Food & Recipes

Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Sauce Recipe

Recipe: Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Sauce at The Weed Patch

Simple to prep and fairly fast cooking, this dish makes a great weeknight dinner, but also feels “fancy” enough to cook for company. The dish has some versatility – for example, really any stone fruit would work with the pork. I’ve used plums, peaches, cherries, and actually cranberries are delightful. You also can use a different cut of pork – loin, loin chops, etc – just adjust the cooking time as needed based on the thickness of the meat. Avoid tough cuts for this dish, because it doesn’t cook long enough to break down and become tender. If you don’t like the flavor of rosemary, thyme is also very nice with pork.

Here’s what you need for the seasoning:

  • 3/8 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Here’s what you need for the recipe:

  • 2 lb Pork Tenderloin, sliced about ½ inch thick
  • 1 tb olive oil (divided)
  • 1 Tb butter
  • 2 cups Cherries, cut in half and pitted
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 sprigs rosemary
  • ¼ cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 1 tb balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard

Recipe: Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Sauce at The Weed Patch

Directions:

  1. Prep the meat: combine the dry seasonings in a small dish, the sprinkle over both sides of the meat, and rub it in a bit. Let this sit while you chop your veggies. If you’ve already chopped them, then do something useful for about 20 minutes to let the meat get yummy.
  2. Brown the meat: Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet (I use cast iron) over medium high heat, and brown the meat. I cooked it in 2 batches (you don’t want to crowd the pan), 3 minutes on each side (don’t poke at it – you want it to have a nice sear). Remove the meat to a plate, and cover, set aside.
  3. Cook the sauce: Melt 1 tb butter in the pan, and add the cherries, onion, and rosemary. Add a little salt to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to brown and the fruit softens and breaks down a bit – try a good 10 minutes at least. You may need to reduce the heat a little as this cooks – the sugars in the fruit and onions start to release and can burn.
  4. Add the apple cider/juice, vinegar, and mustard. Bring to a simmer, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to release any browned bits. Add the pork back to the pan, along with any juices on the plate. Let simmer for a couple of minutes to reduce the sauce and reheat the pork.

We love this served with rice. Yum!!

Recipe: Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Sauce at The Weed Patch

Recipe: Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Sauce at The Weed Patch

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Broccoli Beef Chowder

Recipe: Broccoli Beef Chowder at The Weed Patch

Broccoli Beef Chowder: This chunky, flavorful chowder was a big hit with everyone in our family, picky kids included. Though there’s a bit of chopping to do here, this delicious soup makes a perfect stand-alone meal, combining meat, potatoes, veggies, and dairy – no need for side dishes! Just add some bread and you’re good to go.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 lb Gound Beef
  • 1 Onion, Chopped
  • ½ Green Pepper, diced
  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tb Olive Oil or Butter
  • ½ cup Flour
  • 1 32oz (ish) carton Beef Broth (or use water and beef base/beef boullion), divided
  • 3-1/2 cups Milk, divided
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 heads Broccoli, trimmed and chopped into florets (3-4 cups worth)
  • 3-4 Potatoes, peeled and diced
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • ¼ tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 2 cups Cheese, shredded (I used mostly cheddar with some parmesan)

Directions:

  1. Cook ground beef over med high heat in large soup pot, stirring to crumble. Remove beef and set aside. Drain the fat, leaving just a little in the pan for the next step.
  2. Add onion & green pepper to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes until it softens (but doesn’t brown) – season to taste with a little salt. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute.
  3. Make a well in the center of the veggies, add oil or butter. When it is heated/melted, add the flour. Stir with a whisk, then cook and stir the whole thing with the whisk for a minute or two to remove the raw taste of the flour. It could burn easily, so watch your heat! Stir in 2 cups of the beef broth and 2 cups of the milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook/stir until it starts to thicken. Season with some salt and pepper (don’t add too much salt at this point, as there’s plenty of salt in the cheese, etc).
  4. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, broccoli, potatoes, tobacco sauce, and the rest of the milk and broth. Put the beef back in too. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until veggies are nice and soft. By simmer, I mean a couple bubbles should occasionally break the surface – if it bubbles vigorously, it will scald on the bottom.
  5. Add the cheese, little by little, stirring to melt. At this point, give it a taste. If necessary, add small amounts of salt, pepper, cheese, and/or Worcestershire sauce. I personally liked lots of ground pepper, and a little more Worcestershire.
  6. Optional: I like to mash the soup in the end with a potato masher. It breaks the potatoes and broccoli into smaller chunks that fit more nicely on my spoon.

