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.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

There is Always Room for (Strawberry) Pie

I love me a good fruit pie! Blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, peach and black cherry are all tasty in my eyes and stomach). So when I ran across this recipe for Old Fashioned Strawberry Pie on Rare and Beautiful Treasures, I knew that I had to try it.

I think that the key to this recipe is to make sure you place a baking sheet underneath the pie pan. The juices bubbles like CRAZY and I can only imagine that cleaning the bottom of your oven would be a project without the baking sheet.
The final result? A sweet pie that was awesome! This one didn't last long in the house with Mr. Gooch and I polishing it off within about 36 hours of it coming out of the oven. I distinctly remember Mr. Gooch asking if it would be awful to have a piece of pie with his morning coffee.
Old Fashioned Strawberry Pie

5 cups fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
6 Tbls flour (or your favorite thickener)
1 pie crust (bottom and top)

Clean and prepare approximately 5 cups of strawberries, place in a large bowl
Add 1 cup sugar and 6 Tbls flour
Mix to cover completely berries in sugar and flour
Line 9 inch pie pan with bottom crust
Pour berry mixture into pie crust
Cover with crust top cut into strips or if crust is whole, cut several holes to ensure escape of steam
Bake in 425 oven for 50 minutes to an hour or until crusty is golden brown and the berries are hot and bubbling
Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chicken Sate Stir Fry

Have you ever purchased a spice mix without any clue of what you are going to make with it? Up until now, I can say that I hadn't. But upon Mr. Gooch's urging, I grabbed a small jar of Sate Seasoning during a browsing of our local Penzeys.

Not having any bamboo skewers, traditional sate was out. However, I was not deterred. I decided to make a bit of a stir fry out of the mix and can say without a doubt this is one of my new favorite dishes. And a big bottle of the sate seasoning is definitely coming home with us in our next shopping trip.

Chicken Sate Stir fry
(Source: modified from a recipe for lamb sate found on the Penzeys website)
2 TB. Sate Seasoning Mix (from Penzeys)
2 TB. water
1 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast (cubed)
3 colored peppers (cut into strips)
1.5 TB. soy sauce
1.5 TB. canola oil
2 TB. apple vinegar


Combine sate seasoning, water, soy sauce, canola oil and vinegar in a bowl and mix completely.

Place cubed chicken and marinade in a quart sized zipper bag. Place in refrigerator to marinade for at least 1 hour (2 is better).

Heat large saucepan to medium high heat. Place entire contents of bag into saucepan, cooking chicken until about half done (about 10 minutes).

Add sliced peppers, stirring to coat with sauce.

Continue cooking uncovered for about 5-7 minutes or until peppers begin to soften.

Cover and cook until chicken is done.

Serve with jasmine rice and a side salad.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Empty The Freezer Pie - A Tasty Treat!!

As part of the move, we were trying to consume as much as we could from the freezer. One thing we had in there was frozen peaches, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. Another thing was a package of pre-made pie crusts.

After a little searching on the Internet, I was able to cobble together a recipe that didn't involve thawing the fruit. The lack of a wait was important since we wanted to eat the pie for dessert after dinner and dinner time was fast approaching.

In retrospect, I would have added a bit more cornstarch and let the fruit thaw about 50% before putting it in the pie crust. We did have quite a fruit juice soup in the bottom of the pie plate. However, the combination of peaches and berries was very very tasty reminiscent of Peach Melba.
Empty the Freezer Pie
(Source: The Internet and my brain)
1 pre-made pie crust
2 packages of frozen peaches
2 packages of frozen mixed berries (mine had blueberries, blackberries and raspberries)
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (use the higher amount if your fruit is tart)
2 Tablespoon corn starch (add and extra tablespoon if you are using juicy berries)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place unbaked pastry shell in the 9-inch pie pan.
In a large bowl, mix fruit, cornstarch and sugar; making sure to coat all the fruit evenly.
Place fruit mixture in pie pan.
Cover fruit with top crust, cutting holes to allow steam to escape.
Crimp bottom and top crusts together.
Place pie pan on large cookie sheet (to keep any overflow from dripping to the bottom of the oven).
Bake for 75 to 90 minutes, until the juices are bubbling.
Let cool for at least 30 minutes.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

We had a pretty darn successful week after falling off the planning wagon while trying to eat all the good in out pantry and freezer in preparation for the move.

We ended up eating leftovers more often than planned but that just means that some meals get moved to this week.

So without further delays, I give you this week's menu plan.

Sunday: Mac and cheese with spicy chicken sausage
Monday: Bacon wrapped roast
Tuesday: FITF (Forage in the Fridge)
Wednesday: Taco Pasta (based off of this recipe)
Thursday: Northwoods Fire Roasted Chicken
Friday: FITF
Saturday: Pasta with ground beef, ricotta cheese and spices

Visit to see what others have planned for the week.

We Are Under Contract...Again

The roller coaster ride that is selling and buying a home continues.

After being back on the market for a week and a day, we received another offer. For the same amount as the previous contract. With buyers with what appears to be a much stronger pre-approval letter.

So if all goes well, we will complete the sale of our current home on August 5 and close on the purchase of our new home (the same one we were going to purchase before) on August 6 or 7 (we are still working that part out).

This buyers inspection is Tuesday so once that hurdle is cleared, we are just waiting on financing. Since the house has been inspected twice in the past 3 months (Village Inspection and the previous buyer's inspection), we are not too concerned about anything new popping up.

Keep your fingers crossed for us!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Back in the Saddle

After quite a hiatus, I am back with some menu planning. In the previous weeks we were trying to empty the pantry and freezer so it was very much fly by the seat of our pants. But since we are back on the market, I have to get back to having a plan. I am already stressed out to the max so knowing what we are eating is helping me cope since it is one less thing to worry about.

Sunday: Pasta with ground beef, ricotta cheese and spices
Monday: Chicken Sate Stir Fry (look for a post on this coming soon, I just need to download then upload the pics of the dish)
Tuesday: Tuna Kabobs (I think this will have to be a Mr. Gooch Cooks post since this is his creation)
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Bacon wrapped roast (another post to come later)
Friday: Mac and Cheese with spicy chicken sausage
Saturday: Leftovers

Menu Plan Monday-

Monday, July 6, 2009

Back on the Market

I have been MIA for the last several weeks. OK for almost 2 months. I have a good excuse, I promise.

Instead of posting from our new home in Michigan (the one with the great kitchen), we had to put our house back on the market.

Just days before we were supposed to close on our current home and after we had boxed up 90% of our belongings in preparation for the move, we learned that our buyers had problems with their financing and needed an extension, then another extension, then another extension. At that point, with no end in sight, we told the buyers we couldn't wait on them any more and needed to put the house back on market.

The end result was that we lost the house in our new location since we are using the equity from this house for the down payment, we have to put our current home back on the market having missed out on the prime months of May and June for showings and we are out almost two thousand dollars on various inspections, fixes, appraisal, etc. with nothing to show for it except dozens of boxes in the basement (I can't find anything) and several nights of tears.

So we are back in limbo. There is still a remote chance that the original buyers will come through with their financing but we are not holding our breath. On a positive note, we know that the house is priced right for the market since we got the results from the buyer's appraisal less than a month ago. That is about the only bright spot in all of this.

I will try to post more regularly now that our time isn't taken up by appointments, meetings and driving back and forth to Michigan dealing with house stuff there.


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