Monday, December 29, 2008

Merry Christmas

I know this is late, however, I didnt realize that my friends daughter had taken this picture:

Its the cookies she left for Santa.

Our Christmas

The hubs and I make an effort to set aside time to do our own Christmas. We started this last year, our first married year, in an effort to set some precedence for our families, so they know when to expect us for the holidays. This will come in handy next year when we have Baby Boy with us.

Each Christmas I make us some fancy dinner. I enjoy cooking and to be honest, we have a better experience at home than at restaurants. We started off with a chopped garden salad. The hubs grilled our marinated KC Strip Steaks while I made a peppercorn cream sauce and baked potatoes. I love that he grilled, outside, in December, in Kansas.

The peppercorn cream sauce was based off the pepper sauce we had while in Ireland. They use pepper sauce for everything there, any form of potato, steaks, chicken, bread, etc... Its basically a lot of crushed black pepper, some butter & some heavy whipping cream. We added a bit too much pepper, but it was still very good.

For dessert, I finally made molten chocolate cakes. Between the cover of December Cooking Light & a few Food Network shows, this did not look all that difficult, but definitely decadent. I had intended to make the CL version, but I couldn't find espresso powder at the grocery store. So I made the Chocolate Lava Cake from The Neelys. I cut the recipe in half, since it was just the Hubs and I. I also used 3 oz of semisweet chocolate and 3 oz of 71% cocoa.

Molten Lava Cakes
2 sticks butter, unsalted, plus more for ramekins
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch cayenne
Pinch nutmeg
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
6 large eggs
6 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter 8 (6-ounce) ramekins and sprinkle each with about 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

In a saucepan combine butter, cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, and chocolate over low heat until melted and smooth; stir frequently. Cool slightly.

In a large bowl whisk together flour, confectioners' sugar, eggs and yolks, vanilla extract and almond extract until creamy. Add melted chocolate to the batter and whisk together.

Pour into prepared ramekins.

Bake cakes until the top is stiff and cracked and the edges are dark, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Loosen the edges of the cake with a small paring knife then invert onto plates while warm.

And I am 100% serious when I say this was the easiest dessert I have ever made. Its a great way to impress people too!

Three Cheese Chicken Florentine

Chicken was on sale at the local grocery store so I stocked up. I mean when you can get boneless skinless chicken breasts for 60% off, its time to clear out the deep freeze and make room. This time around though, I searched through the chicken containers so I got packages of 4 breasts, instead of 3 ginormous breasts. I mean, when there are 2 people in the house, how is 4 chicken breasts gonna work out?

Anyway, I'll be making a lot of chicken dishes b/c I am now boycotting the grocery store. I go through this every once in awhile. This time, the grocery store not only got me on the chicken sale, but the baking sale. I could bake until the middle of 2009 and still not use all the chocolate chips/bark I purchased.

This dish was delicious! I know it says Cooking Light but I may have used some heavy whipping cream with my milk.

Three-Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine
Cooking Light
1 teaspoon olive oil
Cooking spray
3 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (16-ounce) carton 2% low-fat cottage cheese
4 cups hot cooked penne (about 8 ounces uncooked tube-shaped pasta)
2 cups shredded roasted skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed reduced-fat, reduced-sodium cream of chicken soup, undiluted

Preheat oven to 425°.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add spinach, oregano, and black pepper; sauté 3 minutes or just until spinach wilts.

Place cottage cheese in a food processor; process until very smooth. Combine spinach mixture, cottage cheese, pasta, chicken, 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, milk, and soup in a large bowl. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.

My changes: I omitted the red pepper. The Hubs and I don't really care for it. I used whole wheat penne pasta, 1/4 cup of milk, 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream & regular cream of chicken soup. The texture was wonderfully creamy, it tasted a lot like an alfredo sauce. I am sure it would have tasted just as good had I followed the healthy recipe options. Also, this made a ton of food. I would say about 8-9 servings so plan for leftovers.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Baking

I spent this past Sunday staying inside (9 degrees outside- I wasn't leaving) and baking. I wanted to get a care package together to send to my grandma, so I gathered all my marked holiday baked goodies recipes & spent a few hours in the kitchen. At about hour three, I remembered I was 6 months pregnant & should probably take a break. So I only made it through about half of my recipes. I'll probably make some more tomorrow.

I actually made these beauties earlier in the week.
Chocolate Chip Tea Cookies & Minty Cocoa Cookies:

I have to agree that the tea cookies were excellent, but a little rich with the chocolate drizzle.

I made this dough last week & froze half of it b/c it made too many cookies! I just pulled them out of the freezer & let them defrost for about 15 minutes. Then followed the instructions on baking.
Pecan Snowballs

I decided that these were probably not the best for a goodie bag. I placed them inside plastic Zip-locs since the powdered sugar was getting all over everything else.

I started off making the Pecan Pie Cookies. These were a huge hit on the Internet last year, I was surprised they hadn't made an appearance this year.

I made a pecan pie/tart last year for my husband. Its his favorite pie, but this year, I promised to make him molten chocolate cake. So I satisfied his pecan pie craving with these cookies.

I felt I needed to add something other than cookies, so I made Irish Cream Brownies.

I cut them into smaller bites so people weren't on chocolate overload.

And lastly, peanut butter pretzel chews. When I saw this recipe, I immediately thought of my husband. He has this thing about sweet + salty. He loves Take 5 bars & when we have fondue, he usually requests fritos or tortilla chips to dip into the chocolate. A little odd, but quite delicious.

