I'm just a busy wife and mom who loves to cook (and hates to clean up afterward), balancing the many hats I wear and trying to look cool, calm, and collected while doing it...

Oh, and I rarely measure anything when I cook, so consider yourself warned. Love good food. Try new things. Eat to your heart's content.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Homemade Tomato Basil Soup and Three Cheese Grilled Cheese

Homemade Tomato Basil Soup and Three Cheese Grilled Cheese

Well, it's been actual years since I've blogged, due to life being so super crazy, changing jobs, kids' schedules, etc. but while looking at my "Memories" popup thing on Facebook, I came across this recipe I made years ago, before I even started this blog, and thought, "Hey, why not. I mean, It's practically just copying and pasting, right?" 

So here I am. Blogging something. Who'd of thought I'd get back here again. (Certainly not me...)

Anyway, this recipe is comfort food at it's finest. It really takes you back to childhood, only this time, it's a little more flavorful. And even if it's not a loaf of soup from a can and a slice of cheese-product wrapped in cellophane on Wonder Bread, it's still pretty easy.

2 Large (28 oz.) cans of crushed tomatoes (fresh are good too, but it's a lot of work skinning and seeding that many tomatoes) 

1 jar pasta sauce (we like Hunt's Four Cheese in the can, actually)
1/2- 1 Whole Onion, diced
5 or so cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste 
3/4 - 1 cup or so fresh basil 
1 box free range/organic chicken (veggie works too, for you vegetarians) stock
 A cup and a half or so of fat free 1/2 and 1/2
1/2 Cup Finely Shredded or Grated Parmesan Cheese, plus more for topping
Ricotta Cheese, if desired

Just saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until soft/translucent, then add everything else, and simmer for at least 30 minutes (the longer the better though). This is also good topped with a little dollop of ricotta and some more fresh basil "confetti", along with the Parmesan


Smoked Gouda 
Sharp Cheddar 
Sourdough Bread
*You can use any combo of cheeses you'd like. We just really liked these. 

Lightly butter the outside of two slices sourdough, add desired amount of cheese, and grill until golden brown and the cheese is melted. Repeat for each sandwich you want to make. 


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Super Duper Guest Post From My Husband... Dave's Beef Stew!!

Hi, Megan's husband Dave here.  I don't cook often, but when I do, it's the grill, or soups and stews.  I know, weird..., but I learned soups and stews from my mom during all those Sierra Nevada cold winters while growing up.   This one is one of my favorites because it's so hearty and the family loves it.

WARNING: This is not a quick meal, plan on a minimum of 4 hours of cook time!

It's fall-aparty tender meaty goodness and worth the wait, trust me!  Your house will smell amazing to boot!

Dave's Beef Stew

2 1/2 lbs beef chuck  cut into 1 to 2" cubes (I like to get the short ribs, but stew meat is fine)
Salt and Pepper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium onions (or 1 large)
5 cloves garlic crushed
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup flour (or enough to cover meat)
8 cups beef broth (2 32oz boxes)
6 sprigs parsley
6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1/4 lbs quartered red potatoes (or smaller potatoes cut in half)
6 medium carrots cut in to 1" pieces
4 celery stalks cut into 1" pieces
28 oz can of San Marzano peeled whole tomatoes quartered
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Dash Worcestershire Sauce

For this recipe I recommend using a enameled cast iron dutch oven.  It's really perfect for this sort of thing, and nothing beats slow braised beef!

-Preheat oven to 285 degrees.
-Cut the meat into 1" to 2" cubes if they aren't already cut.  Try to be consistent here, I prefer bigger cubes.
-Season beef with salt and pepper.
-Heat vegetable oil in the dutch oven and sear the meat, turning only once (about 4 minutes a side). Don't forget to season the other side once you flip!
-Transfer the meat to a plate, discard used oil. (If there are any meaty bits stuck to the bottom, leave them there, that's flavor, baby!)
-Add butter and onions to dutch oven over medium-high heat and cook until lightly browned (about 5 minutes)
-Add crushed garlic and cook for 1 minute
-Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute
-Add beef back to dutch oven and sprinkle flour to cover meat.  Cook until lightly toasted (about 5 minutes)
-Add the broth and bring to a simmer.
-Tie parsley, thyme and bay leaves together (or use a spice bag, much easier) and add to the dutch oven.
-Season with 2 tsp of salt and a dash of Worcestershire.
-Transfer to oven for 2 hours at 285.
-Remove from oven, add potatoes, celery, carrots and tomatoes, place back in the oven for 1 hour covered.
-Remove from oven and simmer over the stove top uncovered on medium heat until liquid reduces and vegetables are completely tender, skimming the fat as necessary.
-Remove the herb bundle.
-Add 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy with cheddar drop biscuits and let me know what you think!


