Monday, February 28, 2011

Tofu Rancheros

As my husband mentioned in his Friday blog post, I had the pleasure of having 3 wisdom teeth removed on Thursday. It was quite an interesting experience. It was my first time being put "under" and, according to the oral surgeon, they had to use 3 times the anesthesia normally given to a person of my height and weight to actually put me out. Also, when I started coming to, I was apparently giving the nurses hair-styling advice, which is quite horrifying to me considering the fact that I myself haven't had an actual "hair style" in months. I am probably the least qualified person I know to give any kind of fashion/beauty advice.

Cooking advice? Menu planning advice? That would be a little more my area, although I suppose it would have been a bit creepy had I come out of the anesthesia plugging my blog!

Anyway, as I recovered from my surgery, the plan was that my husband was to fill in on the blog. He had several dinners that he was hoping to make and blog about for me. The first was Grilled Pepperoni and Red Onion Pizza. I wish I could vouch for how good it was, but I was sticking to a diet of pudding and applesauce at the time. It smelled and looked fantastic though.

Saturday, Jared planned to cook another delicious meal and blog about it. Unfortunately, due to a very manly accident (nothing involving washing dishes), he instead sliced his hand open and had to drive himself to the Urgent Care (his wife being too loopy on Lortab to drive) to be stitched up. Needless to say, the blogging never happened. We're quite the pair, huh?

Lots of blood, stitches, and pain pills later, I'm back with a brand-new meatless meal that I think will knock your socks off.

*Note: this is a very versatile recipe, experiment with the salsa and cheese types, substitute scrambled eggs or cooked chicken chunks for the tofu, use different veggies, feel free to make it your own! Adapted from a recipe on

printable recipe
Tofu Rancheros

serves 4

16 oz tofu (firm)
16 oz salsa (I used red, but green would work too)
8 oz cheese (cheddar if using red salsa, monterey jack if using green salsa)
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 package mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
8 flour or corn tortillas, whichever you prefer

Chop your veggies and dice the tofu.

In a large skillet, heat a Tbsp canola oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, throw in the tofu and veggies.

Saute until the veggies are al dente, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the salsa.

Cook and stir until heated through.

Warm up your tortillas on a griddle or in a skillet until they just barely start to turn golden.

Top with a spoonful of the veggie mix and a handful of cheese. We added a splash of Tabasco to ours, keeping the kids' as-is.

Roll up and serve. So easy and so good!

This recipe is featured in Menu Plan 13.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Grilled Pepperoni and Red Onion Pizza

Due to an unavoidable encounter between an oral surgeon and her wisdom teeth, the Menu Mama will be out for a few days.  Not to worry though!  I (The Menu Papa?) will be posting recipes for the next few days.  To preface our first recipe many of you may have noticed that my contributions thus far to the blog have been in either A) coming up with some kind of funky pizza or B) cooking something on the grill.  Today we will combine two of my culinary passions: pizza and grilling.  Excited yet?  Here's what we're going for today:

Grilled Pepperoni and Red Onion Pizza

Serves 4

1 lb pizza dough
1 C Mozzarella cheese
1 C Cheddar cheese
3 T Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz Pepperoni
1/2 C Pizza sauce (We use Hunt's Basil, Garlic and Oregano tomato sauce)
1/4 Red Onion, sliced into rings then cut in half

Before you start cooking preheat your grill to high.  (Charcoal would taste better but makes it much harder to control the temps.)  Next, roll out some foil onto a cooking sheet.  Spray the foil down with non-stick cooking spray and roll your pizza dough out.  Allow the dough to warm up to room temperature.  (We want all of our ingredients to be as warm as possible so they cook quickly on the grill).

While the dough warms up grate about a cup of mozzarella, a cup of cheddar and a few tablespoons of Parmesan.  Mix together in a bowl and set aside.


Slice the onion and arrange your pepperoni on a plate.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  This will help it crisp up on the grill.


Take every thing out to the grill and arrange so it's convenient.  Part of pulling this pizza off is getting the toppings on, and the whole shebang back onto the grill as quickly as possible.


Once everything is arranged and ready, reduce the grill heat to medium low and slide the foil with the dough onto the grill.  Close the lid and let cook 3 - 5 minutes, turning if your grill (like mine) has hot spots to prevent any burnt areas.

While the dough is cooking spray down the baking sheet with cooking spray.  Once the dough is done use a spatula (or two) to flip the dough, cooked side up onto the baking sheet.


Close the grill and spread the tomato sauce, followed by the onions onto the cooked side of the dough.

Add cheese and pepperoni.  I like to put down a nice layer of cheese, then the pepperoni and sprinkle a little cheese on top of it all.


Gently slide the pizza back onto the grill.  It's not going to want to move once it's down so make sure that you get in the right spot the first time.  Otherwise things may get ugly! 

