Friday, December 31, 2010

Mozzarella, Raspberry and Brown Sugar Panini

I found this in a magazine as part of a bunch of brunch recipes by Giada De Laurentis - it's good!! This is her recipe word for word from the magazine - I'll tell you my substitutions at the end.
I had to take a picture of my rosemary. One of my good friends has an ENORMOUS rosemary bush in her front yard (like 5 feet around and 3 feet high!) and I go over to her house to cut fresh rosemary when I need it - it's like living next door to Ina Garten:)
Mozzarella, Raspberry and Brown Sugar Panini

8 (1/2-inch thick) slices bakery-style white bread
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup raspberry jam
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
8 ounces (2 balls) fresh mozzarella, drained and patted dry
Kosher salt, optional
2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Preheat the panini press.
Using a pastry brush, brush the bread on both sides with the oil. Spread 1 side of each slice of bread with the raspberry jam. Sprinkle the rosemary over the jam. Cut the mozzarella into 8 slices. Place 2 slices of cheese on 4 of the bread slices. Season the cheese with a pinch of salt, if using. Place the remaining slices of bread on top, jam-side down. Sprinkle the tops with the brown sugar. Press in the panini press for 3 to 5 minutes until the cheese has melted and the bread is golden and crispy.
Cut the panini in half and serve.
*Instead of raspberry jam, I used Roasted Raspberry Chipotle sauce (the one I love and post about all the time!)
Also, if you don't have a panini press, you can cook it on the stove top in a sautee pan with a heavy pan on top to get that 'squished' effect, some people even use bricks wrapped in aluminum foil to weigh their sandwiches down.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pumped Up Bean Dip

My 7 year old (crazy picky eater) requests only a few things when I ask him what he would choose for dinner. Top Ramen, Shell macaroni or bean burritos - then he specifies "just beans and a tortilla - remember that Mom"
Since I am not the kind of Mom that likes to cook out of a box, so I am constantly challenging his pallet. This one is a winner - even for him:)

Pumped Up Bean Dip
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can refried beans
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 c sour cream
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 c cheddar cheese, shredded
1 c Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 medium onion, chopped

In a large microwave the cream cheese and sour cream for about 30 seconds to soften them up and make them easier to blend together. Then add all other ingredients and combine them together. Put it into an 8x8” casserole dish. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

I usually serve this as a dip with chips – but my kids often request this in a warmed up tortilla served burrito style.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Raspberry Chipotle Tacos

I made these the other night and they were such a delicious spin on your run of the mill taco's.
Raspberry Chipotle Tacos
3 or 4 chicken breasts
Fischer & Weiser Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce*

Add ingredients to your crockpot. Make sure you use enough sauce to cover the chicken completely. Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours. About 30 minutes before you are ready to eat, shred chicken and add shredded chicken back into the sauce.

Serve in a taco sauce or flour tortilla and top with all your favs. I topped mine with sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and shredded cheddar. Delish.

*I use this sauce all the time. I buy it at Costco. It's the perfect quick appetizer for unexpected guests - just put out a brick of cream cheese and pour the sauce right on top. Serve with tortilla chips. I've used it in several other applications - a definite must buy and try.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Eve Menu

We have a great arrangement between my extended family and my husbands extended family for Christmas. We spend Christmas Eve with my husbands family, Christmas morning at home with the kiddos and Christmas afternoon/dinner with my family.

Every Christmas Eve for the last 15 years we have gone to dinner with my husbands extended family to Olive Garden. They are a big Italian family and that is a tradition they've had.

Since I love tradition, but I'd rather spend our money on gifts and fun rather than food - we are going to keep the spirit of that tradition alive by having an "Italian Dinner" for Christmas Eve.

I asked my hubs and kids to tell me what he would order if we were going to go to Olive Garden so I could recreate that at home.

On The Menu:
Italian Salad
Garlic Breadsticks
3 Cheese Tortellini & Bechamel Sauce with Prosciutto
Mizithra Cheese & Browned Butter Pasta

3 Cheese Tortellini & Bechamel Sauce with Prosciutto

Here is my stand by Bechamel sauce with prosciutto - via Giada DeLaurentis - the Italian queen of cooking.
3 Cheese Tortellini & Bechamel Sauce with Prosciutto
Bechamel sauce:
1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces)
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, at room temperature
Pinch fresh nutmeg
Sea salt and white pepper
1 cup grated fontina
1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto, julienned
Fresh Butoni 3 cheese tortellini (in your refrigerated section)

Bechamel sauce:
In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Always stirring, gradually add the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, 1/2 cup fontina, prosciutto and season with salt and white pepper. Set aside.

In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water. Cook the tortellini according to package directions. Drain tortellini and fold gently into bechamel sauce. DOUBLE YUM!

Christmas Dinner Menu

This is the first year that we won't be "home for the holiday's" Hubs and I were both born and raised in Salt Lake City, but relocated out of state 2 years ago.

I have eaten the same Christmas Dinner (for the most part) for as long as I can remember. Seriously. I am big on tradition so I love the idea that this year I am going to stick with tradition.
Here are the 'traditional dishes' on the menu:
Honey Baked Ham
Funeral Potatoes
Isabelle's Thanksgiving Rolls

and the addition of Onion Beet Salad this year!

I'm super excited!! What are you making for dinner??

Onion Beet Salad

I am going to post my recipes for Christmas Dinner - but I wanted to include something on the lighter side to go with dinner. I poured over blogs, cookbooks, recipe sites and finally found a salad that sounds like it'll fit the bill. Not too heavy, but not just a plain green salad either. I found it in my new recipe book Taste of Home 2008 Annual Recipes (that I got for the bargain price of $5!! Love that!)

