Alley's Recipe Book
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Pan Ravioli - total time 30 minutes

For those of you that think bacon makes everything better... here is a dish for you!  I have never been that into bacon.  I mean, it is good in small amounts on occasion.  This dish kind of changes my mind.  The bacon gives it a salty, rich flavor with the crunch of the pan toasted ravioli tossed in some delicious veggies.  Basically, I can't wait to make this again!

Weekly Menu

Hope everyone's weekends were fabulous!  It was pretty nice weather here in Ohio until it rained all day today.  So I was able to get my vegetable garden weeded, fertilized, and semi-tilled to plant next week (snow peas and spinach are starting to grow already).  It was nice to get in the dirt again after our long Ohio winter (I could complain about how I hate winter, but lets look forward toward summer)!

After getting the garden ready, we did a little tailgating and went to see the Columbus Crew take on DC United.  When we got into the stadium, I overheard one of the Crew staff ask another if the scoreboard was on fire.  I didn't think twice about it, just thought it was code for the scoreboard was on.  I walked around the corner to see this...

It took about an hour to put the fire out.  Everyone was okay, but the smell of burning plastic filled the air.  It was probably some sort of electrical malfunction since the scoreboard is sort of old.  It is also the only source of audio for the game... so once they were able to start the match, there were no announcers!  Pretty wild game and the Crew won 3-0!

On to this week... I can't believe it is the end of April.  Hopefully the year will slow down during the summer so we can enjoy it!  We get our second bin from Green Bean delivery this week (I found the local produce options!) and hopefully the weather will be nice this week because the vet told us our dog needs to lose nine pounds!  He is 39 pounds, so that's a lot to lose!  If only he would stop getting into everything...  Oh well, here is this week's menu...

quesadillas with mexican rice
shrimp po' boys with crispy roast potatoes
homemade pierogies with salad

Broccoli Chicken Alfredo Lasagna Rollups - total time 1 hour

I have developed a Nat Geo addiction over the past week or so.  Last weekend I watched too many hours of The 80s: The Decade That Made Us which I thought was fascinating.  Two things kept crossing my mind while I stared at the screen... 'how did I not know any of this was going on while I was growing up?' and 'wow, I can't believe we lived without ___ 20 years ago'.  Things I take for granted now, like computers that fit on a desk, internet, cell phones, etc.  Now I do remember the progression of all this technology... the green and black computer screens, getting on the internet for the first time in fourth grade, using my dad's cell phone for the first time in eighth grade... but it is hard to think of life without these things now.

And now Nat Geo has me hooked on Brain Games and I am sure I'll get hooked on The Numbers Game.  Can't multi-task and watch these shows... they take you're full attention. At least one network has something interesting to watch.  I used to default to Cooking Channel or Food Network (are you surprised?), but now those channels are full of reality cooking/baking crap.  I tried to sit through an episode of Cupcake Wars (while doing other things, mind you) and had to change the channel... 

Any way... here is a recipe that you can prepare on a night you have time to cook and save it for a night you don't want to or don't have time to cook but still want a home-cooked meal!

Spinach Artichoke Dip - total time 40 minutes

All-time best appetizer has to be spinach artichoke dip!  I don't know anyone that doesn't like it.  If it is on the menu, we're getting it.  And when we make it at home, its a hundred times better than from a can.  Even though it is full of cream cheese, it is also loaded with a bunch of good stuff... spinach, artichokes (duh, it is in the name), garlic, spices... yum!  It's so easy to make too!

Weekly Menu

It has been a tough news week this past week, too many unthinkable events.  Hopefully this week will be a week of recovery and optimism.

This week was also our first delivery from Green BEAN Delivery, which is this awesome service that delivers organic produce and local grocery items to your door!  After our favorite creamery decided they could not afford to deliver milk to our neighborhood Kroger, we found out that we could get their full dairy assortment through Green BEAN.  In addition to all of the Snowville products we'll be getting free range eggs, free range meats, locally roasted coffee, and other delicious grocery items we normally only get a few times a year because they are less accessible on our side of town.  Every bin comes with a mandatory (but flexible) amount of produce, which will be great until our CSA starts delivering on the same day of the week!  Too much produce is really not a problem in our house.  Between cooking, juicing, and preserving (canning or freezing), we will find a way to eat or share it all!

