rollers.  

    Pasta sheets going through the rollers.

    Pasta sheets going through the rollers.

  8. At this point you should have sheets of pasta. Let the sheets dry about ten minutes before cutting them. <- This makes it easier to cut!

    Sheets of pasta on a lightly floured surface air drying before turned into noodles.

    Sheets of pasta on a lightly floured surface air drying before turned into noodles.

  9. Before cutting, either with a knife, pizza cutter or the pasta roller make sure to dust the tools and pasta sheets. <- This helps keep the pasta from sticking. Now you should have a ton of little strips of pasta.

    Pasta sheets being cut into thin strips.

    Pasta sheets being cut into thin strips.

At this point you can boil some water and cook the pasta and eat right now! This should take between 4-8 minutes, depending on the thickness. Check the pasta half way, they will cook faster then store bought pasta.

Or you can dry the pasta. You have several different options for this. 1) If you have a dehydrator you can make little ‘nests’,  put in the 140 degree setting and let it sit in there for 2-4 hours. Again depending on thickness. <- Very brittle when they came out but completely dried.

Drying in the dehydrator.

Drying in the dehydrator.

2) Drape pasta over the racks in the oven. Turn the oven on to the lowest setting. Wait five minutes then turn off. The place the racks in the over and wait until dry. This takes between 1-2 hours. <- Warning: pasta may break using this method, keep a close eye on the drying.

Trying to dry the strips of pasta on cookie sheets to try to stop pasta breaking.

Trying to dry the strips of pasta on cookie sheets to try to stop pasta breaking.

3) This is by far the easiest method. Just let the pasta dry on a drying rack or lay them flat on the counter. <- If you choose to do it this way make sure it is not humid in the kitchen or outside. This will affect the drying.

I hope that the pictures helped you along the way. Once you get the basics down the different flavors you can make are endless. And at a fraction of the cost. Let’s just take a quick look at the estimated price for just the spinach pasta.

$0.30 for the spinach + 0.22 for two eggs + $0.50 for flour = $1.02 for the entire batch of homemade pasta which is about two meals worth.  You can’t buy the cheap brand of pasta for that price. The prices may vary depending on where you live.

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.

Cranberry-Orange Oatmeal Scones

I have made scones before and found them a little dry dispite all the liquid that was added. These are fluffy, tender, and full of flavor. These are not your ordinary scones.

My first try at making scones turned out great! Family and friends ate them all, but they all said that they were a little sticky. That was because of the maple topping. I needed to make something that people could eat with their hands on the go.

I looked at so many different recipes trying to figure out which one would work the best. Nothing really grabbed my attention so I took what I liked from different recipes and hoped for the best. I guess you could call them the Frankenstein of the scone world. A little bit here and little from there. But this monster turned out sweet and delicious.

Cranberry - Orange Scones

Cranberry – Orange Scones

Cranberry-Orange Oatmeal Scones

  • 2 1/2 c flour
  • 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 c oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 Tbs baking powder
  • 1 ts salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 1/2 c orange juice
  • 2 Tbs orange zest

Directions:

  1. Mix the flour, oatmeal, and butter together until pea size balls start to form.
  2. Add in the baking powder, salt, eggs, sugar, juice and buttermilk. Stir everything until well combined. Be carful not to over mix the dough. Fold in the cranberries and zest.
  3. On a lightly floured surface turn dough out. Form a rectangle with the dough. Using a sharp knife divide the dough in half length wise. Cut the half into triangles. You should get about 12-16 scones.
  4. Place scones on a cookie sheet as you form them.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.
  6. Once cooled you can top the scones with a sugar frosting. To make topping mix 1/2 cup powder sugar and 2 teaspoons of orange juice. If it turns out too thick add a little liquid at a time. Too thin add more powder sugar. And simply drizzle on top and sprinkle zest on top for added pop of flavor.

Food for Your Soul

Growing up in New England I had the joy of having four real seasons. I had a spring, summer, fall and a winter. But my seasons didn’t follow the calendar. I have more cold months then warm months, that just means I got to enjoy those warm good for your soul comfort foods longer.

There is something to be said about comfort foods that can bring a smile your face just by the mention of it like creamy mashed potatoes, hot chicken noodle soup, beef stew from the slow cooker, and nothing beats creamy cheesy macaroni and cheese straight from the oven. I might not have cold months any more living in the south but I do have wet, rainy days that nothing warms my family’s wet bones more then comfort food for dinner.

I grew up with the box version of the mac & cheese, as did my kids. But my husband has issues when it comes to powder cheese so I went to find the best tasting mac & cheesy. Best part is it is still really cheese even after putting in the oven.

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

 

Macaroni & Cheese

  • 8oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz gouda cheese
  • 1/2 ts paprika
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 c chicken stock
  • 1/3 c flour
  • 1/3 c water
  • 1 lb elbow noodles

Directions:

  1. In a large sauce pan start to heat up the chicken stock.
  2. In a measuring cup mix together the flour and water with a whisk. ( I find doing it this way take the clumps out that you sometimes gets when mixing flour and wet ingredients.)
  3. Slowly add the flour mixture to the chicken stock. Cook until slightly think.
  4. Slowly add the cheeses in the stock. Make sure to stir after each addition. This helps melt the cheese and keeps everything creamy. Add in the paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir to completely combine.
  5. Add cooked elbow noodles to the mixture. Mix everything together. Now you can eat it like this or you can transfer to a baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees with a foil cover.

Hint: To make it a complete meal by mixing in bacon or ham and broccoli. Or a fresh side salad.

 

 

Summer Time Chicken Grilling

I love my grill! Some might say I have an unhealthy fascination with it. Once the weather warms up, the stove and oven are off, and that grill is lit.

Nothing says warm weather more then the smell of good food on the grill. It can be anything: burgers, chicken, hot dogs, sausage, and steak. They all smell so good, and they look great with the grill marks when they come off the grill. I love my grill. Even grilled vegetables are great on the grill. I like putting vegetables in a little foil packet with a pat of butter then throwing them on the grill to cook. Oh, the flavors are just amazing. Simple to do yet you get such great aromas and flavors.

Tonight was no different. Grilled Honey-Mustard Chicken with Brussels Sprouts. Now since I make my own mustard it will have a different flavor than store bought, but it tastes great with either one. This is one of my to go to meals during the hot months, and let’s face it, in the South, that’s about eight months out of the year.

Honey-Mustard Chicken with Brussels Sprouts

Honey-Mustard Chicken with Brussels Sprouts

 

 Grill Honey-Mustard Chicken

  • 2 whole chicken breast, cut in half
  • 1.5 TBS deli mustard
  • 3 TBS honey

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl mix together the mustard and honey. Set to the side for later.
  2. Start the grill. Give the grill a few minutes to warm up. Place chicken skin side down on the grill. Cook for about 25 minutes.
  3. Using either a spoon or a grill brush spread a small amount of the honey-mustard on the chicken. For for about 5 minutes then turn over and spread another small amount of honey-mustard on the turned side.
  4. Keep turning the chicken and spreading the honey-mustard over the chicken until it has been used up. You want to coat the chicken slowly so not to burn the chicken.

Enjoy with vegetables of your choice.