Recipe: Quick Chicken Parmesan with Garlic Bread

It’s been raining and storming the last few days (and forecast all week!) so I am moving pretty slow the last few days thanks to my lovely rheumatoid arthritis.  Anyone with any kind of arthritis can sympathize I’m sure!  Didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time standing in the kitchen so I made this super fast, easy and cheap version of Chicken Parmesan and garlic bread.

 

Quick Chicken Parmesan

*bag of frozen chicken patties (my youngest son calls them “the biggest chicken nuggets ever”)

*2 jars of pasta sauce

*box of pasta (any kind is fine- I used rotini last night)

*shredded Italian cheese

 

1. Bake chicken patties as directed.

2. Heat up the sauce in a saucepan.

3. Prepare pasta according to package.  I subscribe to the theory of adding a little bit of olive oil and salt to my water to help prevent sticking and to flavor the pasta.  Strain and return to the pot.  My hubby used to work for a local Italian restaurant and demands I prepare pasta “properly”.  Add just a ladle or two of the sauce into the noodle and combine.  This coats all the pasta with a little bit of sauce and also prevents the pasta from sticking and clumping together.

4. On a plate lay down 1 or 2 chicken patties then top with a ladle of sauce.  Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.

5. Spoon on a portion of pasta and top with more sauce.  I also sprinkled some grated Parmesan Romano cheese on top.

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Homemade Garlic Bread

*8 slices of bread

*butter or butter spread

*garlic salt (I don’t have many “brand preferences” and usually just go for cheapest but Lawry’s Garlic Salt is one of those that is a must have for me)

*paprika

 

1. Butter each slice of bread on one side and arrange on a baking sheet.  I use a silicone baking pad under to prevent things from sticking to the pan.

2. Sprinkle a little bit of garlic salt and paprika over the bread slices.

3. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes or until toasted.

4. Serve whole or cut into half.

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Before going into the oven

 

Recipe: Potato and Cheese Soup

My mom used to make a version of this soup when I was growing up but one of my sister didn’t like cheese soups (yea, I don’t know what is wrong with her either!) and my mom rarely made it with cheese.  Over the years I have crafted my own version and I think I might like it better.  Don’t tell her that though!  I used the 2nd portion of leftover Easter ham in this recipe.

 

Potato and Cheese Soup

*half a bag of frozen diced potatoes (or cut up several golden potatoes or whatever you have on hand- cutting veggies and such is hard for me with my RA so I pick pre-cut over having to cut them myself a lot of the time)

*half a bag of baby carrots chopped

*4-5 ribs of celery diced

*half an onion diced

*package of diced ham (or leftovers)

*water or stock/broth- about 3-4 cups

*equal parts flour and butter to make the cheese sauce (known in the culinary world as making a roux- pronounced “roo”)

*small brick of Velveta cheese cut into cubes (or store brand if you happen to find one- if they small brick isn’t available just use half of the large one)

*milk

*diced garlic, salt and pepper to taste

 

1. In a large soup or stock pot combine the first 6 ingredients and start a low boil.

2. In another pan (I use my large skillet for this) put in about 4 tablespoons of butter.  One spoon at a time add the flour and KEEP STIRRING.  Add the cheese cubes in a handful at a time while stirring.  You want it to start to look like a creamy cheese sauce (for the culinary inclined think bechamel sauce).  The roux and the cheese will start to become cakey and kind of pasty as some point- when this happens add in some milk.  Usually about 1/3 – 1/2 cup is enough to get things smoothed out again.  Keep adding cheese and milk like this.  KEEP STIRRING.  Once all the cheese is added and the sauce is smooth instead of lumpy pour into the pot with the rest of the ingredients.  Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste.

3. Either serve immediately or freeze.  I like to freeze any leftovers for a quick lunch or dinner on another night!  The leftovers taste just as good, if not better.

 

I don’t have a video of me making the soup since my hands are way too busy with that cheese sauce so I looked up some roux videos on YouTube.  Sounds intimidating but is super easy- I promise!

 

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Recipe: Crock Pot Ham and Beans

I bought a ham big enough for more than one meal when they were on sale for Easter (6 pound ham for $7!).  I cooked the ham for Easter, of course, then cut up the leftovers into 2 equal portions.  I used 1 portion for Cheese and Potato Soup and the other last night for this.  I will post the soup recipe next.  It’s my favorite comfort food!

