Mr. Homemaker and I have been contemplating buying/building a new house recently so we’ve been trying to save our pennies. That means we’ve been eating out a lot less and cooking a lot more. You’d think I would have a lot more recipe posts for you but on weeknights when we both get home at 6:30 or later and dinner isn’t on the table until 8:30 or later, the last think I want to do is arrange food on a plate in a photogenic fashion and take pictures of it. I mean, we are starving by that point and I think Mr. Homemaker would bite my hand if I told him he had to wait even 2 minutes for me to snap some shots of his plate! :)
Being an empty nest part of the week, we tend to eat out a lot. And even with just a party of two, that can get expensive, especially when you aren’t satisfied with the same few restaurants over and over again. Mr. Homemaker and I knew transitioning to exclusive at-home dining wasn’t going to be easy for us — sure, having a goal helps — but we knew that we would have to keep the menus fresh and interesting to keep us motivated. So each weekend we sit down with our bi-weekly produce delivery list and come up with a tentative menu and grocery list. I use the Epicurious and Food Network websites as well as some of my favorite food blogs for inspiration and recipes. We also try to recreate some of our favorite restaurant dishes at home.
So far I would say we have been pretty successful. In the past month, we have only eaten out once, and that was just a shared fajitas for one at the cheap Mexican joint. Compare that to our prior habit of dining out 6-7 meals (lunch and/or dinner) per week! We have also enjoyed spending time together in the kitchen getting back into one of our mutual hobbies. Each meal inspires us to cook up different menus and dishes for the next week.
So since I don’t have time to do an individual post for each recipe that we have enjoyed, I am giving you a recipe round-up and brief review so you can enjoy these dishes, too. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments and I will do my best to answer them. And when we make these things again, I will try to takes pictures and add those to this post. I am also giving each recipe my star rating along with my review and suggested modifications. Total possible stars = 4. None of the photos are my original photos — they are the property of the recipe source. Click recipe title for source.
We LOVE these tacos. We have made them twice now in the span of two weeks. They are easy and quick to throw together. We make them exactly as directed (yes, we put in the olives AND raisins), but we do buy a more tender cut of meat since we found the skirt steak to be way too tough on the first round. We prefer sirloin for this recipe. It would even be great with left over filet :) I also use mild Rotel as the regular makes the tacos a bit on the spicy side. We top our tacos with a healthy dollop of sour cream to tame the heat.
These meatball subs were one of our attempts to keep things interesting in the kitchen. This recipe is another one that is simple to throw together although some of the ingredients can be harder to find (my local Publix did have some Daikon radish). Matt really enjoyed the pickled carrot and radish topping and has eaten it as a side with other dishes since (the recipe makes more than enough). I am giving it three stars because some of the ingredients can be hard to find but I do love the flavor combination that it creates and I think the meatballs would be good served alone as an appetizer (or even in spaghetti).
Simple Roasted Chicken *****
Did you notice this one got 5 stars? If you check out the recipe link, you will see that it was created by Thomas Keller, one of my favorite chefs. I have raved previously about one of his other roasted chicken recipes, and since y’all know I don’t discriminate against a roasted chicken (that’s two already on this blog), I had to try this one. Funny thing is, I didn’t realize this recipe was by Thomas Keller until the day after I made it. I have now deemed him Dr. Chicken.
But to get to the point, for no more time and ingredients than this involves, you will never put a better piece of chicken in your mouth. Like shut up and go slap your momma good kind of chicken. And so easy you just season the chicken with salt and pepper and throw him in the oven in a skillet. Then when he comes out, slather him with a little butter and maybe a little thyme if you feel like it. And his skin will be so crispy and his meat will be so juicy. And not to mention flavorful! Please, before I ruin my keyboard drooling all over it, just go make this chicken — you can easily do this on even a tired weeknight!
Roasted Potatoes ****
Who doesn’t love garlic roasted potatoes? Enough said.
Arroz con Pollo ****
I referenced a meal in a prior post that my husband deemed one of the best I had ever cooked — this was it. I woke up on my day off craving something exotic but comforting and for some reason Arroz con Pollo came to mind. Now, don’t think Arroz con Pollo is something we ever ate as kids — we didn’t even eat the American version of chicken with white rice. But I have seen it on menus and have seen recipes enough recently that it sounded just exotic enough and just comforting enough to fit the bill. And boy did it! The smell in the house was incredible and the process to create it was fun and new — I definitely learned some new techniques while preparing this meal. And sofrito, the seasoning blend used to flavor the rice, has become a staple for us to make various things such as Spanish rice and stuffed peppers. If you have some kitchen skills, I definitely recommend trying this recipe out — it is well-written and if followed, will yield wonderful, flavorful results.