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Beer Cheese and Bratwurst Mac & Cheese


Ahhh, you smell that?


Autumn in the air.

Apples. Pumpkin flavored everything. Caramel deliciousness.

Also, Oktoberfest!

I think many are surprised to know that it actually happens in September, usually ringing in the crisp, cool, autumn weather. (Unless you live in Southern California like me, and the weather feels like a cruel continuation of the worst Summer EVER! It's STILL 80 degrees INSIDE my house as I type this! But hey, any excuse for good beer and sausage, yes?)

Here in the North County part of San Diego, we have lots of amazing restaurants, and one of our favorites a town over from us in San Marcos is Sublime Ale House, which specializes in gourmet mac & cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. They also have a FABULOUS beer cheese soup, which is where I found inspiration for this recipe.

This right here might be the ultimate comfort food. It's rich and creamy and delicious, and has quickly become my husband Dave's favorite meal.

This weekend his best friend from his military days, Chris, came to visit for a "guy's weekend". They been playing Diablo 3 on their computers (sitting side by side, just like an episode of The Big Bang Theory.), visiting Golden Coast Mead (which alone is worth the trip down from Oregon! Boozy goodness made from honey, supporting wonderful bees in all their glory? Yes, please!), and doing other guy things. Whatever those things might be. Mostly eating, gaming, and drinking though.

Weeks before Chris even got here, Dave put in his request for this Beer Cheese Mac & Cheese. He's a big fan of my other made-from-scratch mac & cheese, but the first time I made this one, it not only replaced the original, but he now considers it his favorite thing I make.

Now, I don't make this very often. Because even though it's heaven-in-your-mouth delicious, it's super NOT healthy. And also, because it's more work than I like to do for a regular weeknight meal. So I save it for special occasions like birthdays and when friends or family are visiting.

And for Oktoberfest weekend of course!!

Beer Cheese and Bratwurst Mac & Cheese

1 package (5 links) Bratwurst, cooked and diced.
1 Stick of Butter
Around 3-4 Tbsp. All Purpose Flour (I don't measure, but it needs to be enough that it forms a glue-like consistency when added to the butter.)
2 tsp. or so Garlic Salt
Pepper to taste
1 12 oz. bottle of lighter beer, such as Budweiser (Darker beers are delicious to drink while making this, but can overpower everything else if used in the recipe. Stick to the cheap-ish stuff. )
1 8 Oz. Package of Cream Cheese, cut into chunks
1 1/2 C. Fat Free Half and Half (you can use regular, but the fat free is just as good, and saves a few calories.)
1 Lb. PLUS 1 C. Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, hand shredded (pre-shredded leaves this a totally different, weird consistency because of the non-clumping stuff "they" add to it.)
1 Lb. Small Shell or Elbow Pasta, cooked until all the way done (not al dente) and drained.
More salt and pepper, if needed.

Preheat oven to 425.

Cook and dice the bratwurst. Set aside in a bowl lined with paper towels, to drain.

In a large skillet melt the butter, then add the AP flour and cook until well combined, and the consistency of runny-ish glue. Stir in garlic salt and pepper.

Whisk in the bottle of beer. Keep stirring until well combined, and hot.

Whisk in the cream cheese, until melted and combined.

Whisk in the half and half.

When the mixture starts to thicken a bit, start adding the shredded cheese, small handfuls at a time, until combined well, and the cheese isn't stringy anymore, but a thick sauce.

(Now you could stop here, and you'll have the absolute best beer cheese dip for soft preztels or those amazing pretzel rolls from Costco. Perfect for those who like to watch sports in groups, which I don't. Or for movie nights or TV show marathons with a group of friends, which I do happen to love!)

Add the diced bratwurst, then combine with pasta. Taste test and any more salt and pepper, only if needed.

Pour into a 9x13 baking dish, top with 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake at 425 for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and golden.

Serve with some healthy veggies or a salad to counteract all that cheesiness.



