Sunday, December 20, 2009

Menu Plan for the Week of December 20

Merry Christmas Week!!!

Again, there isn't much of a plan.  Mr. Gooch is still out of town this week and I am hosting the family Christmas Eve Party.  However, most of the dishes are brought by other people. 

In case you are looking for ideas for your own holiday dinners, here are some of the dishes we will be enjoying the evening of the 24th.

Crab Appetizer (recipe to come from Mom)
Deviled Eggs (recipe to come from my Grandmother)
Honey Baked Ham
Cheesy Potatoes
Baked Beans
7-Layer Salad (recipe to come from my Grandmother)
Green Bean Casserole (recipe to come from Mom)

Check in with to see what others are planning for this week's menus.

Make sure to check back next week when I actually do a menu plan.  DH will be back in town for several days and we will be celebrating Christmas with our immediate family next Monday evening.  I think a chicken may be in the plan. 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Menu Plan for the Week of December 12

No menu plan this week.  Mr. Gooch is working out of town this week so I am hitting the freezer and the Lean Cuisines, the pantry and the fridge for foraging. 

Next week I will have a plan, mainly because we will be hosting my family's Christmas Eve party. 

Check out to see what others actually have planned for this week.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Another Contest...This Time Dessert!

One of the blogs I follow is that for Marx Foods.  This is an online company that has some amazing products for the home chef.  I drool just perusing their online store.  I have several of their samplers on my holiday wish list (in case you are reading Mr. Gooch, I think the Dried Chile Sampler and the Ritrovo's Artisan Salt Collection both would fit the bill!)

They are having a contest for 10 dozen molded ice cream desserts.  Just enter what you would do with the ice creams if you won in the comments section and you will be entered to win.  Good luck!

If I win, I will be serving these at a fancy dinner party Mr. Gooch and I are hosting for our immediate family after the holidays are over.  It is part of our Christmas present to them.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas is Coming!! Christmas is Coming!! And Here's a Giveaway to to Help You Get Ready!!

With Thanksgiving over, this means that Christmas is right around the corner.  Gulp!  We are hosting the family Christmas Eve celebration this year.  Double Gulp!!

In any case, we could use another Christmas tree, like the one that Balsam Mountain is giving away.  Click here to enter the giveaway for a Colorado Mountain Spruce Christmas tree valued at $799.

For more information on Balsam Hill trees and how they are made, click here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wishing you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our Anniversary Dinner at The Grill at the 1913 Room - A Review

(Image from the Amway Grand Plaza web site)

For our second anniversary, we decided to eat out.  Now that we no longer have the many wonderful Chicago steakhouses to choose from, we decided to check out one of the top places for steak in our new locale.  The Grill at the 1913 Room is said to be one of the best.

Overall, our dinner was quite amazing.  It was a beautiful evening with an unseasonably warm temperature.  Since we were eating mid-week there were only a few people in the restaurant so we were able to get a table with a window view away from other diners, lending itself to a quiet, intimate dinner for two.

Mr. Gooch had leaves of baby spinach with toasted pine nuts, roma tomatoes, applewood smoked bacon and maple-mustard vinaigrette as his starter and I had the torn leaf Caesar salad with shaved La Mancha, Manchego.  Mr. Gooch said it was one of the best salads he had ever had.  Very high praise and it set the bar high for the rest of the meal. 

The main course was where things got a bit dicey.  Mr. Gooch's was wonderful.  The 10 oz. Prime filet of beef tenderloin with a pistachio crust and Stilton Cream was cooked to perfection.  However, my selection, the 12 oz. grilled Prime dry aged New York Strip with herb butter, was overcooked.  Way overcooked.  It was still tasty but cooked almost to well done, definitley not the medium rare that I ordered. 

Now, before you get as upset as I did about the wrong doneness, the manager was quite embarrassed about the wrong preparation and offered to get another New York Strip prepared as I ordered it.  However, at this point, I decided against it since I was so hungry that I didn't want to wait another 10 to 15 minutes to get another steak.  Especially since the savory aroma of Mr. Gooch's cooked to order steak kept wafting across the table toward me.  So I kept my steak and they removed the entree from the check without any argument.

The capper to the evening were our desserts.  There are not enough superlatives to describe how amazing they were.  I had the Milky Way, a chocolate tower with baci mousse, a trio of sauces and Amarula Liqueur.  Mr. Gooch had the Chocolate Composition, a rich chocolate cake topped with dark chocolate raspberry truffles, Manjari chocolate shards, and candied orange with a duo of sauces.  There was even a sugar cookie with Happy Anniversary written on it in milk chocolate included in the plate of my dessert.  They were both absolutely divine, creamy, chocolately, beautiful, works of art, fruity and a perfect end to a wonderful night. 

