Back to School, CSA, and a Recipe for Rice-a-Roni from scratch

It is almost that time… Back to school for both the kiddos and myself.  In fact, as I write this, I am enjoying my last 2 days before I head back to college on Wednesday.  The kids have another few weeks, lucky ducks.  I am hoping to have a smooth transition this year though, since I will be taking classes while all 4 kids are in school.  Hard to believe my youngest will be starting Kindergarten.  Where has the time gone?

Since I will be starting school again here soon, I can’t promise very many posts but I will make an effort to post every week or two.  Between my 5 classes this semester, helping the kids with their homework, my normal wifely duties, and soccer this next month or so will be swamped.  Hopefully some time will open up once soccer is over in October.

Now for my CSA last week…. I did not get a picture 😦   What I did get was a bunch of basil, 4 more gigantic green peppers, 4 heirloom tomatoes, a bag of fingerling potatoes, a head of red lettuce, 1 Spanish onion, 1 red onion,1 large cucumber,  patty pan squash, and 8 peaches.

peaches

 

The peaches never even stood a chance.  My kids LOVE fruit, so any time we get some in our CSA its gone in a flash (not that I’m complaining).  The lettuce, red onion, and tomatoes got tossed into a salad we topped off with some of the Olive Garden salad dressing we got from Walmart (Soooo excited they bottled it and sell it now!!  I get to have the Olive Garden taste without worry of being cross contaminated!)  The rest I’m not sure what to do with…

Now for a recipe…  How about some Rice-a-Roni from scratch?!  I found a pin while surfing pinterest for the almost perfect recipe for me to use… After a few tweeks, this is what the end result is!!

Homemade Rice-a-Roni  (gluten free and reg) Serves 2

1 c rice (reg white rice, not the minute stuff)

1/4 lb of angel hair pasta broken into small pieces (I use Hodgson Mill gluten free angel hair pasta for mine)

2 T butter

1/8 t salt (more or less depending on your tastes)

1/8 t white pepper (more or less depending on your tastes- start with a pinch and go from there)

1/4 t paprika

1/4 t Italian seasoning

1 packet of Swanson chicken flavor boost

2 c Chicken broth (Make sure if you are making this gluten free that your broth is gluten free as well!!  Some are not!)

Directions:

1.  Place butter, rice, and pasta pieces in a medium skillet.  Cook on medium heat until rice and pasta start to brown a little.

2.  Add in all remaining ingredients, stirring to make sure they are mixed well.

3.  Put the lid on and cook on medium-low heat for about 20 minutes or until rice is cooked  through and there is no liquid remaining.

That’s it!!  Simple and good, and as a bonus you know what’s in it!!  No extra added chemicals or preservatives!!

Sometimes, if I am in a hurry, I will mix up a big bunch of this and prepackage it for days I am in a hurry.  Just mix together the rice and pasta, place in a Ziploc bag with a smaller bag with the spices, and add the wet ingredients when you go to make it.

Easy peasy and so much better for you!!

CSA Tuesday and a Recipe for Spaghetti Sauce

It’s CSA Tuesday again!!  I freakin love Tuesdays.  I am always super excited to see what I will get in my share for the week, and come up with something different to make with all the fresh produce!  My husband thinks it’s a tad bit odd that I get excited over vegetables, but you know, I just can’t help it.  Sadly, it is just as bad when I discover a new vegetable growing in my garden.  Today I found a summer squash that was ready to be picked, and I brought it in the house and paraded it around like a new show pony.  I couldn’t help it.  This is the first year my meager gardening skills have actually produced more than just one radish and two green beans.  (And yes that was my previous record for vegetables)  I am starting to think the older you get, the more your green thumb comes out.  Anyhow, I am pretty stoked.

This week my kids helped me pick up my goodies from the CSA.  We picked up 1 head of cabbage, 1 spanish onion, 1 bunch of rainbow swiss chard, 1 bag of shell peas, 1 head of lettuce, 2 large cucumbers, 2 huge zucchini, 2 huge summer squash, 2 heads of fresh garlic, 1 of the biggest bunches of basil I have ever seen, and a small basket of blueberries. (It was a choice between blueberries, raspberries, and black raspberries)

csawk03

Did you see that head of cabbage?!  Its the size of Little Man’s head!!  (BTW… that is Little Man in the picture.  He insisted 😉

The blueberries are soooo juicy and sweet.  Little Man couldn’t keep his hands out of them, and I had to eventually hide them so I could make muffins with them later.  This picture is after he had already picked off a handful or so.  He is super sneaky.  😛

So what do I have planned with my haul?  Really I have no clue!  Onions are always easy to use, and the garlic is going to dry since I recently bought some.  I am thinking I will save some basil to have on hand fresh and dry the rest.  I am going to try a few ways I have seen on pinterest, and see how it goes.  I am not too concerned though as I still have my own growing in my garden.  The rest I have no clue…. so much produce and not enough ideas I guess.  I’m just now getting to some of the produce from last week’s CSA!