Sunday, April 20, 2014

Green Chile Cheese Rice


It's a very rare thing when we don't travel to various members of the family for a holiday. We almost always go to my Aunt and Uncle's in Ojai, Ca. for every holiday, and now that my parents are pretty much moved in and living at their new place up there in Ojai (The very first house my grandparents bought when they were first married, about 3 hours from us), we'll be going there to stay with them for many holidays from now on as well.

Today was one of those rare occasions when we were actually home for Easter. It's always a weird thing not being in a house full of cousins and cousin's cousins, and not helping out where we can with cooking, and cleanup.

Instead I did most of the cooking (which I don't mind at all).

My parents did come down from their new-to-them home for the week to visit, and work on their house down here to get ready to sell, and I tried to keep the menu (if you can call it that) as much like our usual Easter dinner at my Aunt and Uncle's as possible.

One dish that we always have had at EVERY major holiday gathering, for as long as I can remember, is what we simply call Chile Cheese Rice. And it's pretty much exactly that.

Simple, easy and delicious, this was one of my Grandpa George's favorite dishes, which was passed on from his cousin's wife, and is why we've carried on the tradition of having it for Christmas and Easter, and even some birthdays, for many years, and I'm sure many years to come.

And, as for the clean up part of today.... well... maybe the dish fairy will visit in the middle of the night? Or maybe the Easter Bunny will take pity on our poor kitchen, and come back?

Or, maybe, just maybe, I can convince my husband to do a few dishes??

Though really, the first two ideas are more likely to happen than my husband doing dishes...

Chile Cheese Rice

16 Oz. Sour Cream (I sometimes add a little more, just because I feel like it)
2  4 Oz. Cans Fire Roasted Mild Green Chiles
Salt and Pepper
4 Cups Cooked Rice (white or brown work fine)
3-4 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese (Cheddar/Jack works fine too)

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the sour cream and green chiles, and a little salt and pepper in a small-ish mixing bowl.

In a large covered casserole dish, layer 1/3 of the rice, 1/3 of the sour cream-chile mixture, then 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat with each layer two more times, making sure the cheese layer is last on top.

Bake covered for 20-25 minutes. Then uncover and bake another 10 minutes or so, until the cheese is bubbly, and maybe even starts to brown around the edges.

This serves at least 8-10 people. And it's great for potlucks as well.

It's that easy, and so yummy.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Gnocchi with Bacon, Tomatoes, and Kale

Don't mind my crappy counter tops...

I've been so busy with nurturing my newest geek-mom blog, I've hardly been here to post. It's been months! I'm so sorry for the neglect!

So, I'm not sure how many of you out there subscribe to the Food Network Magazine, but in our house, it's one of our favorites! We love the way the recipes are laid out and easy to find, not to mention actually do-able, unlike other cooking magazines (I'm lookin' at you Bon Appetit!).

This recipe is one I got from the most recent issue of Food Network Magazine, only I added to it, and put my own spin on things, like I usually do with recipes.

Of course, my four year old hardly tried it, since it didn't look like pizza or a hamburger.

My eight year old, however, really liked it, even though it had the dreaded "green stuff".... Kale!! She ate it all. Even though she's still complaining that I made her eat kale. Two. Hours. Later.

This recipe seems fancy, so you could serve it at a dinner party, but it's also easy enough to throw together, and would even be great for potlucks.

It's hearty, somewhat quick/easy, and pretty cheap (about $3/serving).

And gnocchi (pronounced nyo-key) is fun to say.