I wish I had a photos of our dinners to share with you, but I had left the camera on the hall table.  Maybe next year.

Here's wishing you all a memorable anniversary dinner of your own this year!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Menu Plan for the Week of November 22

I cannot believe how time has flown.  It is already the week of Thanksgiving with December and the Christmas holiday close behind.  (gulp!  I think I need to get started on deciding on what we are giving this year).  But even with all the holidays, menu planning goes on.  This week we have two new recipes that I found in one of my many cookbooks.  

One of the bonuses of moving is that being reminded of books (cookbooks included) you forgot you owned.  I purchased the Best Ever Three & Four Ingredient Cookbook at my local Borders Books about a year ago and then never got around to making any of the many tasty looking recipes.  It is written by two British chefs and I like that it has a more European flair.  Just one more way I am trying to expand my palate. 

With that, here is our week's menu. 

Sunday:  Herbed roast in the crockpot with skillet potatoes, carrots, Caesar salad and rolls.
Monday:  Teriyaki salmon (a new recipe for us so look for a post on this recipe coming soon)
Tuesday:  Chilli-spiced chicken (another new recipe)
Wednesday:  FITF
Thursday:  Turkey Day at my aunt and uncle's house
Friday:  FITF
Saturday:  Breakfast for Dinner (since I am on my own with Mr. Gooch out of town)

Don't forget to check out to see what others are planning for their menus this week.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Yummy Birthday Dinner!

Sunday night was my birthday.  It was a big one.  But since I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with turning that particular age, Mr. Gooch was wonderful about the day being low key.

The best part, that I can share with you, was the wonderful dinner Mr. Gooch made for me to celebrate.  It was made up of some my favorite dishes.

We had bacon-wrapped filet mignon seasoned with this tasty rub, dilled carrots, skillet-fried potatoes with smoked Gouda, Caesar salad and a wonderful summer berry torte from one of our fav bakeries (highlighted in the pic at the top of the post).

It was a wonderful evening and a great way to celebrate the birthday.

Here's hoping all of your birthday celebrations are as tasty and wonderful.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Herbed Tuna Steak on a Bed of Fresh Greens

I thought the title would make our tuna steak salad sound a bit fancier.  I started with this recipe for Grilled Herbed Tuna that I found on Erica's Kitchen Adventures and aded our own twists.

First, the weather was not cooperating the day we had planned to eat this meal.  Since that meant no grilling, I whipped out our grilling pan so we be able to cook the tuna steak in a similar way.  Next, I used dried herbs, ground them in a coffee grinder to make a rub instead of using the herbs crushed and placed on the fish.  I also added a little rosemary and garlic powder (left over from a previous dish).  Finally, since we didn't have the fresh herbs, we skipped those all together.

With theser changes, the tuna was quite tasty.  However, I was a bit rushed so didn't get a chance to take the tuna steak out of the fridge and let it warm slightly.   This resulted in a cool center since our tuna steak was quite thick and we did not want to overcook the outside.  If I were to make this again, I would cut the steak in half so it was not so thick. 

Herbed Tuna Steak on a Bed of Fresh Greens
(Source: Modified from Erica's Kitchen Adventures)
1 Tuna Steak (max of 1" thick)
1 T Dried Thyme
1/2 T Kosher Salt
1/2 T Lemon Pepper
1/2 T Dried Rosemary
1/2 T Garlic Powder
1 T Olive Oil
1 Head Romaine Lettuce, washed and shredded
Salad dressing of your choice (we used a light Ceasar)

Preheat grill pan to medium/medium-high heat.
Mix together herbs and salt.
Grind in a coffee grinder until powdered.
Coat the tuna with oil and the rub with the powdered herb mixture, coating both sides and the edges.
Place tuna steak on grill pan.
Grill for about 2-3 minutes per side, including the edges, depending on thickness and how you like it cooked.

Slice thinly and place on a bed of greens.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Menu Plan for the Week of November 15

I missed my usual Sunday night posting of our menu plan for the week. But I have a good reason, I promise.  We were celebrating my birthday.  I turned 39 (again).  DH made me a few of my favorite recipes (check them out below) and we decided to have a quiet evening without technology. 

Now that I have had some time to actually spend on the week's plan, here it is.

Sunday:  My birthday dinner.  Bacon-wrapped filet mignon using this recipe, dilled carrots, caesar salad
Monday:  Mac and Cheese with spicy chicken sausage
Tuesday:   Pesto Cheese Ravioli with chicken
Wednesday:  Roast Chicken in the Crockpot
Thursday:   FITF
Friday:  Homemade BBQ Pizza using the leftover chicken from Tuesday
Saturday:  FITF

Check out to see what others are planning on eating this week.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Different Chicken - Sweet not Savory

I have had Mark Bittman's Bitten blog from the New York Times in my Reader for a long time now.  I like his writing style and am a regular reader.  One thing I am always checking out are the recipes, to see if anything looks good for both Mr. Gooch and myself since I am the picky eater in our duo (mushrooms, shellfish and tomato chunks are just a few of my "oh heck no" ingredients).

