Monthly Archives: March 2011

Baked Chicken Nuggets

Happy Thursday to you! I hope that your week is going well and your meals have been successful.

Last night I finally tried a recipe I found on that’s been on the meal plan for two weeks or so. The recipe listed prep time as 15 minutes and cook time as 15 minutes but somewhere in my brain I was just convinced it was going to take longer in prep. Maybe it was just my aversion to dealing with chicken that kept me away. Either way, yesterdays prep was a pleasant surprise. As was the final result. Several bites in, I was actually surprised to hear “you made these? I thought they were store bought.”. It was a great compliment. The fact that my increasingly picky and stubborn toddler approved as well was just the icing on the cake! So here’s the recipe. Make sure to keep ahold of this one as I’m sure you will end up making it as frequently as I have a feeling I will be!

Baked Chicken Nuggets
Prep: 15 min, Cook: 15 min.
1-1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (I used 5 boneless skinless breasts-1 for each of us)1 cup corn flakes cereal (I used corn flake crumbs and had to add an extra 1/4 cup to cover more meat)1 tsp. paprika (I omitted)1/2 tsp. Italian herb seasoning (omitted)1/4 tsp. onion powder (omitted)1/4 tsp. garlic powder (I used garlic salt instead)
Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Cut chicken into bite-sized cubes. Place cornflakes in a plastic bag. Crush using a rolling pin. Add remaining ingredients to the bag and shake well. Gradually add chicken pieces to the bag. Shake to coat. Place coated chicken pieces on a lightly greased cooking sheet so they are not touching. Bake until golden brown, about 13-15 minutes.

I served ours with tater tots (“Crispy Crowns” to be specific). It was a great fast casual meal. Together with some different dipping sauces we picked up on a recent grocery trip (sweet n’ sour, honey mustard, barbeque sauce, and ketchup), it was pretty tasty.
I hope you enjoy this easy, better than fried, version of a classic. We did and they’ll be repeated again soon I’m sure.

Success seconded! Two hits in one day :)

So the brownies were in the oven and Yay! I get to sit and relax for a bit. What?! It’s time for lunch?? What do you mean it’s time for lunch??
That presented an issue I wasn’t yet prepared for….what to do for lunch? So, looking at the bag of potatoes on the floor, I remembered a recipe/idea I came across a few weeks ago and marked for ‘some undetermined future use’. Undetermined schmundetermined! Today’s lunch will be Broccoli cheese topped potatoes.
I found this recipe/idea on

Vegetable Stuffed Potato

Just 4 easy Ingredients:
Cream of Broccoli and Cheese soup (I used 2 cans low-fat. Could not find an organic alternative)
4 potatoes (or one per person being served)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 cups frozen broccoli mix. (I omitted)
I added some chopped ham to the mix
Rinse and scrub potatoes. Poke several times with a fork. Wrap with paper towel and microwave until cooked. (about 5-6 minutes per potato) I zapped each one separately.

Cut potato in half and smush down with fork.
Cook broccoli mixture in microwave according to the directions.
Mix soup, cheese, and broccoli mixture.
Scoop cheesy broccoli mixture over potato. Enjoy!

Everyone enjoyed this lunch. Pretty quick and easy and certainly a healthier more well rounded alternative to most lunch choices. Don’t get me wrong, mac and cheese and pb&j; are proven successful and mighty tasty but this is a great option when looking for something outside the box…lunch box that is. 😉

Enjoy the yummy topped taters!

Success on Sunday!

Happy Monday!!! :)
I hope you had an excellent weekend! Ours was pretty uneventful but somewhat productive and completely enjoyable. ALWAYS a great combination.

