PW’s Green Bean Casserole

Adapted from:  The Pioneer Woman

One of the sides being served at the restaurant’s Thanksgiving lunch was a classic green bean casserole.  If there is one thing you should know about cooking for a chef, it’s that they do NOT want to eat anything close to what they cook/serve at the restaurant.  It may have been their favorite food in the world before they started working at that particular restaurant, but I’ve got news for you, they aren’t touching it now!  And if they try, they deserve a cookie.

So what do you do when YOU want something that is served the the RESTAURANT that your CHEF won’t touch?  Find a recipe that is completely different from the classic recipe, and that changes up the flavors.  Pioneer Woman’s green bean casserole did just that.  It was just as comfort-food-esque as all the other recipes, but the flavors were very different from any I’d tasted before.  At the end of the Thanksgiving meal, Nate and his friend both commented that I had managed to cook food that tasted nothing like the food at the restaurant, and for that they were very thankful!

An extra tidbit of information for you, the sauce you make for this dish is known as a Mornay sauce.   Adding shredded cheese to the sauce makes it a Mornay sauce and not just a Bechamel sauce.  A Mornay sauce can be used in lots of dishes with pasta, vegetables, meat, and fish.  Chalk it up to the French for this classic, building block sauce, and refer to yourself as “chef” when making this dish!

PW Green Bean Casserole - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
PW Green Bean Casserole - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
PW Green Bean Casserole - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

*I tried to cut a corner by using frozen green beans.  While it tasted fine, I can always tell the difference between fresh/frozen/canned.  So I would recommend you use fresh green beans whenever possible, but you won’t be disappointed if you use frozen.

2 pounds fresh green beans, ends cut off (cut in half if you like smaller pieces)
4 slices bacon, slice into 1/4″ pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 an onion, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup half & half
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 4 oz jar pimentos, drained
1 cup breadcrumbs (original recipe calls for panko, I used Italian breadcrumbs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

If using fresh green beans:  Blanch the green beans: drop them into lightly salted boiling water and allow green beans to cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain beans once they’re cool and add to a 9 x 13 baking dish.

If using frozen green beans: let thaw out completely and add to a 9 x 13 baking dish.
Cook bacon for two minutes in a skillet over medium heat, then add onions and garlic. Cook until bacon is done (not crispy) and onions are golden brown (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Sprinkle flour into the pan and whisk immediately. Cook for a minute or two, then pour in milk and half and half. Continue whisking constantly, while sauce thickens (about 2 minutes). 

Add salt, pepper, cayenne, and the cheddar. Stir while cheese melts. Turn off heat.

Add pimentos, bacon & onion mixture to the cheese sauce. Stir to combine. Pour over green beans and stir gently to combine.  Top casserole with breadcrumbs.

Bake for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and breadcrumbs are golden.

Week 30

Week 30 Belly Update - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

Week 30 Belly Update - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

How big is baby? The size of a cucumber! 

Baby Development FYI:  Your 15.2- to 16.7-inch, 2.5- to 3.8-pound baby continues to grow. His skin is getting smoother.  But his brain is getting wrinklier — to make way for all that essential brain tissue.  He’s now strong enough to grasp a finger!

My body has been invaded, how’s that going?
Holy leg cramps people.  The Friday morning after Thanksgiving, I had THE worst LEG CRAMP ever.  I had minor ones all night, and I should’ve known the big 10.0 earth quake of a leg cramp was on the way.  My muscle was sore and I was limping for 3 whole days after this leg cramp.  Thank  goodness for other pregnant and smart girls out there, my good friend brought me some calcium supplements, and I haven’t had a leg cramp since.

My body has been invaded, well I think the baby feels like their space has been invaded with my organs.  I can tell it is running out of room and is kicking to make more space.  I’ve also had a few spouts of being nauseous, but that has seemed to stop for now thank goodness.  As well as the heart burn.  My OB said it was okay to take Zantac to prevent heart burn, and it has been working like a charm.  Thanksgiving was a good test!

Maternity coats.  Suck.  They are just awful.  It’s like they are trying to make us look hideous.  And then to top it all off, they don’t have pockets!  But at least trying them on gave me a good laugh.  I got lucky and a friend back home let me borrow hers, because she is awesome, and it has pockets.  And I found a grey pea-coat at Motherhood Maternity that is actually flattering.

It’s amazing how tired and out of breath you get.  And how you can actually FEEL the weight of your growing belly.  This all happens every time I walk up the stairs.  Or when I’m sitting on the floor putting something together.  That used to take 10 minutes, but now it’s a full on work out!

