Three Recipes That Have Changed My Life

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As many of you know, cooking is not my favorite thing. This has not always been the case. In fact, there was a time in my life when I used to love cooking. That era was when I had the time to cook what I wanted and then actually sit down to eat and enjoy what I’d prepared. That era, my friends, ended nearly 9 years ago on October 27, 2010 (Also known as the day my first baby was born).

Somehow, though, I am still expected to cook 3 meals and 5,463 snacks every. Single. Day. That’s a lot of cooking for someone who has lost the joy of cooking.

But there is hope! I have a few go-to recipes that have changed my life. I rotate my favorite recipes with such precision that my family knows what day of the month it is purely by what is served on our dinner table. It’s a survival mechanism, and it works.

My criteria for an outstanding recipe are:
1. It is easy to make. We’re talking, so easy I can make this dish while simultaneously helping a kid with homework, assisting a preschooler to build a Duplo city, and breaking up a sibling fight.
2. Is it tasty enough that either:
A) at least 60% of my family will eat it.
Or
B) it’s so delicious that I won’t mind a bit if I have to eat the whole thing myself.

That’s it. I’m pretty easy to please (Motherhood has lowered my standards by a not-insufficient amount).

When I was thinking about what recipes I wanted to share with you here today, I was reminded of one of my favorite shows–Master Chef (I have no problem at all watching other people struggle in the kitchen.). For the grand finale of Master Chef the competitors must prepare a 3-course meal: appetizer, entree, and dessert.

So that is precisely what I will do for you today, my friends. Although I will be presenting 3 courses worth of recipes, I would not necessarily recommend eating them all together at the same meal. It would be a weird combo of foods, but I suppose anything is possible. Free country and everything.

And, since this is a free country, I’m going to start with my favorite course first: Dessert.

5-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake
AKA The Most Dangerous Cake Recipe In The World
Cake is by far my favorite meal of the day, so it’s only fitting that I would highlight a cake recipe for my dessert course.

Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (Get the good stuff here, folks. No off-brand Kroger Cocoa or similar rubbish. We’re looking for something along the lines of Ghiradelli or Godiva–go big or go home!).
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 3 Tablespoons oil (vegetable, canola, whatevs…as long as it’s the edible kind of oil)
  • 3 Tablespoons chocolate chips (Optional. JK. Chocolate chips are never optional. If you want to succeed at life, definitely always add chocolate chips.)
  • A small splash of vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Get a big ‘ol coffee mug. Make sure it is microwaveable. Otherwise you’ll make sparks in your kitchen, and I’m not talking about what you and your husband do after you put the kids to bed.
  2. Add dry ingredients to the mug and mix well.
  3. Add the egg and beat it like you’re Mike Tyson in the boxing ring.
  4. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
  5. Add chocolate chips. Now add a little extra. You’ll thank me later.
  6. Put your mug in the microwave and microwave for 2 minutes 30 seconds – 3 minutes. This is not an exact science. Well, maybe it is. But when I’m cooking chocolate cake in a mug in my microwave I don’t want to mess with the math of microwave watts and the volume of my mug or any of that mumbo-jumbo. Just watch your cake and take it out when it looks done-ish. If you like your cake moist, take it out earlier. If you like it really well-done and dry so you kill all of the salmonella or whatever, cook it longer.
  7. The cake might rise over the top of the mug while it’s cooking. DO NOT BE ALARMED! This, like toddler tantrums in a grocery store, is an expected part of life.
  8. Unless you enjoy the sensation of molten lava on your palette, allow your cake to cool a little bit before you dig in.
  9. EAT!!! Supposedly this dessert is meant to share, but I’ve never tested that theory.

Moving on, now. I’m rather enjoying the excitement of presenting these courses out of order, so let’s do something really crazy!

May I present Course 2: Appetizer

Pan-Roasted Vegetables
Seriously? Roasted vegetables as an appetizer?! Yes, vegetables are an appetizer. Just look in the “Starters” section of any fancy-by-millenial-standards restaurant and I guarantee you’ll find fried brussels sprouts. Roasted is just the healthier version of fried, and I’m oh-so-healthy (as indicated by Course 1 above). But seriously. These things are highly addictive and I almost always eat the whole pan myself.