So this weekend I finally got to a recipe that I’ve been wanting and meaning to get to for about 2 weeks. Zucchini Brownies courtesy This is an egg free recipe which is great as I am trying to limit Justice’s exposure to eggs. It’s also got 3 cups of zucchini stashed in it! Brownies made healthiER. 😉 Now before you get too taken aback by the ‘zucchini in brownies?!?!’ part, let me assure you…You’d never know!!! With the exception of the consistency not being quite brownie-like, (as the recipe says it’s more muffin like than brownie), they’re pure brownie! Now this recipe is designed for veggie picky toddlers that are used to sweet treats but it’s absolutely perfect for anyone in the family. I had a very skeptical adult declare that he thought they were delicious. Evan hasn’t tried them yet, but he had a small taste of the batter and became an immediate fan. I personally, not being a chocoholic, could have had several helpings last night! 😉

These brownies turn out moist and delicious with the consistency somewhere between brownie and muffin. They make a delicious treat, breakfast or snack and have 3 cups of zucchini hidden inside. Your toddler will never know! This recipe is also great for vegans (choose ingredients like sugar wisely of course), families with egg allergies or those who haven’t introduced eggs to their children yet.
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Total Time: 40 min

1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded zucchini (about 4 small – peel first)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan.
(I used 10×15)
Using a large bowl with plenty of space for all ingredients, thoroughly mix the oil, sugar and vanilla.
Now cream in the cocoa.
In a separate, smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt and then stir that into the sugar and oil mixture.
Fold in the zucchini and do not be afraid. Depending on the moisture level of your zucchini, this turns out looking somewhere between chunky hot cocoa mix powder and stringy brown paste. It’s ugly. That’s OK. The zucchini releases a lot of moisture as it cooks.
Spread it in the prepared pan evenly and bake it for about 30 minutes or until it just springs back when touched in the center. (Don’t use the toothpick test on this because if it comes out clean, they’re probably overcooked.)

These were a great success and I will be making these more often. A nice treat for everyone with the bonus of a healthy addition. I may use a baking sugar sub next time. I’ve never baked with substitute before, so if you have any tips, I’d LOVE to have them.

Can’t wait for the feedback

A delayed post…Honey Garlic Chicken

Well this one is only 2 days late… my apologies to you.
Tuesday I decided to try Honey Garlic Chicken, another find. I got the chicken out and was all ready to go when I looked at the end of the recipe better and realized it was supposed to be broiled. That’s a bit of a problem since we’re without a broiler pan. Not being able to go out and get one, I decided to try baking it instead. Afterall, that was my planned meal for the day and I was all ready and everything!
This one is a definite repeat but probably not until I get a broiler pan. The chicken had delicious flavor, but was a bit dry. Broiling would help alleviate that.
So here’s the recipe;

Honey Garlic Chicken
Prep: 10 min, Marinate: 40 min, Cook: 10 min.
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed (I used 1 med-large clove)
Arrange chicken breasts in a baking dish. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl. Pour over chicken and turn to coat. Marinate 40 minutes. Turn on broiler. Arrange chicken on a broiler pan and place 5 inches from heat source. Broil 5 minutes per side, basting occasionally with marinade, or until chicken is opaque throughout.
I added my marinade ingredients to a medium glass jar and shook vigorously to mix then poured it over the chicken. Next time I will mix in the jar then add to gallon size zippered bag with chicken to marinate. I’ve used this method many times when marinating and it works better than leaving in a dish I find.
I served this chicken with corn and mashed potatoes. Nothing extraordinary as I fixed the sides after coming home from karate testing (Hyahhhhhh!!!!!)[which also accounts for the lack of pictures-my apologies] but they were good compliments to the sweet hints of the chicken.
Hope you enjoy this flavorful chicken as much as we did.

A recipe referral-Home made Graham Crackers!

I wanted to pass this one along for any and all to try. A great friend of mine, Amber, tried this recipe and passed it along. I don’t have a mixer to try this one out yet but it’s definitely a goal. I’m posting the recipe with Amber’s notes along the bottom. This recipe is courtesy

Graham Crackers
Adapted from Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery, and 101 Cookbooks, because for some absurd reason that will be immediately rectified, this book is not yet in my collection.
If you’re new to graham crackers, do know that the word “cracker” is misleading. They’re moderately sweet, like a cookie or biscuit, but they do have the snap of a cracker. I can’t say that I’d serve them with cheese, but if you’ve never schmeared them with cream cheese frosting, you’re missing out.
The topping amount will make a heavy coating, like the store-bought ones. Make only half if you just want a light-to-moderate sprinkling.