What’s been on my mind?  Getting things ready.  It’s funny, in the beginning you count how many weeks you are, now my count has switched to a countdown.  I only have 9 MORE WEEKS TO GO (give or take).  So Nate and I are both starting to get things straightened up and stocking up on diapers.  I’ve been scouting out consignment shops to hit up after we have the baby for gender appropriate clothes.  We have some, that are all for boys, so we are good if we have a boy.  But if we have a girl…we’ll need to do a little bit of shopping!
We’ve been putting the finishing touches on the nursery.  Like putting together a bookshelf and hanging pictures.  My mom ordered us the glider and ottoman we really wanted as a Christmas gift (thanks mom!), and it will be here in 7-8 weeks…JUST IN TIME!  Will post some pictures of the nursery so far, soon.

Crazy Cravings:  Ice cream with hard chocolate shell. Mexican. Sweet and spicy. And trying to eat an apple a day to keep it healthy.

Highlights: Lots of highlights!  Had a doctors appointment and everything was normal.  The OB commented that the baby sounded “very happy” in there.  I’ve gained 19 lbs so far, which I actually feel good about.  The way I’ve been eating, I expected a lot higher 🙂

Thanksgiving.  Ever since we found out about being pregnant, I would say “I can’t wait for Thanksgiving!” There was no way in the years before that I could eat 3 meals, and clean each of my plates.  This year, that was not a problem.

Getting my breast pump in the mail.  It was funny to show Nate and his friend my new “purse” and the most expensive purse I’ve ever owned.  Gave me a chuckle.

Looking forward to my showers the next weekend.  I can’t wait to see everyone back home.  And I’m even more excited that Nate gets to come with!  That’s right, we get a weekend!! 

Cranberry Pomegranate Relish

I wanted to try something different than the usual cranberry sauce from a can.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff, but just wanted to change things up.  This was also my first time trying a recipe from Martha Stewart, and she did not disappoint!  This cranberry pomegranate relish was so easy and so worth it to make.  The only thing easier would’ve been to crack open a can of cranberry jelly!  What was fun for me was listening to Nate and his friend try to guess the ingredients, and it pretty much stumped them on everything except the actual cranberries…don’t tell them I told you.

Since our thanksgiving dinner was so late, I didn’t have time to let it cool down to room temperature, but it was still delicious served warm.  The relish was more savory than the usual cranberry sauce, but it still satisfied the need for sweetness.  Definitely give this a try if you’re looking for an extra special (and simple!) cranberry sauce alternative.

Cranberry Pomegranate Relish - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
Cranberry Pomegranate Relish - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
Cranberry Pomegranate Relish - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
Cranberry Pomegranate Relish - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
Cranberry Pomegranate Relish - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
Coarse salt and ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add shallot; stirring constantly, until softened (about 3 minutes).
Add cranberries, pomegranate juice, brown sugar, a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and stirring occasionally until cranberries have burst and sauce is slightly thickened (about 10 minutes).
Remove from heat.  Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Company Potatoes

Company Potatoes.  Have you ever heard of them?  Nate never had, until Thanksgiving.  Speaking of Thanksgiving, hope everyone had a great Turkey Day!  Nate ended up having to work at the restaurants first Thanksgiving feast.  Even though we weren’t able to go home and be with our families, we made the best of it.  I had lunch at the restaurant with another restaurant’s wife and their daughter.  And what makes it more fun, is that she’s pregnant too 🙂  So we had LOTS to talk about!  Then I ran home and put together all of the Thanksgiving side dishes and sauces, and went to visit a good friend and her family.  I visited and ate with them until I got the call from Nate that he was off of work.  He and his good friend headed to our house with the turkey (fresh from Missouri) and we finally got to eat our Thanksgiving feast at 9:00pm.  And for the next 4 days.

Company Potatoes are exactly what they sound like.  It’s a potato casserole you make for when company comes over.  They please everyone and the recipe makes enough to feed a crowd.  My family has been making these potatoes for holidays since before I can remember, and it is by far one of my favorite recipes.  What’s convenient is, you can put the casserole together the day before minus the corn flake topping, and dress/bake the next day when you’re ready.  

Company Potatoes - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
Company Potatoes - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
Company Potatoes - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
Fresh Turkey - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
Check out that freshness!