So when I saw this recipe called for pretzels, chocolate, peanut butter & salt. I knew it would be a winner. The only difference between the recipe & my cookies is that I mixed the chocolate chips in with the dough. This was really b/c I was so flipping tired.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Chicken and Rice w/Creamy Herb Sauce

I hope you are sitting down b/c I have a surprise for you! I made ANOTHER recipe from the infamous Cooking Light cookbook. Yes, someday I will move on to my other cookbooks, but for now, I shall continue to use this one. Mostly b/c I am too lazy to put it away.

Now what I have found entertaining about this cookbook is that you can tell it's from 2000. I adapt things to meet today's "light" standards, but this recipe is a good example of something that is healthier than a cream based sauce, but has items that could be substituted.

Chicken and Rice with Creamy Herb Sauce
3/4 cup water (healthier version: omit this & the granules, 3/4 cup low sodium broth)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon chicken-flavored bouillon granules
4 (4-ounce) skinned, boned chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 (6-ounce) tub light cream cheese with garlic and spices
4 cups hot cooked long-grain rice (healthier version: Brown Rice)
Chopped fresh parsley

Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a large skillet; add chicken. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, turning chicken after 8 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet. Set aside; keep warm.

Bring cooking liquid to a boil; cook 5 minutes or until reduced to 2/3 cup. Combine 1 tablespoon water and cornstarch; add to skillet. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add cream cheese; cook until well-blended, stirring constantly with a whisk. Serve chicken over rice; spoon sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with parsley.

Anyway you look at it, it was really good. The sauce had a great flavor to it and would be great as a casserole base.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Comfort food done almost light

I surprised myself when I realized I hadn't made a meatloaf this year. The Hubs is one of those meat & potatoes or casserole type of guys. He isn't into my fancy schancy meals-not to say he doesn't like them-he would just prefer I make everything a casserole. I like casseroles, they are easy, usually effortless, but they just don't take pretty pictures!

We had meatloaf, mashed potato casserole & cheesy corn for dinner. Yeah not really healthy, but some of it was healthy!!! I only have one picture, and that is of the cheesy corn, b/c well mashed potato casserole looks like a lump of white mush & meatloaf, oh lets not go there.

Again, I turned to my Cooking Light Cookbook that I have been using the past month. If you decide to purchase it, you wont be sorry.

First up:
Mama's Meatloaf
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper (I omitted)
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (I used about 1 1/2 Tbsp dried)
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 (1-ounce) slice white bread, torn into small pieces (I used whole wheat bread)
1 1/2 pounds ground round (I use 93% lean ground beef)
Vegetable cooking spray
1/3 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl, tossing to moisten bread. Crumble meat over onion mixture, and stir just until blended. Pack mixture into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Spread ketchup over top of loaf. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until meat loaf registers 160°. Let loaf stand in pan 10 minutes.

Remove meat loaf from pan; cut loaf into 6 slices. (Mine actually made 8 slices)

Next, cheesy corn. This a favorite of a local restaurant in KC, Jack Stack. If you ever make it KC, you have to get out to the BBQ places. Although Jack Stack is not my favorite BBQ restaurant, they do have the best side dishes.

Cheesy Corn
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 teaspoons all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoons garlic powder
3/4 cup milk
6oz sharp cheddar cheese (I only had 2% shredded on hand)
1 (3oz) pkg cream cheese, cubed ( I used 1/3 less fat)
3 (10oz) pkgs frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
3oz ham, diced

In a large saucepan, melt margarine or butter
Stir in flour and garlic powder
Add milk all at once
Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until thickened and bubbly
Stir in cheese
Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until melted
Stir in corn and ham
Transfer mixture to a 2 quart casserole dish
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

And lastly, the mashed potato casserole. Another recipe snagged from Cooking Light cookbook, it is not listed online so I will have to post the recipe when I get home. I can tell you it had sour cream & cream cheese in it. No butter and no milk, which was a bit odd, however, it was so creamy good!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blueberry Pound Cake

Another great recipe from the Cooking Light cookbook. Fresh blueberries were on sale last week so I picked some up for the sheer purpose of making this cake. It is on the cover of the cookbook and I am always drawn to those recipes.

Blueberry Pound Cake

Cooking Light
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light butter
1/2 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (8-ounce) carton lemon low-fat yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cooking spray
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°.

Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and egg white, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 2 tablespoons flour and blueberries in a small bowl, and toss well. Combine remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with yogurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in blueberry mixture and vanilla; pour cake batter into a 10-inch tube pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan 10 minutes; remove from pan. Combine powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl; drizzle over warm cake. Cut with a serrated knife

I made this on Saturday & just got around to eating it. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it, mail it, take it to work, etc... I caved & brought it into work. It was gone in 20 minutes. Which is saying a lot b/c it snowed buckets this morning so hardly anyone is in.

UPDATE: Joelen over at inspired me to enter this into her Chef's Spotlight contest. This round is focusing on healthier recipes. I use Cooking Light for about 85% of my recipes, so its going to be tough to decide what to enter, but I did really LOVE this cake. I am sure we are all gearing up for a healthier 2009, so submit your recipes!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Raspberry Pinwheels

One should really read recipes before deciding when to make them. The other day, I had all day to bake & cook. On my menu, I had the cranberry muffins, these raspberry pinwheels & a dutch oven dinner. For whatever reason, I decided to make the muffins first, then I made dinner, then I did the pinwheels.

Um yeah, the pinwheels take about 3 hours. So at 9pm on Tuesday night, I was walking around the kitchen going-what the hell! Why didn't I make these earlier???

They are delicious cookies. I wanted them to put with my cranberry muffins to bring into the office the following day so I was determined to make them. However, 10:30 came rolling around & only half of them were cooked. So I still have dough for another half in the freezer.