Close the grill and let cook another 3 - 5 minutes.  Keep an eye on those hot spots!  If you are concerned about the pizza burning on the bottom you can pull it off after 3 minutes and finish in a 425 degree oven for 5 minutes.

Once the pizza is done cut into slices and serve hot.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Menu: Week of February 28 - March 6

Ready for a new menu plan? Here you go! As always, I will be posting the recipes (and linking to them on this post) throughout the week, so if you'd like to follow along with me, print out the shopping list and bookmark this page so you can come back for the recipes. It's going to be a yummy week!

I'm linking up with I'm an Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.

Monday: Tofu Rancheros - in an effort to use up the leftover tofu from this meal, I discovered this yummy recipe!
Tuesday: Spicy Tuscan Soup - back by popular demand!
Wednesday: Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole - so much easier than the original dish
Thursday: leftover/takeout night - might I recommend the soup? It only improves with age.
Friday: Thai Chicken Pizza - a pizza that tastes gourmet but is a cinch to put together
Saturday: Done-in-a-Buns and Potato Wedges - or Pigs in a Blanket, call them what you will, this is sure to be a kid-pleasing meal
Sunday: Pioneer Woman Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes - straight from the cookbook, you didn't think I'd stop with Blackberry Cobbler did you?
Family Night Treat: Chippy Blond Brownies - so addicting, like chocolate chip cookies in bar form

You ready? Let's get shopping!

The amounts listed here are for a family of 3-4. If you are feeding a larger family, double the amounts that are asterisked. For Menu Plan Explanation, click here. For all of my menu plans, click here.

printable shopping list

brown sugar
baking powder
seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
black pepper
plain bread crumbs
crushed red pepper
Montreal Steak Seasoning
dried rosemary (fresh works too if you have it)
dried thyme
cayenne pepper
canola oil (make sure you aren't running low, after all we'll be making fried chicken!)
olive oil
rice wine vinegar or cider vinegar
soy sauce
vanilla extract
peanut butter
1 can cream of chicken or celery soup
3 cubes chicken bouillon or 3 tsp bouillon granules (or 3 cups chicken broth)
*4 oz duck sauce or plum sauce (found in the Asian cooking section)
1/4 cup peanuts
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips
16 oz jar salsa

2 red onions
*1 red bell pepper
*1 green bell pepper
*4 scallions (green onions)
*1 cup bean sprouts
1 small package sliced mushrooms
1 bunch cilantro (only need about a handful)
1 cucumber
1 bunch kale (actually you only need about 1/4 of a bunch)
1 head garlic
5 lb bag medium russet potatoes (need about 7 lb if doubling)
*16 oz tofu (firm is best)
*8 tortillas (flour or corn, get what you like)
3 eggs
*8 oz Monterey Jack cheese (shredded or block)
*8 oz cheddar cheese (shredded or block) + 4 slices of cheddar cheese
8 oz Swiss cheese (this one needs to be in block form)
2 sticks butter (3 sticks if doubling)
1 cup (8 oz) heavy cream
2 cups (16 oz) milk
*4 oz cream cheese
*2 cups (16 oz) buttermilk (feel free to make your own with milk and vinegar if you'd rather
1 lb hot breakfast sausage
2 slices bacon
2 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast (3 lb if doubling, Tuesday's casserole should feed 8 as is)
1/2 lb diced ham
*1 cut-up fryer chicken
*4 hot dogs

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Spicy Romano Chicken

Here is an easy copycat recipe of Johnny Carino's Spicy Romano Chicken. Really, I can't tell the difference between my version and the real thing. Serve it with crusty bread dipped in olive oil and roasted garlic, and you've got yourself a great stay-in date night!

This is a very versatile recipe. If you don't care for some of these vegetables, feel free to substitute others that sound good to you.

printable recipe
Spicy Romano Chicken

serves 4

8 oz bowtie (farfalle) pasta, other kinds work too
1 Tbsp butter
1 can quartered artichoke hearts in water, drained
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
4 green onions, chopped
1 cup chopped raw mushrooms
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 pint prepared alfredo sauce (we like to use Olive Garden's alfredo, available for about $5 per pint for takeout, but you can use a store-bought jar if you prefer)
cayenne pepper, to taste

To begin, chop the mushrooms and green onions and set aside.

Next, slice your chicken into thin strips diagonally against the grain. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, melt 1 Tbsp of butter over medium high heat. Meanwhile, begin cooking the pasta according to package directions.

As soon as the butter is melted, add the chicken to the pot or skillet.

Cook several minutes per side, until the chicken is golden and cooked through.

Add the mushrooms, green onions, artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes, cooking and stirring until mushrooms are cooked, about 3 minutes.