As I've said before - my family had no idea how much we adored beets until we tried this salad at a BBQ. I make that salad all the time - even the kids love the beets. So when I found a new recipe featuring beets - I was jazzed! When you roast or grill them they are tender and a bit sweet - and seasoned with EVOO, salt and pepper - they are super delish!!

Onion Beet Salad
12 whole fresh beets (about 2 1/2 lbs), peeled and halved
5 T EVOO, divided
1 large red onion, chopped
1/2 c balsamic vinegar
1/3 red wine vinegar
1/4 c sugar
1 T salt
1 t dried basil
1/2 t pepper

Place beets in a large resealable plastic bag; add 2 Tbsp oil. Seal bag and shake to coat. Place an 18" x 12" piece of heavy duty foil in a 15" x 10" x 1" baking pan. Arrange beets on foil; fold foil over beets and seal tightly. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 - 1 1/2 hours or until tender. (If you are doing this on the grill - wrap in foil and grill on medium heat for about the same amount of time.)
Cool to room temp. cut beets into cubes; place in a large bowl. Add onion. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegars, sugar, salt, basil, pepper and remaining oil. Pour over beet misture and gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, stirring several times. Serve with slotted spoon.
*I pulled the beets off the grill (that's that way to go baby) diced them and served them up with the onions and dressing - I didn't even let them sit a full hour and they were delish! The only warning I'd give you is that beets can stain - so be careful working with them:)

*Made this for Christmas dinner and LOVED it!! My 7 year old picky eater even ate the beets! Yum, yum!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Grilled Cheese Pizza Style

I was all out of ideas on what to make for dinner. My husband and I decided that I'd just make something easy and quick for the kids - and that we'd eat something delicious later in the evening. What did I do? Check our little food blog of course! And just like every time, I was inpired!!

Krystal gave us the original post and just as she promised - it was quick, easy and delicious! You can see her original post HERE

Grilled Cheese Pizza Style
Pizza topping (I used ham b/c that's what I had - but you can let your imagination go wild)
Bread - I used a ciabatta loaf cut length wise through the middle but you can use regular sandwich bread, french bread, etc.
Marinara Sauce

Butter butter on the down side of your bread. I used my George Foreman to make this "panini" style. Layer with cheese and ham (or whatever) the top with another slice of bread and butter that as well. Cook until cheese is nice and melted. Heat up your marinara sauce and serve in little bowls on the side for dipping!!

*One thing I wish I would've done differently - I should've layered cheese, doubled the ham and topped with another layer of cheese - that way both the top and bottom slices of bread "stick" together.

**As I said earlier - my hubs and I planned to eat something a bit more 'adult' later, but when my husband smelled what I was cooking - he couldn't resist. We ended up eating along with our kiddos and it was DELISH! My picky eater (Mr. 7 year old) even had seconds!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jack's 3 Bean Soup

Twice a month each of my kids is chosen to make dinner for the family. Today was my 7 year old Jack's turn. Since "Jack Dinner" has been listed on the chore board all week, he's been thinking about what to make. Tonight, I gave him 3 options of what to make for dinner (always easy - as I am the sous chef). He said "actually, I've been thinking about what I'd like to make. I have some ingredient ideas already and then we can figure the rest out together." ALRIGHT!
He is a creative little kiddo so I was interested in hearing what he was thinking about tonight's menu. His ingredient list was: black beans, pinto beans, corn & taco seasoning. He thought of those ingredients because "I really like bean burritos and tacos" yet another idea was "since it snowed today (never snows here!) I think it should be a warm soup" so far so good! This is what we came up with - and it was good!

I served his in our "Super Star" bowl - because what a little super star!

Jack's 3 Bean Soup
1 medium onion, diced
2 T butter
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
2 cans (or 15 oz) corn - we used frozen
4 c chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning
crunched up tortilla chips

Add butter and diced onion to your stock pot. Cook until the onion is tender and transparent. Add black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, corn, chicken broth and taco seasoning. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes.

The last 2 minutes or so, add the crunched up tortilla chips (a little trick I learned from Rachael Ray) the starch will thicken up the broth a bit and add salt.

Serve with shredded cheddar, sour cream or whatever you want on top!

*Vegetarian option if you use veggie broth instead of chicken broth.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Goody Plates

I NEVER bake. It's true. For the last 8 years of my life, I have only made a handful of cookies, desserts what have you. Not b/c I don't L-OOOO-VE them, but b/c my little kiddos have a vast amount of food allergies - mainly dealing with eggs and nuts - of which you can find in pretty much every baked goodie on the planet.

BUT... this year I have resolved to bake a bunch of Christmas goodies for me and my neighbors. The kids all love to cook - so I know we'll get some good fun in while we make goodies for our friends and neighbors. Can you see how I am multi-tasking?? Bonding while baking while teaching my little ones about sharing and caring. I am such a nerd.

Anyway... I have a few ideas - but I'd love for you to post or comment recipes that you love or that you make every holiday season!! Help a non-bakarella out!!

So Far This Is My List:
Neiman Marcus Cookies
Brown Butter Macadamia Nut Cookies
Mrs. Fields Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

In the Christmas spirit - let's share for all our sakes!!

Neiman Marcus Cookies

I got this recipe from my little sister who is the "bakerella" of our family. The following recipe makes a HUGE batch - I often cut it in half.