Raspberry Pinwheels

Real Simple
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 8-ounce bar cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons turbinado or some other coarse sugar

With an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and granulated sugar until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla. Gradually add the flour, mixing until just incorporated.

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and gently knead it 2 to 3 times, just to bring it together. Form the dough into two 1-inch-thick squares. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

On a lightly floured piece of parchment, roll one of the dough squares into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread half the jam over the dough. Cut the dough crosswise into thirds, making three 9-by-4-inch rectangles. Starting from the long side of each rectangle, roll into logs. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Heat oven to 350° F. Slice the logs into 1-inch pieces and space 1 1/2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Brush with the egg and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

To Wrap: A 32-ounce glass canning jar will neatly hold 2 dozen pinwheels. You can play up the cookies' two-tone theme with a striped ribbon tied around the jar's mouth and a colorful adhesive bow.

To Freeze: Instead of refrigerating the logs, freeze them for up to 2 months. To bake, follow the recipe instructions, cutting and baking the dough from frozen, and use the upper end of the time range.

I saw this recipe in a Real Simple magazine, they caught my eye b/c they had them in a mason jar tied with ribbon. Very cute idea!

And here was a my pretty display I brought to work. Don't mind the yellow, this was at 7am when the sun was rising...

Cranberry Muffins

Do you know there are not many baking recipes out there that use fresh cranberries? Everything is "Craisins". Well I don't have craisins, I have fresh cranberries. And I wanted to use them in baking.

Now I can't tell you how these tasted, b/c I didn't get a chance to have one, but they sure did look purty ;) These were probably the best looking muffins I have made, so I will probably stick with this recipe and just adapt according to the fruit/nuts/citrus I have on hand.

Fresh Cranberry Orange Muffins
Cooking Light
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
2/3 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1/4 cup butter or stick margarine, melted
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Stir in cranberries; make a well in center of mixture. Combine milk, butter, rind, vanilla, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 18 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pan immediately; place on a wire rack.

Note: These muffins freeze well. Bake them ahead, cool completely, and store in freezer bags. To serve, thaw at room temperature. Reheat in aluminum foil at 300º for 10 to 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

*I recently found a recipe for fresh cranberry scones that I will be making tomorrow in a attempt to use up the rest of my cranberries. Or I may remake these muffins but do them in a mini-muffin pan.

Oh the Holidays

Boy does time get away from us. The hubs & I have been trying to finish up Christmas shopping, get the basement finished so we can start on the nursery, traveling to Chicago & back, etc... I have been cooking, but mostly old standbys. But I have been on a baking kick!

I made some pumpkin fudge a few weeks ago. Lordy were these sweet! I felt like I was eating a softened cube of sugar sprinkled with pumpkin spice. Not all was lost with this recipe though. I was able to use my candy thermometer for candy (and not for pan frying) and I gathered some experience in making fudge.

Spiced Pumpkin Fudge

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine
2/3 cup (5 fl.-oz. can) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk
1/2 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Premier White Morsels
1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow crème
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

LINE 13 x 9-inch baking pan with foil.

COMBINE sugar, brown sugar, evaporated milk, pumpkin, butter and spice in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 10 to 12 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 234° to 240º F (soft-ball stage).

QUICKLY STIR in morsels, marshmallow crème, nuts and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until morsels are melted. Immediately pour into prepared pan. Let stand on wire rack for 2 hours or until completely cooled. Refrigerate tightly covered. To cut, lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Makes about 3 pounds.

I wont be making these again. I like pumpkin far too much to waste it like this.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving leftovers

Wondering what to do with all your Turkey Day Leftovers?? There are so many things out there, but this is super easy, quick & uses just about every leftover you could have!

Stove Top Turkey Bake

1 pkg (6 oz) Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Chicken
1 2/3 cup hot water
2 cups turkey
1 can (10-3/4 oz) condensed cream of celery soup
1 can green beans
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Mix water & Stove Top in a dish, just until moist.
2. In a casserole dish, place beans & turkey in the bottom. I like to use the dark meat for this dish.
3. Top with soup, sprinkle with cheese.
4. Spread Stove Top over the top of the dish. Bake at 350F for about 30-45 minutes.

** You could substitute gravy for the soup if you have enough leftover.


Now I am sure many of you will be surprised, but I do not host Thanksgiving. One would think a foodie like me would love to cook all that stuff, but the hubs & I host Easter. Its our holiday, I bake like its Thanksgiving then. Although sometimes this doesn't stop me from cooking a 8lb turkey for just my husband and I.

So for Thanksgiving this year, I brought a salad & a dessert to my husband's side of the family. I didn't get a picture of the dessert, but I have made it in the past and will probably make it again today to bring into the office tomorrow. Its Cara's Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies. I like making these b/c I often have just enough pumpkin leftover from a previous recipe to make this one.

For my salad, I made a broccoli salad. Thanks to my friend Julie for getting the recipe for me. There are many variations to broccoli salad but I really just wanted the standard one, you know, the one with bacon & raisins. Some of my friend suggested craisins, which I think would be great, but I went for the traditional.

Broccoli Salad IV

1/4 cup bacon bits
1 head fresh broccoli florets
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1 red onion, chopped
1 cup creamy salad dressing, e.g. Miracle Whip ™
1/4 cup white sugar

Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the bacon, broccoli, cheese, raisins, onion and sunflower seeds.
In a small bowl, whisk together the creamy salad dressing and sugar. Pour over broccoli mixture and toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

** a few difference, my husband and I HATE miracle whip, so I used mayo. Also, I just chopped up my own bacon & cooked it.

For my parents Thanksgiving celebration, I made an apple pie, a pumpkin turtle pie, chicken enchilada dip & broccoli rice casserole. The only thing I got a picture of was the pumpkin turtle pie.

