Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Short week this week--I went to visit my cousin Sarah yesterday, and she helped me get set up to be a transcriber from home (and also treated me to a delicious lunch). I think the family had McDonald's for dinner, but I'm not going to think about it.

So, for the rest of this week:

Grilled Chicken Salad
Garlic Bread

Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole
Steamed Broccoli

Mac and Cheese

Grilled Cheese Sanwiches
Tomato Soup

Saturday and Sunday

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lemon Sage Butter Roasted Chicken

*Note: I've tweaked this recipe a bit, so look for italicized changes below!*
Kudos to Katie for her recipe request!

Now, for the full disclaimer: I have never written down any sort of recipe for this, so what I'm about to present is merely my best guess. Here's how it came about: One day, I had thawed a whole chicken to roast for dinner. I had seen chefs on the Food Network putting things under the skin to flavor the meat, and I thought that was a smash-up idea. The only problem was that, at the time I had this thawed chicken on hand, I seemed to have none of the actual things these chefs used. But I know that lemon, sage, and butter all work well with poultry, so I figured I'd give it a go and make up my own under-the-skin thing. Luckily, it worked like a charm.

This week, when I made this chicken, I used a whole chicken breast, and also brined it. The chicken comes from my mother-in-law, who, during the warm months, has been known to occasionally raise chickens for eating. (I'm not sure why, but something about that sentence makes my mother-in-law seem like some sort of barbarian.) Well, her chickens end up HUGE--so huge that a whole chicken breast is actually good for two meals for our family. I have never seen whole chicken breasts like this in the grocery store, but if you ever happen upon them, give 'em a try!

And last, before we get to the recipe: don't be put off by the length of the instructions. It's actually quite easy, it just so happens I'm feeling very chatty today and I couldn't stop myself from typing a lot of needless words.

Lemon Butter Sage Roasted Chicken

1 3-4 lb. chicken
1/2 c butter, softened
1-2 tsp. lemon juice (I didn't measure)
1 tsp. rubbed sage (or more, if you love sage so much you want to marry it)
3-4 cloves garlic, pressed
olive oil
kosher or ground sea salt
ground pepper

2 quarts hot water
1/2 c. salt
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. dried lemon peel

Rinse chicken. In a very large bowl, combine ingredients for brine, and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. When the water has cooled a bit (room temperature-ish), submerge the chicken, breast side down. Cover bowl, and chuck it (gingerly) into the fridge, where it can rest for a very long time. Shoot for several hours. Two, maybe? Three? It's not an exact science. *Note: I don't always brine, and this chicken still turns out pretty yummy, so don't fret if you opt to skip this step.

In the meantime, and pretty much right before you want to roast the chicken, mix together the softened butter, lemon juice, sage and garlic. You will want this mixture to be pretty pliable (but not runny) when you use it, so keep it at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Yes, that's right. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Using your fingers, loosen the skin from the breast, taking care not to tear it. The reason for this is two-fold: 1) it will give you a place to slide your delicious butter mixture, and 2) it will make for crispier, golden brown skin. (At our house, we like to eat the yummy crispy skin, but don't tell our cardiologist. Okay, we don't have a cardiologist, but if we did, this is the kind of thing we'd keep secret.)

Using a spoon, take portions of the butter and slide them under the skin. Just shove the spoon under there, and use your fingers on the outside of the skin to scoot the butter to where you want it to be. When you're satisfied with your butter distribution, pat the skin dry again, rub a little olive oil on the skin, and season with a bit of salt. Also, generously salt and pepper the cavity of the bird.

Place chicken in whatever vessel you're cooking it in (uncovered, of course), breast side up.* Let it roast at 425 until done. When is it done? Good question. I use a thermometer with an alarm--I put it into the thickest part of the thigh, set the temp at 165, and walk away until it beeps at me. If you only have an instant-read thermometer, test it at about 50 minutes, and adjust cooking time accordingly. If you have neither, you're on your own. I'd say that an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half will be about right, but don't hold me to that.

When you remove it from the oven, let it rest without cutting it for about 15 minutes. Then, dig in and enjoy! Spoon the pan juices over the chicken for extra scrumptious flavor.

