Everyday Mom's Meals
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Sunday, January 24, 2021

New Year, New Side

 Which part of your daily dinner do you struggle with the most when planning? Main dishes are usually pretty quick to think of for me, and then the sides are sometimes where I stumble. Certain meals will always have the same sides included (If we're having spaghetti, a salad and bread are sure bets) but other times I want to switch things up. Find new side dishes to keep the menu plan fresh and new. 

So when I find a way to take an old favorite veggie and serve it in a new, tasty, and in this case, super cheesy way, I score major wife/mom points! 

We are big cauliflower fans, but I will fully admit I'm not very creative with it. If it's fresh, it's usually on a veggie tray. And if it served alongside our dinner time meal, it's a bag of frozen that has been steamed, with a little butter on it. I know, boring. But this recipe changes all that! 

Perfect with pork, chicken, or steak, this dish is super versatile. You could even double the recipe and make it a meat free main dish! 

Let's talk about the cheese for a second. I am the queen of pre-shredded bagged cheeses. I use them in almost all of my cooking. But this time I took the extra few minutes to shred my own; and it makes a huge difference! When you shred your own block of cheese, it melts more evenly, and has richer flavor. In no way am I dissing the convenience of the other, and will certainly continue to use it, but for certain dishes, it is definitely worth the extra effort! 

Since the beginning of the new year, I have been in new recipe recipe mode, and this is most definitely one of the favorites I've made. All three boys raved about it and have already requested it again! If you decide to switch up your next menu plan, and include this ooey,gooey veggie, I hope yours love it just as much!

 Cheesy Baked Cauliflower

2 large heads cauliflower, cut into florets

8 oz. block extra sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 c. heavy cream

1 c. grated Parmesan/Romano cheese

1 tsp. dried thyme

5 TBS butter, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried parsley

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook cauliflower for 8 minutes until just tender. Drain well. In a large greased casserole dish, place half of the cauliflower. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. thyme, salt and pepper. Pour half the cream over. Dot with half the butter. Add half the garlic. Add half the Parmesan and white cheddar cheeses. Repeat layers.  Sprinkle with dried parsley. Cook for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Allow to sit 5-7 minutes before serving.


 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Winter Blues

 I don't know about you, but this time of year is VERY hard on me. I love the holidays so much, and there is always so much anticipation and lead up to those special weeks. Once the decorations come down, and the cold, dark, dismal days of winter set in, I tend to get a little blue. I have a birthday to look forward to in February, but not until the next to last day, so those weeks between always seem like the longest ones of the year. 

If you live in the Midwest, but don't enjoy the cold or snow is there any upside to winter at all? Not much, but one of my salvations this time of year is definitely the fact that it is soup season

I never tire of finding new soup recipes. We have favorites that are go-tos of course, but any time I can try a brand new one (at least to us) I am always game. 

A friend and I were talking about how much take out we've done since the pandemic began. As I've said before, I feel like helping the restaurant industry is one small thing we can do to help keep people and businesses afloat, so we've really stepped it up in the last 10 months. Anyway, she was telling me there isn't a Panera close to them so she started making her version of their broccoli cheese soup. Well, you know I had to have that recipe. 

This bowl of deliciousness can be on your table in about 45 minutes, so it is perfect after a long day when you are starving but don't have the energy. Add some crusty bread and your favorite salad on the side and call it dinner! Or make it a soup and sandwich combo night! 

If you love copycat recipes as much as me, you will be so pleased with how close to the original this one tastes. Plus, it's yet another soup to help us get through this winter and give us a little happy in the bleak that is January!

Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup

3 medium broccoli crowns, chopped

1 small white onion, diced

1 cup matchstick carrots

2 c. half and half

4 c. chicken broth

5 TBS butter

1/4 c. flour

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and Pepper 

Shredded Marbled Cheddar, for serving

 In a large stockpot over medium heat saute onions in 1 TBS butter until soft. Remove. Melt remaining butter. Whisk flour into butter and cook about 5 minutes. Slowly add 2 cups broth and half and half. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Add onions, broccoli, carrots and remaining chicken stock. Stir. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until veggies are tender crisp. Add nutmeg, salt, pepper and shredded sharp cheddar. Stir until cheese is melted and serve. Serve with marbled cheddar and crusty bread if desired. 