Now for the recipe…

I used to buy bottled stuff.  My mother used to make her own spaghetti sauce when I was a kid (well she still does) but I never liked it.  Now that we are trying to live more frugal, and eating more whole foods so to speak, my Ragu is no longer going to cut it.  I can make 4 times as much for half the price.  So I started experimenting, and so far everyone has really enjoyed my new (semi) home made spaghetti sauce.  So here it goes…

tomasauce

Spaghetti Sauce  (makes a whole lot)

1- 6lb 9oz can of tomato sauce

1 onion chopped

3t chopped garlic

2t dried oregano

2t dried basil

3-4 bay leaves

roughly 8-10 sprigs of thyme

2 pinches of dried rosemary

dash of sage

fresh chopped parsley

1/4 c sugar

1T extra virgin olive oil

In a large saucepot, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic, and cook until onions are soft.

Add tomato sauce and all seasonings including the sugar, and simmer on low for about 1 1/2 hrs stirring occasionally.

Before serving, remove the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme.

That’s it!!  Super easy!!  The hardest part is measuring all the seasonings and getting them just the way you want them.  The best part of making your own sauce is you control the flavor.  Feel free to experiment and make changes as you see fit until it is perfect for you!!

Now that I have made my sauce from scratch I don’t think I will ever buy the bottled stuff again.  I have had so many compliments about this sauce it would be crazy to go back to bland bottled stuff.  And now that you have the recipe for sauce, I have plenty more recipes to use it with.  Don’t let all that extra sauce go to waste!!

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

First I’d like to say I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July!  We celebrated by BBQing with family.  You know, traditional 4th grub…. hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, corn on the cob, and watermelon.  The weather wasn’t too shabby, some occasional drops of rain, but mostly clear so we spent most of the day outside.

The morning of the 4th we went to a local parade like we do every year.  This year however, we were able to witness a good deed.  About 1/3 of the way into the parade, a man who was driving a tow truck for a local company stopped the parade dead in it’s tracks.  We were all kind of wondering what he was doing, when he stepped out of his truck and crossed the street to hand deliver two heaping handfuls of candy to a little boy in a wheel chair.  It was beautiful and heart warming, and made me feel lucky to witness such a wonderful display of humanity.  I wish I would have been quick enough to take a picture, but I didn’t :/

Now onto the recipe….

Have I mentioned before that we love broccoli?  This makes easy use of any and all broccoli that enters our house.  My kids love it, and my husband has mentioned more than once that he would rather have my homemade alfredo than the store stuff any day.  Problem was, the jarred stuff was sooo convenient.

Now that we are trying to save moolah for a house, some conveniences have to be sacrificed, and why not start with the ones that will improve something in our lives rather than make it feel like we are living with less.

alfredo

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

1 lb chicken tenders

2 heads of broccoli cut into florets

2 lbs pasta  ( I usually use 1 lb gluten free fettuccini and 1 lb reg fettuccini made in separate pans since only 2 of us is gluten free and lets face it, gluten free pasta is expensive!)

1 1/2 c heavy cream

1 1/2 c milk (2% or whole is fine)

3 egg yolks scrambled

3 c parmesan cheese  ( I added some Italian cheese the last time because I ran out of parmesan, and it still came out great.  Don’t be afraid to mix and match different cheeses once you feel comfortable, or if you run out of parm like me 😉

About 4 decent sized cloves of garlic chopped ( you can use more or less depending on how much garlic you like)

salt & pepper

fresh chopped parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400*F.  Lay chicken on a cooking sheet and season with salt and pepper ( I personally like season-all and hot shots).  Once the oven is heated, place chicken inside and cook for roughly 20-25 min or until cooked thoroughly.

While chicken is cooking place your water on the stove and boil.  Chop the broccoli if it is not already chopped and place into steamer.  (I have a pot that has a steamer insert inside it.  If you do not have one, or a steamer at all, try placing a metal strainer on top of a pot of boiling water so that it is not touching the water.  Place a lid over the veges inside the strainer and it works as a steamer)

Cook pasta according to box directions, with broccoli steaming on top.

In a separate pan, start to heat milk and cream on low.  Make sure to continuously stir the milk mixture throughout the entire process so that it doesn’t curdle or burn.  While stirring, mix in the egg yolk mixture.  Once warmed slowly mix in the cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Continue to warm and stir until mixture thickens.  Voila.  Alfredo!!

Once pasta is cooked, drain and plate.  Top with chopped chicken, steamed broccoli, and alfredo sauce.  Sprinkle parsley on top and you’re done.

It’s pretty easy, but your arm will start to hurt after a little while from all the stirring.  And my hubby is right, it is absolutely better than the store bought jarred stuff.