New Menu Monday: Italian Chicken and Stuffing Bake (a recipe with potential…)

italian-stuffing-chicken-LifeInTheLofthouse-e1410538520279Here’s a great recipe to try. It’s great because it is forgiving.
Italian Chicken and Stuffing Bake from the food site

It’s perfect for illustrating all the reasons why a recipe can go wrong… like, if someone feels like swapping ingredients and decide to not follow certain/most instructions, for instance. Experienced cooks, comfortable in the kitchen, should be able to monkey around with ingredients and directions. Experienced, comfortable cooks also get to botch things up, too. Also, someone would have liked to have posted this yesterday (New Menu Monday), but someone’s son monopolized the desktop all evening for an “I swear, I’ll be done in ten minutes, mom, it’s easy” assignment.

IMG_8058Let’s take these simple ingredients:

  • 1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (6 oz.) package stuffing mix for Chicken
  • 1/2 cup water (or broth)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/3 cup prepared basil pesto
  • 1 cup  shredded mozzarella cheese

If you decide to use four enormous whole chicken breasts, not chopped, swap a different kind of stuffing mix instead of the typical national brand, add the cheese in the wrong place and you will have to cook everything for twice as long as the directions, you might have some issues.


But, these are good flavors that go well together which stand up to Scattered Home Chef Syndrome… something I seem to suffer from. Yep.

Here’s what I did to mess up this recipe:

1. Use waaaay too much meat.
1. Use waaaay too much meat.
2. Pesto on top, no problem here.
2. Pesto on top, no problem here.
Mix tomatoes, water, stuffing... check.
3. Mix tomatoes, garlic, water, stuffing… check. (see that cheese? Yeah, forgot to put it on the chicken at this point)
Stuffing mix on chicken...
4. Stuffing mix on chicken…
...and cheese on top. Oops.
…and cheese on top. Oops.
Try to flip the stuffing and cheese... succeed in mixing them instead.
Try to flip the stuffing and cheese… succeed in mixing them instead.
Bake 375 30 minutes. JK, bake one hour.
5. Bake 375 30 minutes …one hour. Worry that stuffing is too dry and chicken is under cooked.
Enjoy the flavors of tender, pesto chicken (not under baked), and cheesy stuffing even though it is in the wrong spot.
6. Enjoy the flavors of tender, pesto chicken (not under baked), and cheesy stuffing even though it is in the wrong spot. I would use more cheese next time.

New Menu Monday: Garlic, Garlic, GARLIC! New Side Dish for Navy Bean Soup

The Husband is sick as a dog, poor sweetie. He’s the complete opposite of me when ill- leave him alone, bring the occasional tea or hot toddy and he is fine. Me? I want sympathetic noises several times an hour, offers to fetch the remote, tissues, phone, iPad, etc… And soup. I want nice, preferably home-made soup.

Navy Bean Soup is on the menu tonight for two reasons: it is The Husband’s favorite (poor sick sweetie!), and I want to do a “New Menu Monday” post. So, instead of our favorite bean soup side, The Most Fantastic Corn Bread On The Face Of The Earth, I found an interesting and good looking garlic bread.

Garlic Parmesan Petal Bread from
Garlic Parmesan Petal Bread photo from

I was late today, digging this recipe out of my Pinterest board “Breads, Muffins, Pastries and Quick Breads.” well after 4:00 this afternoon with errands still to run. On the way home, I ran into the grocery store and picked up a bag of frozen dough for rolls, as suggested by the author. The recipe I’m trying tonight comes from a March 2015 entry from the blog “” There are tons of great recipes there, go check her out.

Thawing Dough
Thawing Dough

The changes I made to this recipe were to use nine, not 14 rolls; Italian seasonings instead of oregano; fresh garlic, not garlic salt; and real parmesan cheese, not “the kind from the green can.” Her recipe suggests using home made dough, frozen ready-made if you are short on time… which I was.

Ready to Roll and Dip
Ready to Roll and Dip
All Coiled Up
All Coiled Up
Risen Dough
Risen Dough

Garlic Parmesan Petal Bread

  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2 big cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 7 frozen rolls, thawed

Microwave butter on a plate then mix in the cheese, garlic, and Italian seasonings. Roll thawed dough balls into ropes, then roll in seasoned butter and place coiled up in your buttered cast iron pan. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top.

This. Was. DELICIOUS! I really think that the fresh garlic really made this recipe. Fast, easy and yummy. I’m already thinking about how the next time I will make a dough with half whole wheat and add even more garlic and parmesan.


