Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fish, Fish and MORE Fish!

Ryan takes a fishing trip each year with Amegy Mortgage. The travel to Hackberry, Louisiana and stay at a "resort" called Hackberry Rod & Gun. The guys go out in pairs with a guide on a salt water lake called Lake Calcasieu. Ryan's first couple of years, he didn't come home with too much fish. Maybe a couple of bags. Last year the tide turned for Ryan, and his buddy Ryan from Amegy, and he came home with more fish than we knew what to do with--Redfish, Trout, and Flounder. This year was no different. I think they caught even more than last year.

The freezer is running over with fish! I will not be buying fish for some time. We bagged and froze the fish in two person servings--30 bags! Our freezer is STUFFED!

And there is more in the door! We have already eaten fish 3 or 4 times in the past two weeks. We are also giving away fish to any and everyone who wants some! Come and get it!

Stay tuned for posts about how I actually cooked the fish!

Monday, April 14, 2008

"Mega Meat-Stuffed Shells"

I moved in to Ryan's house a couple of months before the wedding. Within weeks, I was in desperate need of new, easy and quick recipes. Ryan and I were both getting tired of Spaghetti, Poppyseed Chicken, Stouffers Lasagna, Pot Roast and Chicken Spaghetti. I think that is all I cooked the first few weeks of living together.

I had heard many raves about Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals (and I think my Dad had a little Food Network crush on her) so I bought her Express Lane Meals cookbook. This is a good cookbook that teaches you how to grocery shop. The premise is that you stock your pantry every couple of weeks then hit the grocery each night to pick up the perishables (meat, veggies, etc). I put my own twist on this, hitting the grocery once per week to get the meats, veggies, fruits for the week and trying to keep my pantry stocked with necessities as I run out -- like Cream of [fill in the blank] Soup, Tomato Sauce/Paste, Canned Veggies, Olive Oil, Vegetable Oil, Spices, etc. I got one of my favorite meals from this cookbook, one I will blog about one day.

Ryan bought me another RR cookbook, 2, 4, 6, 8: Great Meals for Couples or Crowds that has recipes written for 2, 4, 6, and 8 people (haha, bet you couldn't figure that out.) I found several great recipes in this cookbook, but our favorite has been the Mega Meat-Stuffed Shells.

Mega Meat-Stuffed Shells
Adapted from Rachel Ray

1/2 box frozen chopped spinach
8 jumbo pasta shells

3/4 lb lean ground beef (RR calls for meatloaf mix)

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed and halved

1 small onion, finely chopped
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup Italian style bread crumbs
olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 15oz can tomato sauce

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425.

Defrost Frozen spinach in microwave or in colander with hot running water. Wring dry in paper towel. Set aside.

Boil water for shells and cook according to package directions (6-7 minutes). Drizzle with olive oil. Set aside.

Brown meat with chopped garlic and onions. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook 5 minutes more.

Mix meat and spinach in a bowl. Add bread crumbs, egg and half the cheese (sometimes I add a handful of grated mozzarella too).

Fill the shells with the meat mixture and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 11-12 minutes.

While the shells bake, heat halved garlic in one tbsp olive oil in small pot over low heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then remove garlic. Add red pepper flakes and cook one minute more. Stir in tomato sauce and let simmer until shells are done. (I typically add another dash of garlic powder, and normally some extra red pepper since Ryan really likes it.)

Place shells on plate and pour desired amount of sauce on top. Sprinkle with a little more cheese if you like.

I have adapted this recipe a little to our liking. I cut back the spinach (RR called for a whole box) because there was just more spinach than meat and we can't have that! I have found that this proportion of meat and spinach is enough to perfectly fill 8-10 shells. I also double the sauce (RR only used 8oz tomato sauce). Ryan really likes this simple sauce and covers his shells with it so the original recipe just didn't cut it.

This is now one of our favorites, and it looks pretty too! :)


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tuna Casserole

I hate canned tuna. I hate the smell of it and therefore the thought of eating it is enough to make me gag a little. Ryan on the other hand, is a big fan. And, he had a favorite dish growing up... Tuna Casserole. I rarely make this dish for Ryan since I don't eat it. The first time I made it, I think I wore a bandanna around my nose and mouth so I didn't have to smell it. Okay, I don't think I went that far but I know I lit several candles.