Neiman Marcus Cookies
2 c butter
4 c flour
2 t baking soda
2 c granulated sugar
2 c brown sugar
5 c oatmeal (measure oatmeal and blend in blender to a fine powder)
24 oz. chocolate chips
1 t salt
1 8oz Hershey bar (grated)
4 eggs
2 t baking powder
3 c chopped nuts (your choice)
2 t vanilla

Cream the butter and both sugars. add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Full recipe makes 112 cookies!!!

*I'll post pics when I make them next week.

Mrs. Fields Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Mrs. Fields Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars
8 medium butter cookies
1/4 c melted butter
Chocolate layers:
2 1/2 c Milk choc chips(15 oz)
Peanut butter filling:
1 1/2 c Creamy peanut butter
1/2 c Salted butter; softened
3 c Confectioners’ sugar
2 ts Pure vanilla extract

Crush butter cookies until finely ground. Add butter & mix. Press crumb
mixture into bottom of 8×8 baking pan & bake 10 mins. at 325 F. Cool to
room temperature.

Melt chocolate either by using your microwave or by using the double boiler method. Pour half of the chocolate into pan & smooth evenly over the crust. Place pan of crumb mixture and thin chocolate layer in fridge to cool. Keep remaining chocolate warm.

Blend peanutbutter & butter together until smooth using electric mixer. Slowly beat in confectioners’ sugar & vanilla. Beat until smooth. Spread that mixture over the chilled chocolate & crumb layer.

Pour remaining warm chocolate over top & spread smoothly. Chill in refrigerator for at least one hour. Yields 24-36 bars.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sour Cream Cucumber Salad

I can't remember where I got this recipe either! It must be December... anyway - it was good!
Sour Cream Cucumber Salad
2 seedless cucumbers, peeled and cut into 6-inch lengths
1/4 cup(s) sour cream
1 shallot, minced
1/2 tablespoon(s) Champagne vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar)
Freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoon(s) chopped dill

Using a julienne slicer, cut the cucumbers lengthwise into spaghetti-like strips, stopping when you get to the watery centers. In a bowl, sprinkle the cucumbers with salt and knead gently to soften. Rinse the cucumbers and squeeze out any excess moisture.

In a bowl, whisk the sour cream with the shallot and vinegar. Season with salt and white pepper, fold in the cucumber and dill, and serve.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dinner Backfire

Funny dinner story on my family blog - I tried to challenge my picky eater and it totally backfired... check it out at

Divine Shrimp Pasta

I can't remember where I got this recipe - but it's been in my arsenal for years. I am surprised that I haven't posted it yet - I make it so often that I probably assumed I already shared it with you!!

My husband ranks this dish in his 'top 10'. I really need a new camera - mine is so old that the pictures I take of my food just don't do justice. The sauce on this is a nice light red color - so don't worry if your dish looks different than the picture - it's my camera - it's not you:)

Divine Shrimp Pasta
1 lb pre-cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp
2 cloves minced garlic
3 T butter
1 box pasta (I usually use penne or spagetti - whatever I've got)
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 c chicken broth
8 oz tomato sauce
1 c heavy cream
1 T parsley
1 T basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat 2 T butter and 2 T EVOO in skillet to cook onion and garlic. Add chicken broth and let cook for a couple minutes. Add tomato paste sauce then heavy cream.

Thaw shrimp by running them under cold water,drain and take the tails off. In a seperate bowl, melt 1 T butter, add 1 T EVOO. Toss shrimp in the butter and oil. Then add shrimp, herbs, salt and pepper. Stir to combine then add pasta to the mix. Serve.

*If you use raw shrimp: Saute shrimp in 1 T butter and 1 T EVOO just until they are warm - and nice and pink.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mindi's Sausage Bread

My husbands sister makes this delicious bread every Thanksgiving - either for brunch or as one of the appetizers before dinner. We all LOVE this bread - but since it's just the 5 of us in my house and we wouldn't get to dinner if this was on the table before the turkey was ready, we've decided to promote this delicious baby to be the star at the brunch table on St. Nikklaus Day.
Mindi's Sausage Bread
1 1/2 lbs Jimmy dean Sausage (ground)
2 Rhodes frozen bread dough loaves
Mozzarella cheese
12 slices of provolone cheese
2 t garlic
2 T Butter

Leave bread out the night before. Brown sausage and set aside. Saute garlic in butter and EVOO. Roll out bread dough (on a floured surface) into approx 9x13 rectangle. Brush half garlic mix over bread. Add one layer each of sausage, provolone and mozzerella. Roll up. Brush with remaining garlic mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly and then slice as you would bread. DELISH!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Feast

Alright - I've done it. I know it's several days after Turkey Day - but I've done it. I posted all my Thanksgiving recipes and I honestly loved every single one of them and plan to use these same recipes again next year.

I truly am sorry that I didn't post these recipes prior to Turkey Day - but I had to test them out to make sure I could put my guarantee on them - especially b/c we are talking about the most important meal of the year.

PLUS, you can always use these recipes for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years, a special Sunday dinner - or an amazing surprise dinner for your spouse or another loved one!!

First up: Appetizer Tray
Main Course: Sausage and Herb Stuffing
Decadent Mashed Potatoes
Isabelles Thanksgiving Rolls
Patty's Beet Salad
Alton Browns Super Tasty, No Fuss, Time Tested, Totally Foolproof Bird (with a bonus section from Bobby Flay about how to carve your turkey.)