2 lb bag regular hash browns (thaw at least 30 min)
1 pint sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped onion (you may want to saute the onions a bit or microwave for 45 seconds, but I like crunchy onions!)
1 stick butter (melted & divided)
2 cups crushed corn flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Use an oblong or rectangular 3 qt casserole dish.
Combine 4 tablespoons butter & all other ingredients, except corn flakes.  And add to the casserole dish.
Mix remaining 4 tablespoons butter with corn flakes & spread on top.
Bake for 45 min or until bubbly & corn flakes are lightly browned.

Week 29

Week 29 Belly - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

How big is baby? The size of an acorn squash! 

Baby Development FYI:  Baby already measures about 15.2 to 16.7 inches long. Right now, we weighs about 2.5 to 3.8 pounds but he’s still got a ways to go — can you believe he’ll triple in weight before birth?  He’s getting a little cramped in there, since he’s growing so fast. But you probably already realize that, since you’re getting all those jabs and kicks.  He’s growing white fat deposits under his skin, and his energy is surging because of it.  Feel a subtle twitch? It might be baby hiccupping.

My body has been invaded, how’s that going? Gah leee.  We should refer to this week as the initiation to 3rd trimester!  The most drastic change this week would be the swelling of my ankles a.k.a. the arrival of cankles.  It’s amazing how the ankle bone just disappears!  The swelling only happens after walking around a bunch, so I need to start taking more breaks while walking around.  Also when walking around (too much) my butt/hip/lower back starts aching.  It’s interesting how our bodies have built in “alarms” in it to signal you that you are using too much energy.  And it’s crazy how the weight you gain in your belly affects you everywhere!

Sleep. Ha ha.  What a mean joke to just read that word.  I sleep. But I wake up and have to get up every 1-2 hours to use the bathroom.  Or I’m all the sudden radiating heat and have to walk around to fan myself off. You ladies who were pregnant during the summer, my hats off to you, because I don’t know how you did it!  Then when my bladder is empty and I’m cooled off, the heartburn wakes me up.  And when that’s taken care of…the hormones have my eyes wide open.  

I fully believe that this is all training me for the lack of sleep once the baby comes, so I actually don’t get frustrated by the lack of sleep.  I’m trying to embrace it as much as I can, sense it is a natural part of this process, and use it to my advantage.  And the same goes for all the other symptoms of pregnancy.  Every day is so different and you are constantly having to adapt to your body signals.  This must be getting me ready to adapt to the baby’s needs and the unexpected.  This has all been so entertaining and interesting, I can’t wait for the baby to get here!

What’s been on my mind?  Thanksgiving is coming up, so I can’t help but be thankful this week.  And with Nate gone, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the past few months and anticipate the next…18 years!

Also, I didn’t want to say anything at the risk of being completely wrong and I don’t want to get my hopes up AT ALL.  But I’ve been back and forth on what my intuition is on the gender of this baby.  The past few weeks however, I’ve been leaning towards a boy. THEN I had a vivid dream of the baby and it was totally a girl!  haha.  So I still have no idea and I don’t care which one it is.  I can’t wait to find out!!

Crazy Cravings:  Sweet and spicy!  If the food falls under those categories, you will find it in my belly.

Highlights: The kicks getting stronger.  I had a moment at work where I was sitting with my legs crossed and the baby started kicking really hard at my thigh.  And wouldn’t stopped.  I could tell it was trying to kick my thigh out of it’s way or it was just playing around.  But how funny, I was in the baby’s way! Excuse meeeeeee, let me move my leg for you!  Can I getcha anything else to make your stay more comfortable for the next 10 weeks?

Funfetti Fudge

Adapted from:  I’m Topsy Turvy & Baked from a Box

Nate and his best friend have been gone on a week long hunting trip to Missouri all week.  Which has left me at home to fend for myself.  I wish I could say that meant I’ve been making the healthiest meal choices while the boys were away, but I can not tell a lie.  The first night, I definitely had a bowl of pecan pie ice cream with hard chocolate shell for dinner.  Pregnant and home alone (one of my favorite movies btw), so sue me 🙂

There have been quite a few cake batter fudge recipes floating around Pinterest lately, and if there is one thing I miss being able to eat, it’s cookie dough.  So giving the cake batter fudge seemed like a great way to satisfy the craving.  But, don’t worry, you do not have to be a pregnant-junk-food-fanatic to give these a try!

The fudge takes literally 2 minutes in the microwave to whip up. Oh, and the 1 minute it takes you to measure and dump the ingredients in a bowl.  I would suggest making these for a party, shower, or bringing them to work…because they are THAT easy to make and you will want to eat the whole batch!

I also bought a gingerbread cake mix to try the same recipe with, and instead of sprinkles I’ll be adding some roasted pecans.  YUM.  And then I want to try out a red velvet or a strawberry fudge.  That is the beauty of cake mix recipes, the possibilities are endless!