Tips:

  1. To save time, you could use frozen broccoli florets and frozen diced potatoes for hashbrowns to cut back on chopping time.
  2. You can also use 2 cans of condensed cheese soup, but this will definitely change the flavor and quality of the soup. I wouldn’t recommend it (I don’t care for the overly salted canned flavor, nor the added msg, etc), but it would save a little time if you’re in a time crunch. You wouldn’t need to add the shredded cheese, just use 2 cans of soup and cut the milk and broth back to roughly 2 cups each.
  3. This makes a very VERY thick chowder. Feel free to add more milk or broth if you prefer it to be thinner.
  4. It also makes a HUGE batch. Make the whole recipe in your big soup pot, and pig out like us, or be more sensible and freeze leftovers. It also can be very easily cut in half.
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Perfect Pumpkin Bread

Perfect Pumpkin Bread at The Weed Patch

We LOVE the Autumn season here at The Weed Patch. The crisp, cooler air (although geez, not yet so much this year - it was 70 yesterday!), the changing colors, and the baking! Every year you know that fall is on its way when Chris starts making pumpkin bread (although he has been known to make it in July ... just because). Everybody seems to agree, this is a yummy treat!

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 can (16 oz) pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease and flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Mix well.
  4. In a seperate bowl, stir together the pumpkin and oil.
  5. Beat the eggs in to the liquid, one at a time, beating well after each.
  6. Make a “well” in the center of the dry ingredients.
  7. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, in the “well”
  8. Stir until dry ingredients are just moistened.
  9. Pour batter into pans.
  10. Bake at 350F for 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  11. Makes 2 loaves.

Perfect Pumpkin Bread at The Weed Patch

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Stuffed Shells

Recipe: Stuffed Shells at The Weed Patch

A few nights ago, we had really nothing to eat for dinner, so I threw together ingredients pulled from our pantry to make a lovely tomato sauce we had over spaghetti. We had a ton leftover, so we made a second meal out of it. This recipe is based off what you can find on the package of jumbo pasta shells, I only changed a few things. A simple recipe to prepare, the hardest part is filling the shells, only because it can get a tad messy until you get the hang of it. It is a somewhat heavy, rich dish, so be sure to have a nice big salad to go with it, and maybe some bread. A serving size would be 3-4 shells per person, so this will easily feed a family of 6 with maybe some leftovers.

You can use a jar pasta sauce for quick prep, or use a leftover spaghetti sauce. You can purchase fresh ricotta cheese, but we had cottage cheese on hand, so I just ran it through my mini blender to achieve a similar consistency. Be sure you don’t overcook the shells – you want them to still have a little chew to them. They’ll finish the cooking process in the oven.

Ingredients:

  • 9 oz Jumbo Pasta Shells (¾ of a 12 oz box, about 30 shells)
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce, or homemade sauce
  • 1 ½ cups cottage cheese, buzzed in a blender (or fresh ricotta)
  • 1 ½ cups mozzarella, shredded
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (or marscapone)
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced (or a couple teaspoons dried)
  • 1 Tb fresh basil, minced (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

Recipe: Stuffed Shells at The Weed Patch

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Cook pasta shells in salted water for about 9 minutes. Drain and cool on a tray so they don’t stick together.
  3. Mix together the cottage cheese (or ricotta), cream cheese, half the parmesan, half the mozzarella, parsley, basil, and some ground pepper to taste. (I didn’t add any salt, but you might prefer it).
  4. Fill the shells with cheese mixture. They’ll be rather stuffed.
  5. Put half the sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Stir in 1-2 Tb of water. Nestle in the shelves in an even layer. Top with the rest of the sauce, then the remaining cheese
  6. Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browning, and sauce is bubbling.