Since I've already posted about this tried and true blue fav - I won't repost. Just follow the link for Decadent Mashed Potatoes and then join me in my crusade to bathe in a vat of this decadence.
And another shot of Patty's Beet Salad - seriously delish. My 7 year old pickiest eater son usually has this salad sans the beets or the Feta (gorgonzola is preferred - but when you are dealing with kids - it's the best substitute) Anyway... said 7 year old tried these (warm off the grill beets) and exclaimed that they were his new fav veggie. BOO YA!

Appetizer Platter

My husband is the greatest short order breakfast cook in the universe. Breakfast is his gig. The kids know that M-F it's toast, cereal and yogurt but when Saturday, Sunday or a holiday roll around - Daddy brings out the big guns and it's a breakfast lovers dream!

I really should've taken a pic of breakfast - this year for Thanksgiving we had the usual - omelettes, pancakes and bacon.

Since I planned to eat dinner around 4:30 - I wanted to do a light snacky lunch. I set this platter of yummies (no assembly required by me!) on the kitchen table and everytime my little peeps came by - they'd grab a little snack.
We had: pear apple slices (Costco - cheap and delicious!), cubed cheddar and mozzerella, carrot sticks with ranch dip, green olives and raw asparagus wrapped in cream cheese and ham. Yummy and light.

There was another layer of asparagus/ham rolls before I took the pic - but my kids are just too fast for me. And yes, I did just say kids and asparagus in the same sentance:)

Sausage and Herb Stuffing

As I've mentioned, this is the first time I've EVER done Thanksgiving dinner all by myself. I did a lot of research on Turkey and Stuffing in particular b/c those are 2 things I've never made.

Krystal (another author of this blog) told me that she is a 'stuffing snob' and although she was sweet enough to send me the ingred list for her Mom's famous stuffing - she didn't give me measurements. Normally - I just wing it - but when I try something so crucial to the most important meal of the year - I have to have atleast ball park measurements.

So... I went to my go to, never fail me, culinary hero, Ina Garten for her recipe - and she didn't fail me!!
Sausage and Herb Stuffing - Barefoot Contessa
16 cups 1-inch bread cubes, white or sourdough (1 1/2 pound loaf)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups medium-diced yellow onion (2 onions)
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and large-diced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 7 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the bread cubes to a very large bowl.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, melt the butter and add the onions, celery, apples, parsley, salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add to the bread cubes.

In the same saute pan, cook the sausage over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through, breaking up the sausage with a fork while cooking. Add to the bread cubes and vegetables.

Add the chicken stock and cranberries to the mixture, mix well, and pour into a 9 by 12-inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top and hot in the middle. Serve warm.

In doing my research, all the 'foodies' on the food network, cookbooks, etc. The 'newschool' way of thinking is NOT to stuff the turkey. Logic being that stuffing the bird brings down the temp of the oven, and by the time the stuffing is done, the turkey has been over cooked and is dried out. SO... I followed the rules and was VERY pleased with the outcome.

Instead of white bread, I used those delicious steak rolls that come in a bag at Costco (I know that is totally cheating - but what can I say?? I did the whole darn Turkey dinner - not too shabby!

I excluded the cranberries and the apples - my husband has a thing about mixing fruit with meat - and it was fantastic.

Isabelle's Thanksgiving Rolls

I have also posted about my sister Megan's Famous Rolls - which are very similar and also delish - but after making BOTH my Mom's (Isabelle) and my sisters recipes on 3 seperate occasions - the verdict is in and Isabelle came out on top (thank you Kenny and Davis families!)

I also prefer this recipe b/c it doesn't have eggs in it - and 2 of my kids have egg allergies...

I should also tell you that I made 2 dozen (what this recipe yields) they were hot out of the oven as we sat down to dinner and were gone by breakfast the next morning (that's only 2 adults and 3 kids under 7 folks)
Isabelle's Thanksgiving Rolls
2 T yeast
3/4 c warm water
2 2/3 c warm water
1/4 c sugar
1 T salt
3 T vegetable oil
7 - 8 c flour
Dissolve yeast in 3/4 c warm water. Add this to the rest of the water in a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingred except flour and mix together. Add flour 1 c at a time and stir until you have to use your hands to mix. Knead dough for about 5-8 minutes, adding a little flour at a time to help dough not to be too sticky. Flour your hands as well as the surface you are working on. Place in bowl and cover with a dish towel, let rise about 1 hour.
Punch down dough and divide in half. With a rolling pin roll out one of the dough balls into a circle about 12" in diameter. Spread dough with melted butter. Cut into 12 pieces. Roll each wedge from the fat end inward. Repeat with other dough ball. Place crescents on cookie sheets, 12 to a sheet. Cover with dish towel and let rise until double (about 1 hour). Bake in preheated oven at 425 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes. Brush with melted butter.
*My mom's original recipe says bake for 20-25 minutes - but her stove is waaaay old school. It only takes 10 - 12 min tops in my oven at home.
**Also - a funny side note - when I went to link to my sister Megan's recipe I realized that the pic I posted was of her rolls on this same plate! Guess when I like a serving platter - I really use it!! LOL!

Alton Brown's Super-Tasty, No-Fuss, Time-Tested, Totally Foolproof Bird

You are totally sold right? I didn't even make up that Recipe name - that is what it's actually called!!
I know I am totally posting late - but this is the first year I've done Thanksgiving dinner all by myself - so I wanted the recipes to be tested and guaranteed delicious before posting - keep this one in mind for Christmas, a fancy Sunday dinner or a nice surprise for your loved one's birthday... def making this turkey again!!!

Alton's Super-Tasty, No-Fuss, Time-Tested, Totally Foolproof Bird
1 14-16lb turkey (he calls for frozen – but I used fresh and it was fantastic!)

