Welcome to my Food Blog!

Welcome! My name is Anne, aka ThePharmGirl. In 2010, I successfully made 100 recipes as a New Year's Resolution to expand my culinary repertoire and cooking skills beyond the frozen microwave dinner. This blog is a continuation of my culinary journey and serves as my personal virtual recipe box. Sometimes I like to have fun-- Check out my Muppet Mania Menu, The 12 Days of Christmas, and my Musical-themed recipes.

My current mission for 2014:
Spin 50 times from The Wheel of Meals
Complete a month of Freezer Meals - done!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Italian Stuffed Bell Peppers

These were tasty, but I would recommend browning the sausage before stuffing them in the peppers because the meat still seemed a little pink when the peppers were done.  Other than that, they had good flavor and it was a filling meal when paired with a salad.

Italian Stuffed Bell Peppers
Recipe from Slow Cooker Revolution
Serves 4

1 onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 bell peppers (red, yellow, or orange)
1 slice white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
1/4 cup milk
12 oz Italian sausage, removed from its casing
1 small zucchini, chopped into 1/4" pieces
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
3/4 cup cooked rice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

Microwave onion, garlic, oil, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes in a bowl, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

Cut top 1/2 inch off each pepper.  Chop pepper tops finely, discarding stems.  Remove core and seeds from peppers.

Mash bread and milk together in a large bowl using a fork. Mix in the onion mixture, chopped pepper tops, sausage, zucchini, cheeses, cooked rice, 1 teapoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Pack filling evenly into peppers.

Pour 1/3 cup water into slow cooker.  Place stuffed peppers upright in slow cooker.  Cover and cook until peppers are tender, 4 to 6 hours on low.

Using tongs and slotted spoon, transfer peppers to a serving platter.  Sprinkle with basil and additional cheese if desired.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Butternut Squash and Chard Risotto

I had a big bag of Arborio rice sitting in my cupboard, and I've been eyeing this recipe for awhile.  I was going to wait until squash season, but I bought frozen butternut squash instead which worked just fine.  I added my own twist to the original recipe by adding some red chard.  Jeremy and I both enjoyed the taste of this risotto.  It turned out really well, but the portions were huge for two people, at least as a side dish to our salmon.   We ended up having enough leftovers for another meal.

Butternut Squash and Chard Risotto
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Best-Ever Cooking for Two 
Serves 2 (or more)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (~2 cups)
salt and pepper
~6 large leaves of red chard
2&1/2 cups water
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add squash in an even layer and cook without stirring until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender, about 5 minutes longer.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a pot of boiling water, cook chard leaves for 3 minutes.  Drain and transfer leaves to an ice bath.  Remove leaves from icy water and wring dry.  Coarsely chop leaves and set aside.

Pour the broth and water into the pot and let simmer over medium-low heat to keep hot.

In the empty skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat.  Stir in the chopped onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the rice to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around the edges, about 3 minutes.  Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until fully absorbed, 3-5 minutes.

Add nutmeg, 2 cups of hot broth, chard, and half of squash to the rice.  Simmer, stirring every few minutes, until liquid is absorbed and bottom of pan is almost dry, about 12 minutes.

Stir in 1/2 cup hot broth and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 3 minutes.  Repeat with additional hot broth two or three more times until rice is al dente.  Off heat, stir in Parmesan, sage, and remaining tablespoon butter, and gently fold in remaining squash.  Adjust consistency with remaining broth as needed and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Chicken and Green Chile Enchiladas

Here's the last recipe I made with Rachel for freezable meals.  We made some adjustments to the recipe to suit our needs, like using 10" flour tortillas and doubling the quantities.   Maybe next time I'd use the corn tortillas after all because the flour ones got a little soggy as they baked, but other than that, no complaints.  The flavor was great!  When using the larger tortillas, one enchilada was a large enough serving when paired with Mexican rice.

Chicken and Green Chile Enchiladas
from America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2010
Serves 2; (3 enchiladas/serving)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1&1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup frozen corn
1 can (10 oz) enchilada sauce
1 can (4 oz) chopped green chiles, drained
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
6 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, cumin, and chili powder, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.   Off the heat, stir in the chicken, half of the cheese, corn, 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce, chiles, and cilantro.