Most of the time, unfortunately, I have to take a pass on his recipes.  However, back on March 10, 2009, the Recipe of the Day "Roast Chicken With Cumin, Honey and Orange" seemed right up our alley.  Mr. Gooch loves honey, I love cumin and we both love orange juice.   Additionally, it looked like it had just the right combination of sweetness and heat to keep things interesting.  Yes, it has taken me months to get around to making this recipe.  Please don't ask me how many more recipes I have in my recipe queue.  It will just make me sad. 

Unfortunately, as written the recipe didn't quite live up to our expectations.  Don't get me wrong, the meat was moist and there was nice flavor.  However, it was just a bit too sweet for our taste.  I guess we have palates that like more savory dishes.  We do plan on trying this again, however, we are going to up the cumin and substitute some of the orange juice for other citrus (since they have a stronger/sharper flavor).  So all is not lost. 

We did not have the burning problem of the skin that the recipe alludes to, however, I did keep a very close eye on our bird and kept the roasting pan toward the front of the oven so that may have made the difference.  The skin just got a quite crispy in a few places on the legs.   Mr. Gooch liked those crispy bits so that was a success. 

We recommend this dish as written for those who like things on the sweet side, but if you like a more savory flavor, you may want to improvise a bit by adding some stonger flavors.

Roast Chicken With Cumin, Honey and Orange
(Source:  Mark Bittman's Blog Bitten on
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-pound chicken, giblets and excess fat removed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Use a nonstick roasting pan, or line a roasting pan with a double layer of aluminum foil.
Combine orange juice, honey, cumin, salt and pepper in bowl, and whisk until smooth.
Place chicken in pan, and spoon all but 1/4 cup of liquid over all of it.
Place basted chicken in oven, legs first, and roast for 10 minutes.
Spoon accumulated juices back over chicken, reverse pan back to front, and return to oven.
Repeat four times, basting every 10 minutes and switching pan position each time.
If chicken browns too quickly, lower heat a bit.
If juices dry up, use reserved liquid and 1 or 2 tablespoons of water or orange juice. 3.
After 50 minutes of roasting, insert an instant-read thermometer into a thigh; when it reads 155 to 165 degrees, remove chicken from oven, and baste one final time.
Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This Brisket is the Bomb!!

I can say with some conviction that this photo in no way does this dish justice.  The smokey flavor, the juiciness, the easiness of preparation, none of it can be captured on film.  Can you tell Mr. Gooch and I liked this dish? 

We have had this twice since I found the recipe (two weeks ago), that is how much we liked it.  Though the second time, I made a few modifications which are found in the recipe below.  We also found that the next day, the brisket with a little cheese on a mini french roll toaster in the toaster ovden is pretty amazing.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Smokey Crockpot Brisket
(Modified from a recipe found on A Year of Slow Cooking)

2.5 lb round roast or other roast type meat
1/4 cup A1 Sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1/4 cup liquid hickory smoke
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

Liberally season roast with salt and pepper.
Place in smallest crockpot you can (if it is larger than necessary, you will cover the meat with aluminum foil to help keep meat from drying out)
Combine A1 Sauce, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke together in a small bowl.
Pour over meat.
Cover with aluminum foil (if necessary).
Cook on low heat for at least 8 hours.
Shred with fork when done and serve on french rolls or other crusty fresh bread.

Tip:  When storing leftovers, make sure to pour some of the juices over the meat in the container.  This will keep the meat nice and moist.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Menu Plan for the Week of November 8

It is another Sunday night, and that means it is another weekly menu plan.  After last week's hiatus getting ready for our housewarming, we are back at it this week. 

Sunday: Leftovers from the house warming open house
Monday: Chicken Pasta in a Garlic Wine Sauce
Tuesday: Mr. Gooch Makes Steaks on the Grill
Wednesday: Salmon Pesto Pasta
Thursday:  Forage in the Fridge (FITF)
Friday: Out of town
Saturday: Out of town

I still have some write ups from our previous new recipes still to post.  Now that I have some time, those will be coming in the next couple of weeks. 

If you are stumped on your own menu plans, make sure to visit to see what others are planning on their menus this week.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Fruity Cole Slaw - Not a Contradiction, It's a Tasty Treat

Now that we have gotten a handle on some of our home renos, we are back to trying new recipes each week. During the process of moving, unpacking boxes, spending too much time at home reno stores and little time on cooking, I had forgotten how much I liked flipping through my cookbooks, going through my Reader and surfing the internet for new (and hopefully tasty) recipes.