For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

2 to 3 days before roasting:
Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat:
Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining. *Don't be too worried about the 'brine time' I put my turkey in the brine on Wed afternoon and didn't take it out until 24? hours later. Brine is like a marinade - as long as you give it the minimum amount of time - you are fine.*
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

**I know what you are thinking - Why did you stuff the bird with aromatics instead of stuffing?? To see that answer - link here.
AND WE CAN'T FORGET ABOUT CARVING THE PUMPKIN! *Oh. My. Goodness. It's been 3 weeks since I posted this and while looking for a different recipe - I noticed that I wrote "PUMPKIN" when I really meant "TURKEY" durrrr...
Bobby Flay’s carving tips:
He used the tip of his knife to separate both breasts from the bird. Then he seperates the legs and as far as the dark meat goes, he just pulls it off (looks like shredded chicken) with his fingers. Then, he slices the breast into chunky pieces (probably 1 ½” thick) and plates. Then – see below.
Leave yourself time between roasting and carving. "Let the turkey rest for at least 45 minutes," suggests Bobby, "so the juices stay in tact when you cut it."
Cut thick slices. "I never could understand why people like to slice the turkey thinly," Bobby says. "You really want to keep the moisture in by actually cutting it thicker." He says that cutting it in thin slices makes the meat dry out very quickly.
Give the turkey a soak before serving. "The key to thanksgiving is one ingredient: Chicken stock!" Bobby reveals. "[Have] Hot chicken stock on your stove so that when you've [carved] this a half an hour ahead of time ... it brings back the moisture and makes it hot!"

Thursday, November 18, 2010


My daughter had her birthday this week. In our family the birthday honoree gets to choose what the family eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This year she requested Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner.

Everytime I make meatballs - I just kinda wing it - I mean how hard can it be? It's meat and you roll it into a ball!! LOL. This time, I decided to write down the recipe for my own knowledge and I'm sharing it with you!

This makes A LOT of meatballs - but with my family of 5 (all 3 kids are under 8) there were NO leftovers...

Jen's Meatballs

1 1/2 lbs ground turkey

1 1/2 lbs ground italian sausage (I use mild b/c of my kids - but feel free to go crazy!)

2 c Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

2 T Emeril's Essence (original Bam)

2 t parsley

2 t oregano


Fav Marinara sauce

Get your hands in there and mix all those ingredients together. Use your Tablespoon to help you eyeball your meatballs size wise. I use a generous, heaping Tablespoon full for each meatball.

Fill the bottom of a large pan - about 1/4 inch full - of EVOO. Heat the oil on medium for just a minute or two before adding your meatballs. Cook a couple of minutes on all sides (you know when one side is done - it'll be nice and brown.

Make sure your pan isn't too hot - if it is, you will end up with nice browned meatballs and all sides - but they will be raw in the middle. You want to really let those meatballs take their time to cook so that the outside and insides are cooking evenly. I have a very large pan, so I only had to do 2 batches. I poured out the oil in between batches - just out of preference. If you do swap out your oil, make sure to clean up any oil that dripped over the side/bottom of your pan. If you don't carefully check that - that oil will catch on fire. Are you scrred? Don't be - I'm just giving you a few tips to make everything easy peasy and have everything run smoothly.

Meanwhile, in another pan (large enough to include the meatballs) heat your fav marinara sauce. When all of your meatballs are finished, add them to the marinara and let simmer just a few minutes - you don't want your meatballs to get too soggy. SERVE!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spice Coated Pork Tenderloin

Angie posted her go to recipe for pork tenderloin over a year and a half ago - I just made it and HOLY SMOKES it was gooood! Def worth a re-post!!
We usually marinate and grill our pork loin - doing it this way was awesome! Wall loved it!
Spice Coated Pork Tenderloin
2 T chili powder
2 T packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 t salt
1 t ground cumin
1/4 t ground cinnamon
2 (3/4 lb) pork tenderloins
1 1/2 T oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together all dry ingredients. Sprinkle pork with spice mixture, pressing onto all sides.
Heat large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil; heat until hot. Add pork and cook 3-5 minutes or until browned on all sides. Place on a jellyroll pan and put into oven. Bake 12-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Place on cutting board, cover loosely with foil. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.
*I actually doubled the the dry mix and it rocked!! Thanks Angie!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stuffed Shells

I read an article in the November issue of Martha Stewart Living about stuffed shells. The author put her recipe in the issue - and also gave some great tips. Since I was at the doctor's office - I couldn't bring her recipe home with me - but I did bring her tips home (in my head) and I'm here to share them with you!!

Her tips were: Fill them with anything and everything your family loves. Always cook a double batch of shells b/c they freeze extremely well and so does whatever you stuff them with. She said in particular that cheese freezes very well (something I'd never thought about).

S0 - on my way home, I dropped by the store and grabbed some jumbo shells and some ricotta and made these babies...
Stuffed Shells
12 oz box of Jumbo Shells
16 oz Ricotta cheese
8 oz Mozzerella cheese either shredded or diced into small cubes
1/2 c Parmesan, shredded
2 T parsley
salt and pepper
Fav pasta sauce

Cook pasta per directions on box. Meanwhile, add all other ingredients and mix until combined. *I looked up a few recipes for stuffed shells and all of them included 1 or 2 eggs used as a binder - I chose to omit eggs b/c my kids have egg allergies and we didn't miss it one bit!*

PAM a casserole dish (size depends on how many you are serving - I guesstimated 3 shells per child and 6 per adult) After the shells are cooked, stuff them with a big spoonful of cheese mixture and set them in the casserole dish. Cover with your favorite pasta sauce (marinara is traditional - but I promised my 5 year old that next time I'd make them with alfredo). Sprinkle with more parm and more parsley.

Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until sauce is nice and bubbly.

**You can really go crazy with the 'stuffing' you can use any cheese you like - next time I think I'll try Fontina in lieu of Mozzerella just to kick it up a bit. You can also add any meat, onions, leeks, what have you!!

Roasted Red Pepper Toasts

If you've been on this blog before - you know that I LOVE my cheats. I was at Costco last week and saw a big jar of "TASSOS Fire Roasted Florinas Peppers Whole Sweet" total inpiration for many, many cheater recipes!! So I scooped em up and came up with this little honey of a recipe...

Roasted Red Pepper Toasts
2 or 3 roasted red peppers, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic
2 oz cream cheese
salt and pepper
Sourdough loaf

Sautee red pepper, onion and garlic until the onion is translucent. In the meantime slice the sourdough in thick pieces and toast them (I just used my toaster - but you can use your oven too).

Spread cream cheese on each toast, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with a big spoonfull of red pepper mixture and ENJOY!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Brussels Spouts Gratin

As promised, I am trying out possible Thanksgiving recipes. These new recipes are all vying for a position on my Thanksgiving table this year - and possibly for years to come. That's a lot of pressure to put on these sides - but it's Thanksgiving for crying out loud!
I found this recipe in Food Network Magazine - the November issue. It was under their "Learn To Love It" "DARE" section. And since I am a sucker for a dare - you know I had to try this - that coupled with the fact that putting more veggies on the table is just a good idea - for Thanksgiving - or on a Monday night.

Brussels Sprouts Gratin
2 T butter but into pieces
1 lb Brussels sprouts, outer leaves and stems removed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c grated white cheddar cheese
1/2 c breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and butter a 2 qt. baking dish. bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook until tender, 8 - 10 minutes.

Drain the Brussels sprouts and coarsley chop. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and toss with the red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste, then spread out evenly. pour the cream on top, sprinkle with the cheese and breadcrumbs and dot with the butter pieces.

Bake the gratin until bubbly and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

AND... it was good! How can you not LOVE something that is made with heavy cream and cheese? I am sure this will end up in my top 5...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thanksgiving Is Right Around The Corner!

Now that soccer season and the craziness of September and October are over... I finally get to turn my attention to Thanksgiving!!

We took a road trip recently and I got to peruse a bunch of food mags. I have a definite 'go to' recipe for both my Mashed Potatoes and my sweet potatoes, but I have been on the search for another veg dish for years.

Last year, I made Michael Symons Brussels Sprouts. They were good - but a bit too heavy amongst so many other heavy foods. So the search goes on...
I will be testing out a few of these babies in the next week or two:

Creamy Broccoli with Cashews
Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts
Creamy Vegetable Casserole
Buttered Turnip Puree
Brussels Sprouts Gratin

I'll let you know how each recipe turns out as I make them! Do you have any 'go to' veggie sides on your Thanksgiving menu? PLEASE SHARE!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pesto Aioli


The other night I made salmon and wanted to mix it up a bit. So - I got my go to Kirkland brand pesto sauce and the mayo out of my fridge. I mised equal parts together and VOILA! Pesto Aioli!!
Serve on top of Simple Salmon - gourmet dinner in less than 5 minutes flat!


I asked my cute neighbor what she was making for dinner the other day - and she said "stromboli" and proceeded to give me her totally cheater guide to a good stromboli.

1 loaf of french bread f
Lunch meat

Cut the loaf of bread in half horizontally so you end up with a top and a bottom for your sandwich. Spread marinara on one side of the bread (generously). Top with your fav lunch meat (I use ham) then layer on your fav cheese (I use provolone).

Wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (just until the cheese is all melty). Slice and serve!

See - I told you it was easy!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dinner In A Pumpkin

Every October, usually a few days before Halloween I make this recipe. The kids get so excited!!
I wasn't going to post this picture - b/c the dinner just doesn't look appetizing - BUT as my husband says "this is the best prison food I've ever had!" (because of the way it looks) but I promise it'll make up for it's terrible appearance in TASTE - and since you'll be stuffing your face with this - that's all that matters!!
Dinner In A Pumpkin
1 1/2 lbs ground sausage (hamburger or turkey)
1 onion, diced
2 T vegetable oil
2 T Soy sauce
2 T Brown sugar
1 can cream of chicken(mushroom, etc)soup
1 1/2 c cooked rice
1 can water chestnuts, diced

Cook ground sausage. Add all other ingredients together and put into a cleaned out pumpkin.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until pumpkin meat is tender.

I'll post a picture as soon as that baby comes out of the oven!

*When you clean out your pumpkin, just get all the seeds and stringy yuck out. Leave as much flesh as possible - if you haven't eaten pumpkin before - it's good - similar to squash.
**I add whatever else I have on hand - corn, carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Feel free to go crazy!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cheesy Onion Soup

I've been making this soup for a few years and I haven't come up with a better name - any suggestions??

I came up with this soup because of my love affair with onions - and my love of cheesy, hearty soups...

3 T butter
3 T flour
1 1/4 c half and half
1 medium onion thinly sliced
2 T butter
16 oz chicken broth
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1/3 c diced Velveeta (packed down)

Make the roux first. In a small sauce pan, on medium heat, let the butter melt and add the flour - whisking so there are no lumps and whisk until the mixture becomes thick and comes away from the side of the pan. Slowly add half and half stirring constantly. Set aside.

