Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Apricot Honey Dijon Pork Chops

What a colorful plate! This meal combination of Apricot Honey Dijon Pork Chops, Sauteed Carrots and Green Beans with Pasta Salad was fresh and light.

When I decide to have pork chops for dinner I usually get stumped in how to prepare them. My mom always made barbeque pork chops on the grill, and although they were good, I feel intimidated by the grill.

Therefore, after researching online recipes I came across an awesome website with great looking budget friendly recipes called Budget Bytes. One recipe that stood out to me was Apricot Dijon Pork Chops and we decided to give them a try. They were fantastic and super easy.

I followed the recipe exactly except I used honey dijon mustard and boneless pork chops. Click on the link above for the complete recipe.


Sauteed Carrots and Green Beans


1 large carrot (julienne cut)
1/4 lb green beans (trimmed)
1 clove garlic (minced)
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp of butter
salt and pepper

Place carrots in microwave bowl or steam bag with water. Cook for 1 min. Place trimmed green beans into bowl and cook for an additional 1-2 mins.

Melt butter in pan and add carrots and green beans. Cook for one min. Add garlic and cook for an additional min. Season with salt and pepper.

Times may vary based on how thin you cut the carrots and your desired doneness.

Teresa's Pasta Salad


1/2 bag Wacky Mac Pasta
10-15 grape tomatoes sliced
2 tbsp red onion
2 tbsp green pepper
1/4 cup carrots
10 Kalamata olives sliced
2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
1/4-1/2 cup of fat-free Italian dressing
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta per package directions. Mix all ingredients together and place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Crock Pot Meatloaf

We are back from vacation and things are back to normal. Our vacation was cut short due to a mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Irene at the North Carolina coast.

Before we left for vacation I put together a pretty good meatloaf recipe that I wanted to share. This is only the third time I have ever made meatloaf and my husband said this one was the best!

I failed to measure a lot of the ingredients for this meatloaf recipe, therefore I am going to list estimates below. Feel free to adjust based on how dry or wet your meat mixture becomes as you are mixing.

Crock Pot Meatloaf


1 pound Meatloaf mix (beef, pork, & veal) - I found this at Lowe's Foods for 1/2 price
Egg substitute
1/4-1/2 cup of your favorite spaghetti sauce or homemade
1/4-1/2 cup of old fashioned oatmeal or breadcrumbs (you can ground the oatmeal in the food processor if you like)
1/4-1/2 Herb Seasoned Stuffing
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of finely chopped onion
1/2 cup of grated carrots
Salt and pepper
Couple dashes of garlic salt
Tomato sauce
2-3 slices of low-sodium bacon (optional)

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan and saute onions and carrots for a couple of mins. Mix all ingredients together except the last two.

Form into a loaf. Spray crock pot with cooking spray. Place loaf into crock pot. Top with tomato sauce and 2-3 slices of bacon.

Set crock pot on low and cook for 5-7 hours. This will depend on your crock pot. Mine cooks much quicker than most. Use a meat thermometer to check internal temperature (needs to be at least 170°).

I served this with butter beans and an easy sweet potato casserole.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Homemade Vegetable Broth

This is the best time of the year to take all those great summer vegetables scraps and make veggie broth. I am so thankful that a friend of mine suggested this to me last year. Veggie broth is a great substitute for chicken broth in many recipes.

Making veggie broth now will save you time and money in the upcoming fall and winter months. I am all about saving money. It is also healthier than the ones you buy in the store.

Almost any vegetable can be used to make this broth. However, I do not recommend potato because it makes the broth too earthy. Each time I cut the ends of an onion, or a tomato, or a carrot, celery, scallion, broccoli, garlic (pretty much any vegetable) .... I put them into a container and store them in the refrigerator until I have enough scraps to make my broth.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Wash all the vegetables or scraps that you want to use.

Fill a stockpot with water about 1/2 full. Add vegetables and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil you can then lower the heat to simmer for about an hour.

I also add a bay leaf, dried parsley flakes, Italian seasoning and a little pinch of salt. These ingredients are all optional.

Turn heat off after it simmers for an hour and let it cool before transferring to containers.

Once cooled transfer to freezer containers, label and then you are all set the next time you need broth.

I use this broth for refried beans, soup, crockpot dishes, to simmer vegetables or in the place of water in some recipes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Easy Sweet Potato Casserole

Did you know that North Carolina is the leader in sweet potato production? What a wonderfully, nutritious vegetable to have abundantly in my backyard. These little guys are packed full of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and antioxidants.