*Another note: if you're using a whole chicken, you may want to consider putting your chicken on some sort of rack to keep it elevated from the bottom of the pan so the bottom isn't soggy and flaccid. Sometimes, I butterfly the chicken by cutting out the backbone with a pair of kitchen shears and smooshing the chicken flat. Then I line the bottom of the roasting pan with large chunks of celery and onion and place the butterflied chicken on top of that--this also serves as an "aromatic," flavoring the meat as well. PLUS, butterflying the chicken cuts the total roasting time. Or, skip the butterflying step, and use celery ribs for a simple "rack" under the whole chicken. (I just did this a few days ago with some limp-looking celery. I curled the celery ribs up in the bottom of a cast-iron skillet and put the chicken on top. Worked great!)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Here's what's coming up this week:


Lemon Sage Butter Roasted Chicken
Rice Pilaf

Roast Beef
Roasted Potatoes
Glazed Carrots

Cheesy Chicken and Rice
Steamed Broccoli

Italian Beef Sandwiches
Herbed Noodles
Veggie TBA

Leftovers/Celebrate Beth's Birthday

Leftovers/Celebrate Beth's Birthday

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Hello, again, folks! Happy Valentine's Day Week! How will you celebrate this week? We're headed out for dinner on Tuesday night after our volleyball game, and I think that will be about it. I always have to remind Abe when Valentine's Day is--it wasn't really celebrated in his household growing up, so I can hardly blame him. But someday, he's going to take me to Paris or Hawaii for Valentine's Day to make up for it!

Here's how the rest of the week will probably shape up:

Hot Chicken Salad

Frozen Pizza for the kids

Chicken Chili Enchiladas

Western-Style Ribs
Green Beans
Cheesy Baked Shells

Taco Soup

?? Leftovers, or something new if the guys decide to work

We may celebrate Beth's birthday today....

Monday, February 4, 2008

Stuffed Shells (Grusendini)

I had to double- and triple-check that I hadn't already posted this recipe, because it seems inconceivable that I haven't. This one, I love. It is a part of my childhood. It is a part of me.

Well, that may be overstating things a bit, but I do really, really enjoy these shells.

It had its naissance on Greenleaf Drive in Parma, Ohio. I was probably about 11 years old, and my family had been invited to my Principal's home for dinner. Mrs. Grusendorf, my principal's wife, presented with the challenge of preparing a filling meal for four adults and five children on a meager private school principal's salary, cooked up this delicious baked pasta dish. Now, it seems odd that we had never had these at our own house, for two reasons: 1)they're really simple to make, especially for my extremely talented home-ec major mother, and 2)they're pasta. But, for whatever reason, we had never had these before. We tasted them, and we loved them.

My father liked them so much, he had my mother ask for the recipe. Mrs. Grusendorf gave us the recipe, which she had simply entitled "Stuffed Shells," but my father, well, he is witty and thought the dish needed a jazzier name. So he christened the dish "Grusendini," in honor of the recipe donor, and the name stuck. Years later, when I asked my mom for the recipe so I could have it for my files, she was unclear about which recipe I was requesting until I said, " You know--Grusendini." And she gave me the recipe in a flash.

I'm making this recipe this week for my family, and 20 years after I first tried i, it is a kid- and man-pleasing family favorite. And I know it will be as tasty this week as it was that first night on Greenleaf Drive.


1/2 box large stuffing shells
1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 c. bread crumbs
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1 jar spaghetti sauce (or 2 cups of your homemade sauce)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Additional Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown ground beef with onion until no pink remains. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Cook shells until just al dente; drain.

Combine ground beef with the bread crumbs, cheese, salt, pepper, and eggs. Mix well.

Cover the bottom of a 9x13 pan with a thin layer of sauce, just so the shells have a bed to sit on and so they won't get stuck to the pan. Using a spoon, stuff the meat mixture into shells, and arrange them in the pan. Top the shells with remaining sauce, taking care to coat all of the pasta with the sauce. Cover with foil and place in the preheated oven for about 3o minutes.