Spoon about 1/2 cup of filling down the center of each tortilla and tightly roll.  Lay them, seam side down, into an 8-inch square baking dish.  Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the rolled enchiladas and sprinkle the remaining half of the shredded cheese over the top.

Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake until the enchiladas are heated through, about 10-15 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese is completely melted, about 5-10 minutes longer.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops

This was another fast easy meal prepared with Rachel.  We made the bread crumb mixture and put it into a baggie until ready to thaw and cook the pork.  Jeremy and I both liked it.

Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops
200 calories/serving

4 (4-oz) boneless center-cut loin pork chops
6 tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup (1oz) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425º and place a wire rack coated with cooking spray on a large pan lined with foil.

Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, and herbs and place in a shallow pan.  Dredge pork into the crumb mixture, pressing to adhere. Place pork on rack.  Bake at 425º for 20 minutes or until done.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ranch Burgers

These burgers were...interesting.  Jeremy compared them to meatloaf.  I liked them okay, but didn't really taste the ranch flavor.  I still had chopped tomatoes and cucumbers left over from the gyro recipe, so I put some of those on my burger.

Ranch Burgers
Serves 6

3/4 cup prepared Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1&1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
tomato, sliced
6 buns

Prepare dressing according to packet instructions.   In a large bowl, combine 3/4 cup of prepared Ranch dressing, beef, bread crumbs, onions, salt, and pepper.  Mix with hands until incorporated.  Shape the meat mixture into six patties about 1-inch thick.   Grill the burgers for about 5 minutes on each side until the internal temperature reaches 160ºF.

Serve the burgers on buns topped with lettuce, tomatoes, or whatever you choose.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chicken Gyros and Zucchini Fritters

Here is another recipe Rachel and I decided to prepare using the shredded Rotisserie chicken.  The chicken gyros were pretty delicious, although we skipped the tahini in the sauce and just made a yogurt sauce which sort of thinned it out.  The sauce seemed spicy when I tried it by itself, but it worked when mixed with the gyro ingredients.  The zucchini fritters were okay, but some of the larger slices got a little mushy.  The smaller slices stayed nice and crispy on the outside for a "fried" texture.  I used salsa as a dip for the fritters.

Chicken Gyros
Recipe adapted from Light&Delish Magazine
~360 calories/serving

shredded rotisserie chicken
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed with press
1/4 c fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
4 pitas
2 cups sliced romaine lettuce
1/2 seedless cucumber, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
2 green onions, sliced

Toss chicken with oregano and salt and pepper.

To make sauce:  In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, water, yogurt, lemon juice, and garlic.  Stir in the cilantro, cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

To serve, fill pita pockets with romaine lettuce, shredded chicken, cucumbers, tomatoes, and green onions.  Top with tahini sauce.


Zucchini Fritters
Recipe from Taste of Home Healthy Cooking 2009
1/3 cup zucchini with 1 tablespoon sauce= 67 calories

1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tablespoon taco seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup fat-free ranch salad dressing
1/4 cup salsa

In a shallow bowl, combine buttermilk and egg substitute.  In another shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, taco seasoning, and garlic salt.   Dip zucchini in buttermilk mixture, then coat with bread crumb mixture.  Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400º for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, flipping once.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, salsa, and ranch dressing.  Serve with zucchini (or just serve with salsa like I did).

Monday, September 1, 2014

Chinese Five-Spice Steak with Rice Noodles

My friend Rachel came over for a cooking session to make some healthy make-ahead meals.  After grocery shopping and preparing a few freezer meals, we made this for dinner.  I was super excited because I finally got the chance to break out my Chinese Five Spice that I had purchased from Penzeys awhile back.  Those chefs on Food Network shows are always using Chinese Five Spice so I wanted to see what the fuss was about.  When I opened the jar, it smelled like Christmas cookies which is never a bad thing.   I really loved the flavor of the marinade on the steak.  I'd definitely make this again, although I'd remember to buy the green onions and I'd throw in a veggie like broccoli.