Its being broadcast all over Kraft & other magazines, so I am sure you know which one I am talking about. Along with it being really delicious, it was also very easy to make.

Chicken Stroganoff

I am still on the Cooking Light kick. Let's be real honest here, the holidays always pack on the pounds. I am already packing them on for the baby, so it would be the wisest idea for the hubs and I to eat lightly during the week.

I had been craving stroganoff for awhile, so I was happy to come across a chicken version.

Chicken Stroganoff
Cooking Light
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 1 medium)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons sherry
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
5 cups hot cooked wide egg noodles (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add sage, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and mushrooms; sauté 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown. Spoon mixture into a large bowl.

Combine 1/4 cup flour and paprika in a shallow dish. Cut each chicken breast half in half lengthwise; cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips. Dredge chicken strips in flour mixture; shake off the excess flour mixture. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Sauté 4 minutes or until chicken is done. Add chicken to mushroom mixture.

Add broth and sherry to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low. Place sour cream in a small bowl; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon flour. Stir with a whisk until combined. Stir sour cream mixture and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt into broth mixture. Stir in chicken mixture; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Add noodles and parsley; stir well to combine.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pumpkin Muffins

As you may gather from some of my posts, I have this addiction to the grocery store. I could spend endless hours reviewing the sale ads, creating my menus, & grocery shopping. I think my favorite mail day is Wednesday, b/c that is when I should get the weekly grocery store ads. I am always a little disappointed when it doesn't come until Thursday.

So you can only imagine how excited I get for the grocery store pre-Thanksgiving ad. Sugar, flour, butter, Cool Whip, pumpkin, all things baking are always on sale for super cheap. Like $1 a piece. And thus I stock up.

With my 5 cans of pumpkin, I decided to try pumpkin muffins first. I was making breakfast for my husband & his cousin before the disastrous Chiefs game that I refused to go to, and while I had eggs, bacon & hashbrowns on the menu, I wanted something sweet as well. Plus I woke up at like 7am and was bored.

Pumpkin Muffins
Cooking Light
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1/3 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg white
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture.

Combine pumpkin and next 6 ingredients (pumpkin through egg white); add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon the batter into 18 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.

Combine 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and brown sugar; sprinkle over muffins.

Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.

I will first & foremost apologize for the horrible picture. I had to take it at work b/c I forgot about taking one, and these muffins deserved a picture. Initially I had made them without frosting & just the crunchy sugar topping.
But the sugar topping soaked into muffins by Monday morning. I had about 12 muffins leftover, so I told the hubs to bring them into work. I had the pumpkin yumkins on my baking list, but since they were pretty identical to these, I decided to just use the frosting recipe.
1 (3oz) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp fresh squeezed orange juice
2 c powdered sugar
zest of one orange, preferably organic
I am not sure if she has her measurements wrong, but 1 tsp of OJ mixed with 1 cup of powdered sugar & 3 oz of cream cheese makes a paste, not a frosting. I added another oz of cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat) and probably 2 Tbsp of OJ to the mixture.

Olive Garden Endless Soup & Salad

Last Saturday the husband & I decided to pull out the Christmas decor & get to decorating the house. Last year, we braved the day after Christmas sales at our local Target & stocked up on outdoor lighting & decorations. (I'll post some pictures of that later)

Since we would be spending most of the day outside, and there was a slight chill in the air, I decided to make a few soups for lunch & dinner. Apparently I was recreating OG endless soup & salad b/c the two soups I made are both on that menu.

First up I made Zuppa Toscano. I found the recipe over at Amber's Delectable Delights. I pretty much followed to recipe to a T, except that I already have some Italian Sausage cooked. So instead of crumble sausage, we had chunks. I wish I had caught that she mashed some of the potatoes b/c that would have made the consistency much better. Our was a little soupy & little oily. It was still delicious.

1 pound spicy Italian sausage - crumbled
1/2 pound smoked bacon - chopped
4 cups water
2, 14.5 ounce cans (about 3 2/3 cups) chicken broth
2 large russet potatoes - scrubbed clean, cubed
2 garlic cloves - peeled, crushed
1 medium onion - peeled, chopped
2 cups chopped kale OR Swiss chard --> I used Spinach
1 cup heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper - to taste

1. In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage, breaking into small pieces as you fry it; drain, set aside.
2. In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown bacon; drain, set aside.
3. Place water, broth, potatoes, garlic, and onion in a pot; simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender.
4. Add sausage and bacon to pot; simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add kale and cream to pot; season with salt and pepper; heat through.

I also made minestrone soup. I liked the recipe however, I would have liked more beans in it. I felt they were drown out by all the vegetables. I really liked the recipe because I was able to use some of the frozen vegetables from the garden.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chopped yellow squash
3 cups chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears) --> I used canned corn
4 cups chopped tomato, divided
3 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/2 cup uncooked ditalini pasta (very short tube-shaped macaroni)
1 (15.5-ounce) can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) grated Asiago cheese
Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until softened. Add oregano and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in squash, zucchini, carrot, and corn; sauté 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat.

Place 3 cups tomato and 1 can broth in a blender; process until smooth. Add tomato mixture to pan; return pan to heat. Stir in remaining 1 cup tomato and remaining 2 cans broth; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Add pasta and beans to pan; cook 10 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in spinach, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Ladle soup into individual bowls; top with cheese. Garnish with coarsely ground black pepper, if desired.

This was a nice healthy option to the very unhealthy Zuppa Tuscano. For lunch we just had soup, but for dinner I added a tossed Italian Salad & breadsticks. The minestrone made a TON of soup. I froze about half it & we still had enough for 3 days of lunches for 2 people. The Zuppa made about half as much as the minestrone.