Ham & Beans
*packaged of diced ham (or leftovers to save money!)
*bag of dry white northern beans
*minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste
*half an onion chopped
*I had half a bag of baby carrots I chopped up and added to use them up but totally optional

1. Add all ingredients into a standard size crock pot.  Turn on low and cook for 8 hours.
2. Serve with cornbread!

 

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Activities: Anderson Park

N decided he wanted to ride his scooter we bought him for his birthday recently at the park so we headed to Anderson Park in Normal today.  They have a playground,  basketball court,  tennis court, baseball diamond, water park (open in summer) and a sidewalk trail.  There is lots of trees and open space with picnic tables- both covered and out in the open.  I’m sitting away from the crowded areas at a picnic table listening to Capital Cities on Spotify while writing out our meal menu and shopping list for the week.  It’s a perfect spot because I can still keep an eye on him no matter where he goes in the park!  Parenting Tip: his bright red shirt is making it very easy to keep track of him!  Genius!

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Recipe: Lasagna Rolls

Last night was a little hectic but I was able to squeeze in making these inexpensive, quick lasagna rolls.

LASAGNA ROLLS
*box of lasagna noodle (Barilla is my favorite brand but only if it’s on sale- otherwise store brand is just fine too)
*2 jars of pasta sauce (I used what I had left in the pantry which was 1 jar of chunky vegetable and 1 jar of traditional)
*container of cottage cheese (ricotta is traditionally used but also expensive so I only buy ricotta if on sale and/or I have a good coupon)
*1 pound of ground turkey (cheaper and healthier than beef)
*spoonful of prepackaged minced garlic
*olive oil
*salt, pepper and basil
*shredded Italian cheese (I buy when it’s 3/$6 and freeze it!)

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In large pot boil water for pasta with olive oil and salt sprinkled in for flavor and to prevent sticking.  Prepare pasta per package instuction. Strain.
3. Brown ground turkey. Toward the end of cooking add garlic, salt, pepper and basil to taste.
4. Add in container of cottage cheese and chunky pasta sauce (or whatever your sauce preference is). Stir well and set aside.
5. If pasta is still hot just rinse with cold water till you can handle it without burning your fingers. In a bake dish lay out one lasagna long ways.  Spoon on meat mixture along most of the noodle in a thin layer.  Start at one end and roll up the noodle like a pinwheel.  Continue until pan is full.
6. Pour a thin layer of sauce over lasagna rolls and top with shredded cheese.
7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Looks fancy, easy to make and delicious!

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Recipe: Lemon Basil Chicken

I like things I can make quick or throw in the oven for dinner.  One super easy, kid – approved entrée is lemon basil chicken.  The problem with posting recipes I come up with is I don’t measure…. I have my own units of measure: a pinch, a dollop,a bunch, some, a lot. Any recipe I post without specific measurement just guess based on your preferences.

LEMON BASIL CHICKEN
*1 PACKAGE OF CHICKEN (I LIKE THIGHS OR TENDERLOIN MYSELF)
*COUPLE OF LEMONS
*BASIL- FRESH OR DRIED
*SEASONING SALT
*PEPPER
*GARLIC
*OLIVE OIL

COMBINE ALL ITEMS INTO A BOWL EXCEPT CHICKEN. LAY CHICKEN IN A SINGLE LAYER IN A BAKING DISH.  USING A SPOON SPOON ONTO TOP OF CHICKEN. YOU WANT THE CONSISTENCY OF A LOOSE PESTO.  BAKE.  DONE!

TONIGHT I SAUTÉED SOMEONE SPINACH AND GARLIC AND MADE STUFFING.  AMAZING ENOUGH EVERY ONE CLEARED THEIR PLATE!

=^_^=

Bloomington/Normal Visitors Suggestion

I used to do a lot of mystery shopping and have decided to try to get back into it up here locally.  I had submit a writing sample of what I would suggest for someone to do and eat who was visiting for the first time.  There are really tons of things to do here but I tried to keep it interesting and brief.  Here is a sample of my submission- hopefully it will give some folks some ideas on what to do locally or if they are ever visiting the area of Bloomington/Normal, Illinois!