After the first delivery, I am so excited for the next (we picked bi-weekly delivery).  A little disappointed that the produce is not local or seasonal (well, some of it was), but it tastes better than the stuff I would have bought at Kroger.  The delivery bins are insulated and have ice packs to keep things cold... but when it gets to 100 degrees in the summer... we'll see how long those ice packs keep things cold.  All in all, I love it so far! 

(Update: I found the way to get local produce through Green BEAN... it just isn't in the default bin package, go figure.)

Now, time for this week's menu...

spaghetti and meatballs (didn't get to it last week)
fish tacos
grilled cheese sandwiches - am I the only one that didn't realize it was national grilled cheese month?
pan ravioli with spinach and tomatoes

What are you making this week?

Earth Day Muffins - total time 45 minutes

Earth Day is April 22nd.  Do you do anything to celebrate?  Some people plant a tree (well, they might do that on Arbor Day which is April 26), others spend time outside (which is a win-win since you don't have to use electricity to enjoy the outdoors), or maybe commit to reducing, reusing, and recycling more.  I don't really do anything special on Earth Day... really, we should be thinking about the Earth and celebrating it everyday. But this year I made Earth Day muffins!

I actually saw a similar idea for this on Pinterest, although it was a cake with a lot of food coloring.  I thought maybe I could muffins with some natural coloring... but I couldn't get to a true blue or a true green without a little help.  The concept is pretty easy... start with a basic muffin batter, separate, add in your blue and green fruits and dyes, then plop alternating spoonfuls of muffin batter into muffin cups.  They end up looking so cute!  Perfect for Earth Day, but could be made any time!

Make Ahead Mexican Stuffed Shells - total prep time 20 minutes

Ugh, it has been a rough week with some late nights at work.  It is easy to come home and not want to cook.  Since we're trying to limit processed foods in our diet, not wanting to cook doesn't leave a lot of options.  So after seeing a pin on Pinterest about freezer meals, I thought about having a 'backup' meal ready to go from fridge to oven to table.  In fact, I could even call my husband ahead of time and have him put it in the oven and it could be ready by the time I got home (and then we aren't eating after 9pm).

So I thought about what I could make that could sit in the fridge a few days before being completely baked and I think this works for most noodle dishes (just remove any raw eggs from the recipes and make sure to completely cook the meat).  I decided to go with the disposable/recyclable tin pans because I didn't want anything to break going from a cold fridge to a hot oven (and my husband doesn't have a good track record when it comes to cooking).  

My first go at a make ahead (or fridge-to-oven) meal was a success!  I wasn't even home when the mexican stuffed shells were made or even eaten.  I say a home cooked meal is definitely better than the Taco Bell run or frozen pizza that would have happened if it was not available.  :)

It took about 20 minutes to boil the noodles, brown the ground turkey, cook in the additional ingredients, and stuff the shells.  I ran cold water over the noodles to stop the cooking process and let the filling cool down a little.  After stuffing the shells and topping with cheese, I covered the tin pan with aluminum foil and wrote the baking instructions on top.  So simple!  I'm definitely planning to prepare one of these every week for that night that inevitably comes where I just don't want to cook.

What do you do when you don't want to cook?

Weekly Menu

I can't believe the weekend is already over and it is time to plan another week's worth of meals!  This weekend was full of family time, including time with my new nephew, and shopping (my favorite hobby).  It included a good amount of eating out too, including sandwiches with french fries in the sandwich... only in America...

For some reason, I waited until last minute to do our taxes this year.  So a quick menu plan so I can get back to plugging in those numbers  (woo...)

spaghetti and turkey meatballs
salmon burgers with sauteed asparagus
BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches and spinach salad
maple dijon chicken with sauteed brussel sprouts
out on Friday night for a girls night at the ballet
chubby mint cookies

Oh, and a couple pictures of last week's stuffed chicken parm (one of my favorites)!