Ingredients:

  • One big handful per person of a hearty vegetable (Broccoli, Asparagus, Brussels Sprouts, green beans, Potatoes, Carrots)
  • Olive Oil (the big jug from Costco works just fine)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Finishing pizzazz (Varies depending on the veggie and the mood you’re in. Includes but is not limited to: squeeze of fresh lemon juice, balsamic glaze, honey, parmesan cheese, crumbled bacon)

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • While your oven is getting ready to work some magic transforming bland produce into heavenly bites, rinse and pat dry your veggies.
  • Spread out your veggies on a large baking sheet with enough room between them so nobody is touching or passing along any cooties.
  • Douse the whole thing with Olive Oil. Don’t be too stingy here. We want enough oil that the veggies won’t get a sunburn, but they don’t need to swim in the stuff either.
  • Use your fingers to massage the oil into your veggies the same way (you wish) your husband would massage your back after you’ve had a long day of caring for his offspring.
  • Sprinkle some salt and pepper fairy dust all over those veggies.
  • Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. I use a very scientific method to determine when this dish is done. Jab a fork in one of the veggies after 10-15 minutes and if it’s hard as a rock, then it’s not done. If the fork goes in the way I would want my fork to go in when I’m eating it, then it’s done. If the vegetable is black like burnt vegetables, it is over done.
  • As soon as you take the tray out of the oven, spread some pizzaaz. My favorite combos are: broccoli + lemon juice + parmesan cheese, brussels sprouts + balsamic glaze, carrots + honey, green beans + bacon
  • Watch as your children refuse to touch the green stuff while you gorge yourself on a farmer’s market’s worth of vegetables in one sitting.

And, finally, the main event (or, in our case, the main course).

Panang Curry with Chicken, 3 Stars
Jon makes fun of me because any time we go out to eat I order the exact same thing. As in, if we go to restaurant X, I 100% will be ordering entreé Y. What can I say–I know what I like, and I like what I know. Thai food is my absolute favorite, and every time we eat at any Thai restaurant I order the Panang Curry with Chicken, 3 Stars. And since I can’t go to eat every day I have learned how to make a darn good copycat of my own.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • A splash of vegetable oil
  • Panang Curry Paste (Just buy the good stuff on Amazon and save yourself a trip to a grocery store that probably won’t have it anyway).
  • 1 can coconut milk (Not coconut creme, that’s for your piña coladas…which, coincidentally, would go quite well with this dish…)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons peanut butter (Unless you’re allergic to peanuts, in which case I bid you adieu.)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons brown sugar (Or, if you’re not a sugar addict like me, 0 Tablespoons of brown sugar)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons fish sauce (Ewwww! Right?! I hate fish more than probably anyone else on the planet, so trust me when I say that this stuff will not make your curry taste like the ocean. It adds salty flavor, that’s it. Start with just a splash in your curry if you don’t trust it, and see what you think. Again, Amazon to the rescue.)
  • (optional) 1-2 teaspoons lime leaf powder (I don’t think this stuff is totally necessary, but it does taste good and it makes me feel fancy when I see lime leaf powder in my spice cabinet).
  • 1/2 red bell pepper thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper thinly sliced
  • 1 small handful of frozen haricot vert (Fancy words for the skinny green beans)
  • 1/2 cup fresh diced pineapple if you have it (Really, you don’t need to buy a whole pineapple for this recipe just so you can throw a few chunks into your curry.)
  • For serving: Cooked rice

Instructions

  • In a wok (1st choice) or large pan (2nd choice), brown your chicken in the vegetable oil. If you’re going to be saving out some of the chicken to feed plain to your picky children, then make sure it’s cooked throughly. Or, if you’re adding the whole batch of chicken directly to your curry, you can even just skip this step entirely.
  • Remove chicken from the pan.
  • In the same pan add the curry paste (Hint: more = SPICIER! 3 stars–medium/hot–is about 1-2 Tablespoons of curry paste. Start by adding just a bit and then add more if you want it spicier), coconut milk, peanut butter, brown sugar, and fish sauce, and lime leaf powder. Heat on medium until you get a nice simmer going and everything melts together.
  • Add the chicken (if you didn’t already cook the chicken, simmer for about 20 minutes until the chicken is totally cooked through). Now would be a good time to make that piña colada. This is also a good time for you to prepare your picky kids’ not-curry dinners.
  • Add whatever veggies you want to use and simmer for another 5 minutes, until your veggies are softened but not mushy.
  • Serve over cooked rice.

That’s it! Three of the simplest and most delicious courses of food you’ll ever prepare. I hope I’ve un-inspired you to cook this week and always. Enjoy creating in your own kitchen (and if all else fails, there’s always Grub Hub!).