Funfetti Fudge - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

1 box funfetti cake mix
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), cut into cubes
Sprinkles (optional)

-Add cake mix and powdered sugar to a large microwave-safe bowl and mix together.
-Add the stick of butter and pour the milk into the cake/sugar mix.
-Microwave for 2 minutes
-Stir the mixture immediately until combined
-Pour mixture into a greased (I used baking spray) 9×9 glass dish
-Sprinkle with…you guessed it!  SPRINKLES!
-Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (I let mine sit overnight).
-Cut into bite-sized pieces, share (optional), and enjoy!

Week 28

How big is baby? The size of a eggplant!

Baby Development FYI:  Putting on layers of fat, your baby now weighs in around 1.5 to 2.5 pounds and measures about 13.6 to 14.8 inches. She’s starting to develop more fat, so her wrinkly skin will start to get smoother.  Her lungs are mature enough that she’d probably survive if she was born now. Wow!

My body has been invaded, how’s that going? Still smooth sailing (knock on wood), other than the normal aches and pains.  If I over do it one day, my hips and back hurt the next day.  So I’ve learned not to push it, take lots of breaks, and it is okay to sit on my butt all day.

I’m still sleeping pretty well.  I get up every hours, but I sleep really hard in between and feel rested when I wake up.  But this week, my internal alarm clock has been waking me up at 4am and I can NOT get back to sleep.  I even woke up when Nate was going hunting one morning and he asked me if I wanted to go, because I was up.  Thanks, but I’d much rather lie here in the warm bed! 🙂

I’ve had the WORST heartburn of my life!  I woke up in the middle of the night pretty much choking / wanting to vomit acid.  It burned my throat.  And since then, I haven’t been able to get rid of it.  I need a tums the size of a bagel to kick this heartburns ass!

What’s been on my mind?  I think the labor classes are what’s making the birth be on my mind so much.  It seems like that is all I think about now.  And realizing, I only have 12 weeks left…crazy how time flies!  I really can’t wait for the baby to be here.  The first 5-6 months I would be anxious one minute and then think “no, I’m good right now, sleeping and doing what I want.”  And now, I’m ready to get this show on the road!

We got to tour the birthing center of the hospital this week, which was awesome.  It is comforting to see where you are going to be spending the labor and recovery ahead of time.  I didn’t realize how nice the rooms were going to be.  There is a jacuzzi tub and mini fridge in every room!  And the high-tech bed that can change into all sorts of positions.  These people really thought of everything!  But now I’m starting to get my packing list together for the hospital. 

Crazy Cravings:  Nothing new this week, still have my sweet tooth…is what I typed on Tuesday.  But since Friday I’ve had crazy cravings and intense hunger strikes!  Low main noodles + Chinese hot sauce + eggnog.  Sounds disgusting but it was all that I wanted, and it did not disappoint.  There must be a growth spurt going on because I’ve never had cravings like this before…where I literally salivate at the thought of the craved item.

Highlights: Passing the glucose test!  I celebrated with a milkshake…every night haha!  I can’t resist those things. And crossing over to the 3rd trimester.  I can’t believe it is already here.  I remember thinking it would take forever to get to this point.

Chicken Manicotti

Adapted from: Southern Living
Need a yummy recipe to make ahead of time and freeze for later?  Or a delicious dinner to bring to a friends house that just had a baby?  This meal is perfect and won’t disappoint.  My chef AND family friends who just had a baby approved this one!

The filling is what makes this dish, and honestly, you could use the filling for just about any pasta dish.  Like stuffed shells or lasagna.  The filling would make a great alternative for people who don’t prefer ricotta.  When I first read this recipe, it sounded labor-intensive.  But once I assembled 1 manicotti, I was able to crank them all out in less than 5 minutes…and I made a double batch!  There is even enough filling to make a third…lucky us 🙂

An added plus…people will think you slaved all day in the kitchen, stuffing the manicotti yourself. The slicing open and rolling it back up trick is an awesome time-saver.

Chicken Manicotti - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
Not as photogenic as I’d hoped! 🙂

Chicken Manicotti - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
1 8 oz package cannelloni or manicotti
4 cups finely chopped cooked chicken (32 oz / 2 lbs of raw chicken)
1 8 oz containers chive-and-onion cream cheese
1 8 oz containers regular cream cheese
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1 cup / 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1-2 24 oz jars of favorite marinara sauce
Top with Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of dried oregano

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

In a large bowl, add chicken, cream cheeses, spinach, mozzarella cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic salt, and pepper. The original recipe says to stir…I say, get your clean hands dirty and mix it yourself.  Like you would a meatloaf.