Recipe: Stuffed Shells at The Weed Patch

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Homemade Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Recipe: Homemade Creamy Macaroni and Cheese at The Weed Patch

I don’t actually use white cheddar cheese for this recipe, and you can use any shape pasta you want. My son just really REALLY loves boxed white cheddar shells, but one day he asked for a homemade version. It is pretty simple – you just make a white sauce, melt cheese into it, and stir in hot cooked pasta. Easy peasy! (bonus – the sauce ends up looking white because my cheddar is kind of pale, so it looks just like the white cheddar pasta in the box! ? )

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 pkg Shell Pasta
  • ½ stick butter
  • 3 T flour
  • 2 cups milk/cream combo of your preference (I used 1 ¾ cup non-fat milk and ¼ cup cream because that’s what I had)
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, or to taste (I used Tillamook medium cheddar)
  • Salt to taste (if any)
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste (I used maybe ¼ tsp)

Recipe: Homemade Creamy Mac and Cheese at The Weed Patch

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to pgk directions (I do add a little salt & oil). Cook just until al dente. Drain, but don’t rinse. Leave sitting aside in colander while you cook the sauce in the still-warm pot
  2. Over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour, stir with whisk for 1-2 minutes to cook the raw flavor out of the flour, but take care not to over-brown the butter.
  3. Add the milk/cream (whatever you have on hand or want to use is fine). Raise heat to med-high, and cook until it starts to thicken. Whisk constantly so the milk doesn’t burn on the bottom. It doesn’t ever boil – you just stir for 5 or so minutes, thinking nothing is going to happen, then you suddenly start to feel a little resistance when you’re stirring, and then it starts to thicken.
  4. Add the cheese, a little at a time, stirring constantly to melt the cheese. Adding it gradually helps prevent clumps. Taste the sauce as you go – it might not need as much cheese as you might think. You may or may not need any salt, just be sure to taste it. It is a very forgiving sauce if you just add a little flavor at a time.
  5. Stir cooked pasta into the sauce, and serve! Yum!

Note: You can easily make this gluten free by using your favorite gluten-free pasta, and use gluten-free flour or baking mix in place of the flour. If you use baking mix, you might only need 2 T, not 3. Try it with 2, and add more if needed.

Recipe: Homemade Creamy Mac and Cheese at The Weed Patch

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Baked Lemon Chicken

Baked Lemon Chicken

Recipe: Baked Lemon Chicken at The Weed Patch

This meal was absolutely wonderful in every way - very little prep, almost no chopping or slicing, only a couple dirty prep dishes to wash, a small ingredient list, and very, very tasty. It is one of those incredibly homey meals that would also be special enough for company, because it is so fresh. You do not have to use chicken thighs - that’s just what we found in the sale bin that day. Any bone-in chicken will do – breasts, leg quarters, even a whole bird (they’ll cut it up for you at the butcher’s counter). Just adjust the cooking time based on the type of meat being used. The herbs don’t have to be chopped, just give them a good rinse if you picked them from your garden, and toss them in. We used oregano and sage, as that’s what we had, but I would have LOVED to use thyme. You can make just the chicken if you want, but I decided to do mashed potatoes, because I knew the chicken would give me a good sauce, plus I could add in the soft cooked garlic in from the dish for extra wonderful flavor! The only thing you need to be careful about is to not burn the skin during the broiling part – I was basing this off a recipe that called for broiling for 5 minutes, but mine started to burn after 2, so I’d watch it closely.

Here’s what you need:

  • 8 Chicken Thighs (with bone and skin)
  • Olive oil (just enough for rubbing on chicken and pan)
  • ½ of a Lemon (use other half for glaze)
  • ½ of a large Onion, sliced into rounds roughly a ¼ inch thick
  • Garlic, about ½ of a head
  • 5-6 Sprigs of Fresh Herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, chives, basil, or a combo)
  • Salt & Pepper

Glaze:

  • 2 T Honey
  • 1 T Mustard (whole grain or Dijon)
  • ¼ cup Olive oil
  • Lemon (the other half from the chicken)

Mashed Potatoes:

  • 5-6 Medium sized Russet Potatoes (or however many you want)
  • 1 Tb butter
  • Milk or cream
  • Cooked garlic from the chicken (optional)
  • ¼ cup or so of freshly shredded parmesan cheese (optional)