10 Tips For Bringing Meals To Families In Need

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When I came home from the hospital after having my first baby I was a bit overwhelmed. Two days earlier I had left my home with my husband and now we were returning with our souvenir: a person. A person who I had to feed and keep clean and allow to sleep while I was awake and tend to when I’d rather be sleeping. For those first few weeks I felt like all I did was breastfeed my baby and try not to think about how much every inch of my body hurt in new and unusual ways. Doing anything productive–cooking, cleaning, walking by myself to the bathroom–was out of the question.

I was beyond grateful, then, when several friends offered to bring us meals during those first few weeks home. Not only did I not have to cook dinner each night, but I didn’t even have to think about it. Nor did my husband. The food just magically appeared, we woke up from our delirium long enough to eat it, and then we fell back into our new-parents trance.

Fast forward four years, and now it’s my turn to pay it forward. Any time we know someone who is in need–whether they’ve just had a baby, are coming home from a surgery, or are suffering from a loss–we try to return the favor. Bringing someone food during their time of need is a simple, yet impactful way of showing them that you care. I’ve prepared dozens of meals for families in need (and have received dozens of meals from our gracious friends) over the years. I’ve picked up a few tips along the way for bringing meals that will bless others. Here are my top 10:

1. Eat one/ Share one
Why make extra work for yourself? Rather than making a special meal to bring to someone, just make a double batch of whatever you’re planning for your own family. Then bring the second serving to the person in need.

2. Make It Freezable
Make a dish that can be easily frozen and reheated if they don’t want to eat it right now. The person you are cooking for may want to save your meal for another time–maybe they aren’t very hungry tonight, or they actually have the energy to cook right now, or their fridge is already full of leftovers from the other people who have been bringing them food. If you give them the option to freeze your meal, then it’s a gift that can be given (er…eaten…) whenever the time is right for them. Check out these 24 freezable meals if you need some inspiration.
*If you do make something that can be frozen, be sure inform the recipient of this fact. Also include instructions on how to cook or reheat the meal from frozen.

3. Stick To The Basics
This is not the time to try some fancy new recipe or see what happens if you dump the entire jar of Cayenne Pepper into the soup. Cook something tried-and-true so you aren’t left scrambling at the last minute if it doesn’t work out. Make something that people with “average” palates could appreciate, especially if there are children in the family who will be sharing the meal. Also, be sure to ask the recipient in advance if they have any allergies, intolerances, or food preferences.

4. Include Your Recipe
On the off-chance that your friend really likes the food your bringing her, she may want to make it again. I always include a copy of the recipe I have prepared–if nothing else, maybe she can add it to her baby’s memory book so they can look back and remember what Mom and Dad ate while they were recovering from newborn-itis. Along with this, I always write down directions for heating/reheating the meal I’ve prepared–especially how long it will take for the food to cook.

5. NO DISHES!!!
My least favorite part of cooking is certainly not the cooking. No, it’s the dishes. Those dang dishes that pile up after every meal. So, when I’m trying to help out a friend in need, I make sure they don’t have to wash a single dish. I buy foil baking dishes, Tupperware containers, Ziploc bags and paper plates when they’re on sale so I have them on hand whenever I want to bring someone a meal. When I drop off a meal I tell the recipient that I don’t want any of it back–they can clean ’em and keep ’em or just throw them away. Done deal.

6. Don’t Forget The Extras
If I’m going to all the effort of making someone a nice meal, I want it to be…nice. That means a bottle of wine or sparkling cider. Extra sauce. Some flowers for their table. DESSERT. It’s the little things that make a difference.

7. Let Others Do The Cooking
Restaurant takeout, pizza delivery, ready-made meals from the grocery store, take-and-bake pizzas, even grocery delivery are all great options. Plus, the best part about letting somebody else do the cooking is that you can use this option remotely and still have food delivered on your behalf. Even though we live thousands of miles away, we’ve been able to send food to several friends in Seattle this year by ordering them pizzas or having Safeway drop off some groceries at their home.

8. Coordinate Meal Delivery
There are several websites out there that make coordinating meal deliveries easy. You can include all of the pertinent information–the recipient’s name, address, directions to their house, phone number, dietary restrictions, best times for food delivery–all in one place. This makes it easy for people to sign up for a day or time to bring a meal and share what they’re bringing to help eliminate confusion. A few of my favorite meal-coordination sites are Take Them A Meal, Meal Train, and Care Calendar.