Slice the pasta lengthwise on one side, through the other side (you should be able to lay the noodle flat) Spoon about 1/2 cup chicken mixture into each shell, gently roll up the manicotti / pressing cut sides together. Place, cut sides down, in 2 lightly greased 9 x 13  baking dish. 
Pour marinara sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle with dried oregano and parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until heated. 

**FYI-UPDATE** So I bought a different brand of manicotti for the 3rd batch and the cooking directions said to boil for 9 minutes (the other brand said 7).  And after 9 minutes, those things were falling apart!!!  I still assembled the dish, but it was not as pretty as the other 2.  Sometimes you can’t trust the box directions!

Week 27

How big is baby? The size of a rutabaga!

Baby Development FYI: At 13.6 to 14.8 inches and 1.5 to 2.5 pounds, she’s not just getting bigger, she’s getting smarter. She’s practicing inhaling and exhaling with her rapidly developing lungs. It’s official: Baby’s showing brain activity! And her brain will keep on getting more complex.

My body has been invaded, how’s that going? Did someone turn up the hormone drip?  I swear, my sense of smell has increased again.  I can smell everything a mile away!  I now sleep with 4-5 pillows and manage to get comfortable one way or another.  If I don’t sleep with the pillows my back and hips hurt, and a get those darn leg cramps.  Stretching.  Which means itching.  Which means more lotion.  No stretchmarks yet, but I hear lots of women get them at the very end or even after the baby is born!  But whatever, anywhere that could form a stretch mark, will not be seeing the sun for at least a year. Exhausted at the end of the day. 

What’s been on my mind? Labor.  Delivery.  Birth.  The classes have made everything more real so I’m starting to imagine what it will be like.  Definitely not scared or nervous, but a little…apprehensive.  Just wish I knew how it was going to feel to know if I can take it or will need some help from Mr. Epidural.  The unknown is what gets me.

But I feel very lucky and confident in our OB’s.  I think it is awesome and reassuring that I’m not locked into getting an epidural and can make the decision during labor.  I will most likely get one, but I like that I have some control over the situation!  Others I’ve heard refuse to do natural deliveries, which is fine too, but I prefer having the choice.

Breastfeeding has been on my mind.  We went to a breastfeeding class this week and oh my goodness we are both so glad we did!  Breastfeeding freaks me out more than giving birth.  But now I feel a lot better about it and don’t feel like I’m going into this completely blind.  Nate and I were both surprised at how much we both learned about breastfeeding.  It was reassuring to learn that a lactation consultant comes to your room while you’re in the hospital free of charge and you can schedule another appointment if you need it FOC.  I’m sure there will be TONS of questions!

Crazy Cravings:  Eggnog milkshakes from McDonalds.  Holy Geezus they are so good! SPICY salsa.  The food isn’t hot enough!  Nate and his friend tried to trick me into eating a really hot pepper, and I ate it like a champ.  Didn’t even flinch.  Booyah preggo taste buds!

Highlights: Hearing the heartbeat at this week’s appointment.  Such an awesome sound!  

The glucola test was just as awesome…not!  That stuff is gross.  Wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but still nasty.  And I’ve never had a sugar rush like that before in my life.  I felt like a crackhead for a good hour.  I thought you found out the results the same day, but they said it takes 3-7 business days for the lab to get the results.  Bummer, because I have been a tad bit nervous about this test.  Because if I fail, then the 3-hour test will have to happen and that will be even worse.  And if I fail that one, then the pregnancy just becomes not as…fun and care-free.  Don’t get me wrong, if I had gestational diabetes I’d want them to catch it.  Anything to keep the little monkey happy and healthy.  But it wouldn’t be fun to give up milkshakes 🙂

Our washing machine pooped out on us this past weekend.  And anyone that works a dirty or smelly job knows that is not good!  So we bought a new washer and dryer that were delivered on Thursday.  We went with the LG TrueSteam Dryer and LG Steam Washer.  

Not to sound like an advertisement, but we got a GREAT deal at H. H. Gregg!  I’d never been to their store before and I’d seen their name on a washer review.  We got a much better price there, than if we’d bought the same washer/dryer scratched and dented from the Sears Outlet!  Believe me, we checked. We are talking at least $500.  AND we got free delivery, and they have a 30-day price guarantee!  COME ON BLACK FRIDAY, SOMEONE PUT THESE BABIES ON SUPER CLEARANCE!!