mrs.b and her boys

embrace the chaos

Month: January 2016

PASTA SALADS ON-HAND

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Evenings can get crazy busy with people coming and going. Parents working late, one kid needing to be at dance on one side of town and the other kid needing to be at basketball clear on the other side {at the same time!} When do we have time to eat dinner?

A simple solution to this problem is to have a couple of your favorite pasta salads ready in the fridge. People can help themselves as they come and go. They are also easy to pack in a container and take on-the-go with you.

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I stuff mine full of veggies and the kids can eat around the ones they dislike. I like to make one that has a sweeter sauce and one that has a more savory sauce – to keep everyone happy. {Yeah right!} Last night, I just chopped up veggies and olives, boiled one bag of pasta, but made two completely different salads.

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The first one, I threw in small cut broccoli, cauliflower and carrots with sliced black olives. Then, with the fusilli pasta, I stirred in some Dorothy Lynch dressing and salt & pepper.

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Then, the second one, again with the fusilli pasta, I tossed it with the small cut broccoli and cauliflower, and sliced black olives. And added some pepperoni and Italian dressing. No salt & pepper needed with a flavorful Italian dressing!

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They are colorful and full of veggies. They are tasty and simple. They are ready to go for those activity filled weeknights.

 

Crab Étouffée

This may not be a dish kids will eat if they are not adventurous with their food. My kids certainly will not touch this with a ten-foot pole. But, that’s okay. Make it regardless. Reality is, with kids, in order for the grown ups to have food that is a bit more delightful then the normal eats on our tables, every once in a while it is fine for the kids to eat something different.

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This dish is delectable and spicy without being hot. As it simmers, the aroma is so incredible that I want to stand over the pot and inhale the whole time. I may or may not have thought of wearing it as a perfume once or twice.

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If you are unable to find crab, or do not want to pay the price {it’s pretty spendy!}, small shrimp would be fine too. It would not compromise the flavor. I know people have recipes out there for a crawfish version of étouffée as well.

I categorize this under “Sunday Dinners”, but if you have time to chopped the veggies and herbs ahead of time, this can come together quickly as a “Weeknight Favorite”.

 

Crab Étouffée 

 

1 stick ( ½ cup) butter

2 cups onions, diced

½ cup celery (with the leaves), diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup red bell pepper, diced

3 Tb. flour

½ white wine

salt & pepper, to taste

1 Tb. tomato paste

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes

4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tb. Creole seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)

1 Tb. fresh parsley, chopped

1 Tb. fresh chives, chopped

12-16 oz. lump crab meat (small shrimp or crawfish works too)

4 cups cooked white rice

 

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Sauté onions and celery, about 7 minutes. Next, add the garlic and peppers, stir in and sauté for 7 more minutes. Add flour; stir to coat and cook off about 1 minute. Add the wine, salt and pepper; cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, add in the tomato paste, broth, water, tomatoes, Worcestershire and Creole seasoning. Stir well, bring to slow boil and simmer for at least 15 minutes.

 

About 5 minutes before serving, add the crab, parsley and chives. (You do not want to cook your crab any longer then that) Stir gently as to not break up the crab pieces.

 

Ladle it into a bowl and top with a scoop of the rice.

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THAI PEANUT NOODLES

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This is a delicious dish that even picky kids can eat while we grown-ups still get great flavor and lots of veggies. My boys only ate the shredded carrots and broccoli with the noodles. The sauce is a delicious peanut butter sauce that they are likely to enjoy.  I throw the whole wheat pasta in there because once it is all married together you cannot tell it is whole wheat. I feel that whole wheat variety can sometimes taste weird in pasta dishes. So, get it in there when you can is what I say.

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You can use whatever veggies you like, any combination works. The nice thing about doing the carrots shredded {I used a potato peeler} is that they soften up and those pickier eaters cannot even tell they are in there while still getting the nutrients.

Be sure not to cook the heck out of your veggies, keep them bright and a bit crisp! The brighter colors will appeal to the kids more too.

