Friday, February 25, 2011


I have really been enjoying the positive feedback I have been getting from friends, family and followers so keep it coming (as well as those yummy recipes!). It makes it all worth while!

This weeks menu features a new favorite of mine: African peanut soup. I know it sounds weird but try it - I love a good soup and I love peanut butter AND I love to try different dishes from other cultures. Everyone in the family seemed to enjoy this one! If you have a special dish that has been handed down from a relative or something that you just love to cook that comes from somewhere other than good old North America, please send it to me along with the story behind it (if it has one) and I would love to feature it on this blog!

We also have Mexican Lasagna. Kind of like the tortilla casserole I included a few menus back but I like this one even more. It doesn't hurt that it is lower in fat and higher in fiber.

And enjoy TWO bonuses this week: homemade granola and Cookies and Cream COOKIES! YUMMMMM!!!

Our Menu

Monday - African peanut soup and homemade bread and butter w/ Cookies 'n' Cream Cookies for dessert!
Tuesday - Mexican Lasagna
Wednesday - BBQ Pork & Penne Skillet & salad
Thursday - Chicken Artichoke bake (& some fun jello - recipe later)
Friday - Breakfast for dinner! Best Buttermilk Pancakes, sausage and OJ

African Peanut Soup

2 T. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, red or russet potatoes (I used 1 large sweet potato and 3 small red potatoes)
2-3 chicken breasts, cut into cubes (or use 2-3 c. of precooked chicken)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 inch fresh ginger, minced or grated
1 can diced tomatoes
1 jar (16oz.) salsa
6 c. chicken broth (or 6 c. water + 6 t. chicken base or bouillon)
1 can evaporated milk
2 T. brown sugar (optional--I liked a layer of sweetness to my soup)
1 t. chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. crunchy or smooth peanut butter ( I like smooth)
1/2 c. uncooked brown or white rice

Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Cook onions, chicken cubes, potatoes/sweet potatoes, and bell peppers until lightly browned and tender, stirring in garlic and ginger when almost done to prevent burning. (If using pre-cooked chicken, add the chicken at the end with the rice) Stir in canned tomatoes, salsa, stock, pepper, and chili powder. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Stir in rice, cover, and simmer another twenty minutes, or until rice is tender. Stir in peanut butter and milk and mix together until smooth. Serve with crushed peanuts on top (optional).

Chicken Artichoke Bake – good for company

2 cans condensed cream of celery soup
1 c. mayo
3 c. cubed, cooked chicken
1 can (14 oz) water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped
1 can (8oz) sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 pkg (6oz) long grain and wild rice mix
1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 med onion, finely chopped
1 jar (2 oz) diced pimientos, drained
¼ t. pepper
1 cup seasoned stuffing cubes

In lrg bowl, combine soup and mayo. Stir in chicken, artichokes, water chestnuts, rice mix with contents of seasoning packet, mushrooms, onion, pimientos and pepper.
Spoon into greased 2 ½ qt baking dish. Sprinkle with stuffing cubes. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 55-65 min or until edges are bubbly and rice is tender.

Barbecue Pork and Penne Skillet

1 package (16 ounces) penne pasta
1 cup chopped sweet red pepper
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 carton (18 ounces) refrigerated fully cooked barbecued shredded pork
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with mild green chilies, undrained
1/2 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute red pepper and onion in butter and oil until tender. Add garlic; saute 1 minute longer. Stir in the pork, tomatoes, broth, cumin, pepper and salt; heat through. Drain pasta. Add pasta and cheese to pork mixture. Sprinkle with green onions. 8 servings.

Mexican Lasagna - only 340 calories per serving which isn’t bad for a complete meal, 5g fiber, 30g protein, 60% vitamin A, 20% vitamin C, 20% calcium, 20% iron

1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean or higher)
1 large carrot, shredded (about 1 cup)
One 16-ounce jar salsa
One 15 1/2-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
One 10-ounce bag or box frozen corn kernels, thawed (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Five 8-inch flour tortillas, cut in half (to up the fiber even more, use corn! I like the taste better with corn)
One 16-ounce container lowfat cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups pre-shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese

Cook the meat and carrot in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up the large pieces, until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain excess fat.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Add the salsa, black beans, corn, chili powder, and cumin to the skillet and stir to combine.
To assemble the lasagna, arrange a third (about 2 cups) of the meat mixture in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or dish. Layer half the tortillas over the meat, allowing them to overlap. Spoon half of the cottage cheese and 1/2 cup of the Cheddar cheese over the tortillas and spread evenly.
Place 2 more cups of meat mixture over the cottage cheese. Layer with the remaining tortillas and cottage cheese. End with the meat mixture.
Top with the remaining Cheddar cheese and bake uncovered until the cheese melts and the lasagna is heated through, about 25 minutes.

Best Buttermilk Pancakes
Yield: Sixteen 4-inch pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
¼ cup sour cream
2 eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 to 2 teaspoon vegetable oil, for greasing the pan

1. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. In a second medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, eggs and melted butter. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; gently stir until just combined (batter should remain lumpy with a few streaks of flour). Do not overmix. Allow the batter to sit for 10 minutes before cooking.
2. Heat 1 teaspoon of the vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Using a paper towel, carefully wipe out oil, leaving a thin film of oil on the bottom of the pan. Using ¼ cup measure, portion batter into pan in 4 places. Cook until edges are set, first side is golden brown, and bubbles on surface are just beginning to break, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a thin, wide spatula, flip pancakes and continue to cook until second side is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Serve pancakes immediately. Repeat with remaining batter, using remaining oil as needed.
*Note 1: This recipe was formulated using lower-protein flour such as Pillsbury and Gold Medal. If you use flour with a little higher protein content like King Arthur, you will need to add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of buttermilk. I forgot about this at first, and when I mixed the batter I saw how thick it was. I added 1½ more tablespoons of buttermilk and the batter was perfect.
*Note 2: If you make these on an electric griddle, preheat it to 350 degrees F.

Granola Bars - Adapted from Ina Garten
Makes 12 to 16 granola bars

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed (I used unsweetened)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 T. melted butter
2/3 cup honey
¼ c. brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cup dried fruit, or a mix of dried fruit (dates, chopped apricots, cranberries, raisins)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter an 8×12-inch baking dish (lacking this, I used a 9×13-inch) and line it with parchment paper.
Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the fruit and stir well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.
You can store these in an airtight container at room temperature for a week or two, as you would cookies, however, I prefer to store mine in the freezer. I find that they stay the most crisp this way as all granola tends to soften at room temperature after a day or more.

Cookies 'n' Cream Cookies - Makes 2 1/2 dozen
Adapted from Alton Brown

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chopped Oreos
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat (or the microwave, which I think is quicker). Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the cookies.
Chill the dough for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (or overnight if you want), then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
To make chocolate cookies: Use only 2 cups of flour and add 1/4 cup cocoa powder. Mix in a 1/2 cup chocolate chips along with the cookies.

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