Manicotti - total time 40 minutes

My husband thinks that the reason Mexican restaurants are able to get you your food so quickly is because everything on the menu is a variation of the same thing.  Pick your shell (tortilla for burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, hard shell for tacos, chalupas, and salads), pick your meat/veggies, and pick your sauce (cheese, red, verde) then wrap it up and serve with some rice and beans.  Seems like it should be the same for Italian restaurants... pick the type of noodle, cheese or meat, and type of sauce... done... but it never comes out quite that fast.

I used to think manicotti was the superior Italian entree until I started making it myself and realized manicotti is just stuffed shells in tubular form.  Still delicious!

Veggie Egg Rolls - total time 30 minutes

During my quest for different vegetarian recipes I found a lot of "international" foods.  Actually, it seemed most other countries have a good amount a vegetarian options within their traditional menus, yet "American" food is focused on meat.  We have our fast burgers and sandwiches, there are steakhouses, it seems we'll wrap anything in bacon, even our salads come topped with chicken or fish.  If you go to an Italian, Mexican, Indian, or Asian restaurant they all have a dedicated vegetarian section in their menus.  However to get anything vegetarian from an "American" food restaurant you have to ask for no meat.  Now don't get me wrong, I do enjoy some chicken or fish (and some times some red meat) but all in moderation.

So even thought the vegetarian challenge was over and it was the first week I could eat meat in almost seven weeks, I ended up making some veggie fried rice and veggie egg rolls (they use a lot of the same ingredients).  If you ever need to feed a lot of people... veggie fried rice is where it's at.  I thought I was going to be eating it for weeks!  But I love making it at home because I am picky about what goes in it (peas and mushrooms, eww).  

Weekly Menu

Spring has finally made it to Ohio!  Spent the day outside and celebrating my nephews' birthdays.  If only the weather could stay like this... no jacket, sunshine, and spring flowers.  Speaking of flowers, I used some of my time outdoors today trading out my spent herb garden for new plants (every nursery seemed to know how sad my herbs looked because they were on sale everywhere).  It's so useful to have the herbs I use frequently growing inside my house!

This week is a little crazy for menu planning... a few nights of cooking for one, two nights out, need some snacks for the road, and a couple fridge-to-oven-to-plate meals.

stuffed chicken parm (oops, didn't get to this last week)
spinach salad rollups
chicken and broccoli white lasagna rolloups (fridge-to-oven)
mexican stuffed shells (fridge-to-oven)
baked banana chips

Oh, and I figured out a new trick when I was making pretzel chicken last week.  Instead of smashing the pretzels yourself and making a mess doing it... have your KitchenAid mixer do the work.  Just put two cups of pretzels in the bowl, your normal mixing paddle, cover your mixer with a grocery bag (so pretzel bits don't fly), and let it go on low while you get everything else ready!  So easy!

Creamy Sundried Tomato Pasta - total time 30 minutes

One of the less fun things about cooking a lot at home is the mess that needs to be cleaned up afterward.  It doesn't matter how simple the meal is, my kitchen looks a wreck every night.  I don't know how I manage to be so messy and use so many bowls, pots, pans, spoons, and knives.  I seem to fill up the dish washer every night... and there is only two of us!

This meal actually had minimal clean up.  It is almost a one pot meal (you need one to boil pasta in, but that isn't hard to clean up after).  Everything else is just sauted, tossed, and served in one pot.  Soak the pot while you eat and you're pretty much done cleaning!

Vegetarian Fajita Tacos - total time 20 minutes

It's Taco Tuesday!  Okay, we don't have that much of a food routine at our house.  We eat a lot of tacos, enchiladas, and quesadillas... so we probably have taco Tuesday more often than I realize.  Any way, tacos are perfect for Tuesday nights because they are fast and easy.  Everyone can build their own so everyone gets what they want.  These tacos have fajita veggies instead of chicken or beef, so they are great for Meatless Mondays as well!


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