 

THAI PEANUT NOODLES

 

1 ½ cups Asian sesame dressing (I like Cardini’s brand)

½ cup creamy peanut butter

½ cup water

1/8 tsp. cayenne or red pepper flakes (only if you like it spicy)

16 oz. whole wheat linguine (You may not use all of it)

2 Tb. cooking oil of your choice (I used canola oil this time)

3-4 cups fresh vegetables

(I did sliced peppers, halved sugar snap peas, broccoli florets,

shredded carrots & canned bamboo shoots)

1 small onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup peanuts, chopped

 

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the dressing, peanut butter, water and cayenne, if you choose. Set aside. In a large pot, bring water to a boil; cook linguine according to directions.

 

While water boils, in a large skillet or wok, heat oil. When hot, add your vegetables in order of needed cooking time. I did onions and broccoli; sauté for 5 minutes. Then garlic, peppers and snap peas; sauté for 5 minutes. Finally, the carrots and bamboo shoots; stir to heat thru. (I also threw in some cooked chicken that we had leftover in the fridge)

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Take peanut sauce and pour over the vegetables, gently mix in to the vegetables; simmer for about 5 minutes.

In a perfect cooking world, the noodles will be done around this time. Do not drain the pasta, scoop from the cooking water and transfer directly to pan of vegetables. I only used about ¾ of the pasta. Add a scoop at a time, stirring in between each scoop to see if you need more. Stop when it has the amount of sauce you like.

Serve with peanuts sprinkled over the top.

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ENCHILADAS YOUR WAY

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Enchiladas are a great weeknight dinner that come together simply and take little time to bake in the oven. You can also assemble them ahead of time when you have a bit of time during the day {or the night before} and have them ready to throw in the oven when you get home in between running in all directions for activities. What is even better about enchiladas is you can make them any way you want, with whatever ingredients you like, and make different kinds in one pan. There are no rules. Well, I suppose you do need tortillas, cheese and fillings. After that, it’s free range!

This time I used a rotisserie chicken, lime rice, black beans and cheese. I left the rice out of the ones for the kids {my kids are weird, they don’t like rice!} Then, I topped half with a red enchilada sauce and the other half with a green enchilada sauce. We made a fun taste-test out of it. Each of us tried both and gave our opinion. It was split – 2 of us liked the green better and 2 of us liked the red better.

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All I did to make my rice “Lime Rice” was add the juice of one lime to the cooking water. Then, to the cooked rice I add the zest of that one lime and some salt & pepper. Simple and really yummy!


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Other great combinations are:

Steamed Broccoli & Mushrooms

Ground Beef & Rice {add red sauce to the meat mixture}

Sweet Peppers, Onions & Garlic

Rice & Black Beans

Chopped Steak & Peppers

Chicken & Canned Green Chiles

Mix of Veggies & a Non-Dairy Cheese

 

ENCHILADAS YOUR WAY

 

6 tortillas (if you are using corn, they are generally smaller, so 10-12)

2 cups of shredded cheese (I like sharp cheddar & Monterey Jack)

4 cups of fillings of your choice (see ideas above)

2 cans red or green enchilada sauce

 

Preheat oven to 400˚. Prepare all your ingredients and have them piled in your assembly area. Spray a 9×13 baking dish and set aside your assembly area as well.

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One at a time, fill one end of your tortilla with your fillings of choice. (Leave about 1 cup of cheese for sprinkling over the top) I like to layer the cheese in between to act as a glue to everything. Keep the fillings minimal, you want to be able to roll it up into a 1-1 ½ inch roll. Then, lay seam-side down in prepared baking dish. Repeat until all tortillas are rolled.

 

Mark the kids versions {why do they have to be SO picky?!!} with a toothpick. Pour your enchilada sauce over covering tortilla rolls. Then, sprinkle remaining cheese over the top.

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Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling a bit. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.

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We served ours up with guacamole, plain Greek yogurt and some tortilla chips. But, serve it with what works for your family: salsa, sour cream, pico de gallo, sliced avocado, lettuce, diced tomatoes. Make ‘em YOUR WAY!

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