Remove shells from oven and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and additional Parmesan, if desired. Return pan to oven until cheese is melted and browned to your liking.

Serves 6 (easily--these shells are filling!)

Salsa 101

I mentioned in last week's Menu Plan post that I was making fresh salsa to take to the Super Bowl festivities. Well, it was very well received. I think that fresh, homemade salsa is something many people don't ever think of attempting to make--and they have no idea what they're missing out on. It's so easy, so fresh and bright, and has nothing to do with anything you'd ever find on a shelf in a bottle. It's best when all of the fresh ingredients are in season, but even in the dead of winter, it's still better than bottled stuff. I know this because early in my pregnancy, I had a fierce craving for fresh salsa, made the recipe, and ate it all myself without even looking back. Give it a try!! (not the eating it all yourself thing--I don't necessarily recommend that.)

Salsa 101

5-6 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and diced
1/2 of 1 large red onion, diced finely
3 jalapeños, seeded and diced finely
fistful of fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
ground sea salt to taste

I feel I may have already said too much with the instructions in the ingredients list, because there's little left to say. Simply chop up the tomatoes, onion, jalapeños and cilantro as instructed, toss together in a large bowl, squeeze the lime over top, and stir. Sprinkle with salt and taste test it with a few chips to make sure you've got the salt just right.

And that's about it.

Fresh salsa doesn't keep long--plan to use it that same day, or the day after, at the latest. And jalapeños very in heat somewhat, so start out with 1 1/2-2 jalapeños, taste, and then decide if you want more heat. And if you really want to knock up the heat a bit, leave the seeds in the jalapeños, because that's where a lot of the heat resides.

Go forth and conquer!

Menu Plan Monday

Hey, folks! That was easily the best Super Bowl I have ever seen. All the delicious food, coupled with good company and a great game, made for a fantastic evening! I hope your Super Bowl celebration was a success, as well.

Wow, did that ever sound cheesy. Anyway, on to this week's menu plan:

Sweet and Sour Chicken over Jasmine Rice

Hawaiian Ham
Scalloped Potatoes

Stuffed Shells (Grusendini)

Lemon Pepper Chicken Scallopini
Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole

Aglio e Olio with Chicken


Who the Heck Knows????

As I've mentioned a thousand times before, you can also check out other menu plans at Orgjunkie.com. Have a grrrrreat week!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

BBQ Cola Smokies

Yay, April! As the first (and only) to respond, you have earned yourself a prize! Email me with your mailing address, and I'll get it out to you right away!

Okay, so April suggested I post the recipe for BBQ Cola Smokies, which I'll be making for Super Bowl Sunday. I first came upon this recipe when looking for family-friendly appetizers to serve at Judah's First Birthday party. The original recipe was actually for BBQ Cola meatballs, and included a recipe for those as well. Opting for ease, I used pre-made frozen meatballs instead. Let me tell you--these little babies, which simmered away unattended all morning in the crock pot, were by far the biggest hit of the party. People were practically drinking the sauce on its own.

Of course, tomorrow's appetizer will be a bit different; I'll be using Hillshire Farms Li'l Smokies, because they were BOGO this week at the grocery store. And I am out of regular cola, so I'll be using cherry cola instead. I'm sure they'll still turn out to be yummy. Even so, here's the original recipe for you, including the from-scratch meatballs.

BBQ Cola Meatballs
adapted from allrecipes.com

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 1/4 c. dry bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp. grated onion
1 (1 oz.) pkg. dry Ranch dressing mix

1/2 c. chopped onion
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup cola
1 tsp. seasoning salt (such as Lawry's)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix together the ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, grated onion, and ranch dressing mix. Shape into 1-in. meatballs, and place on a pan with sides. Bake for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.

In the meantime, prepare the sauce: saute the onion in the butter until translucent. In the bowl of a slow cooker, combine the ketchup, vinegar, cola, seasoning salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Add the onions, and stir to combine.

Add meatballs to sauce, stirring gently to coat all of the meatballs. Cover and cook on Low for 3 hours. Remove the lid, and allow to cook for a while longer (30 min-however long you'll be serving them) so the sauce can thicken a bit.