9. Don’t Expect To Stay And Chat
When you deliver a meal to someone in need, don’t plan on making a day of it. The recipient may or may not be up for visitors right now, but don’t assume this is your chance to get some quality one-on-one time. New parents especially have their hands full, and they may just want you to quietly leave your food and move right along (so they can, you know, scarf down the only meal they’re going to eat today before the baby wakes up). Soon enough they will be ready for visitors–in fact, they’ll probably be begging for someone to come pass the time with them in a few months–but right now your mission is to bring food and leave them in peace.

10. Consider Other Meals
If you are bringing someone dinner, consider bringing along a little something extra for breakfast the next day. These meals that friends are bringing may be the only real meals this person is eating–and Mom always said that breakfast was the most important meal of the day.

With a little preparation and a few thoughtful touches, you can brighten someone’s day when they need it the most–and fill their tummies while you’re at it! Now, go forth and pay it forward.

 

How a Mom Actually Cooks Dinner

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Last night I decided to try a new recipe for dinner.  When it comes to dinner–especially week-night dinners–I usually try to stick with the basics. Things that I’ve made a thousand times and could cook in my sleep (or in the zombie-like trance that is otherwise known as “motherhood”). I had found a new recipe that I really wanted to try, though, and I was feeling brave so I decided to give it a go.

The recipe in question this night was Sausage and Roasted Vegetable Penne. The recipe basically went like this:

Prep time: 15 minutes
Level of difficulty: Easy

Directions:
Step 1: Chop and roast vegetables
Step 2: Boil water and cook pasta
Step 3: Cook sausage
Step 4: Mix it all together and serve

It all seemed simple enough. 15 minutes. Four easy steps. I can do this. Even at the end of a long day with two tired children…how hard could it be? Famous last words…

Here is how a mom actually cooks dinner:

Prep time: 1 1/2 hours, give or take
Level of difficulty: Grueling

Directions:
Step 1: Wash your hands.
Step 2: Start chopping onions but stop halfway through to go change a diaper.
Step 3: Wash your hands.
Step 4: Start chopping bell peppers but stop halfway through to give the kids a snack.
Step 5: Start chopping zucchini but stop halfway through to deal with your distraught 3-year old who has discovered that some monster (you) threw away one of his broken McDonald’s toys.

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Step 6: Toss vegetables with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray.
Step 7: Try to put the baking tray in your oven and realize that it’s too big and won’t fit. Transfer everything to a smaller tray. Total time elapsed thus far: 38 minutes.

Step 8: While the vegetables are roasting in the oven, put some water in a pot for the pasta. While the pot is filling, you get a phone call. You (stupidly) answer the phone and it’s a telemarketer who won’t hang up. Run back to the sink and dump half of the water out of your overflowing pot.
Step 9: Put the pot on to boil. Meanwhile, begin to cook sausage in a pan.
Step 10: Trip over the dog 5,000 times.
Step 11: Toss the vegetables and return them to the oven.
Step 12: Drag your toddler around the kitchen while he sits on your foot.

IMG_4975 Step 13: Deglaze the sausage with a splash of white wine. Decide that’s a good idea and pour yourself a glass.

IMG_4982 Step 14: Add pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente.
Step 15: Discover that your children have moved all of their muddy balls from the backyard into your kitchen. Spend the next few minutes throwing muddy balls out the back door.

IMG_4984 Step 16: Wash your hands.
Step 17: Remove vegetables from the oven.
Step 18: Read a story to your distraught toddler who, judging by his wails, thinks you have abandoned him for all eternity.

IMG_4971 Step 19: Drain pasta, reserving some of the liquid for your sauce.
Step 20: Answer your 3-year old’s shouts that he’s “all done and needs a wipe” in the upstairs bathroom.
Step 21: Wash your hands.
Step 22: Eat some cheese.
Step 23: Combine pasta, sausage, and roasted veggies in a large pot. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.
Step 24: Collapse exhausted in your seat at the dinner table and hope that somebody will actually eat the meal set before them instead of the usual “that’s gross” or throwing food across the room to the dog.
Step 24: Give yourself a pat on the back and a gold star. Dinner: accomplished.

Hooray! You did it! Now, go clean those dishes and get ready because you get to do it all over again tomorrow night. Actually, scratch that. Just look up the phone number for pizza delivery and save yourself the trouble. How hard could that be?