However, be not afraid, now that I have remembered those joys, I am back in the groove. We tried two new recipes last week, this being one, and both were great successes. So much so that they are going in the "regular rotation" notebook.

We served it with Crockpot Hickory Smoked Brisket and it was the perfect accompaniment to the smokey flavor of the meat.

The only thing we will change when we make this again is to find something (cider vinegar maybe), to give it some bite. The sweetness of the apples and the dressing were just a little much for us. But we do like the savory things.

Apple Cole Slaw
(Source: modified slightly from Delicious Meliscious - a cooking blog by Melissa)

3-4 cups chopped cabbage
1 unpeeled red apple, cored and chopped
1 unpeeled Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 finely chopped red bell pepper
1 finely chopped yellow pepper
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste (we used a bit more than 1 tablespoon)

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, red apple, green apple, carrot, red bell pepper, and green onions.

In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, brown sugar, and lemon juice.

Pour dressing over salad.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Menu Plan for the Week of November 1

This week is a crazy busy one.  We are putting the last touches on several projects in the house to have them done before our housewarming open house on Saturday.  Eep!  Dinners this week are going to be pretty much out of the crockpot since those take much less effort since I have a feeling we are going to have several late nights.  So no new recipes scheduled for dinner this week (though I have a couple of new appetizer recipes I will be trying for the party).   We will be back trying new things next week.

Sunday:  Leftovers
Monday:  BBQ chicken in the crockpot
Tuesday:  Crockpot Hickory Smoked Brisket 
Wednesday:  Brats on the Grill
Thursday:  Forage in the Fridge
Friday:  Forage in the Fridge
Saturday:  Housewwarming - Look for the menu in a later post since we haven't finalized it yet.

Check out to see what others are eating this week. 

Happy menu planning!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy 2nd Anniversary To Us!

It is hard to believe that it has been two years since our wedding day.  What a two years it has been.  Job changes, house selling and buying, relocating to another state, just to name a few things.  And I wouldn't change any of it for anything.

To celebrate we are heading out for a night on the town at a great steakhouse with a little bubbly and a great dessert, then weather permitting, a walk along the river.

Here's to another two (plus 48 or more) years of wedded bliss. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Menu Plan for the Week of October 25

Mr. Gooch is only home for three nights this week so I only have meals planned for those nights and one other.  The rest of the time I will Forage in the Fridge.

However, I will be trying a few new recipes to mix it up a little.  The new recipes from last week didn't turn out quite as well as we had hoped but it is good for us to mix it up a little from our usual favorites.

Sunday:  Roast Chicken with Cumin, Honey and Orange with carrots, rice, salad and rolls
Monday:  Crockpot Hickory Smoked Brisket on kaiser rolls with apple cole slaw
Tuesday:  Out to dinner to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary
Wednesday:  Alton Brown's Baked Mac and Cheese with Chicken Sausage and salad
Thursday:  FITF
Friday:  FITF
Saturday:  FITF

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Chill in the Air Means Apples and Applesauce

I love applesauce.  I could eat it every single day, especially in the Fall.  Strange when I think about it since I am NOT a fan of cinnamon, but the slight hint in a bowl of applesauce just seems right.

This year, I decided to try to make crockpot applesauce.  After seeing and reading about how easy it was, I figured even I couldn't mess it up. 

The best part is that the recipe is all approximate amounts.  So you can increase or decrease the various ingredients as you see fit. 

 I hope your batch(es) turn out as tasty as mine.

Slow Cooker Applesauce
Source:  a combination of various internet recipes

8-10 cored, peeled and chopped apples
1/2 to 1 tsp cinnamon (I use only 1/2 tsp)
1/4 to 1/2 c demura sugar (I like the hint of molasses left in the sugar)  This mount varies depending on the sweetness of the apples you use.

Pour chopped apples into the slow cooker
Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over apples.
Stir to distribute sugar and cinnamon.
Turn slow cooker onto Low and cook for 8-10 hours.  (I like to cook mine overnight).

I package the applesauce into containers, freezing those that will not me consumed immediately.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Menu Plan for the Week of October 18

Mr. Gooch is back from out of town and so we are actually menu planning this week.  While being on my own last week and foraging in the fridge, pantry and freezer was fun and resulted in some strange and odd combinations for my meals, having an actual plan is better.

This week we have all new recipes planned.  I will be posting our reviews later in the month.  Keeping our fingers crossed that they turn out well and tasty.