New Menu Monday: Semi-Greek Kabobs Replace Grilled Burgers

We never really grill hamburgers in the backyard. Not when there are In-N-Out Burgers and Burger Lounge scattered about (holy cow, I might admit to liking Burger Lounge better than In-N-Out, but don’t tell anyone, “They” will take away my Official California Native status, so, shhhh!!). And when it comes to throwing something fast on the grill I prefer bratwurst ANY day to burgers. Think about it- there is way more greasy goodness to be had in a brat- no bun, please, that gets in the way of the grease.

Bratwurst, pork chops and loins, steaks of all kinds, and a really great copy-cat recipe of El Pollo Loco’s chicken** are regularly on my grill, plus lots of vegetables with olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. Yum. How about trying a Mediterranean-style kebab for The Husband, who actually does like backyard burgers?

Kebabs formed, camera angle hiding the mess on the rest of the countertop...
Kebabs formed, camera angle hiding the mess on the rest of the countertop…

For tonights’s kebabs, I followed the best recipe that I found online… just kidding. I did a mix-mash of about four different recipes.

The Recipe: mix together in a bowl, form into 8 large, thick, patties

  • 1 1/3 lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp each dried oregano and flour
  • 1/2 tsp each of onion powder, garlic powder, salt, Italian seasoning, ground pepper, and Greek seasoning mix.

Next, I sat down to type this post. Two minutes later, I ran back to the kitchen and chased the cat off the counter, and promptly wrapped the kababs and put them in the fridge.

Greek-ish Hamburger Kababs
Greek-ish Hamburger Kababs

Grilled on low heat around 10-15 minutes to about medium rare, these were GREAT!  The Grill Master chose the low heat because these were fairly thick, and didn’t want overcooked kebabs. We served them with a home made Tzatziki sauce (plain yogurt, crushed clove of garlic, grated cucumber, dill, salt, yum).

The Husband wants them in the regular line up. The Girl liked the kebabs, too, but she put ketchup on hers. What a plebe. The Boy says “Good, but could use more seasoning,” which is a surprise, since I thought there might be too much spice for the Prince of Plain. I think they would be far better made with half ground lamb, much like the most authentic recipes.

Really- get this little gem of a cookbook!
Really- get this little gem of a cookbook!

**Note- Speaking of the “More Top Secret Recipes” cookbook, by Todd Wilbur, I highly recommend it. This book is worth the purchase price if only for the Cinnabon Knock-Off and El Pollo Loco Chicken recipes.

And I guess I like both spellings of the word “kebab/kabab… and didn’t realize I had used both until my mom (also known as my editor) pointed out the inconsistency. Have I ever mentioned that I can’t spell in three languages? I’d pay for Spell Checker if it weren’t free.

New Menu Monday- Meatloaf Swapped for Swedish Meatballs, HOLY YUM!!

Screenshot of Click to link to her Swedish Meatball recipe!

The blog Damn Delicious is aptly named. Go there now. Pin, bookmark, share on Facebook, save this recipe however you can, but keep this recipe. Even more importantly, MAKE IT SOON!

Swedish Meatballs swimming in perfect gravy, served with broccoli.
Swedish Meatballs swimming in perfect gravy, served with broccoli. is run by Chung-Ah, who does not profess to be a trained cook. Well, this gal has taught herself well and paid great attention to anyone who and anything that ever taught her to appreciate food and its preparation.

I can’t believe that this came out looking as good IRL as her recipe looks online! And HOLY COW this was good. If a meal has noodles, sauce and meat, it is instantly one of my favorites. Four out of five of us loved it- The Boy (The Dissenter) thought it had too many onions, The Boyfriend loved it despite the onions. The Husband raved, The Girl was still praising these meatballs over two hours later.

I followed the recipe exactly with one change and one mistake- I added a couple of teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, and accidentally added two whole eggs instead of just two egg yolks. I bet my meatballs would have been less tough with just yolks… but that is really nit-picking. This was Damn Delicious!

If you want to fuss with making meatballs (does 20 minutes of scooping and rolling count as a fuss?), make this recipe. Big tip- use a cookie scoop and they will halfway make themselves. Mine is a two tablespoon scoop that I use for cookies, and I found it a perfect helper. The other kitchen tip is use a cast iron skillet- this one is my 12″ pan and I swear by it.

Look at all that lucious GRAVY!!!!!
Look at all that lucious GRAVY!!!!!

New Menu Monday- Chicken Vegetable Soup, Beer Cheese Dip and Bread
Photo from, and links to 3 Ingredient Beer Cheese Dip

It’s a New Menu Monday… I didn’t Change my basic Chicken Vegetable Soup, but instead of serving it with rolls or garlic bread, I tried a new recipe. A Beer Cheese Dip, yum!