Makes 10 4 x 4.5-inch graham crackers or 48 2-inch squares

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour (a swap of 1/2 cup with whole wheat flour or 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour works well here, too)
1 cup (176 grams) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt (4 grams)
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup (114 grams) mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons (77 grams) milk, full-fat is best
2 tablespoons (27 grams) pure vanilla extract

Topping (optional)
3 tablespoons (43 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) ground cinnamon

Make the dough: Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

[Alternately, if you don’t have a food processor or electric mixer, you can cut the ingredients together with a pastry blender. Just make sure they’re very well incorporated.]

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and dust it lightly with flour, then turn the dough out onto it and pat it into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Wrap it, then chill it until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, prepare the topping, if using, by combining the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and setting aside.

Roll out the crackers: Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. [This makes a traditional graham cracker shape. I rebelled and made mine into 2-inch fluted squares with one of these.]
Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge or 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer. Repeat with the second batch of dough. Finally, gather any scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll.
Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Decorate the crackers: Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough (again, this is for the traditional cracker shape). Using a toothpick or skewer (I like to use the blunt end of a wooden skewer for more dramatic dots), prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.
Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. [The baking time range is long because the original recipe calls for 25 minutes but my new oven — which I suspect runs crazy hot but have yet to confirm with the actual purchase of an oven thermometer — had them done in way less. Be safe, check them sooner. Nobody likes a burnt cracker!]

“Not too hard to make, but you have to keep cooling the dough in the fridge because it gets goopy really easily.” Oh, and of course, the most important note of all I’m not gonna lie…They are pretty amazing!”
That last one was all I needed to hear!

So I hope everyone enjoys this totally tantalizing sounding recipe and reports back immediately!
(Thanks Amber!!  <3  <3 )

Beef Stir-fry with Shrooms & Spinach

Well here’s another recipe that I found and am definitely doing again! This is another find. A last minute run to the store excluded, this one is pretty quick and easy. So without further ado, I give you…….The recipe. :)

Beef Stir-Fry with Mushrooms and Spinach
Prep: 10 min, Marinate: 15 min, Cook: 10 min.
1 bag porcini mushrooms (couldn’t find at 3 diff stores so we omitted this one)
3 Tbs. lite soy sauce, plus more for serving
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 Tbs. dry sherry or Chinese rice wine (optional) (omitted)
1 tsp. sugar
1 lb. boneless sirloin steak, thinly sliced across the grain
2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced (way cheated and used ground)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup scallions, chopped (omitted)
6 ounces spinach, washed, tough stems discarded (used thawed frozen organic)

Cover mushrooms with hot water in a bowl. Let soak 15 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid. Rinse mushrooms under running water. Pat dry and slice. Set aside. Combine next 4 ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously. Place sliced steak in a mixing bowl. Pour marinade over steak and toss to coat. Heat vegetable oil and sesame oil in a wok or heavy nonstick skillet over high heat. Stir-fry ginger and garlic 45 seconds. Add steak and marinade and stir-fry 2 minutes or until steak begins to brown. Add scallions and mushrooms and stir-fry 2 minutes or until scallions are softened. Add spinach and reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Stir-fry another 45 seconds. Season to taste with pepper. Serve with additional soy sauce

I made 6 servings of Minute Rice to accompany this and it was wonderful! Everyone enjoyed, although Justice wouldn’t eat the rice she enjoyed the meat & spinach. I decided that next time I will double the recipe and make a little more rice. Leftovers would be delish!
Apologies for the lack of pics, it totally slipped my mind amidst the quick store run…(Thanks Nick)

Happy Stir-frying everyone!

2 easy lunch fixes

Good Monday afternoon friends!