In a large sauce pan sautee butter and onions until the onions are transparent - but not browned (careful here!) Add chicken broth, boullion cubes and salt and pepper to taste. Add the roux (white sauce) and Velveeta cheese. Simmer on medium to low heat until cheese is melted and all ingredients are blended. Turn the heat up to medium and let cook an additional 30 minutes stirring occasionally.

Garnish with shredded cheese.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Roasted Tomatoes

IF you are a fan of tomatoes - especially roasted tomatoes - you'll love this recipe.

I happen to be a BIG fan of them - hubs, not so much - but even he agreed that these little babies were yummm....
Roasted Tomatoes
Tomatoes on the vine (doesn't matter what kind - or how many)
Fresh cracked black pepper
Kosher salt

Cut tomatoes in half or in quarters (depending on the size of the tomato - you want them to be a big bite sized)

Place tomatoes cut side down on a cookie sheet and drizzle them with olive oil, black pepper and salt.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes - just until the tomatoes are soft and warm. Serve as a salad itself, on top of a pizza, on top of a green salad, on top of a crunchy baguette slice - any way you want.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spinach Pie

I've been wanting to make this recipe F.O.R.E.V.E.R. I finally did and it was delish!
Spinach Pie – Barefoot Contessa
3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
3 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
6 extra-large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons dry plain breadcrumbs (I LOVE panko)
1/2 lb feta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 lb salted butter, melted
6 sheets phyllo dough, defrosted
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium saute pan on medium heat, saute the onions with the olive oil until translucent and slightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and allow to cool slightly.
Squeeze out and discard as much of the liquid from the spinach as possible. Put the spinach into a bowl and then gently mix in the onions, egg, nutmeg, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, feta and pine nuts.
Butter an ovenproof, non-stick, 8-inch saute pan and line it with 6 stacked sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with melted butter and letting the edges hang over the pan.
Pour the spinach mixture into the middle of the phyllo and neatly fold the edges up and over the top to seal in the filling.
Brush the top well with melted butter.
Bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden brown and the filling is set.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Serve at room temperature.
**I also added a few layers of phyllo on top for extra crunch:)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup with Fontina Cheese Crostinis

I got this recipe from Giada De Laurentis on Food Network - yummy!!
Butternut Squash Soup with Fontina Cheese Crostinis
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 7 to 8 cups)
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 baguette, sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
1 cup (2 ounces) grated fontina cheese
Kosher salt
In an 8-quart stockpot, add the butter and oil and melt together over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the squash and the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the sage. Continue to boil until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Keep the soup warm over low heat.

For the crostini: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sage. Sprinkle the cheese on top and season with salt, to taste. Bake until the cheese has melted and the bread is light golden, about 6 to 8 minutes.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the cheese crostini.

Cook's Note: The cooked vegetable mixture can also be pureed (after cooling for about 5 minutes) by ladling, in batches, into a food processor or blender and blended until smooth.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chinese Simmer Chicken

I got this recipe from my brother in law a long, long time ago. It's his claim to fame.
Chinese Simmer Chicken
2 lbs chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 c soy sauce
1/4 c cooking sherry (which I never use)
1/2 c water
2 T ketchup
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 bunch of green onions, diced
1/2 t red pepper

Thickening agent:
2 T cornstarch
2 T water
1 t sesame oil

Mix the first 9 ingredients together and let marinate for at least an hour. Place in sauce pan and heat to boil. Reduce to simmer over until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan once it is cooked. Bring sauce back to a boil. Slowly add the thickening agent mix, constantly stirring until desired thickness.

Serve on top of rice or noodles. Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds (if you've got them).

I usually make this without the red pepper flakes b/c of my little kiddos. After everyone is served, I add red pepper flakes to both my plate and my husbands to add that little kick.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup Deluxe!

I am waaaay too excited for fall. It has been in the high 80's here until... Wednesday, when the temp dropped to the low 70's and it rained all day long. I was so excited that I made "Veggie Chow-da".

With my excitement out of control - I also got a serving of pureed sun dried tomatoes and a serving of pesto out of the freezer and into the fridge just so I could make this soup. Even though the weather returned to the high 80's the next day - this was so delicious!

I posted this recipe for Creamy Tomato Basil Soup a while ago. I varied the recipe from the original this time. I wanted to add a few more layers of flavor to give the soup a bit more depth and subtle notes of flavor (woot! listen to me talkin about food - I think I'm so cool - LOL)

I swear that I posted my 'gourmet cheats' but after looking through the blog - I couldn't find it. I'll post it again and it will help this recipe make more sense to you.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup Deluxe!
1/2 c (1 stick) butter
1 c all purpose flour
4 c chicken broth
4 c half & half*
1 1/2 c marinara sauce
1 14.5 can diced tomatoes or 8 to 10 small vine ripened tomatoes, diced
1 c sundried tomatoes, pureed
1/2 c prepared pesto
Coarse salt and ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and stir for 5 minutes to slightly brown the mixture and create a roux. Wisk in the broth. Increase the heat and cook and stir until thickened. Decrease the heat to low, stir in the half and half and simmer for 20 minutes.Stir in the marinara sauce, tomatoes, sundried tomatoes and pesto and cook until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
*I have used both full fat and fat free half & half - since it is used as a thickening agent, the taste is nearly the same using either.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Veggie Chow-da

I didn't realize that Krystal had posted a recipe for her Garden Veggie Chowder already. They are similar - but with enough differences that I thought I'd post.

I looked in my freezer and realized that I had so many veggies just begging to be eaten! I have been trying to do a Veggie entree at least once a week - so I came up with the 'recipe' while on my walk this morning...