Chinese Five-Spice Steak with Rice Noodles
from a Cooking Light cookbook
Makes 4 servings:  1&1/2 cups beef mixture and 1 cup noodles
374 calories/serving

1 pound flank steak, trimmed and cut into thin strips
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
4 ounces uncooked wide rice sticks
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 tablespoons minced green onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 medium tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges
2 green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, five-spice powder, and steak in large bowl or resealable plastic bag.  Allow to marinate in fridge at least 30 minutes.

Cook noodles according to package directions.  Rinse with cold water and drain.

While noodles are cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add minced green onions and garlic; saute 30 seconds.  Add beef mixture and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in tomato wedges, green onions, and basil; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve over cooked noodles.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Raspberry Pie

Raspberries were on sale at the store for $1.50 (wow!), so I picked up a couple trays and then I decided to make a pie with them because I had a single pie crust in the fridge leftover from a previous recipe.  I wish I had gotten one more tray of raspberries because I didn't quite have enough to make 4 cups.  Luckily, I did have some blueberries, so I added some blueberries to the raspberries to make this pie.  It was quite delicious, especially with the whipped cream topping.  Yummmmm.

Raspberry Pie
Recipe from Pillsbury
8 servings

1 crust from Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust box
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
4 cups fresh raspberries (or any combination of berries)
1 tablespoon butter
Cool Whip or ice cream

Heat oven to 450ºF.  Make pie crust as directed on box for One-Crust Baked Shell using a 9-inch glass pie pan.  Bake 9-11 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch, salt, and water.  Stir in 2 cups of the berries.  Heat to boiling and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in butter.  Cool completely.

Stir remaining 2 cups berries into the cooled raspberry mixture.  Spoon into the cooled baked shell.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.   Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

Baked Mac and Cheese with Kielbasa

The Wheel of Meals landed on Comfort Food

Mac and Cheese is my ultimate comfort food plus we had some kielbasa on hand, so I found this recipe online that combined both.  It was good even if it wasn't the healthiest.  We did have a spinach salad to accompany it so at least that's something.  I split the casserole into different baking dishes and made half and froze the other half for another time.

Baked Mac and Cheese with Kielbasa
Makes 8 servings

1 package (12-16oz) cooked kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 oz elbow macaroni
1/3 cup butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and ground black pepper
1 cup Panko bread crumbs

Cook and stir the cut-up kielbasa in a large skillet over medium heat for about 5-6 minutes until heated through and beginning to brown.  Remove the sausage from the skillet and set aside.

Fill a pan with slightly salted water and bring to a boil.  Add the macaroni and cook until the pasta is slightly underdone, about 8 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350º

Meanwhile, melt the butter in the skillet over medium-low heat and add the chopped onion, cooking and stirring until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Whisk in the flour, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes to make a roux.  Whisk in the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly.  Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook over low heat for 2 minutes to finish cooking the flour, stirring constantly.  Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese, a little at a time, until all the cheese has been incorporated and the sauce is hot and smooth.

Pour the macaroni into the skillet with the cheese and stir to combine.  Stir in the cooked kielbasa.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon the macaroni into a lightly sprayed large casserole baking dish and sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top.  Bake at 350º for 20 minutes until crumbs are brown and casserole is bubbling.  Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stuffed Zucchini

I saw this recipe in my cookbook and thought it looked good.  It can be served as a side or as a vegetarian main dish or cut into smaller slices for appetizer bites.  It was pretty good.  I liked the crunch of the panko topping.  The zucchini squeaked as we ate it which was funny.

Stuffed Zucchini
from America's Test Kitchen Best-Ever Cooking for Two

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and seeded
salt and pepper
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or whatever cheese you want)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Brush 1 tablespoon oil over cut sides of zucchini and season with salt and pepper.  Place zucchini halves, cut side down, on baking sheet and bake at 400º for 10 minutes or until slightly softened and skins are wrinkled. Flip zucchini over and let cool on sheet.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add panko and a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring frequently until panko is golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.  Transfer panko to a bowl and wipe out skillet with paper towels.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet over medium heat.  Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.   Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add beans and tomatoes and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in cheese and basil and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Divide filling evenly between zucchini halves.  Sprinkle panko evenly over the mixture.  Bake until heated through, about 6 minutes.  Serve.