Tuesday:  Attending a Beer Tasting Fundraiser for Glida's Club
Thursday:  FITF (Forage in the Fridge)
Friday:  FITF
Saturday:  FITF 

Don't forget to visit to see what others have planned on their menus for this week.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Menu Plan for the Week of October 11

There is no real menu plan this week. Why you ask?  Because Mr. Gooch is out of town all week and so I am on my own.  That means my meals will be Lean Cuisines, pizza, cereal, and meeting my Mom and Dad for for dinner one night.

I will be back next week with an actual menu plan since Mr. Gooch is back on Sunday. 

Hope everyone has a good week.  Be sure to visit to see what others actually have planned for this week's dinners.

Mr. Gooch Cooks (Seasoned Steak Perfection)

Or V for Victory!  Mr. Gooch believes, and I agree, that we have achieved steak perfection with this recipe. 
The spices and the balsamic glaze all combined with the tenderness of our thick-cut New York Strip steaks from Heartland Meats to create nirvana.

A quick plug for Heartland Meats - if you are located near Chicago and you can get some of their meats, do it.  You won't regret it.  After finding their booth at the Oak Park Farmers Market several years ago, we were regular customers until our move.  We miss our favorite meat man.

If anyone knows of a rancher of grass-fed beef in western Michigan, please leave a comment.  We are looking for a local supplier since we don't get to our old Farmers Market anymore.

Back to the recipe.  It is easy; however the only drawback is that two of the key ingredients are proprietary  blends.  The Chicago Steak Seasoning I purchased at The Spice House in Chicago.  They do, however, have an online store so you can order a batch for yourself.  And I would suggest that this is an ingredient that any beef lover should have in their spice pantry.  Mr. Gooch has added it to hamburgers with great success.  The Smokey 4/S Special Seasoned Salt is from Penzeys, our absolute favorite spice store ever.  Again, they also have an online store you don't have one of their physical locations near you.

Seasoned Steak Perfection
(Source:  Depths of Mr. Gooch's Brain)
1 tbs Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 tsp Mesquite Liquid Smoke
1 tbs Chicago Steak Seasoning (from The Spice House)
1/4 tsp Smokey 4/S Special Seasoned Salt (from Penzeys)
Combine Worcestershire Sauce, Balsamic Vinegar and Mesquite Liquid Smoke in a small bowl.
Combine Chicago Steak Seasoning and Smokey 4/S Special Seasoned Salt in a second small bowl.
Rinse and dry the steaks.
With a basting brush, brush one side of the steaks with the liquid, then sprinkle with the dry seasonings.

Flip the steaks and repeat.

Place seasoned steaks into a zipper bag and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours (overnight is better).

Heat your grill to a low to medium temperature. 
Cook low and slow on the grill until it reaches your desired doneness.

Then enjoy!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Menu Plan for the Week of October 4

Last week we were a bit off in our planning.  I stopped by Costco at dinner time to pick up a few things and the roasted chicken smelled so good, I got one.  That ended up lasting me for two nights. 

But we are back to it again this week.

Sunday:  Take out from Panera Bread (I love their Chicken Chipotle Sandwiches)
Monday:  Stovetop Taco Pasta (moved from last week)
Tuesday:  Out for dinner with friends after a trip to IKEA to furnish our office.
Wednesday:  Chicken Caesar Salad (dinner size)
Thursday:  Forage in the Fridge
Friday:  Orzo with Sausage, Chicken and Peppers
Saturday:  Forage in the Fridge

Don't forget to check out to see what others are planning on thier menus this week.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Menu Plan for Week of Sept. 27

We did really well last week following the plan.  Now that we are on a roll, it it onto this week.

Sunday:  Forage in the Fridge (FITF)
Monday:  BBQ Chicken in the crockpot
Tuesday:  Tri-tip, dilled carrots, crashed potatoes, salad, peach or pear crisp (my grandmother and great-aunt are coming over for dinner and to see the house for the first time.
Wednesday:  FITF
Thursday:  Stovetop Taco Pasta
Friday:  FITF
Saturday:  Homemade Pizza

Monday, September 21, 2009

Homemade Marinara Sauce - The Second Part of the Tomato Bounty

After making enough pizza sauce to last until next spring, I had several of my father's tomatoes left.  However, they were not enough to make a big pot of marinara sauce.  So I headed to one of our local farms  (William Bos Greenhouse & Farm) to buy some more tomatoes.  To my delight they had some beautiful, red, ripe Roma tomatoes so I grabbed myself a peck and made plans to spend the day making sauce.

What type of sauce?  Marinara Sauce.  Yum!

I started with this recipe from  However, because I always like to change things up, I made several changes that are reflected in the recipe below.  The number of cups is approximate because I just estimated 3 Roma tomatoes equaled 1 cup.  After seeing how much it filled the pot, I think that estimate may have been a bit high.