Gnocchi with Bacon, Tomatoes, and Kale
3-4 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3 Strips Thick Cut Bacon, cut into 1/8-1/4 inch bits
1/2 Onion, diced
3/4 Bag Pre-Washed, Pre-Cut Kale (I get mine at Trader Joe's, but Costco sells it too. Or about 4-5 cups hand chopped kale)
2 Packages Potato Gnocchi
2 Cup. Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half (Plus a drizzle of Olive Oil for roasting)
3/4 cup Fresh Grated Parmesan-Romano Cheese
1/3 Cup Fat Free Half and Half
Salt and Pepper
Preheat your oven to 425. Toss your cherry tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and fresh pepper. Roast for about 10-12 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and starting to brown on the edges. Remove from oven and set aside. (You don't have to roast the tomatoes if you don't have time, or just don't feel like it. It just adds to the flavor of the dish when they're roasted. If you choose not to, just add the halved tomatoes right before the gnocchi to make sure they cook through.)
At the same time the tomatoes are cooking, bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil, like you would for noodles. When it comes to a boil, add the gnocchi. When they float to the surface, cook them for another 4-5 minutes. The package will have different directions, but they never come out done enough for us, so I always cook them a tad longer. but if you like 'em firmer, cook according to the directions.
While those things are going (there's a bit of multi-tasking going on here, I know... but I believe in you!), you can heat the olive oil in a large skillet, and add the bacon. Cook the bacon until it is well browned and crispy.
Add the onions and cook then until they're tender and translucent.
Add the chopped kale, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the kale is completely wilted and soft.
Stir in the roasted cherry tomatoes.
The gnocchi should be done now. Carefully scoop it out of the pot with a spider (The cooking tool. Not the arachnid.) or a slotted spoon. Add about 3/4 cup of the gnocchi water (this sounds odd, but trust me. It makes for a great sauce base.).
Stir it together.
Add the Parmesan-Romano cheese and the half and half, and more salt and pepper if needed. Heat until thickened, about 3-4 minutes more.
Serve with more Parmesan-Romano, and maybe even a little crushed red pepper flake if you want to spice it up, sprinkled on top.
This makes about 6 hearty servings.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Baked French Toast Casserole

Baked French Toast. French Toast Casserole. Bread Pudding for Breakfast. 

Call it what you will, but this stuff is Delicious.

And so easy!

And a great way to use up that loaf of bread you bought to have with dinner the other night, and totally forgot about. Or is that just me?? (I do that ALL the time!)

This one is also super versatile. Most of the time I just throw stuff in if I want to change it up. It's good with chopped apples, cranberries, pecans... raisins if you're into that kind of grossness... The possibilities are endless.

Any way I make it, it's one of my go-to dishes for brunch, either at home, or if I need to bring something to share with a group, since it transports so easily too.

Almost two years ago, I even posted a slightly different chocolate orange version of this baked french toast dish, but never put just a basic version up, so here it is...

Baked French Toast Casserole

1 Loaf Crusty French Bread (I used a 4-day-old sourdough baguette, and it was amazing!), cut into  1-2 inch cubes.

8 Eggs

2 Cups Milk

1/2 Tbsp. Vanilla Extract

2 tsp. Cinnamon

1 Cup Brown Sugar

1/3 Cup Applesauce

Preheat the oven to 350.

After cutting he bread into cubes, put them into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar and applesauce until well combined.
Pour over the bread, and mix well. Let sit for 15 minutes or so, stirring every 5 minutes or so, to evenly soak up the egg/milk mixture.
Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish, and cover with foil. Bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve with maple syrup, and powdered sugar as a garnish, if you' like, though it is sweet enough to eat without adding extra sugar.

It also makes a great dessert, served with ice cream and caramel or butterscotch sauce.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Harvest Dump Cake

Harvest Dump Cake
Dump cake.
That's, like, the worst name for a dessert ever.
Or maybe I should just get out of the 3rd grade frame of mind. I blame my almost-8-year-old daughter... whom I love and adore, and thinks the word "duty" is hilarious.
But really, for this kind of dessert, that's pretty much all you have to do. Dump it all in a pan, without even having to stir, and bake away.
This particular cake combines two of the best Fall flavors: Apples and Pumpkin. It's Autumn on a plate! And is especially yummy served warm, with vanilla ice cream.
Now if only this So. Cal. weather would get the hint that it's Fall and cool down so I could wear sweaters and boots already...

Harvest Dump Cake

1 box (15 oz) Spice Cake Mix

1 can  (21 oz)Apple Pie Filling

1 can (15 oz) Pumpkin Pie Filling (Not Puree)

3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

Pinch of Salt

1 envelope Spiced Apple Cider Drink Mix (optional)

1 1/2 sticks Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350, and grease or butter a 9x13 pan.
Combine apple pie filling, pumpkin pie filling, brown sugar, and salt.
Spread evenly in greased pan. Sprinkle package of apple cider mix over the apple/pumpkin filling.
Top evenly with the dry spice cake mix.
Pour the melted butter evenly over the cake mix. (There will be some dry spots. Don't stir it though!)
Bake for 45-60 minutes, until the top is golden and the sides are bubbly.
Golden top...
Bubbly sides...
Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream.

And PS you should really smell my house right now. AMAZING!