Mom’s “Famous” Zucchini Soup Recipe

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My mom has an incredible garden that we fondly refer to as “Nana’s Secret Garden”. I don’t have a garden myself (nor should I with my two “brown thumbs”), but my boys love playing in her garden and eating fruit, berries and veggies (literally) off the vine. This time of year Nana’s Secret Garden is bursting with zucchini, some the size of my small children. It was from this prolific garden that my mom was inspired to create this recipe for zucchini soup. This soup is one of my favorite end-of-summer treats–it is creamy with a fresh, vibrant taste. In fact, this soup is so good that it was published in Sunset Magazine–which, basically, makes this soup famous. At least to me. And it really does deserve to be famous.

Well, I was at the grocery store yesterday trying to figure out what I’m going to feed my family this week (somehow it’s still a mystery to me. Every. Single. Week. You’d think that after years of cooking every single day I’d know what to make for dinner but, alas, I still wander the grocery store looking for inspiration, week after week). This week, my store had courgettes on sale–only I didn’t know what courgettes were. I have learned that there are many different names for things here in Ireland. As it turns out, courgettes are none other than the humble zucchini. And you know what that means? I get my zucchini soup, even though I’m thousands of miles away from Nana’s Secret Garden.

So here is my mom’s award winning recipe for zucchini soup. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

zucchini-soup-su-637683-lCurried Zucchini Soup

1 large zucchini (or courgette!)
1 large onion
1 head of garlic, peeled and separated into cloves
1 quart of chicken or vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 Tablespoon curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
*instant mashed potatoes for thickening

In a large stock pot, sautee coarsely chopped vegetables and 1 cup of stock until the vegetables are soft. Working in small batches, puree the mixture in a blender, adding more stock to liquefy as necessary. Return vegetable puree to pot and add curry powder, salt and pepper. Simmer the mixture and add coconut milk and evaporated milk. Add more stock if necessary or, to thicken, add instant mashed potatoes.

*Since the zucchini come in many different sizes, you’ll probably need to adjust the amounts of stock and seasoning you use. Sometimes I also like to add some fresh herbs like basil at the very end of the cooking. This soup also freezes well for a taste of summer in later months.

…And, if you have LOTS of zucchini to use up, here are a few of my other favorite zucchini recipes:

Zucchini Fritters
Zucchini and Corn Tacos
Zucchini Bread
Roasted Zucchini and Tomato Pasta
Zucchini “Noodles”
Zucchini and Rosemary Frittata  

BBQ-Week Menu and How To Make Your Own Pizza On The Grill

A strange phenomenon happened this week here in Seattle. Our usual gray clouds and cool temperatures were replaced with this wonderful warm shining orb in the sky: the sun. Temperatures are supposed to be in the 70’s for the next week or so, which basically means that everyone in the Pacific Northwest is freaking out. People are already calling in “sick” to work and children are gleefully jumping into the frigid Puget Sound waters. The parkas have come off and we’re ready to celebrate.

When we get these nice warm days in Seattle I like to spend as much time outside as possible. You really never know when your next chance to get Vitamin-D in a form other than “pill” will be. So, I decided to organize our entire menu this week around using our BBQ Grill–I won’t even have to go inside to cook! At the end of the post, I’ve also included a little “how-to” for making pizza on your grill. Happy BBQ’ing–at least until the rain returns next week.

Monday- Burgers
Tuesday- (no grilling tonight since we’ll be at our Bible study)
Wednesday- Grilled Chicken Kebabs
Thursday- Bratwurst, Roasted Potatoes and Garlic (done in a tin foil pouch on the grill), Grilled Asparagus
Friday- BBQ’d Pizza (instructions below)
Saturday- Honey-Citrus Marinated Pork Chops and Fire-Roasted Peppers
Sunday- Mother’s Day = my day off of cooking!

How To Make Your Own Pizza On The Grill:

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  1. Preheat half of your grill on high heat and half on low heat.
  2. Make your dough and sauce. Or cheat, and buy them. I like Trader Joe’s pizza dough–it’s only about $1.50 per dough and it tastes just as good as any dough that I’ve ever made.
  3. Roll out your dough on a flat surface until it’s your desired thickness (a lightly oiled upside down cookie sheet or a lightly floured cutting board work well).
  4. Put the dough directly on the grill grates (use the hot section for this)
  5. Use tongs to gently rotate the dough for 2-3 minutes until the bottom side is browned and the dough holds its shape.
  6. Move the dough to the cooler section of the grill and flip it over. Put sauce, cheese, and toppings on your pizza.
  7. Return your pizza to the hot side of the grill and let your pizza cook until the cheese is melted and your dough is cooked through, about 3-5 more minutes.