With this basic marinara sauce, you can mix it up any way you want later.  Add ground beef or turkey, fresh basil, mushrooms, whatever strikes your fancy. 

Homemade Marinara Sauce
(Note:  This makes a very large pot of sauce, enough to fill 3 quart freezer bags)
9-12 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled and run through the food processor to remove chunks
12 oz tomato paste
4 Tbs Italian herb blend
1 Tbs salt
1/2 onion
1 green pepper
1 head garlic
4 Tbs olive oil
3/4 c red wine

In a food processor, mince onion, garlic and green pepper
Add olive oil
Hat a large Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot
Place olive oil, onion, green pepper and garlic mixture into the pot
Saute until soft
Add tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, red wine and Italian herbs.
Mix to combine thoroughly.
Turn down heat to low.
Simmer for at least an hour.
Cool and place in quart freezer bags.
Freeze for future use.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Menu Plan for Week of Sept. 20

I am pleased to report that we followed the menu plan from last week.  So we must officially be getting settled in the new house since we are able to actually stick to a plan.  :-)

Flush from last week's victory, here is this week's plan.
Sunday:  Leftovers (Baked Salmon on a salad, cheesy potatoes, corn on the cob)
Monday:  Crockpot Roast with Herbs, potatoes, corn on the cob, salad
Tuesday:  New York Strip steaks rubbed with Chicago Steak Seasoning, corn on the cob (it is that time of year), salad, potatoes
Wednesday:  Leftovers
Thursday:  Leftovers and pizza (if necessary)
Friday:  Out to dinner and a show
Saturday:  Homemade Pizza with BBQ sauce and chicken

Check out to see what others are planning for their dinners.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Homemade Pizza Sauce - Just One Part of the Tomato Bounty

We have decided that my father is the tomato whisperer.  Why?  Because he was able to grow, in a cold and rainy summer, a tomato bounty.  I was the lucky recipient of some of that bounty. 

With a big bowl of peeled tomatoes at the ready , I decided to make homemade pizza sauce.  Starting from this recipe from RecipeZaar, I created the recipe below. 

Once it had cooled, I used ice cube trays to freeze individual pizza sized servings, enough to last all winter long.  Now I just need to get started on making the pizza dough to go with it.

Homemade Pizza Sauce
Ingredients (Note this is a BIG batch.  You may want to halve the recipe if you don't want a year's worth of pizza sauce)
4 Tbs olive oil (add more if necessary)
3 cups fresh tomatoes, finely chopped (I ran them through the food processor).  Make sure to peel the skins off of the tomatoes to ensure a smooth finished product.
1 jar tomato sauce (24 ounces or more)
1 onion, minced (run through the food processor)
1 head garlic, minced (run through the food processor)
12 oz tomato paste
4 tsp Italian herb blend
4 Tbs sugar
1/3 cup red wine

Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven or other heavy bottom pot
Add onions and garlic, sauteing until soft.
Add tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, sugar and red wine.
Mix to combine completely.
Turn down heat to simmer.
Cook for 20-30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Let cool completely.
Spray ice cube trays with Pam.
Pour sauce into ice cube trays, then freeze.
Once frozen, remove and place into a zipper freezer bag. 
Each cube is perfect for a personal pizza.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pantry Love!

Our new house has a pantry! And it is a walk in pantry to boot. It was love at first sight. You see, I am so excited to have an actual pantry. In our old house, the pantry was a bookcase secured to the wall on the landing of the stairs to the unfinished basement. Well, there was a lazy susan in the only under-the-counter cabinet but it was hard to access and didn't hold much.

However, there was a big problem with my new pantry which was threatening my budding love affair. Someone, in what I can only imagine was a caffeine induced frenzy while being snowed in, had covered the walls from floor to ceiling and wrapped most of the shelves in the ugliest contact paper I had ever seen. All I can ask is why on earth you would use a contact paper that has gray and dark green in a tiny closet with a small light? It makes it dark and depressing and you would never know if things are clean.

Here is a close up of the contact paper. Ug and ly are the only things I can come up with.

My solution, strip all the contact paper off. I don't have any actual before pics since I was in a frenzy to get that stuff peeled off. This is the best I can do.

I removed all the contact paper, filling a large garbage bag, and wiped down the walls and the shelves with an adhesive remover, Goo Gone. I love this stuff. It seems to disolve that sticky residue with ease. Once that was done, here is what I was left with. Pretty scary stuff. But I especially love the blue-ish paneling that was used for the walls instead of drywall.

I then used two coats of Kilz primer and two coats of stark white semigloss paint. I resecured several pieces of loose hardware and reinstalled the shelves. Once the interior was complete, I painted the inside of the door with chalkboard paint. What better place for a shopping list than the pantry itself? The only thing I still need is the chalk tray Hubs said he would make me.

