Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Quick Tortellini and Kielbasa via The Wife

Special guest post from The Wife:
   My mom and I have an arrangement on Tuesday nights. The Husband stays late at school to run game club, so my mom brings the Spud home at 4, and then one of us prepares dinner while the other one watches the Spud. We alternate dinner responsibilities from week to week. This past Tuesday, it was my mom’s turn to make dinner. Around 1:45, I received an email from her saying she wasn’t feeling well and needed to bow out of dinner. This left me with a dilemma. Sure, we could have leftovers, but that didn’t sound appealing to me, and I was certain the Husband wouldn’t be too excited about it either. As I sat at my desk, waiting for my students to locate their homework, I remembered a package of kielbasa I had seen hiding in the back of the freezer. I typed “quick kielbasa recipe” into Google, and the first hit was Quick Tortellini and Kielbasa. With just five ingredients (all of which we had in some form or another), I decided to give it a try.
Mercifully, the Spud decided to take a nap on the way home from Grandma’s, so I was able to throw dinner together before she woke up. She even got to taste-test it before her dad got home. Her red face and watery eyes attested to the fact that it was a bit spicier than I had intended…but she continued to shovel it in. I figured that was a good sign.   

Quick Tortellini and Kielbasa
From Pillsbury

  • 1 (9 oz.) package refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini (I’m sure they meant 1 16 oz. package of frozen tortellini.)
  • 1 ½ cups frozen bell pepper and onion stir-fry (Didn’t have this exact item. Instead, I went with ½ cup thinly sliced red pepper, ½ cup thinly sliced yellow onion, and ½ cup fresh broccoli.)
  • ½ lb. cooked kielbasa or Polish sausage, cut into ¼ inch slices (14 oz. is kinda like ½ pound, right? No, but if I’m going to open a package, I’m using all of it.)
  • 1 (26 oz.) can chunky-style tomato pasta sauce (I didn’t have a 26 oz. can of pasta sauce, but that wasn’t a big deal. Kielbasa and pasta sauce sounded gross. Instead, I went with 1 14.5 oz. can of low sodium petite diced tomatoes and 1 10 oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chiles. I know, I know… 14.5 + 10 is 24.5, not 26. Look, I’m an English teacher, okay?)
  • 1 oz. (1/4 cup) shredded Parmesan cheese (omitted since I didn’t use pasta sauce)

  1.  Cook tortellini as directed on package. Drain and set aside.
  2.  Meanwhile, spray large nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray (clearly, we don’t want this to stick). Add bell pepper and onion (and broccoli); cook over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add kielbasa; cook and stir 2 minutes. (I let it cook a little longer – nothing worse than underdone kielbasa).
  3. Add pasta sauce (don’t be gross – used the diced tomato combo); mix well. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 4 to 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add cooked tortellini; stir gently to mix. Cook until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with cheese (or don’t).
Good Times!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Slow Cooker Southwest Style Cheese Soup

     "Southwest Style." what a vague description. It would seem as long as you have meat and chile peppers, you can call something Southwest. That's good, because that is exactly what I did. This really came together as a desperate attempt to come up with meals for the week. I didn't expect much from this recipe, but was happily surprised at how it turned out. It had a nice bite and a plenty of flavor. It was even better the next day! Give it a try and see what you think! If you like it, let me know! If not, tell someone else, because I don't have time for your criticism.

Slow Cooker
Southwest Style Cheese Soup

  • 1 can (15.5 ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (14.5 ounce) fire roasted salsa style tomatoes, undrained (our ALDI had these. If you can't find them, just substitute a can of Rotel tomatoes with green chiles.)
  • 1/2 cup corn (frozen or canned)
  • 1 pound ground beef (80/20 is great, but 73/27 is fine, too. 11/89 is right out)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup pepper jack cheese (this is not a paid endorsement, but I wholeheartedly recommend Kraft Habanero Heat shredded Monterey Jack)
  1. Brown and drain the ground beef. Throw it in a slow cooker.
  2. Throw in everything else except the sour cream and cheese.
  3. Cook on LOW for 4 hours
  4. Add the sour cream and cheese. Stir to incorporate and cook on LOW another 30 minutes.
Good Times!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Orange Whip Pie