I had a pint of fresh raspberries in the fridge that had gotten a little too soft to eat straight so I went in search of a cocktail recipe. This one from Bobby Flay was on the top of my to try list and it didn’t disappoint. The basil is not very strong but does add just a hint of herbal flavor that I found very refreshing. I will definitely be making this one again and maybe it will be a Thirsty Thursday if I can get a photo of it.
Debris Po’Boys ****
So Mr. Homemaker has been craving a New Orleans style roast beef po boy for some time now. The kind that gets your hands all messy and drips down to your elbows when you eat it. I don’t know if most people even think of these as po boys because I think most people think of seafood when they think of the traditional New Orleans sandwich. But nonetheless, the debris po boy is a thing, and a delicious thing at that. I cooked up a chuck roast according to this recipe then reduced the cooking liquid down to a gravy consistency (had to add a teaspoon or two of cornstarch) to make a delicious meaty mess. We dressed our sandwiches with mayo and provolone and baby Swiss because that’s how we like them. I don’t care what any of you Cajun say ;)
Skillet Lasagna ***
Who doesn’t love lasagna? And lasagna that you don’t have to layer and mess up every dish in the kitchen for? That’s even better! This lasagna is easy to throw together and tastes great. I substituted ground beef for the Italian sausage just for personal preference. I found it to run a little dry so I ended up adding the whole second can of tomatoes and then a little more water as it cooked. I also reduced the cooking heat a little as it seriously stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Although the one skillet was a cleanup nightmare, the soul-warming meal was worth it and I will definitely make it again.
This is another Thomas Keller recipe that I found while browsing the Epicurious site. I think this recipe is a great base for creating other flavors but I haven’t really had time to experiment yet. So far we have just put it on basic green salads seasoned with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.
I had a serious craving for chocolate chip cookies last night but didn’t want to be in the kitchen all night changing out batches in the oven and didn’t want the temptation of eating 3 dozen so this little recipe for 12 cookies was perfect. I added a few toasted pecan pieces and they were divine warm out of the oven!
Mocha Brownies ***
I saw this recipe come up in my blog reader and I was sold on the brownie with frosting. As a kid my mom always made wonderful brownies but they never had frosting and I always craved brownies with frosting. I guess I now have an unfulfilled desire for frosted brownies because I make/eat them when I can. These brownies were decadent and tasty and the girls in my office RAVED about them. I found the brownie base to be a little bland to stand alone but with the frosting it is just fine (if you are going to make it without frosting, I would add a little salt or vanilla). My issue was with the frosting. The recipe calls for too much water. At the ratio given, the butter separates out and curdles. I think the recipe should call for 1/2 to 3/4 of the amount of water listed and next time I will stop at that. Because I wanted to follow the recipe as written (I am a rule follower), I added all the water and I regretted it. I ended up adding more sugar, butter, and cocoa trying to get the butter to re-emulsify. I got it to be palatable (based on compliments), but I wasn’t please with the grainy appearance of the frosting. I will definitely remember this next time I make this recipe.
New York Cheesecake ****
I made this for the Fathers’ Day dinner at my parents’ house. All but 2 slices were eaten that night and everyone said it was the best cheesecake that had ever had — better than New York City’s itself. I think that’s enough explanation!
Vanilla Cupcakes ***
Since I was worried the kids wouldn’t want to eat cheesecake, I also took cupcakes to our Fathers’ Day dinner. I have made this recipe before and it is a moist and tender cake with a good vanilla flavor. My only gripe with it in cupcake format is that it doesn’t crown well and it pulls away from the cupcake wrappers. My suggestion is to fill the cupcake papers closer to 3/4 full and this will help keep them from pulling away. If you are looking for a good basic vanilla cake, though, this is it. I omitted the vanilla bean and doubled the extract.
I hope you have enjoyed my little recipe round-up here. Let me know if you try any of these recipes or if you have any suggestions for tasty new recipes to try out!