Recipe: Baked Lemon Chicken at The Weed Patch

Recipe: Baked Lemon Chicken at The Weed Patch

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Prep pan: Pour a tb or so of olive oil in a glass or ceramic 9 x 13 inch baking dish and rub it all over with your fingers. Place onion slices in a single layer on the bottom of dish. Evenly distribute fresh herb sprigs on onions. Peel garlic cloves and smash with your hand and the flat side of a butcher knife until they are fairly squished, and add those too.
  3. Prep chicken: rinse and pat chicken dry. Rub all over with olive oil, and season all over generously with salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper. Place skin side down on onion/herb bed in dish.
  4. Cut lemon in half, remove seeds. Squeeze as much lemon juice as you can all over chicken. Then cut the squeezed lemon half into 3-4 pieces and tuck in around chicken.
  5. Prep glaze: Whisk together honey, mustard, and the juice from the other half of lemon in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil in a slow steady stream until emulsified. Set aside. Cut this squeezed lemon half like the other and tuck that around chicken too.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes, then turn skin side up. Bake 15 more minutes. Brush chicken with glaze, and bake until done to your liking, maybe 10 more minutes, brushing with glaze every 5 minutes or so until it is used up. You’ll notice the skin starting to brown, a knife will slip in through the chicken easily, and the meat moves easily around the bones.
  7. Turn oven on to boil, and finish the chicken under the broil. Don’t move the pan to a different rack, just turn on the broiler, and let it go for maybe 2 minutes. Watch it to make sure it doesn’t burn, as the honey in the glaze will burn easily!

Recipe: Baked Lemon Chicken at The Weed Patch

Recipe: Baked Lemon Chicken at The Weed Patch

Recipe: Baked Lemon Chicken at The Weed Patch

At this point, you can just be done, but if you want to round out the whole meal, follow the next steps:

  1. Make the sauce: Remove chicken and onions from the glass dish, place on a platter and keep warm (I usually put in another glass dish and put in the warm, turned-off oven). Throw away the herb sprigs and the lemon pieces. Mash the cooked garlic in with your potatoes (see below).

    Pour all the wonderful juices in the dish into a small saucepan and simmer until reduced a bit, maybe 5 minutes or so. Remove a little sauce into a small bowl; add a teaspoonful of cornstarch and stir/smoosh well with spoon until smooth. Add this back to the saucepan and boil for a few minutes until sauce thickens, whisking constantly. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper. Serve this with the chicken, potatoes, and any veggie you might be serving (green beans or broccoli would be tasty).
  2. Potatoes: While the chicken is cooking, peel potatoes, cut into 3-4 pieces, and boil them in well-salted water until they are soft. I put them on the heat when I put the chicken in the oven, and they were done and ready to mash close to when the chicken was done. Mash a little with a potato masher, then add butter, a little milk or cream (maybe ¼ cup to start), cheese if using, and mashed up cooked garlic from the chicken if using. Mash up with your masher until, well, mashed. You can also drizzle with pan drippings from chicken for extra flavor!

Recipe: Baked Lemon Chicken at The Weed Patch

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Homemade Pizza!

Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch

Since this school year started, we decided to institute a family pizza night on Friday nights. We enjoy pizza and watch a movie together, and it is loads of fun. But pizza for four once a week can add up, especially for a family with a very tight budget. In a past life, I used to make basic pizza, but I wasn’t sure how homemade pizza would go over with the kiddos. As anyone with kids typically knows, they like what they like, down to the exact flavor and exact brand, no substitutions.

I’m happy to report that our first homemade pizza experience was a complete success in every way. Here’s why it was so great:

  1. Easy - Our 7 year old was able to do about 80% by himself
  2. Fast – it took about 10-15 minutes prep time, and 10-15 minutes in the oven
  3. Tidy – we dirtied exact 5 items in preparing the pizza, including the pan it was baked on
  4. Cost effective – we calculated out the cost of the ingredients that went into the pizza, and compared it with the price of a large pizza at some local pizzerias, and our pizza came out at little less than half the price.
  5. Fun – the kids LOVED the idea of doing it ourselves, and really enjoyed putting on the toppings
  6. Healthy – pizza can be loaded with salt, sugar, preservatives, and other things you want to limit and/or avoid. In making our own pizza, you can control all these things. We used limitedly-processed ingredients, and this is also a great way to sneak veggies into your kid’s diet!
  7. Delicious – homemade pizza is just SO GOOD. It isn’t heavy or greasy or spicy or fatty tasting, as store bought can sometimes be.