Add the cooked (and drained) pasta and alfredo sauce. Season with cayenne pepper, to taste. Cook and stir until sauce is hot, then remove from heat and serve.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Glazed Pork Chops

Have I converted you to the diversity and deliciousness that is the bone-in pork chop yet? If not, then click here to view all of my pork chop recipes. They can be prepared many different ways and are cheap! My tip for getting the best deal on bone-in pork chops (and pretty much any meat): buy the large packages when they are on-sale. Around here we can get the big packages (about 8-10 pork chops) for as low as a dollar per pound. That doesn't mean you need to be eating pork for a week straight. Freeze each chop in individual plastic bags and just pull them out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge a day or two before you want use them.

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare pork chops, it is so flavorful and easy! Serve it with butter rolls or your favorite potato dish. This recipe is slightly adapted from one on the Taste of Home website.

printable recipe
Glazed Pork Chops

1/3 cup barbecue sauce
1/2 cup apricot or peach preserves
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp prepared mustard
1/4 tsp ground cloves
bone-in pork chops, 1 per person, double the first five ingredients if you are preparing more than 6 pork chops
salt and pepper

Measure out the first five ingredients into a medium sized bowl.

Stir until well blended.

Place the pork chops on a plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill over medium heat for 6-8 minutes per side or until a meat thermometer reads 160F, basting frequently with sauce mixture.

Remove pork chops from heat and serve.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

One of the benefits of having a mom who grew up in Jamaica and lived all over the United States in her adult life is enjoying all the fabulous meals she learned how to cook along the way. For example, from her 6 years in Louisiana she became an expert in cooking Red Beans and Rice, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, and Crawfish Etouffee.

Those other recipes will make it to the blog someday, but today we are going to learn how to make Gumbo. Now, my dad jokes that pretty much any meat "makes the best Gumbo" to a native Louisianan. We're talking dove, turtle, miscellaneous roadkill - "Just eat around the tire tracks, honey!" Don't worry though, we will be making our gumbo with a little more orthodox meat: chicken and sausage.

A few notes before we get started:

1) My mom recommends using Andouille Sausage. If you can't find that, then spicy italian sausage (not ground) works great, too. If you have young children who can't handle spicy foods, use regular italian sausage, but you will need to add lots of creole seasoning (I recommend Tony Chachere's) to your bowl to compensate for the lack of spice in the sausage.

2) This is Cajun Gumbo, which starts with a dark roux. This means you should get the roux darker than what I have pictured. It was my first time preparing gumbo by myself and my mom says it should have been darker. It tasted great, but just wasn't quite as good as hers! My mom swears by cooking the roux in the microwave. You can do it on the stove in a skillet, but it takes twice as long and requires much more stirring that way.

3) Gumbo is even better on the second or third day. I'm not sure why this is, but since this recipe makes at least 8 servings, plan to have it on leftover night as well. You'll see what I mean!

4) Gumbo needs to cook in the pot for several hours after you prepare it, so plan ahead! If you work, this may be a better weekend meal, so adjust the menu plan accordingly.

printable recipe
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 lb Andouille sausage
3 onions
3 celery stalks
cayenne pepper
creole seasoning (Tony Chachere's)
1/2 green pepper
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh parsley
4 green onions
2/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup flour

Fill a stock pot with water and add the raw chicken, 1 sliced onion, 1 celery stalk with leaves, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for 45-60 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Strain out chicken and vegetables, placing chicken on a plate to cool and tossing out the veggies, but retaining the liquid. This liquid is your stock and should look like this picture.

While the stock is cooking, chop the remaining 2 onions, 2 stalks of celery and the green pepper and set aside.

Also mince the garlic, parley and chop the green onion and set aside in a separate bowl.

After the chicken cools a little, shred it with a fork.

To prepare the roux, combine 2/3 cup each of oil and flour in a large, microwaveable bowl.

Microwave on high for 6-8 minutes, stirring every few minutes until the mixture is brown: darker than golden but not dark brown. Darker than this picture, I chickened out right at 6 minutes, it should have gone for another minute or so, but your microwave may vary so watch it.

Add your chopped onion, celery and green peppers and microwave for 3 more minutes. The color in this picture is closer to what it should have looked like before I added the vegetables.

Add your garlic, parsley and green onion and microwave for 2 more minutes. At this point it should be dark brown, see how mine never quite got there? This is a classic example of "do as I say, not as I do."

Measure the stock in your stock pot. Add water so that there is 8 cups of liquid total. Once you have the correct amount of liquid, throw in 2 tsp salt, your vegetable roux, and the chicken.

Cut your sausage into 1/2" slices and cook in a skillet over medium heat until it is slightly browned and has given up its fat. This will keep your gumbo from getting too oily.

Add your sausage to the pot and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 hours.

Serve over rice with extra Creole seasoning and gumbo filé seasoning (optional). We like to serve gumbo alongside a salad and buttered french bread.

This recipe is featured in Menu Plan 12.