     I think everybody has a few boxes of Jell-O that have been sitting in their cabinet for untold years. In my case, it was orange flavored. I don't even like orange Jell-O. I don't know how it got there. Fortunately, I found a recipe that used it! This recipe is phenomenally easy and quite tasty. I've made a few modifications, the most notable is the use of a pie crust in the pie mix. This is because I'm cack-handed and managed to bust the first crust while loading it with filling. I just dumped everything back in the bowl and crushed up the crust in it. I feel it added a nice bit of texture to the filling! I also give the option of adding some booze to make it more true to the beverage for which it's named. If you're interested here's a bonus recipe:

Orange Whip
- 4 ounces orange juice
- 1 ounce rum
- 1 ounce vodka
- 2 ounces cream
Blend with immersion blender until thick and frothy. Serve over ice in a Collins glass

     This recipe is also flexible if you don't like orange. You could easily leave out all the orange stuff and swap in cherry Jell-O and maybe use a bit of vanilla extract. Anyways, I served it and it was a hit with all three people (The Wife, The Mother-in-Law and The Spud) who tried it. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Orange Whip Pie
adapted from Velvety Orange Gelatin Pie (which is a terrible name)
via Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals
  • 1 package (.3 ounce orange gelatin)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup lo-fat sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons fresh grated orange peel (too lazy to grate oranges. I used 2 teaspoons dried orange peel)
  • 1 8-ounce carton whipped topping (you know, Cool-Whip)
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 nine inch graham cracker pie crust (just go and buy one. They're like a dollar)
  • another 9" pie crust, or 6-8 decent sized graham crackers, crushed. 
  • If you're feeling adventurous and want the true Orange Whip experience:
    1 ounce vodka
    1 ounce rum
    If you use booze, use a little less water
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water. 
  2. Stir in milk, sour cream, orange peel (and the booze if you're using it)
  3. Fold in whipped topping (and the crushed graham cracker if you're doing it my way. The Right way)
  4. Spoon into crust. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Good Times!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cheddar Apple Bread

     Every now and then I come across a recipe that doesn't seem right. I mean, it looks good in theory, but something is off about it. This bread recipe was a perfect example. It looked great on paper. I followed most of the instructions. Then I was staring at a mixing bowl full of what amounted to dust. There was no liquid to turn it into dough. I figured maybe because I used dried apples instead of fresh. Then I realized grated apples still wouldn't produce enough liquid to make a dough. I called over The Wife for a consult. She agreed the recipe was wonky. We made an executive decision, and based on other recipes, added some yogurt and milk. The end result was fantastic. A bread that's good and crusty on the outside, but soft on the inside. Toast up a big slab of this and slather it with butter and you've got yourself a winner. I suggest making it using my suggestions, but feel free to try the original recipe. Let me know if you have any success. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Cheddar Apple Bread
originally Old English Cheese & Apple Loaf
via The Art of Bread
  • 1 teaspoon oil, to grease pan (we just used nonstick cooking spray)
  • 3-1/2 cups unbleached flour (regular white flour, right?)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 apples, peeled, cored and grated (we used about 2 cups dried apples, chopped)
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • rolled oats, to sprinkle (totally forgot about this)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C, Gasmark), grease a 9x5x3" baking pan.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Rub butter into the flour mixture quickly with your fingertips until the mixture resembles the texture of coarse breadcrumbs (using your fingertips? How about one of those dough cutters? Why make things harder and messier than it needs to be?)
  3. Stir in the apples and cheese into the flour mixture. Add the beaten eggs until evenly blended (ok, if you have skipped my optional steps, you may find yourself staring at a bowl of clumpy and mostly dry flour. This was my WTF moment. Something very important seemed to be missing from the recipe. Like something to make it into a dough. The fact that the next step refers to "spooning the batter" indicates something the consistency of dried Play-Doh was not what I was looking for. Just go ahead and mix in that milk and yogurt now.) Mix until evenly blended.
  4. Spoon the batter into the pan (see? I told you. "Spoon." You'd be better off with a broom and dustpan if you don't add some liquid) Sprinkle with oats (I was so pissed about this recipe seemingly missing ingredients that I totally forgot about the oats.)
  5. Bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours (we went for about 1-3/4 hours) until golden brown and well-risen. Turn out on a wire rack to cool.
Good Times!