Here’s what you need: Frozen or refrigerated pizza dough – Find it in the deli or frozen bread area of your grocery store. Cost seems to range between $3-5 on average. You can also use the pre-made Boboli crust – you won’t have to fuss with rolling it out, but it doesn’t taste nearly as good, plus the ingredient list isn’t as ideal. Frozen dough needs about 4 hours to thaw, or you can thaw overnight in the fridge. In the near future, I plan to try out making my own dough to make this process even more cost effective, but we didn’t have time today.

Tomatoes – this will be your sauce. Choose plum tomatoes, or another “paste” variety, as these have less liquid in them. I use 2 medium tomatoes per one large pizza. In the past, I made pizza using prepared pizza sauce on one and my tomato method on the other, as the crowd I was serving was not thrilled with the thought of anything other than the familiar jarred pizza sauce. In the end, everyone unanimously agreed that the tomato method tasted so much better, and we haven’t bought pizza sauce since.

Cheese - we use mozzarella and some parmesan. You can buy whatever kind you like, pre-shredded or block-style. I was tempted to buy pre-shredded mozzarella to save time, but it was twice the price per pound as block mozzarella. I also timed it - Including the time it took to find the grater, and find/open the new block of cheese, it took less than 2 minutes to shred what we needed for 1 pizza. That is worth saving half the price to me! If you don’t think you’ll use the rest of the block before it goes bad, you can pre-shred and freeze it.
Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch

Olive oil & garlic – I usually cook up about ¼ cup of oil and put it in a little glass jar in the fridge to use over time. Plan on using about 1 garlic clove per 1 Tb oil.

Toppings – the sky is the limit: pepperoni, prosciutto, mushrooms, onion, olives, peppers, garlic, spinach, sausage, the kitchen sink, whatever sounds good to you! With each item, you won’t need very much per pizza. If you want green pepper, for example, just ¼ or ½ of a pepper will be plenty. Slice your veggies VERY thinly. Otherwise, in my opinion, they end up tasting a tad dry and undercooked. Another option would be to sauté them a little beforehand. This will release the juices that might make your pizza soggy, and insure they’re fully cooked. Pre-cook any raw meat too, like sausage. You can pre-prep your meat and veggies and store them in the freezer for quick pizza prep!

Here’s what you do:

  1. Slice tomatoes as thinly as possible (a serrated blade like a bread knife makes this a snap). Place on a clean tea towel (or paper towels). Sprinkle with a little salt, and set aside. This will draw moisture out so they don’t make the pizza soggy.

    Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch

  2. Roll or pat the pizza dough into a 14-16 inch circle. You can roll with a pin, or just channel your inner Italian mama, pinching and stretching the dough in your hands until it is the right size. You don’t have to treat it gingerly; I beat the heck out of my dough. I often have to set it down to rest halfway through, which helps it stretch out a little better. Sprinkle a little cornmeal on the dough if it is too sticky to work with. When you’re done, sprinkle a little on the pizza pan, then lay on the dough circle. Set aside.

    Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch

    Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch

  3. Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat, and add the garlic (mince or press it). 1 large garlic clove in 1 Tb olive oil will make a enough for several pizzas (or you can use the extra oil for sautéing veggies, using in a salad dressing, etc). Cook for about 30-60 seconds, stirring constantly. Do NOT let it brown (otherwise, start over). Remove from heat.

    Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch

  4. Use a pastry brush to brush some of the garlic oil all over the crust, including the edges. If you like a garlicky flavor, include some of the garlic from the oil. For the kiddos, I strained out the cooked garlic, as I wasn’t sure how much they’d like it, and the result was a much more mild garlic flavor.

    Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch

  5. Place tomato slices in a single layer over crust, leaving about ½ inch border.

    Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch

    Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch

  6. Evenly spread shredded cheese next. It doesn’t take as much as you might think, remember it melts. We used about 5 oz worth of mozzarella and parmesan, and it was very cheesy.

    Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch

  7. Place your chosen toppings next. Start with a little of each chosen topping. Just take care to not weight the pizza down so much it gets soggy. My kids just like olives and pineapple (gross), and we used about half a can of whole olives that we sliced, and only about ¼ can of pineapple. Cheese alone is delicious, but I also love Italian sausage, mushrooms, and onions shaved SUPER thin.

    Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch

  8. Bake pizza in a pre-heated 450 degree oven, and check it in about 10 minutes. The pizza dough package says it takes 8-12 minutes to cook, but our olive/pineapple pizza took 17 minutes before it was done to my liking: bubbling evenly over the entire surface, the cheese had several browned spots, and the crust lifted easily from the pan. Pay attention to the center of the crust, as you want to make sure that it cooks all the way to the center and isn’t soggy there.

    Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch

That’s it! I know, that’s a lot of text for something that is supposedly so easy, but I am an overly-detailed person by nature, and I tend to over-instruct. Hopefully you find it helpful, and decide to give it a try! I seriously don’t know why I’d ever plunk down $20 for a store bought pizza again. This was just SO GOOD, cost a ton less, and wasn’t as time consuming as I ever thought. If you try it, let us know how it turns out, and what toppings you used!

Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch

Recipe: Homemade Pizza at The Weed Patch


Tuna & Rice Casserole

Recipe: Tuna and Rice Casserole at The Weed Patch

With fall officially being here, and the kiddos back to school, it just seems time for something that is both homey as well as quick. As is usual with most of my recipes, I threw this together with what I have on hand – measurements are not that important, and there’s lots of room for substitutions.

This is basically tuna noodle casserole. Except that I had cooked rice on hand, so we used rice. You may certainly cook up some egg noodles and use that instead. If you want to use rice, but are in a time crunch, you can use the ready-made kind, like the boil-in-bag.

You may also certainly use a can of cream-of-something soup instead of making the sauce from scratch like I did here, but I make it myself for a number of reasons – 1. It tastes better homemade, 2. It is healthier (Campbell’s has MSG in it, not to mention the salt content), 3. I already have the ingredients on hand, so why buy what I don’t need, and 4. It really doesn’t take very long, so why not? You can also make this gluten-free by substituting a gluten-free flour for the regular flour.

OK, on to the recipe! Here’s what you need:

  • Cooked white rice, about 3 cups or so (we use Calrose, comes in a bag, makes a wonderful sticky-style rice; you can substitute cooked egg noodles)
  • Tuna, white albacore packed in water, 1 6oz can, drained (can sub canned chicken, or rotisserie chicken)
  • Frozen green peas, 1/3 cup or so
  • Roasted almonds, chopped up a bit, 1/3 cup or so (You can sub slivered almonds, this is just what I had. If you don’t want to use nuts, celery diced small would also add nice crunch. I just wanted the extra protein of the almonds)
  • Garlic, 3 cloves, minced
  • White or yellow onion, about ½ of a large one, diced small
  • Button mushrooms, about 4-5 large ones, diced
  • Olive oil, ¼ cup (I know, that seems like a lot, but you’re using it for the roux, not just for cooking the veggies)
  • All-purpose flour, ¼ cup
  • Lower-sodium broth, 1 cup (I used beef, as that’s what I had – chicken or veggie works too)
  • Milk, 1 cup (cream is good too!)
  • Green Onions, 2 or 3, white/light green parts only, sliced thinly
  • Fresh parmesan cheese, about ¼ cup, plus more for sprinkling on top (you can use a different kind of cheese, it’ll just change the flavor a bit; cheddar would probably be yummy)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (I hate it when people say “to taste,” because what the heck does that mean anyway? Really, I mean just mix up the sauce, taste it, and add however much salt/pepper you want. I added very little salt, but I love pepper. Do what you like!)

Directions:

  1. Dump the cooked rice, tuna (or chicken), green peas (don’t need to be thawed or anything, just dump them in), and almonds into a large mixing bowl. Stir it up, making sure to break up any large lumps of rice or meat.
  2. Heat the ¼ cup olive oil over medium high heat in a 10 inch skillet. Add the onions and mushrooms, sauté until softened (but not browned), about 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic, and stir constantly for about 30 seconds.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, and stir in the flour. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes or so to cook up the roux nicely, so it doesn’t taste like raw flour.
  4. Increase heat to medium high and add the broth and milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat a bit and let it cook until thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir semi-constantly, so it doesn’t burn. Be sure to scrape up those browned bits off the bottom, that’s your flavor!
  5. Stir in the cheese until melted, then taste it. Add salt, if necessary, and some fresh ground pepper. Stir in the green onions.
  6. Stir the sauce into your bowl of rice mixture. Mix it up well, and then pour into a casserole dish. I used a 7 x 11 inch size, and I did not grease it. Sprinkle some extra cheese on top.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for about a half hour. Check after 20 minutes – if it is browning too much on top, cover it with some foil.

