This week, I had to amend my original plan, as the Little got Hand/Foot/Mouth Disease from somewhere, and had painful sores in her mouth.  It was very handy, and super fun.  But hey, having a family means having the grace to be flexible and rolling with some punches when they happen.  So, if you’re wondering why nothing is crunchy, your questions are answered!

Below, you will find recipe ideas and honest reviews, based on what I realistically made for my family within the last week.  These are taken from my Pinterest boards, around the internet, cookbooks, and hand-me-down recipe cards.  Usually, you will also find one ethnic family recipe each week, as well as a grocery-saving tip or two.  In ethnic recipes, I look for a dish that would typically be found in a home other than America; one that other mamas readily make their families, instead of an over-the-top delicacy we often see in restaurants and magazines.  It’s also a fun walk through what are likely their staple ingredients, which widely vary!  If you have an ethnic family recipe you would like me to try, let me know!

BREAKFAST

Biscuits and Gravy – This is a favorite of our family, my husband demands it several times a month.  I have been on a quest to find an awesome home-made biscuit recipe to replace the buttery goodness found within Grands! canisters.  For 2017, I am making as much as I can from scratch, saving us money and nasty food additives.  This time, I tried these Mile High Perfect Biscuits from Something Swanky.  I used additional butter instead of the shortening listed, and because the Little is allergic to egg, I used my old applesauce standby.  These turned out really good, nice and buttery, with a slightly crispy outside and a doughy inside.  I pressed them to a quarter-inch as indicated, but if I made these again, I would probably press to almost half an inch, because they not quite double in size and I like a thicker biscuit.  I did two rounds of pressing, but the author is right when she says that each additional flattening after the first produces biscuits that don’t rise as much.  After two, I still had additional dough, so I actually split it in half and made two dough “gobs” (didn’t press it a third time) and cooked them.  They were delicious with leftover soup from last week.  For the gravy, I always use this recipe as the base.  It’s super simple, uses the bare minimum ingredients that makes for money savings, and it’s easy to build on.  Usually, I add chili powder in mine, just enough for a little kick for a cold morning warm up.

Ham & Cheese Hash Brown Casserole – I always try to do something for breakfast that will stretch for several days.  If it’s not already made, my husband reaches for his favorite sugary cereal, and since I leave around 2am to deliver papers every night, I barely have the willpower some mornings to push the toaster lever down.  This Ham & Cheese Hashbrown Casserole did the trick this week, easily taking care of two full breakfasts for all three of us, with a little left over to tide me over for an additional early morning.  Add your favorite fruit side, and it could stretch even further.  I know, some readers might get skeptical at the caloric intake between the cream of potato soup and the sour cream, not to mention the two cheeses.  However, it kept us full and satisfied for hours to a late lunch, instead of snacking for a “brunch”, so I find value in that.  I used southern style hashbrowns, because they were on sale and half the price of the regular shredded variety, as well as the remainder of an Easter ham I had in the freezer.  I couldn’t find either cheese grater, and I often have to remind myself that it’s so great he puts the dishes away for me…even though it’s not in the “right place”, so I instead sliced the cheddar thin and sandwiched it between layers of casserole makings.  I also added black pepper, and you could easily add other ingredients (such as peppers, onions, mushrooms) without adding additional soup or sour cream.  Next time, I would make this in a smaller dish, perhaps a casserole crock, as a 9×13 Pyrex yielded a casserole only about a half inch thick.

MAIN DISHES

Honey Dijon Chicken – Freezer to Crockpot – Anyone who knows me knows that I love crockpot meals.  Take a day once a month and basically have meals done for half of it.  Plus, the house smells delicious for hours.  Anyway, I had made up this Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Chicken in early March, and pulled it last minute so I had something to give the poor sick Little, since it’s soft.  That’s the beauty of crockpot meals!  Also, anything from SixSistersStuff is delicious, if you’re looking for a fool-proof recipe of any kind.  No endorsement, just my opinion.  This recipe was simple, and only has six ingredients (although I didn’t have liquid smoke, and I’m sure it would have been really great had I had it).  I served it on rice, and if you intend to as well, I would say to double the sauce contents, just to add something to the rice.

Chicken Quesadillas – I don’t have a specific recipe for this, it’s just something we do from time to time when we need to make up some budget, or make something quickly.  We just take a flour tortilla shell, cut it in half, and on one half add either left over shredded chicken or canned chicken, as well as whatever shredded cheese we have on hand to it.  Put it on the griddle and add the other half of the tortilla shell on top, and something to press it down (I have a panini press) and “dry grill” both sides.  Add whatever fixings you have, such as salsa, produce, more cheese, or sour cream, and you’re good to go!