I have been doing a little research and found that the beta carotene found in these scrumptious vegetables is better absorbed with a little bit of fat. Well, if that is the case then I have the perfect recipe for your family.

My super picky eater will eat two or three servings of this sweet potato casserole. Let me warn you, this recipe is not the healthiest, but a great way to get those kiddos to eat their veggies.

Easy Sweet Potato Casserole


1 super large sweet potato or 2 medium sized sweet potatoes
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp egg substitute or 1 egg (if using an egg instead of a substitute make sure the egg is well beaten)
Enough marshmallows to cover the top of the casserole

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook sweet potatoes in microwave until you can pierce a fork through them. Cut open and set aside to cool.

Spray small 1 qt casserole dish with cooking spray.

Remove sweet potatoes from skin and mash with a potato masher.

Place all ingredients except marshmallows in a bowl and combine with an electric mixer until mixture is smooth.

Transfer to casserole dish and top with marshmallows. Cook about 10-15 mins or until golden brown on top.

Serving size 4-6

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I try to aim for simple when creating dinner ideas, however sometimes this does compromise the flavor. Some things just taste better with more preparation. Our family loves pasta, as I am sure you have noticed if you have looked over this blog. I especially have a deep obssession with it.

Growing up we did not have a lot of pasta. My dad was never a noodle guy. The only pasta dishes I remember my mom cooking was spaghetti. Who does not love spaghetti, right? Well, I have been following a food blog that brings a new light to the traditional meat spaghetti.

Katie at GoodlifeEats created an amazing recipe for Bolognese. It is hearty, rich, flavorful and well-worth the extra preparation time.

Bolognese by definition is a sauce for pasta containing mushrooms, ham, vegetables and beef. Katie's recipe contains everything except for the ham.

I follow her recipe almost exactly, with only a few minor changes or additions.


2/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
2/3 cup water
1 1/4 cup sweet white wine (Riesling or White Zinfandel) or apple juice
1 carrot, peeled and chopped roughly
1 small yellow onion, chopped - or a shallot if I have one on hand
1 stalk celery, chopped
5 oz. fresh baby spinach
1 – 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes or fresh roma tomatoes (peeled and run through the food processor)
1 1/2 Tbs butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sugar
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 1/2 cup skim milk
3 Tbs tomato paste
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped in strips
1 lb. spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions
freshly grated Parmesan for serving

(These directions came start from Katie's Pasta Bolognese at GoodlifeEats.)

Rinse the dried mushrooms under water in a small strainer and drain. Add the mushrooms and water to a small microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, cut steam vents in the plastic with a knife and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Allow mushrooms to stand for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Remove mushrooms from liquid (reserving the liquid) and set aside.

Bring wine or apple juice to a simmer in a skillet over medium heat; reduce heat to low and simmer until wine has reduced to 1/4 cup, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, chop the mushrooms in a food processor until broken down into 1/8 inch pieces. Add carrot, onion and celery and pulse until the vegetables are 1/8 inch pieces and mushrooms are well ground – scraping the sides.

Heat butter in a 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the foaming subsides, add the chopped vegetables and cook, stirring often, for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sugar, cooking for an additional 30 seconds. Add the meat, breaking into 1 inch pieces, about 1 minute. Pour the milk into the pan while stirring meat and breaking into 1/2 inch pieces. Reduce heat to medium, continuing to simmer, while stirring to break up the meat into small pieces and until most of the liquid has evaporated and the meat begins to sizzle, about 18 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir till combined, about 1 minute.

Stir in the tomatoes, reserved liquid from the mushrooms, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 12-15 minutes. Liquid should be reduced and the sauce should be thick, but still moist. Stir in the wine, spinach, basil and parsley and simmer an additional 5 minutes.

Plate pasta and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Great served with a side salad. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Falafel Balls

Falafel Balls

When planning our dinner menu for the week I always try to do a vegetarian dish at least three times a week. This is a challenge because my husband is a meat and potatoes kind of guy.

Before I met my husband I went through a period when I did not eat meat. My husband is a wonderful man, but he will not allow our household to become vegetarians. Therefore, I have come up with a compromise that works great with the entire family.

I found an amazing recipe for Falafels on Food Network that fit the bill for our vegetarian main dish this week. I have cooked Falafels in the past using other recipes and even the box mix, but these were much better. I did not follow the recipe entirely so I will list my changes here.