Chicken with Sherried Mushrooms

I found this recipe in my Cooking Light Complete cookbook as well. I forgot how much I really enjoy Cooking Light recipes. I my opinion, I haven't been impressed with the past few magazines I have received. They have a lot of baking I try or would like to try, but the meals have been either too over the top or just no interest to me.

Of course the recipe is only available via the Cookbook, so I will need to post it later, but I feel like a blog-slacker so I am going to post the pictures today & update with the recipe later.

I served this with some steamed broccoli & a box of creamy Rice-A-Roni. Yes, I do fake it sometimes. The chicken had wonderful flavor and I was impressed that the mushrooms didn't turn mushy, they kept their shape & texture quite well.

Here is the recipe:
1 (14.5oz) can fat-free low sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp butter
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp minced shallots
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 Tbsp chopped parsley

1. Place broth in a small saucepan & bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1 cup, about 7 minutes.
2. Combine flour, salt & pepper. Dredge chicken in the flour mixture. Place a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium high heat until hot. Add chicken & cook for 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from the pan.
3. Add butter, mushrooms, and shallots to the pan. cook over medium high heat until mushrooms are light browned, stirring constantly. Add sherry; bring to a boil. Add 1 cup reduced broth, cook until reduced to 1 1/2 cups (about 7 minutes).
4. Return chicken to the pan; cover & reduce heat; simmer for 12 minutes until chicken is done. Remove chicken to a serving platter or plate, keep warm. Bring sauce to a boil; cook one additional minute. Stir in parsley. Serve mushroom mixture over chicken & top with a little sauce.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More Cookies

I said I was addicted, I was serious. These cookies are all so easy & quick to make. I just start up a batch and in 30 minutes we have fresh cookies at home.

This came from the Cooking Light Complete Cookbook again.

These are kind of like a cookie version of a molten cake. They are very chewy on the inside, but crisp on the outside.

Double Chocolate Chews
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate mini-morsels
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp light colored corn syrup
1 Tbsp water
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, powdered sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
3. Combine 3/4 cup chocolate morsels & oil in a saucepan and cook over low heat until chocolate melts, stirring constantly. Pour melted chocolate mixture into a large bowl. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, water, vanilla & egg whites to chocolate mixture. Stir in flour mixture and 1/4 cup chocolate morsels.
4. Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake for about 8 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pans for for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

Freezer Meal

For a quick meal, I pulled out some of my homemade marinara sauce & some Italian meatball from the freezer.

I just boiled some whole wheat rotini pasta & dinner was ready in about 20-25 minutes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Icebox Cookies

I had intended to bring these to my cookie exchange, but due to circumstances beyond my control I will not be attending. But these cookies have gotten me on a baking addiction. I found my Cooking Light Complete Cookbook & have been cooking/baking from it for the past few days.
I was interested in this recipe b/c it showed how to make striped cookies. In the book, it also shows you how to make spiral ones.
I'll post the recipes first:

Peanut Butter IceBox Cookies
2 dozen (serving size: 1 cookie)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons stick margarine, softened
2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white
Cooking spray
Combine first 3 ingredients, and set aside. Beat margarine and peanut butter at medium speed of a mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugars, beating at medium speed until well-blended. Add vanilla and egg white, and beat well. Add flour mixture; stir well. Turn dough out onto wax paper; shape into a 6-inch log. Wrap log in wax paper. Freeze while you make the chocolate cookies

Chocolate Icebox Cookies
2 dozen (serving size: 1 cookie)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons stick margarine, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white
Cooking spray
Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl; set aside. Beat margarine at medium speed of a mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add vanilla and egg white, and beat well. Add flour mixture, and stir until well-blended. Turn dough out onto wax paper; shape into a 6-inch log. Wrap log in wax paper. Freeze for about 15 minutes, until slightly firm.

To make the striped cookies
Take the cookie logs out of the freezer. Cut each log lengthwise into 4 pieces.

Make 2 stacks of dough, alternating chocolate & peanut butter dough. (You will have 4 stripes)

Wrap each stack and freeze for 3 hours or until you want to bake the cookies. Repeat with the remaining dough.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. As soon as you remove the logs from the freezer, cut into ¼ inch slices with a very sharp knife. Place on baking sheet & cook for about 10 minutes.

The upside to these is that not only did that taste freaking awesome, they looked pretty damn cool too! The dough can stay in the freezer for something like 3 months, not that these would last that long. I think I am going to try the spiral kind with chocolate & plain sugar cookies.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cheesy Beer Bread

I was trying to come up with a snack to bring to my book club yesterday. I opened up my "Holiday Baked Goodies" document to see what I had saved to make during this holiday season. The beer bread looked so easy to make and since I am not drinking beer these days, I guess this is the only way I can taste it.

I wasn't sure what to serve with the beer bread though. The original recipe suggests chili, but that wasn't really what I was looking for when I was baking this. I needed something more appetizer-like. So I picked up some ranch dip. I mean, cheese, beer & ranch, sounds good to me!

Easy Cheesy Beer Bread
Annie's Eats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
12 oz. beer
2 tbsp. butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9×5” loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine flours, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder. Whisk to combine well. Add cheese and whisk to combine. Slowly add beer to dry ingredients and stir lightly until just combined, and all ingredients are completely moistened. Place into a prepared loaf pan and pour melted butter over the top. Place in the oven and bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I had some bread leftover so we are going to try it with the chili today. I can see how this would be a great base for many flavors. Apple beer with sharp cheddar, Stout beer/Guinness with some dill. Use your imagination.