Inspired by Recipe Critic

Shared at Weekend Potluck


Sunday, January 10, 2021

A Tatsy Twist on Pasta Night

 We love pasta. Like LOVE pasta. It's definitely one of our most eaten meals. All kinds. All flavors. We can't get enough. But we shouldn't eat it as much as we would like, so I am so excited to have such a tasty alternative when those pasta cravings hit. 

Since we were married, Mr. E raved about his aunt's lasagna. It was hands down the best he ever had and he begged me to get the recipe. So, I did...and I promptly told him there was no way I was making it. I swear that recipe had 184 steps LOL. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but it was most definitely an all-day process, and as a newlywed, and then a year later, a new mom, it wasn't happening. 

Fast forward to many years later yes...that long, we were invited over to her house for supper. We were actually working on a project that took multiple sessions, and each time, she let each of us pick what we wanted her to make for supper. One guess as to what my husband chose. Yep. The lasagna. Only one problem...she is now gluten free! So, she made 2 pans. One of the traditional (and yes, it is a fantastic lasagna, and I knew why he had raved about it for so many years) and one with polenta rounds instead of noodles. That version was absolutely delicious as well! 

I had seen polenta on cooking shows a thousand times, and when I worked at Bob Evans, one of my favorite breakfasts was "fried mush" with butter and warm syrup. But I had never made it at home, and knew that had to change. I just had to figure out which pasta sauce I would serve with it. Easy. My slow cooker bolognese sauce that is filled with flavor. 

If you've never seen the precooked, formed polenta, it comes in a tube (think bulk sausage shape) and can usually be found on the dried pasta aisle or the dairy section. Some are shelf stable, some need refrigeration. It slices easily and then can be sauteed in oil, baked, broiled or used in casseroles, like lasagna! 

We felt very fancy the night I made this. Like we were having dinner in a old world Italian restaurant. The boys loved it, and I enjoyed the fact it was like we were eating pasta, but in a new way! 

If you are gluten free and missing some pasta, you will love this! Plus since the sauce cooks separately, you could cook the polenta, and some pasta too, using the sauce for both, and satisfy everyone at your table. 

We won't be giving up our pasta nights any time soon, but I am happy to know I can switch it up now and again with another delicious meal with familiar flavors.

 Polenta with Bolognese Sauce

2 lbs. ground beef

5 TBS olive olive, divided use

1 medium white onion, diced

3 celery ribs, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1/4 c. chicken broth

2 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes

3 dried bay leaves

1/2 c. half and half

2 TBS dried parsley, extra for garnish

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 (18 oz.) tube precooked polenta, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds 

Salt and Pepper

Parmesan cheese, for serving

 Heat 2 TBS olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Saute onions, celery, carrots and garlic for a few minutes, until softened. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Drain if needed. Transfer to slow cooker. Add tomatoes and chicken broth. Stir to combine. Lay bay leaves on top. Cook on LOW for 6 hours. When cooked, remove bay leaves and stir in half and half. Leave on warm until ready to serve. To prepare polenta, heat 3 TBS olive oil in large skillet. Carefully place polenta rounds in oil and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. To serve, lay 3-4 rounds of polenta on each plate and top with bolognese sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with Parmesan cheese.  *NOTES* The polenta will splatter when cooking. BE CAREFUL! A splatter screen helps a lot. Do not crowd the pan with polenta. Cook in batches if needed. The sauce can be cooked ahead of time, refrigerated and reheated at time of serving.

 

Shared at Weekend Potluck
 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Welcome 2021

 We made it! There were definitely days over the past year (well, really since March) I think some of us thought 2020 was going to drag on forever in some sort of nightmare loop. But alas, Christmas came and went, and the ball dropped at midnight as planned. I don't know if another year has ever been welcomed with such excitement and anticipation. Sure, not much has changed thus far, but a new year brings new possibility and hope at the end of a very long dark tunnel. 

Now is the time a lot of people make those resolutions. Like I've said before, it's not really my thing. In fact, I think it sets us up for failure and feelings of guilt when we lose sight of them. So instead, I simply try to make a conscious effort to be better than I was the year before, even if only in little ways. 

In 2021, I have decided to focus on two things in my daily life. The first one, is simply something we all need to work on every single day...being more kind. I would like to think I am a kind person, but if there is one thing this pandemic showed me is that every single one of us needs to put more kindness and empathy out into this world. There are so many that don't have an ounce of either it seems, that the rest of us must show a little extra. 