Hope you all had great weekends. Ours was nice. Not all that eventful which is just fine by us!
I thought that I’d put up a couple of quick lunch fixes I’ve come up with. I frequently don’t have much of a lunch but Justice definitely needs hers so I’ve come up with a couple of quick and easy fixes for her lately. I’ve discovered that Justice doesn’t have typical toddler tastes as she won’t eat pasta of any kind or hot dogs. What a weird kid huh?! It’s made lunch (and a couple dinners) just a little tricky. So here are a couple of my concoctions for you to try;

Salmon Cresents

1 package salmon (2.6oz pouch)
1 tube crescent rolls (reduced fat for a healthier choice)
mayo to desired consistancy
spices (pepper, garlic powder) to taste

Preheat oven to 375 (or per crescent roll directions if different). In a small bowl mix salmon, mayo and spices to desired consistancy. Seperate the triangles of crescent roll dough then slice in half length wise (now you have 2 longer skinnier triangles). Add a little salmon mixture to the wide end of the triangle and roll up as normally would. Place on greased baking sheet or on ungreased baking stone. Bake 11-13 minutes or as directed on crescent tube. Makes 16 mini crescents perfect for toddler fingers (& grown up sized ones).

Salmon is a great source of Omega-3 as well as protein. Tuna certainly works too if you’d rather.


1 tube crescent rolls (reduced fat for healthier choice)
8 slices desired lean lunch meat
1 stick light string cheese

Preheat oven to 375 (or per cresent roll directions if different). Slice string cheese in half length wise then again length wise so you have 4 strips. Cut those in half width wise to have 8 short sticks. Wrap 1 slice lunch meat around each cheese stick then place at wide end of dough triangle and roll up as you usually would. Place on greased baking sheet or ungreased baking stone and bake 11-13 minutes or as directed on crescent package. Slice in 1/2 for toddlers and let cool or enjoy whole for yourself or older kids. Makes 8 full size crescents.

Hope you try and enjoy my quick creations. Let me know what you think-

A new repeat and a no-no; recipes # 6 & 7

Good evening friends!
Well this evening’s meal brought us a yummy change of pace and a universal veto. Recipes #6 & 7 are Baked Sweet-Glazed Hamsteaks and Baked Carrots both of which came from The Hamsteaks are a bit of a departure for us. The Ortega/Jantz household doesn’t usually have much pork products, aside from Bacon of course which makes Everything better! In an attempt to stray from the usual chicken and turkey I thought these would make a nice change. I was right! The recipe is easy, fast and delicious! And so much cheaper than buying a premade honey baked ham (Bonus!!). Other than the last minute run to the store for brown sugar, it went quickly and was easy. The Baked Carrots required a bit more prep and didn’t turn out as well. We’re calling this Veto Numero Uno. :) Can’t win ’em all huh?! BUT-I’m still absolutely encouraging you all to try them. Don’t hesitate based on our tastes.

So here are the recipes and pics for your perusal;

Baked Sweet-Glazed Ham Steaks
Prep: 10 min, Cook: 20 min.
•1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
•1/4 cup honey
•1/4 tsp. dry mustard
•4 whole cloves
•4 boneless ham steaks, about 1/4 lb. each (I had 5)
•4 pineapple slices
Preheat oven to 325°F. Combine first 4 ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil for 2-3 minutes. Discard the cloves. Place ham steaks in a well-greased baking dish. Top each steak with a pineapple slice and an equal portion of the honey and brown sugar glaze. Bake for 15 minutes.

I left ours in for about 25 minutes (I had 2 pans with a total of 5 steaks). If you make more than 4 you’ll need to increase the amounts of each above by a little. I didn’t put any glaze or pineapple on the 5th as it was for Justice. During baking, the steaks release some of their water so it thins out the glaze a bit, hence the recommendation to make more glaze for more than 4 steaks. 😉

Baked Carrots
Prep: 10 min, Cook: 25 min.
•1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
•1 ounce Swiss cheese, grated (I’m pretty positive I used about 3-4oz as I grated about 1/2 the 8oz block)
•1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. unsalted butter
•1/4 cup onion, minced (I used dried minced as usual and only a Tbsp or so)
•1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. all purpose flour
•1 cup skim milk, hot
•1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (cornflake crumbs as usual)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Place carrots in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover saucepan and steam 3 minutes or until tender. Transfer half the carrots to the bottom of a baking dish. Sprinkle half the cheese over carrots. Add remaining carrots and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onion 2-3 minutes or until tender. Whisk in flour and salt to taste. Cook 1-2 minutes or until mixture begins to bubble. Very gradually whisk in hot milk and stir until sauce is thickened. Pour sauce over carrots and cheese. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake 15-20 minutes or until top is golden.