Fireman's Chili

Before the hubs & I went to Ireland, we spent the weekend in Chicago with my aunt & uncle. Since we knew we would be eating out for the next 10 days, we decided to make something homemade before we left. Something we couldn't get in Ireland. My aunt Kathy found a very old recipe stored away in her files. It was actually from 1986 copy of the Chicago Tribune. The story told about a chili competition between firehouses & had the recipe from the winner. We loved it! Although we had to tone down the spiciness, it was very hearty.

**For warning, this does take awhile to cook, so set aside a Sunday morning to put it together, turn on some football & it should be done by the end of the first game**

Fireman's Chili
1/2 cup butter
1 # green peppers, seeded, coarsely chopped
3 C chopped onions (3 large) chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 # coarsely ground chuck
1 # coarsely ground pork
1 T ground cumin
1 t basil
1 1/2 t cayenne pepper(I used 1 t)
1/2 t black pepper
5 T hot chili powder (I used 2 1/2)
1 (28oz) can whole tomatoes, chopped
1 (10 1/2 oz) beef broth
1 C dry red wine(Burgundy)
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1/2 t crushed hot red pepper
1 T salt
2 (16oz) cans dark red kidney beans

Description / Cook's Notes:

1. Melt butter in large pot and saute peppers about 10 min. Add onions and garlic; cook 5 more minutes. Add beef and pork mixture; increase heat to high. Cook stirring occasionally until meat is no longer pink.. about 10-15 min.

2. Stir in cumin, basil, cayenne, black pepper and chili powder. Stir in tomatoes, beef broth, wine, tomato paste, hot red pepper and salt. Simmer, covered, about 2 hours.

3. Add kidney beans, simmer for an additional 45 minutes serve with extra sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream

The one thing I learned from this recipe is to add the beans later. They keep their texture so they aren't all smushy when you go to eat them.

This serves a lot.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thyme Coated Pork Tenderloin

The true purpose of the mac n cheese from the other night was to supplement a roasted pork tenderloin I had intended to make. However, the tenderloin was not defrosted enough for me to cook, so we just had mac n cheese.

Last night my tenderloin was ready to go. I have one complaint about pork tenderloin. Its very sneaky. They package it in a way that it appears to be one tenderloin, when in fact it is two. You would think that I would have figured this out by now, b/c every damn time I make pork tenderloin I say "Oh look there is two in here!" So now I have 2 pork tenderloins defrosted that I have to use before they go bad, which means they are both getting cooked the same way. Boring? Yes, but whatever.

I found Thyme-Coated Pork Tenderloin on (CookingLight)

1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon instant onion flakes
1 slice day-old hearty white bread (such as Pepperidge Farm), torn
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place thyme, onion, and bread in a food processor; pulse until fine breadcrumbs measure 1/3 cup. Place breadcrumb mixture in a shallow dish. Place egg whites in a shallow dish. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Dip pork in egg whites; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place pork on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until a thermometer registers 155°. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

I made a few variations. I used a Lipton Onion Soup packet in place of the salt, pepper & onion flakes. I also had breadcrumbs on hand, so I didn't need to make my own.

My question to fellow food bloggers. I always cook my pork with a meat thermometer. While the recipe said 155F, I cooked it to 165F. So why was it pink? Am I paranoid & pork can be pink and still not make you sick? I mean, sure, a tapeworm would be awesome if I was trying to lose weight, but not so much while I a pregnant. Of course I gave the Hubs the pinker pieces, and he survived the night. I was just curious what others do.

And as a side note. I must have thought I was wonder woman if I was going to make this & the mac n cheese in one night. The mac n cheese took almost an 75 minutes to make & bake and this was in the oven for at least 45mins.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Gourment Mac N Cheese

Ok so I know I said we would be eating healthier and I swear to you we have. I have had some delicious string cheese over candy bars for a snack, I made Ragin Cajun Jambalaya the other night, with turkey sausage. But last night I caved. Well really last week I caved when I put this on the weekly menu. I didn't get around to making it last week, and last night I needed to make something for dinner that didn't require any defrosting.

I saw this Mac N Cheese recipe on Danielle's blog. My husband will eat anything that is wrapped in bacon, has some kind of bacon product in it, particularly he loves proscuitto. So the pancetta in this recipe caught my eye. I almost always opt for the proscuitto, but for this I stuck to the recipe & got the pancetta.

Mac and Cheese with Pancetta
Bon Appetit, September 2008
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups (or more) whole milk (I used 2%)
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 8- to 8.8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups panko
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound orecchiette or large elbow macaroni
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; saute until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add onion; saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; stir 1 minute. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter; allow to melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute. Gradually whisk in 3 1/2 cups milk; simmer until thick enough to coat spoon thickly, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in cheeses. Whisk in more milk by 1/4 cupfuls until sauce is thick but pourable. Season with salt and pepper. Do ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill uncovered until cool; cover and chill. Rewarm, stirring over medium heat.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and stir until very light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley. Do ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Return pasta to pot. Add warm cheese sauce; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over. Bake mac and cheese until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

I did sneak in some 2% milk & some 2% sharp cheddar cheese, so while the 8 Tbsp of butter probably did us in in the calorie category, I shaved some of the fat off right? I also omitted the red pepper flakes, we had enough spiciness for the day with the jambalaya.

Now a fair warning, I cook for 2 people and didn't really read the recipe before making it. Yes it does say a 13x9 pan and yes that pan is filled to the top. Needless to say, I have a TON of mac n cheese leftover. And you really can't eat a lot of it, b/c it is so rich & delicious. So if you are only cooking for like 4 people, I'd cut this recipe in half.