Here is pantry filled with all the things that had to live in tubs while waiting for me to get done with the panty.
I am in love all over again. And what a transformation. I am hoping that this is a sign of what great changes we can make to our new home.
Make sure to stop by our home renovation blog Claiming Our Space to check out other changes we are making to our home.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Menu Planning - An Ongoing Process

I will regularly menu plan, I will regularly menu plan, I will regularly menu plan. 

I need to repeat that to myself time and time again since with this move we just haven't gotten back into the swing of things with the planning out what we will be eating.  Part of the problem is that Mr. Gooch works out of town part of every week so I am on my own for dinner.  I tend to not plan for those nights and I need to start.  Going to the pantry and deciding that a jello cup, crackers, a bag of pita chips and bowl of cottage cheese are NOT a healthy dinner.  :-)

So here it goes for this week.

Sunday:  Family Pool Party
Monday:  Rotisserie Chicken in the Crockpot
Tuesday:  Brats on the Grill, corn on the cob, salad
Wednesday:  Stovetop Taco Pasta
Thursday:  Leftovers
Friday:  Out to Dinner
Saturday:  Leftovers

Wish me luck in sticking to the plan.

Check out to see what others are planning for this week's menus.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Menu Plan Monday-Down to the Wire

It has finally happened. Our new kitchen is ready to use. I finished the pantry redo, cleaned all the appliances, unpacked all our dry goods, took stock of our frozen goods and actually ran to the grocery store to get some perishable items.

With the kitchen in action, it is back to menu planning for us.

Monday: BBQ Chicken on our new grill
Tuesday: Steaks with Southwest Marinade, corn on the cob, roasted potatoes, salad.Wednesday: Salmon with Pesto on Puffed Pastry, Cheesy Parmesan Orzo, dilled carrots
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Large dinner salad with grilled chicken
Saturday: Spicy chicken sausage with mac and cheese
Sunday: Out to Dinner at Famous Dave's

Monday, August 10, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Have No Idea What Comes Next

We are finally in our new home. Yeah!!! However, it has taken over a week to get things cleaned to the point where I feel comfortable putting food in the fridge and freezer, furniture on the carpet and our dishes in the cupboards. I am actually still working on getting the caked on grease off the grates for the stove top (thank goodness for Copper Boy scouring pads and Simple Green) so we haven't been doing much cooking yet. That will probably start next week (I hope).

So here is what we have planned.

Monday: Caesar salad with sushi, fruit salad and fresh bread (all from our local grocery store).
Tuesday: Caesar salad with chicken, fruit salad and the rest of the fresh bread
Wednesday: Baked Spaghetti Pie
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Lean Cuisine (I am on my own for dinner)
Saturday: Stovetop Taco Pasta
Sunday: Leftovers

Monday, August 3, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Not Much of a Plan

This week's Menu Plan Monday is rather vague. The reason? We just moved into our new (to us) house and because we are cleaning it from top to bottom, we don't actually have any food in it yet. So we are not sure what we are going to be eating since my parents have been kind enough to let us eat with them.

But here is what I know.

Monday: Leftover Chinese
Tuesday: Chipotle Burritos
Wednesday: Large Dinner Salad with Chicken
Thursday: Salmon fillets
Friday: Your Guess is as Good as Mine
Saturday: Your Guess is as Good as Mine
Sunday: Hopefully steaks on the grill (if we get the grill purchased and assembled)
I am hoping that by the end of the week, we will have our stuff unpacked and be able to get back on track. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Monday, July 27, 2009

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Posts...

We are finally moving to Michigan.

We close on the sale of our current home Wednesday and close on the new house on Friday, a week early (can you believe it?)

Thus, we will not have internet access for several days and so that means no posts.

I hope to be back up and running next week, once we are settled and in the new house. In the mean time, check out our new diggs. I am so excited to start cooking in the huge kitchen and decorating it to our taste.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stove Top Taco Pasta

(Photo is not particularly attractive , but I can guarantee, it tastes better than it looks)

I love Mexican food. OK, maybe not real Mexican food but the kind that most Americans grow up with. You know what I am talking about; tacos, fajitas, tortilla chips with salsa. I also love pasta. Mac and cheese, pesto with fusilli, creamy tomato with penne. Yum.

So it only figures that I am a huge fan of this dish - Stove Top Taco Pasta. It is a spin off of the Taco Bake which requires baking in the oven and takes much longer to prepare. This version is so easy and with only 5 ingredients, pulls together quickly for a filling meal.

I hope you like it as much as we do.