Tuna Casserole is the dish I make for Ryan when I know I won't be home one night. A couple of weeks ago I made plans for dinner and a play with one of my girl friends so I decided I treat Ryan to one of his favorites. I think a night of XBox360 or Wii and a big plate of Tuna Casserole was like a dream come true to him!

Tuna Casserole
From the kitchen of Ryan's mom

2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 small cans white chunk Tuna, drained

1 cup milk
10 oz Rotini noodles
1 tsp mustard


Plain Potato Chips (Lays, Ruffles, etc)

Cook noodles per package instructions.

Mix all ingredients together. Season with pepper. Pour mixture in a greased 9 x 13 dish.

Top with crushed potato chips.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tornadoes, Family, and a Wedding

Ryan and I made a trip to Jackson last weekend for our friend Trey's wedding. The weather was looking a little rough for Friday morning's flight which seems to be the norm for me... flying in windy, turbulent weather. Fortunately, after a 1 hour delay, we landed safely in Jackson.

All of Mom's sister's were in Meridian visiting with Grammy all week, so Dad picked us up at the airport and off we went to join the party. About 20 minutes from Meridian, I called Mom and got no answer so I called her younger sister. She informed me that they were at a bank and Mom was on the phone with the neighbors as a tornado had just come through Jackson and there were lots of trees down. Apparently, the girls had walked into the Community Bank in Meridian and the clerk said "We're sorry, our computers are down because a tornado has hit Jackson and our branch on Old Canton Road is without power." Immediately Mom realized this was a bad sign, as the Community Bank in reference is a stone's throw from our house. She immediately started calling the neighbors and found out that our house was "okay", only some missing shingles, but that there were trees down and a couple of our close friends on the street had trees on their homes. At that time, she didn't really know the breadth of the damage, which we would later find out.

We arrived in Meridian and had a wonderful Southern lunch at New's (Catfish, Fried Chicken, Black Eyed Peas, Fried Pickles, Sweet Tea) while the storm blew over Meridian. The power went out and the wind blew hard, but there was no "freight-train". The storms had weakened by the time they got to Meridian, but still did some minor damage here and there.

We stopped by Grammy's new apartment so that Ryan and I could see it, and so that we could help her with her jig saw puzzle (Ryan's specialty). Her place is really cute and she seems so happy around all the other people. As we visited, it was obvious that we were all on edge and ready to get back to Jackson to check on things, so we packed up and headed back. It was a short trip to see Grammy, Rosanne, Dee and Becky but well worth it!

As we pulled into North Jackson, you could see that most every place was without power from about Northside Drive. This continued to my parents' neighborhood. As we pulled down Plantation, heading toward our side of the neighborhood, it was shocking to see the damage. There were trees and power lines down everywhere. Trees had fallen on homes and cars. The tornadoes had not touched down but the winds were strong enough to uproot and snap hundred+ year old trees. It was just so hard to drive through what is "home" and see the destruction.

When we finally made it to our street, after several detours due to down trees, we confirmed the neighbors reports that our house was okay. Some of our neighbors were not as fortunate. One had 3 trees on his house, one that went all the way through the ceiling of his inside utility room. Others had trees causing some surface damage, trees leaning on their homes, uprooted trees across driveways and streets with power lines tangled in them. Homes in other parts of the neighborhood could very well be destroyed by large trees that crashed through the middle. Mom and Dad were very lucky that the wind blew the way it did, and that Mom decided to cut all the trees in the yard down when I was still living at home.

The power came back on today but some in Jackson are still without. It was an interesting weekend at home, navigating the house by candlelight, hearing chainsaws and generators pretty much constantly and weaving through the neighborhood to try to get to someplace with power to eat dinner. James helped Dad get a generator at a store in Hattiesburg -- so Dad didn't miss the Final Four, though after UNC got spanked, I am sure he wished he missed it.

All the pictures taken by Ryan and Dad are here.

Ryan and I had Keifers (with Mom and Dad), went to the wedding
and hung out with our SAE friends on Saturday. Sunday morning we headed back home to Texas... to lights, air conditioning, cable and internet!

background image