And b/c I felt guilty about just eating mac n cheese for dinner, I forced us to have a salad.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I saw this on my friend Stacey's blog while trying to catch up on Google Reader. Stacey is more known for her baked goods than her cooking, but since I have eaten many of those baked goodies, I knew she wouldn't steer me wrong with her cooking.

I love to make new things at home. I am always a little hesitant when making Chinese/Thai at my house. I can never get the sauce to taste just right. But this recipe was wonderful. I didn't have any red peppers, but I did have some green & yellow from our last harvest in the garden to use up. I am sure you could add whatever veggies you'd like.

Thai Chicken with Cashews


1 bunch scallions
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ½ tbsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger (or 1 ½ tsp. dried)
¼ tsp. roasted red pepper flakes
¾ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce
1 ½ tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. sugar
½ cup salted roasted whole cashews
cooked white or brown rice for serving


Chop scallions, separating white and green parts. Pat chicken dry, then cut into ¾ -inch pieces and toss with salt and pepper. Heat a wok or 12-inch heavy skillet (not nonstick) over moderately high heat until a drop of water evaporates immediately. Add oil, swirling to coat, then stir-fry chicken until golden in places and just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add bell pepper, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and scallion whites to wok and stir-fry until peppers are just tender, 5 to 6 minutes.

Stir together broth, soy sauce, cornstarch and sugar, then stir the mixture into the vegetables in the wok. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in cashews, scallion greens and chicken along with any juices accumulated on plate. Serve with rice.
A few side notes. I didn't have any scallions, so I used half a chopped yellow onion. I also decided to use my Srichchahah( I don't know how to spell it) Chile Sauce in place of the red pepper flakes. It made it pretty spicy. I put in about 1/2 tsp. And I used chicken breasts as opposed to chicken thighs.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Yes I was serious!

For those of you that left comments, yes I am pregnant.
Funny how I tried to slip it past y'all!
We are expecting the new arrival in April.

A few other notes. I have been cooking, I made a few things that we haven't seen on here in almost a year. Oh how I have missed Fall!!!

Making its second appearance at Julie's household is the Pumpkin Layered Bread. As soon as my husband saw I had pumpkin in the pantry, he said "Oh are you going to make that bread with the cream cheese in it?"
I didn't take any new pictures, so here is a link to the old post

Next up, we had chicken pot pies. So good!!!
Again, no new pictures, just a quick link & reminder that these are delicious!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuscan Bean Soup

When we did finally get back to our house, the temperature had dropped significantly. We left KC with 85 degree weather & came back to about 50 degrees. Soup was in the forecast.

Last year, about this time actually, I posted a Tuscan Bean Soup I had made with a mix from my fave winery, Viansa. The Hubs and I loved this soup. It was hearty and so good for you-full of beans & veggies. Well we cancelled our monthly delivery of wine from Viansa, so I didn't have the prepared mix to make it again. And rather than wait for it to come, I figured I could wing it.

Tuscan Bean Soup
By Jules
1 package of White Bean Provencial Soup (these are dried beans)
6 links Italian Sausage
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 1 /2 cups sliced celery
1 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups diced tomatoes
8 oz tomato paste
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup red wine
1 can kidney beans, drained
olive oil

1. Coat a large stockpot with olive oil, about 2 Tbsp. Heat over medium high. Add onions, carrots, celery & garlic. Cook until tender.
2. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, wine, bean mixture & spices, & sausage. You can either cut the sausage now or add the links whole & cut them later.
3. Bring to boil. Reduce heat & simmer for about 3 1/2 hours. (perfect to do before a football game b/c they usually take 3 hours)
4. Add the paste & the kidney beans & cook for another 45 minutes. By now the beans should be tender. Salt to taste.

When I serve this, I top it with a little grated Parmesan. This made about 8-10 servings, so put some in the freezer for a later date.
This was pretty darn close to what we had last year and so filling. Warms you to the bone.

I promise to blog for the rest of the year

This is my vow to all of you! I have gotten in a slump, went on vacation, refused to go to the grocery store, found out I was pregnant, etc... I could come up with a million reasons on why I haven't been blogging but in reality, who cares. However, my vow to blog I shall keep! My cooking passion has been re-ignited, 14 days of eating out will do that to a chef at heart. Plus, I love this time of year. Comforting casseroles, soups, Thanksgiving. I don't mind turning the oven on to bake & heat up the house. I have a million things I want to make, so I am sure this blog will be busy!!!

First off I will start with something that we made before we went on vacation. Actually, the Hubs made it. This was when I was on the no grocery store kick. This was super easy & super fast. I found it in my Pillsbury Best of 2007 recipes.

Cheesy Tomato Chicken Skillet
2 cups of pasta (I used whole wheat rotini)
3/4 lbs chicken, cut into pieces
1 can cream of chicken soup (I used the Healthy Request)
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (here I used some frozen diced tomatoes from our garden. I thawed them & drained them)
1 1/2 cup of milk
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella

1. Cook the pasta as directed
2. Heat 10 in skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken & cook thoroughly. Reduce heat to medium; stir in soup, tomatoes, milk & basil.
3. Stir in cooked pasta. Cook about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until bubbly & heated through. Sprinkle with cheese. Reduce heat, cover & let stand about 5 minutes.

So this took all of like 20 minutes to make. It wasn't all that bad for you, but it wasn't healthy. Be on the lookout for more healthy recipes in the future.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Apple Parade Part Two

The second baked goodie I made with the apples didn't quite turn out the way the recipe intended. Let's just say it was supposed to be an apple cake, that turned into apple bars. I'll explain how this happened a little later.

Again, this recipe came from the BHG cookbook. I only had to turn about 20 pages to find it. Destiny I tell you!