* We like to use a pizza stone instead of putting the dough directly on the grill. If you use a stone, just leave the stone in the grill while it is preheating and assemble your pizza directly on the stone. You do not need to flip the dough, just cook your pizza until everything is cooked through, 5-7 minutes.

Sweet Curried Chicken Recipe and This Week’s Menu

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When I was doing my student teaching I wrote a bio for my class so they could get to know me. And, me being me, I wrote half of the bio about how much I love cooking and eating. One sweet first grader brought me in a recipe card the next day. On it, he had written down one of his favorite family recipes (OK, his mom had actually written it, but he was so proud handing it over to me that he may as well have penned it himself). The recipe was for what he called “yellow chicken”–baked chicken with a sweet curry sauce. Now, 8 years later, that little first grader is now a teenager–and his favorite family recipe is now one of my favorite family recipes. I love this recipe because it’s quick to throw together and it’s a real crowd-pleaser. I’ve made this chicken dozens of times and it’s still just as delicious as the first time I made it. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Zach’s Yellow Chicken (Sweet Curried Chicken)

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
*Optional* Cooked rice and roasted veggies for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put the chicken breasts into an 8-inch square baking dish. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, honey, mustard, curry powder and salt; cook over medium heat, stirring until the mixture begins to bubble. Pour the curry sauce over the chicken breasts and bake until cooked through (about 30 minutes).

We like to serve the chicken over cooked rice. I also like to make a pan of roasted veggies to put in the oven at the same time as the chicken: wash, rinse, peel and chop into small pieces whatever veggies you desire (potatoes, carrots, squash, onions, and yams all work great). Toss the veggies with some olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and put the pan of veggies in the oven at the same time as the chicken. They should all be done at about the same time (just poke the veggies with a fork to see if they are soft). One more thing: the sauce is insane. I usually make a double batch of the sauce because I basically douse my entire plate in the stuff.

What I’m Cooking This Week
-Sweet Curried Chicken (recipe above)
-Grilled tri-tip and mashed potatoes
-Steak stir fry (using leftover tri-tip)
-Crockpot chicken Taco soup
-Fried rice and potstickers

This Week’s Menu and My Recipe For Baked Potato Soup

This week we have a few extra outings planned during the day, so I’m sticking with  recipes I make all the time and that I know I can throw together really quickly. At the end of the post I’ve included my mom’s recipe for my mom’s Baked Potato Soup–I hope you love it as much as we do!

Sunday: Our sweet neighbors brought us over some spaghetti carbonara that we’ll eat tonight. I baked some chocolate chip cookies to fill their serving dish with before I return it.

Monday: Indian Curry and Naan

Tuesday: Community Group Potluck- I’m bringing the main course, Baked Potato Soup (recipe at the end of this post)

Wednesday: Orange Chicken and Rice

Thursday: 7-layer Casserole (Made from rice, ground beef, veggies, and tomato sauce)

Friday: Beer Brats and Balsamic Potatoes

Saturday: Roasted Pork Loin and Veggies

Mom’s Baked Potato Soup
I got this recipe from my mom, an excellent cook who never writes down her recipes. In fact, my copy of this recipe is hand-written on a scrap of paper and includes two helpful directions: cook, add this last. Good thing I’ve watched her make it a time or two! I love this soup because it can be made ahead of time and reheated in a Crockpot or on the stove for dinner on a busy night. I like serving this with cornbread. Enjoy!

baked potato soup
2 cans chicken broth, plus extra for thinning the soup (or use vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian dish)
1 medium onion, diced
4-5  medium baking potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1 can evaporated milk
salt and pepper to taste
instant mashed potatoes to thicken
*Optional stir-ins: cooked diced ham, frozen corn, shredded cheddar cheese
*Optional toppings: cooked crumbled bacon, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, diced chives or green onions

Put the broth, onion, potatoes, and celery in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are soft and starting to break apart, about 20 minutes. Add evaporated milk, salt and pepper. Thicken to desired consistency with instant mashed potatoes, or thin with extra broth. Add any stir-ins that you’d like. Serve and soup bowls, and top with desired toppings.