The original recipe is from, calling for three ingredients- pepper jack cheese, cream cheese and a 12 ounce bottle of beer. Not difficult to prepare, this was really nice as-is. The only change I made was to use regular jack cheese. I can see why pepper jack is called for (besides the tip off of the blog title containing the word “spicy”)… it needed a little something more. I added two teaspoons each of Worcestershire sauce and dry mustard, both standard cheese dip ingredients. The Girl loved it, but The Boyfriend and I agreed: too beer-y and needs cheddar. The Husband Approved, went for seconds and I don’t think that The Boy touched it. Chicken.

Chicken Vegetable Soup with Bread and Beer Cheese Dip
Chicken Vegetable Soup with Bread and Beer Cheese Dip

This really is a super easy dip. Cream cheese and jack are known for their meltiness, and really make this recipe. I’ll make it again, with pepper jack. And it is always fun to invent new words to describe food. Today’s are “meltiness” and “beer-y.” There will be a quiz at the semester’s end, study your vocab, students!

New Menu Monday- Potato Tacos!

I disagree with The Mom-in-Law, I think shredded beef tacos are the ultimate taco goodness. She prefers ground beef. Gotta admit, her ground beef tacos are the best I’ve ever had. Her secret? Simmer the ground beef for a while in a little water after browning with onions and garlic. This turns the beef into a tender, flavorful taco stuffing that is far from any fast food ground beef taco.

But, I like my shredded beef tacos better, and they are quicker. My trick is using leftover roast beef- my roast is more of a tender, falling apart braise than a rare, prime rib style roast beef. It is pretty much shredded when done… that’s how to tell it is done. Does it shred into tender pieces? Yes? Then take it out. A  3lb. chuck roast takes about 3 hours in the oven at 275-300 degrees (here’s a beautiful tip- a frozen roast at 275 degrees and 4.5 hours later it’s happy dinner time).

But, I gave up meat for Lent. So. How about copying our favorite Mexican joint’s potato tacos? We LOVE the So. Cal restaurant El Ranchito… I’ve never had better refried beans. We discovered the potato tacos last year and I loved them, too. Tonight I made a big batch of what we call Camp Potatoes (sliced potatoes fried in butter and oil with sliced onions, garlic, salt and pepper), and fried up a mess of corn tortillas. Cast iron pans are the best, aren’t they? The Husband stuffed them, we cheesed them and after about 15 minutes in the oven, we had a great dinner. We are soooooo making these again.

Onions up, potatoes in the line up...
Onions up, potatoes on deck…
Onions and potatoes frying... Yum.
Onions and potatoes frying… Yum.
Time to stuff the torts.
Time to stuff the torts- potatoes and shredded cheddar.
Tortillas in the oil, onions and potatoes almost finished.
Tortillas in the oil, potatoes almost finished.

New Menu Monday- Chayote Squash = Steak Gets a New Side

Chayote squash. I’ve seen it in stores my whole life but never knew what to do with it. A couple of weeks ago The Mom-in-law decided that we should pick up some when we hit Pancho Villa Market, mentioning that she hadn’t made it in a long time, but wanted to give it a try again.

Really, for the amusement factor alone, this was easily worth it- pick up a new vegetable and give it a go. Even if everyone hates it, you get the fun of watching the people you lovingly serve it to make all sorts of faces, either politely trying to hide their distaste or the outright look of disgust at the thought of trying something new.

Chayote squash, sliced, ready to sauté with onions.
Chayote squash, sliced, ready to sauté with onions.

It’s good to be the cook!

I finally gave mine a go tonight (it is a harder squash and kept well in the fridge for two weeks), preparing the squash the way she served hers-
simply sautéed until tender with onions in butter and olive oil.

The family’s comments and observations included the following:

Chayote and onions in the cast iron skillet... the only way to cook.
Chayote and onions in the cast iron skillet… the only way to cook.

-Chayote’s texture is different from other squash, like zucchini, yellow or crookneck… it is more firm, like that of a sautéed apple, maybe?

-If you don’t care for the softer texture of summer squash varieties, chayote is a good squash to try as it is much firmer and not seeded.

-Its flavor is very much like zucchini, only more strong. And a bit sweeter.

-This would pair well with a squeeze of lemon and maybe some chopped, fresh dill.

Steak and mushrooms with baked potato and chayote. Good stuff!
Steak and mushrooms with baked potato and chayote. Good stuff!

One chayote was enough for the four of us to enjoy a taste testing, but I would need two for a proper side dish, for sure. The chayote was an overall hit, and we will definitely be cooking it up again.