Apple Cake/Bars
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground all spice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup veggie oil
2 beaten eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
3 cups chopped apples (I used 2 1/2 cups of apples)
1 cup chopped pecans (I used 1 cup of raisins)

1) Grease & flour your bundt pan or whatever pan you chose to you. You may very well have to do this on three separate pans if you mess up like I did.
2) Stir together the first 5 ingredients and 1/4 tsp of salt. Set aside.
3) Mix the sugars, oil, eggs & vanilla on speed 2 if you are using a KitchenAid. Add dry mixture, ALL AT ONCE. Don't add it a 1/4 of a cup at a time, like you do for cookies or brownies. If you don't add it all at once, your mixture will become too tough and you will have bars.
4) Fold in apples & pecans or raisins
5) Bake in an oven at 350 for about an hour.

I was told by my husband's team members that the bars were awesome, better than the spiced bars I made last week. I didn't get a chance to try them b/c I was eating the cinnamon rolls. I think they would taste really good if you added some oats to it too.

An Apple Parade

I feel like maybe I should create a link on my blog for "apples". I have quite the abundance, but they did freeze well. I needed to make some kind of breakfast food for the hubs & I for the week & cinnamon rolls sounded awesome. I thought I'd add some apples and make it a little more healthy for us. So I defrosted a bag & realized I had way too many apples for the amount of cinnamon rolls I planned to make. So I made 2 apple treats, one to keep at home, one for the guys on my husband's team.

First we will start with the cinnamon rolls. I used a recipe I had used long ago. In fact, its the same one I used to use when I would bake rolls with my mom. I distinctly remember using a really thick thread to cut the rolls up. Well, now I have a really sharp knife, so much easier!

The recipe comes from my Better Homes & Gardens CookBook.
4 to 4 1/3 cups of all purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Powdered Sugar Icing (recipe follows)

1) In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of flour and the yeast. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat & stir milk, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of butter and salt until warm and butter just melts. Add milk mixture to dry mixture along with the eggs. Beat on low for 30 seconds, change to high for 3 minutes. (On my kitchenaid I did the stir setting for 30 secs & 2 or 3 for the 3 minutes, I also using the paddle) Stir in remaining flour until it becomes elastic.
2) Turn dough on floured surface and knead until it is smooth & elastic. (At this time I changed to the hook and let it knead the dough for me) Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
3) Punch dough down. Turn onto lightly floured surface & divide dough in half. Cover & let rest about 10 minutes. Lightly grease two 9" round pans.
4) roll each portion of the dough into a rectangle. Brush with melted butter. Combine the cinnamon & sugar & sprinkle over the butter (this is where I added the diced apples) Roll up, jelly style, starting from the long side. Slice each roll into about 12 pieces. Place in prepared pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
5) Bake in a 375F oven for about 20-25 minutes or until browned. Cool slightly. Drizzle with the powdered sugar icing.

Powdered Sugar Icing
1 cup of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of milk
1/4 tsp of vanilla
1) Mix in a bowl, once blended, add additional milk 1 Tbsp at a time until you have the consistency you like.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Apple Crisp

A few years ago, I received a cookbook called Nordstrom Friends and Family Cookbook. Everything I have made from this cookbook is phenomenal. I like that it also gives you additional notes, tips, stories.

From this recipe, I learned why some baked apple goods stay crisp & others are mushy. No matter how long you cook an apple pie, if you don't have the right apple, its going to stay crispy. While that is good for some people, my husband likes his apple pie, and other apple goods, nice a mushy. So Nordstrom informed me that Cortland & McIntosh collapse readily creating a soft filling. Golden Delicious and Rome hold their shape & texture for a longer time. Granny Smith falls right in the middle.

As I mentioned before, my mother-in-law gave us a 5 gallon bucket of apples & this was the first thing my husband requested that I make.

Apple Crisp
1/2 cup of firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch grated nutmeg
7 Tbsp all purpose flour
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup ice cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats

5 large apples, peeled, cored & cut into wedges (about 6 cups)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter an 8 or 9 in round or square baking pan.

To make the topping, in a bowl, stir together brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour & salt. Add the butter & oats. Using fingers or a pastry blender, work in the butter until the ingredients are well blended but not over mixed.

To assemble the crisp, spread the apples in an even layer & sprinkle with cinnamon. Drizzle the water over the apples & spread the topping over the fruit.

Bake the crisp until the topping is brown & crunchy and the apples are tender, about 25-30 minutes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Karft Food & Family

I receive the Kraft Food & Family magazine quarterly. I love getting it b/c it does give me some good ideas, but a lot of the recipes call for pre-packaged foods. Something I am not a fan of. But since I refuse to go the grocery store, pre-packaged foods have been my friend.

The latest F&F creation was the "Easy Layered Taco Bake". I really don't see what makes it "layered". When I think of layers I think of 6 layers of lasagna, or a 3 layer cake. Not meat on the bottom, mac N cheese on top. But, to each their own.

1 pkg. (7-1/4 oz.) KRAFT Macaroni & Cheese Dinner
1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. (1.25 oz.) TACO BELL® HOME ORIGINALS® Taco Seasoning Mix
1 cup TACO BELL® HOME ORIGINALS® Thick 'N Chunky Mild Salsa (We used our homemade salsa)
HEAT oven to 400ºF. Prepare Dinner as directed on package. Cook meat with taco seasoning.

LAYER seasoned meat, Dinner and salsa in 8-inch sq. baking dish.

BAKE 20 min

I ended up not being able to make dinner the night we ate this, so the Hubs cooked it up. He was pretty proud of himself & to be quite honest, it was pretty tasty. Not healthy, but quite tasty.