Stove Top Taco Pasta
(Source: Variation of the Taco Bake)
1 lb ground beef
1/4 c taco seasoning
3/4 c water
1 pkg low fat cream cheese (8 oz)
1 box pasta (we used medium shells)
optional: cheese of your choice to sprinkle on top (we used mozzarella since that is all we had)

Brown ground beef in a large dutch oven.
Combine taco seasoning and water.
Pour taco seasoned water over browned meat, stirring to ensure all meat is covered.
Simmer to reduce amount of liquid (approximately 5-10 minutes) on low.
Once reduced, add cubed cream cheese, stirring to incorporate fully.
Prepare pasta according to directions and drain.
Add drained pasta to dutch oven, stirring to coat completely.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Visitor in the Garden - Part 2

We live in a very urban area (2 miles from the city limit of Chicago) so most of our "wildlife" consists of squirrels, possums, the occasional raccoon, fox or coyote, along with lots of rabbits and birds.

With a bird feeder in our backyard, we get lots of the birds and squirrels. Our neighbor's cat, Muffin, loves to watch (and try to catch) the birds. Though to our knowledge, she hasn't actually caught any since we have moved in. She is too slow, too orange and whips her tail back and forth like crazy alerting the birds to her approach. She, on many occasion, has also decided that the best place to "hide" is in the grass right in front of the feeder. How does she do that? By laying as flat as possible. We often refer to her as the orange rug on the lawn.

That being said, she views the feeder as HER territory so imagine my surprise when I saw her squaring off against a squirrel one morning. They sat like this for about 3 or 4 minutes. (Sorry for the blurry picture, I had to take it through the screen so I wouldn't startle the critters.)

No worries though, the squirrel just chattered at her from the sidewalk then the roof of the garage. Not actual contact was made. But that little squirrel still pokes his head around the corner to check to see if the cat is there weeks later.

Yup, never a dull moment around here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Visitor in the Garden - Part 1

I planted a small garden again this year. Peppers, tomatoes (Roma and Cherry), dill, oregano, rosemary and parsley.

One morning to my surprise, I found this little guy hanging out on my dill plant with two of his siblings. He's a colorful little guy isn't he?

Some internet searches later, I learned that he is a Black Swallowtail caterpillar and when he grows up he will look like this. Gorgeous, isnt' he?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Posting Before the Deadline

Yes, I know it isn't Monday. It isn't even close.

However, with the arrival of the stepkids and the need to make sure we had enough food in the house for 3 teens/preteens plus us two, I did my menu planning well in advance. (I already have next week's plan done too, shhhhh ). And we will be doing some extra entertaining and traveling and packing getting ready for the move so planning is key over the next few weeks.

So here we go....

Sunday: Chinese Night (Orange Chicken, Pot Stickers, Egg Rolls and Rice) with a garden salad
Monday: Roast Chicken with corn and a salad
Tuesday: Brats with corn on the cob and cole slaw
Wednesday: BBQ Salmon with carrots and a salad
Thursday: Roast with PW crashed potatoes, corn and a salad
Friday: Forage in the Fridge
Saturday: Out of Town Visiting Family

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mr. Gooch Cooks (Spicy Mojo Tuna Kabobs)

Mr. Gooch is on fire!! Well, cooking with fire and making spicy treats for the two of us.

After a trip to our local Costco and seeing a gorgeous piece of fresh tuna, Mr. Gooch knew exactly what he wanted to make. Spicy Mojo Tuna Kabobs which stars one of our favorite seasonings, Tabasco Chipolte Pepper Sauce. Man how we love that stuff. I think we would buy it in a gallon jug if we had the room in our pantry. Mmmm, chipotle...sorry, got distracted.

The key to this recipe is to cube the tuna before putting in the marinade and using a kabob basket like the one seen in the picture below for grilling. This ensures the tuna doesn't flake into small pieces. I got ours at Bed Bath & Beyond several years ago.

Spicy Mojo Tuna Kabobs
(Source: Mr. Gooch's brain and
Marinade Ingredients
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup TABASCO® brand Chipotle Pepper Sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Marinade Directions
Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; stir in garlic and cook 15 seconds or until garlic releases its fragrance.
Remove from heat to cool slightly, then stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Kabob Ingredients
1 lb good quality tuna (cubed)
3 colored peppers cut into pieces about the same size as the tuna cubes

Kabob Directions
Place tuna and peppers into a large Ziploc bag and pour in marinade.
Let marinade in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
When ready to grill, heat grill to medium/medium high heat
Once tuna and peppers have completed marinating, place tuna and peppers in the kabob baskets.
Cook on grill for 10-15 minutes or until tuna is cooked and peppers begin to char slightly, using left over marinade to baste while cooking.
Once done cooking discard any remaining marinade.
Serve cooked tuna and peppers with rice.


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