Sit back and enjoy a cozy comfort food dinner! What's your favorite comfort food dinner for the fall season?

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Spinach Artichoke Dip (Cooking Light Recipe)

Cooking Light Spinach Artichoke Dip

Many of you enjoyed the spinach artichoke dip we served at this past Taste of the Holidays Wine Walk, so we thought we'd point you over to the recipe that we used.  This is not our recipe, but comes from Cooking Light Magazine (one of our favorite cooking magazines), and the recipe was located on www.myrecipes.com.  Please note, if you follow us on Pinterest, this is the same recipe we pinned - we just thought we'd share it here on the blog, too. 

Please note: we did NOT use "less fat" or "fat free" ingredients.  We used the full of fat ingredients.  That said, we have never made a recipe from Cooking Light that didn't taste amazing, using their exact ingredient list.

For the recipe, visit: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/spinach-and-artichoke-dip-10000000230886/


Friendship Pasta

I’m not really good with naming things, so when Chris asked me to write out this recipe, I went with the first thing I could think of. All the delicious vegetables we used were given to us by friends, and eating them in this dinner make me think of the nice times we had with them, thus the name Friendship Pasta. Kinda dorky, I know, but there you go.

Friendship Pasta at The Weed Patch

I made this up as I went along, so I’m sorry that my directions and ingredients aren’t very exact. Every time I ask my mom how she cooks something, she says you just do it until it looks right, which always frustrated me as a notice cook. How do I know it looks right if I’ve never done it? This recipe is kind of like that, and I apologize, but if you are using really good fresh ingredients, they will speak for themselves, and you can’t really mess them up.

Here’s what you need:

  • Veggies from wonderful friends or a farmer’s market – I used maybe 4 cups worth of cut up veggies - a mixture of sliced young spring onions, baby patty pan squashed cut in half, an orange bell pepper cut to 1 inch pieces, and a handful of halved grape tomatoes.
  • Pasta – anything that looks good, like tubes, cork screws, or even fettuccini would work. I used three big handfuls of dried Fusilli pasta (really skinny curled tubes)
  • Herbs – most preferably fresh, but dried will do in a pinch. Just pick one flavor that sounds good to you – basil or thyme are good.
  • Fresh garlic, 4-5 cloves, minced
  • Olive oil, 1 tb or so
  • Balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp
  • Honey, ½ tsp
  • Whole milk, cream, or half/half – about a cup
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • Cream Cheese – about 2 ounces (1/4 of a regular sized block)
  • Flour – about 1 tb
  • Parmesan – about ½ cup, plus more for garnish. Be sure you have the good stuff here. It is worth the $$, and will keep forever in the fridge if loosely wrapped and put in the cheese drawer
  • Fresh lemon juice and/or zest (optional)

 

This is vegetarian pasta, but if you prefer something with meat, you can serve this alongside some grilled pork or chicken, or you could roast chunks of a good quality sausage in with the veggies.

Friendship Pasta at The Weed Patch

Here’s what you do:

  1. Cut up your veggies into fairly large pieces. Soft things that will take less time to cook should be larger, and firm things that take longer to cook should be cut smaller. Place in a shallow roasting pan, drizzle on the olive oil, balsamic vinegar (or any other kind of vinegar), and the honey. Sprinkle on some salt and freshly ground pepper, about 3 minced garlic cloves, then the dried herbs to taste, or just lay in full pieces of fresh herbs. Stir if all up and roast in the oven at 350 for a half hour, stirring once halfway through.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water according to the directions on the package. Drain, but reserve about 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Set pasta aside.
  3. Place the reserved water with the milk or cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour, bring to a boil, and stir constantly for about 2 minutes, or until it starts to thicken. Stir in the garlic, cheeses, salt, and pepper, all to taste, cooking for about another 2 minutes. I added just a little bit of fresh lemon at this point for some zing, but it would have tasted just fine without it.
  4. Place the pasta in a large serving bowl, like a shallow wide pasta bowl. Toss with about half the sauce. Top with the roasted veggies, then drizzle with the remaining sauce. Top with some extra shredded parmesan and minced herbs.
This would have easily fed four of us. For an extra treat, slice up some garlic bread, and dip it in the garlicy, herby olive left in the veggie roasting pan. Yum!

 

Friendship Pasta at The Weed Patch