Pork Loin Roast – With a title like Most Tender Pork Loin Roast Ever, obviously I was curious.  This would have worked well as a crockpot meal too.  However, seeing as I did it in the oven as indicated, I expected the potatoes and carrots to not be so mushy (as crockpot meals often are).  However, I would have to agree with many of the reviewers on this recipe, next time I would probably bake the roast for around an hour and forty-five minutes, tops.  Overall though, a very flavorful yet simple dish.

ETHNIC

Guatemalan Pepían – I have sponsored a Guatemalan girl through Compassion International for close to a decade, and awhile ago I asked her what her favorite dish was.  In her next letter, she told me she loved pepían, a common dish served over rice, and that she liked the chicken version best.  I did some research, and this dish is basically the national food of Guatemala, found everywhere from households to food trucks, as well as classy restaurants.  It’s a fusion of Mayan and Spanish flavors, made by searing ingredients independently, bringing out intense flavor and making it a signature of the Guatemalan culture.  I eventually found this article written by Rudy Giron that not only had a recipe, but also a really great native view on the dish and its rich history, which really made the food come alive.  While making it, I wondered if I could even do this dish partial justice, as the single skillet method seemed to eventually get a nice burnt portion on it, and I worried a bit.  Plus, since his measurements use the metric system, I mostly guessed on amounts of each ingredient, as well as times.  The chicken ends up boiling for about 90 minutes, add the vegitables in the last half hour.  I used a whole chicken, as my mom raises poultry on a small organic hobby farm.  After I got the “seasoning” from the blender and into the pot with the chicken, it smelled amazing after about five minutes.  I served it with rice, and the broth had seemingly every kind of flavor.  Sweet, savory, and a hint of spice, we could really taste the cardamom, cinnamon, and peppers.  It was very good, and made an enormous amount.  I’ll end up freezing some of the broth, and using it again later in another dish, but we’re okay with that.

I sent my husband on an errand for the peppers, since I knew I wouldn’t find them in my local Target produce section.  He went to a neighborhood we used to live in, where the majority of residents are Hispanic and there’s an amazing Mexican restaurant.  It’s El Burrito Mercado in Saint Paul, MN, if you’re local.  It was a favorite spot of ours when we lived there, as they also have a restaurant aside from groceries.  When he brought up the guajillo and mulato chilis, apparently the clerk gave him a questioning look and asked what he was making.  When he replied that he didn’t know, he was on an errand from his wife, she asked if I was Mexican, he replied no, and that whatever I needed them for was for a Guatemalan dish.  She smiled, and told him that those peppers made sense for a Guatemalan recipe.  That’s when I knew this was the right choice…questioned for buying chilis not really known by the average American, and then justified when mentioned the country of recipe origin.

DESSERT

Chocolate Chip Cookies – I can cook and bake pretty much anything, but for whatever reason I have a hard time with chocolate chip cookies, usually burning them from getting sidetracked on tasks and not setting a timer.  It’s supposed to be beginner baking!  I’m on the search for a cookie that is fluffy in the middle, yet thick but a little crispy on the outside.  I tried the Best Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Averie Cooks, another favorite recipe blogger of mine, and these are probably the first batch that I actually paid attention to the timer for.  They turned out fabulous.  Too early to tell if it’s my new go-to recipe, but it’s in the running!

No Churn Cookie Monster Ice Cream – I stole fifteen chocolate chip cookies and hid them in the freezer for a few days in order to make this.  No churn ice cream has always intrigued me, but I hadn’t gotten around to trying it.  That’s what this weekly gig is about, finally getting around to trying to replicate the pretty food photography I slobber over all the time but do nothing with.  I know I’m not the only one.  Anyway, I’m not one for food coloring usually, just because it’s an unnecissary additive, but sometimes you have to live a little, and this No Churn Cookie Monster Ice Cream from Our Family of Seven seemed like a week of tough sickness brightener, so we actually had this today after lunch.   It is very rich.  Don’t dish yourself a regular ice cream size dish.  It’s very sweet, and very rich, but a really good, smooth treat.  I will be using the base again, and using different add ins.  This would be something that could easily be turned into mint chocolate chip or cookies and cream, for instance.

 

Money-saving tip: Instead of buying canned beans, buy them dried in either bulk or bags.  From a cup of dried beans, you’ll get two cups after you soak them, the amount typically found in a can, so what you see in the bag will actually double, giving you at least quadruple the amount for the same price as a can.  I usually soak them overnight, although there is a “quick method” that involves boiling.  Plus, beans can be frozen, so I often buy multiple bags of dried beans on sale, soak them all overnight, drain, and freeze them in quart-sized freezer bags in 2-cup amounts.  I can just grab them out of a freezer and add them to my chili, same as their canned counterparts, except much cheaper, and not in some mystery liquid!

And there you have it!  Please let me know your thoughts, especially if you’re Guatemalan. 😉  Have a wholesome week!

-Ashley

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