I used cornflake crumbs and let me warn you, 1/2 cup is too much. You only need 1/4 cup. Ours turned out way too ‘crumby’ and I didn’t even use the whole amount. This dish just wasn’t to our tastes, but it sure did sound good. Carrots-good. Swiss cheese-good. What’s not to love? For us, it was the overall finished product but I absolutely still recommend you try this one. I hope to hear from many of you telling me how much of a hit it was for you. Let me know!!!

Justice guarding the finished hamsteaks! :)

Hope you all enjoy these new additions to the mix and can’t wait to hear some feedback!

Zucchini Casserole – recipe #5

Happy Thursday and St. Patrick’s Day to you!

So yesterday I tried the Zucchini Casserole recipe I found on . The recipe says it serves 6-8 and I was a little questioning given the amounts listed in the ingredients. Since it’s topped with stuffing, that helps do just that, but I’d still say ‘serves 5-6′.

Prep wasn’t too time consuming, I’d say all-in-all, about 20 minutes. Since the cooking method once all prep is done is baking, the 45 minute cook time is no biggie.

Serves 6-8 (5-6)
3 cups cut-up zucchini (I thinly sliced them)
2 carrots shredded
1 small onion (I used a Tbsp or so of dried minced)
1 can cream of chicken soup (I used organic creamy mushroom)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup melted butter
4 ounces Pepperidge Farm stuffing (I used the whole 6oz box of Stove Top Low Sodium Chicken)
1 ½ cups cooked chicken (I threw mine in the chopper and shredded it since it was cold leftovers from the other day)
Cook zucchini, onion and carrot in a small amount of water for ~ 10 minutes.  Drain.  Mix melted butter with cooked stuffing.  Add sour cream, chicken soup and chicken.  Mix and put in casserole dish.  Sprinkle top with stuffing.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

I questioned at first glance whether or not the stuffing was supposed to be cooked prior to adding the melted butter and topping the casserole (I almost NEVER make stuffing), but after thinking about it for a moment and realizing it wouldn’t moisten up and cook itself in the oven, I cooked it according to box directions then added the melted butter over the top. In a mixing bowl (that I had had the veggies in prior to cooking) I mixed the sour cream and the soup then added the chicken. I then put the veggies in the pan and added the soupy chicken mixture to it and mixed well. It seemed easier than trying to mix it all in a bowl then putting it in the pan….in my mind anyway. 😉

It was delicious and well received. Justice picked out the zucchini slices, I think because of their texture, but ate the rest quite happily. Evan and I both had small second helpings and there was just a little bit leftover. This one is another ‘repeat’ in the future! Yay!

Hope you all enjoy making and eating this one as much as we did.

Tonight is nothing special… :)

Well folks, tonight’s dinner will yield no new or special recipes as I’ve got a long day at the karate studio ahead of me. I’ve picked an easy to make and reheat, fairly new find for us as the guys will most likely be doing the prep and dispensing. :) This evening’s meal is Kraft Macaroni & Cheese HOMESTYLE (I really need to be getting paid for this promo!!). We found this recently in the store and thought we’d give it a try. Basic, easy to make, new twist on an old favorite… It was a HUGE hit in the Ortega/Jantz house! Since I cook to feed 3 adults, a boy that eats as much (and sometimes more than) an adult, and now a toddler, we use 2 packages. I add 1lb ground turkey (a staple in our house) to finish it off for a pretty complete meal and do the optional Oven finish listed on the bottom of the directions on the back of the bag. As I type, it’s cooling on the counter so that I can cover it with foil and throw it in the fridge for later. I’ll have Dominic or Nick preheat the oven to 350 or so and it can be thrown in for a few minutes, covered, to reheat (although it’s probable that they’ll just dish it and nuke it…). There it is! Easy peasy Mac & cheesy! 😀 I’m posting a couple pics to help get those taste buds kicked into gear and get ya goin!

Just a quick note-Dominic suggested adding some taco seasoning to the meat to add a little more flavor, but Justice can’t have that so it’s been nixed for this particular ‘recipe’ as she loves this meal as well!!
Everyone is eagerly awaiting dinner tonight, and I have to admit, I had a hard time not digging in to it once I pulled it out of the oven!