Falafel Balls


1 can chickpeas (14.5oz) - drained
3 scallions/green onions cleaned and sliced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsely
1 teaspoon ground minced cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon warm water
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup of old-fashioned oatmeal (ground in the food processor - very fine)

Drain chickpeas and place them in food processor. Add scallions, garlic, parsley, cumin, salt, egg and hot sauce. Mix baking powder with water and add mixture to food processor. Process until smooth. Transfer mixture into a small bowl. Add breadcrumbs and oatmeal until mixture is dough-like without sticking to your hands.

I placed this mixture in the refrigerator for an hour or so to allow it to harden and become less sticky.

Pour the oil to a depth of 2 inches in a heavy saucepan. Heat to 375 degrees. Roll into small balls and flatten slightly. Slip a few at a time into the hot oil, making sure they don't stick to the bottom. Cook, turning, for about 2 minutes, or until the balls are a dark, even brown on all sides. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

I served these in pita bread with yogurt sauce. The kids ate them in the pita without the yogurt sauce.

Falafels are also great served in a pita with cucumber and tomato.

I served the Falafels with a cucumber salad, blackeye peas and some tortilla chips. I know it sounds odd, but it worked.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Spinach Rice Bake

Each week I struggle to find ways that I can incorporate vegetables into dinner dishes. If a vegetable is served alone on the side of a main dish, my three year old will not even attempt to eat it, unless it is broccoli.

My six year old loves his vegetables and even begs for them, except for broccoli. How can two kids from the same gene pool be so different? Only God knows the answer and he is not sharing it with this household.

I love to find dishes where I can hide green leafy vegetables and/or orange vegetables. I stumbled onto a recipe for Spinach Rice that sounded like it would go well with our Lemon Chicken last night. I did change the recipe a little so here is my version.

Spinach Rice Bake


1 Cup cooked white or brown long grain rice
1 Can healthy request condensed cream of chicken soup
1/4 Cup skim milk
1/2 Tsp salt
1/4 Black pepper
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Cup chopped onion
1 Large carrot shredded
1 Tsp garlic - minced
1/2 Cup - 1 Cup fresh baby spinach, chopped
1/2 Cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a medium baking dish.

In a bowl, mix the soup, milk, salt, and pepper.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and carrot to the skillet and cook until the onion is translucent. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds more. Add cooked rice and spinach.

Pour the soup mixture into the skillet, and continue cooking until heated through.

Add cheese and stir well.

Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven until lightly browned.

This recipe makes a great healthy holiday side dish. Guaranteed to make the kids come back for seconds.

Come join the fun and get more holiday recipe ideas at My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by OXO.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tomato Florentine Soup

I know it is summertime and above 90 degrees outside, but I still like to have soup for dinner. A food blog that I follow called Goodlife Eats has some amazing soup recipes. One recipe that is super easy and a real winner in our household is Tomato Florentine. I pretty much follow the recipe as written and make small changes here and there.

Since our garden has been producing a tremendous amount of Roma tomatoes I decided to make this soup with Roma's instead of canned tomatoes. It does require more work than the original recipe, but tasted so fresh. Here is my version:

Tomato Florentine Soup with Spinach Rolls


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium yellow onion
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
32 oz of peeled and diced Roma tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 3 cloves
2 tablespoons flour
2 bay leaves
3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups shells pasta, cooked
6 oz baby spinach, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Place Roma tomatoes into boiling water (must completely cover tomatoes) for about 60 seconds. Immediately remove from boiling water and place into a bowl of ICE cold water. Wait about a minute and then begin to peel tomatoes with your hands. The skin of the tomatoes should peel right off.

Cut or dice tomatoes to the size your family prefers, reserving any juices. My family likes their tomatoes pretty small, so I had to dice them in little chunks. Set tomatoes aside. (This is were I added about 1 teaspoon of salt to the tomatoes)

Cook pasta shells according to package.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar, tomato paste, and diced Roma tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes begin to dry, about 13 minutes.

Add the garlic to the pot, stir, and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the flour and continue to cook for another minute.

Stir in any reserved tomato juice and 2 bay leaves. Add 1 cup of broth at a time, whisking after each addition, until desired consistency is reached. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the spinach and balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh Spinach Rolls.

Spinach Rolls

I have adapted the recipe for Spinach Bread on Allrecipes to make fresh spinach rolls.


1 cup water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Place all ingredients into bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle.

Once dough cycle is complete, remove and place on a lightly floured surface. Gently roll and stretch dough until it is about an inch thick.

Flour the top of a small juice cup and press into the dough to make rolls. Spray 9 x 13 baking pan with non-stick spray. Place rolls into pan cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 mins.

Place into oven for 10-15 mins at 375 degrees (oven times may vary)