The next one was inspired by our pastor's sermon this week at church. Listening. I know I could improve on this and am truly going to try to make more of an effort. Mostly, I want to actively listen while my lips are sealed. Many times, my brain is working so fast, my ears seems to tune out. I realize I need to slow down and take more in. 

So that is how I am going to attempt to improve in this new year, even if just a little. What about you? Do you have a list of things you are striving for? Maybe eating better? Cooking more? Trying new foods? 

I thought this was a great dish for the first recipe of 2021 because of the dreaded mushrooms. Our family are big fungi fans, but I hear from so many fans who don't dig on them. Maybe this year could be when you give them another try. They certainly add some rich, earthly flavor to this delicious soup. But I guess if that is a no-go for you, you could omit them too! 

 I hope however you are entering 2021, it's healthy, safe and with love in your heart.

 Mushroom & Corn Chowder

1/4 c. butter

3 carrots, diced

3 celery stalks, diced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

10 baby gold potatoes, cubed, skin left on

 4 c. chicken broth

2 c. half and half 

2 (15 oz.) cans cream corn

1 TBS dried parsley

1 TBS cornstarch

1 TBS water

Salt and Pepper

Dried Chives

Bacon Bits

Shredded Cheese

 In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Saute' carrots, onions, celery and potatoes for 5 minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms. Saute' for 5 minutes more. Add broth, salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes until potatoes are tender. Add half and half, corn and parsley and stir well. Increase heat to medium-high. In a small bowl mix together cornstarch and water. Once soup is boiling again, add cornstarch mixture and stir well. Lower heat to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes until just slightly thick. Garnish with dried chives and serve with shredded cheese and bacon bits.

 

Shared at Weekend Potluck



Sunday, December 27, 2020

Happy (Almost) 2021

 How was your Christmas? I hope it was a day surrounded by those you love most in the world, with magic, joy and peace. (Even if some had to join virtually!)

We had a wonderful holiday, with celebrations over a couple days. According to the mound of presents under our tree Christmas morning, our boys were VERY good this year. (But Mommy could have told Santa that!) 

Now that my most favorite time of year is behind us, I tend to get a little depressed. I won't even lie. December 26th is my least favorite day of the year. But I do have something to look forward to! Our annual New Year's Eve Buffet! 

If you've been following me for a good amount of time, you know our tradition. Every NYE, I make a huge appetizer buffet filled with yummy things. We stay in, my parents come over, we eat, we watch movies, we play games, we eat, we stay up for the ball drop, we eat....you get the picture. 

So while many will be doing an "at home New Year's Eve" for the first time this year, we are experts and it's one of our most fun traditions!

If you're planning some tasty food to welcome 2021, this slow cooker beer braised sausage could definitely be added to the menu! This is a versatile recipe that you can serve as an appetizer (just cut it into smaller pieces) or for a simple weeknight supper. It's delicious right out of the Crock Pot, but we also love putting it on some hoagie buns for a sandwich dripping in yum factor. 

I know many like to serve pork for good luck in the New Year, so this could be a fun twist on that tradition too! 

Without a doubt, 2020 will go down in history as one of the worst years ever, at least in most of our lifetimes. But I think there is a lot to be thankful for as we look back too. Sure, it might not always be the easiest to see, or focus on, but even in the darkest days this year, our family has been so incredibly lucky. So I am trying to focus on that as we say goodbye to another year, but am also ready to welcome 2021 with open arms. I wish you a happy, healthy and delicious New Year...only good things ahead!

 Slow Cooker Beer Braised Sausage

3 (9 oz.) packages smoked sausage

1 large white onion, thinly sliced

1/2 c. brown sugar

2/3 c. light beer

1/4 c. spicy brown mustard

1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1 TBS water

2 tsp. cornstarch

Slice sausage into 1-2 inch pieces. Spray the slow cooker with nonstick spray. Lay sliced onions in bottom. Lay sausage on top of onions. In a medium bowl, whisk brown sugar, beer, mustard and vinegar. Pour over sausage. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours. About 15 minutes before serving, mix water and cornstarch. Add to slow cooker. Stir and cook on HIGH about 10 minutes until thickened. Serve as is or on hoagie buns with sauce drizzled over top.

 Shared at Weekend Potluck