 

Bloomington is an area full of local charm and rich history, as well as a bustling corporate and college location including State Farm and Country Insurance headquarters, a Mitshubishi factory and local agriculture.  Bloomington is considered a “twin city” with the town of Normal offering up even more local flair.  Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University offer a varied of performance and sports events as well as typical college town comfort.  You will find many eateries, pubs, bars and coffee houses in the areas surrounding the universities.  A must-stop location in Uptown Normal (located adjacent to ISU) is the local Irish pub Maggie Miley’s.   The heritage behind this classic eatery dates back to the 1900’s and offers many traditional Irish favorites including bangers and mash, corned beef and cabbage and Irish beef stew crafted with Guinness.  Located just down Main Street from Maggie Miley’s is a local institution that is any book lover’s dream- Babbit’s Books.  This hometown treasure is packed full with books ranging from classics to best sellers and offers great deals on used books.  Be sure to say hello to the friendly store pet Babbit the cat!  If you are a fan of small distilleries, Desthil is a must visit location.  A variety of hand-crafted seasonal brews are available at this classy gastro pub.  The food here is simply amazing and ranges from classics like cheese soup and flatbreads to one of my favorite artisanal dishes Cedar Plank Salmon served with oven-roasted tomatoes and asparagus accompanied with a bed of peppery arugula topped with a roasted garlic vinaigrette and white truffle oil.  If you happen to be visiting during the warm months the Downtown Bloomington Farmers Market offers up items true to their slogan: we only sell what we grow.  Don’t miss the Artists’ Alley to find gems produced by local artists and artisans!  While perusing the local offerings head into the Coffee Hound café for an in house roasted and brewed treat.  If you are looking for a bite to eat there are a plethora of cafes, bistros, pubs plus fine and casual dining destinations.  If you are looking for a casual culinary encounter I suggest checking out Lucca Grill which offers quality traditional Italian favorites ranging from pizzas and pastas to a variety of fresh sandwiches and burgers.  If you are looking for a bit more of a culinary adventure Lancaster’s is not to be missed.  Locally owned and operated this fine dining establishment offers an eclectic, seasonal menu ranging from wild to mild.  Classics like chicken cordon blue and osso bucco are tantalizing staples but I suggest checking out their non-traditional protein options with specials that have previous included a dazzling llama entrée!  Finish up your downtown Bloomington exploration with a trip to the McLean County History Museum for an unique stroll through exhibits that take you make in time to experience a cultural and educational opportunity to experience amazing architecture, historical events and cutting edge exhibits including interactive displays on immigration and living life on the prairie.  Take come some complimentary recipes inspired by the different presentations and make sure to take a picture with a famous local celebrity- Abraham Lincoln cast in bronze sitting on a park bench on the east lawn.

Intro and Info

I admit it.  I am a social media whore and love sharing info, my opinion and basically anything I like (or sometimes HATE!) with folks.  My interests are so wide and varied I could never try to list them all at once but one of my favorite things to do is save money and get things for free.  I mean really- who doesn’t like that?!  I also am a mom to 3 amazing kids, college educated, a decent cook and an avid gamer/all around geek.  If I had to subscribe to only one fandom (I know, its SO HARD to pick just ONE!) it would be Doctor Who.  My game of choice is the PC version of Diablo 3 and the expansion Reaper of Soul.  I have an entire blog and Twitter pretty much dedicated to my Diablo “career” (check out the blog at thesoulraven.wordpress.com and on Twitter @the_soul_raven).  I am in the process of establishing seperate media accounts for my geeky, mom endevours and you can find me on Twitter @geeksumptuous and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/geeksumptuous Please bare with me while I tweek and compile everything and get the party started!

 

Some things I KNOW I will be posting about:

  • Autism- my 2 boys were diagnosed with Autism at a very young age and through intensive therapy they are both well-adjusted young men whom I am very proud of!
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis- before the age of 30 I was diagnosed with seropositive RA and am currently on weekly self injections of methotrexate
  • Fibromyalsia- In my early 20’s I was diagnosed with this pretty mysterious disease and have plenty to say on the topic!
  • Cooking- I love cooking and baking!  I do it all ranging from frugal to gourmet.
  • Product and Resturant Reviews-  I have participated in mystery shopping projects and am quite descriptive, concise and detailed in my reviews
  • Budgeting and Money Saving- I think I might be OCD for saving money!  I have many great, easy (or not so easy sometimes) ideas plus like to share new ones that I stumble across
  • Parenting- Having 3 kids I feel like I am an expert on this topic for the most part (definitely a novice at the teenage years GAH!)
  • My Cat-  I’m totally a crazy cat lady and think my cat is one of the cutest.  Ever.
  • Gaming- We are a gaming household- PC, vintage, console, board, card and RPG included!
  • General Geekdom- Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who etc etc.  Literary and reading nut, otaku in every sense of the word (anime, manga, Japanese culture in general) and so are the kids!

Stay tuned- I am hoping to create a fun, entertaining and informative blogging destination for the folks of the interwebz!