*you can use any and all veggies you have - this is just what I threw in the pot today!

Veggie Chow-da
Asparagus, blanched or steamed (or thawed), cut into 1 - 2" pieces
Carrots, diced
Celery, diced
Onion, diced
Broccoli, blanched or steamed (or thawed)
Corn, drained (or thawed)
Potatoes (I use frozen square hashbrowns - and I don't even thaw them)
2 - 3 T EVOO (olive oil)
32 oz (4 cups) stock (veggie, chicken - what have you)
4 T flour
1/3 c butter (softened or room temp)
2 1/2 - 3 c half and half
Garlic powder
Salt & pepper to taste

Put EVOO in a large stock pot. Add onions. Cook them down until they are translucent. Add all veggies and stock. Bring up to a boil then turn down to a simmer for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, add butter and flour in a small sauce pot and whisk until combined and smooth. Add slowly to the veggie and stock soup you have working. Let simmer for another 5 minutes or so. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Add half and half - continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes to bring up the soup to temp and also to give the half and half time to thicken the soup.

Garnish with shredded cheese and serve with a big ol' hunk of bread to dunk in this delish soup!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Evans Broccoli Salad

I got this recipe from my sister's Mother In Law. She makes it for every 'special' dinner they have - it's tried and true!
Evans Broccoli Salad
1 lb sliced mushrooms
1 or 2 heads broccoli
1 bunch green onions

3/4 c sugar
2/3 c rice wine vinegar
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 t salt
1 t celery salt
1 t onion powder
1 t paprika
1/8 t pepper

Combine ingredients for dressing and set aside.

Prepare the remainder of the ingredients - combine with dressing. Let refrigerate a few hours before service.

*I didn't use mushrooms - which I usually do. I also make this salad with cucumbers instead of mushrooms - my kids like it better that way!

**I also added toasted almonds for a little 'crunch.' Sun flower seeds would be a good topper too:)

Sample Menu

I know I'm waaay off - but I just wanted to update on what I'm making this week. It's still hot here - I can't wait for it to cool down so I can start making soups and nice warm casseroles...

Anyway... I've been meal planning around proteins & veggies. This week I bought chicken and ground beef. For the veggies, I bought spinach, asparagus and broccoli (and romain lettuce OF COURSE!)

I am just going to list the "entrees" and the "sides" seperate:

Basil & Spinach Pizza
Enchilada Bake
Chinese Simmer Chicken
Beef Tacos
Monterey Chicken
Creamy Asparagus Pasta

Spinach Parmesan
Grilled Asparagus
Evans Broccoli Salad
Green Salad
Eleanor's Black Beans
Fried Rice

Freezing Veggies

I've probably posted something similar - but it's such a basic that not a lot of people research. I hate to waste food. I've tried to only buy 2 or 3 veggies per week so that they get eaten and don't go bad. BUT, there are always those weeks...

I have a great menu planned for this week - but my husband just told me that he is leaving today to go out of town and won't be back until Friday. That makes a big difference as far as consumption goes.

I usually buy my veggies in bulk (from Costco) and since he won't be here this week - I froze the veggies that won't get eaten this week.

Today, I seperated portions of asparagus and broccoli that will get eaten by me and the kiddos this week - and froze the rest. These instructions go for both:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add in veggies (broccoli or asparagus in this case). Par boil them for 3-5 minutes (they will be bright green). Drain the veggie and "shock" them in a bowl of cold water (I put ice cubes in mine to speed the process and lock in that great color). Let the veggie's sit in the cold water for a few minutes. Drain again and put in a freezer safe container or Ziplock bag.
To thaw: set them out on the counter a few hours before you need to use them OR put them in a sink of cold water to thaw them out quicker.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Steakhouse Steaks

I got this recipe from Ina Garten. My husband is the 'steak guy' and thus far I have refused to pick out steaks. If he wants one - he goes and picks out the meat and grills it. In this case - I wanted to treat him and try steaks a different way. I went to my local Butcher (like a real live meat shop that only sells meat) and asked the butcher for 2 10 oz filet mignon steaks (just as BFC said to) and when I took said steaks to the cashier I just about fainted when she rang me up and the total was $25.00.

The steaks were good - don't get me wrong - they were excellent - BUT if you don't want to drop $25 for 2 pieces of meat - I am sure that you could substitute your favorite cut instead.
Steakhouse Steaks - Barefoot Contessa
2 (10-ounce) filet mignon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat a large, well-seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and brush them lightly with vegetable oil. Combine the fleur de sel and cracked pepper on a plate and roll the steaks in the mixture, pressing lightly to evenly coat all sides.
When the skillet is ready, add the steaks and sear them evenly on all sides for about 2 minutes per side, for a total of 10 minutes.

Top each steak with a tablespoon of butter, if using, and place the skillet in the oven. Cook the steaks until they reach 120 degrees F for rare or 125 degrees F for medium-rare on an instant-read thermometer. (To test the steaks, insert the thermometer sideways to be sure you're actually testing the middle of the steak.)

Start checking the steaks after about 15 minutes in the oven. They should be close to done.

Remove the steaks to a serving platter, cover tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Easiest Empanadas Ever!

I have always wanted to work with puff pastry - so I bought some a while ago. I kept seeing it in the freezer but was unsure what to do with it. I knew whatever I made with it that it would be delicious, but since I had never used puff pastry - I felt like I had to make something extra special.

I had all these half-baked (wahaha) ideas that just never came to fruition... finally I just decided the heck with it and that I was going to use it and just wing it - turned out super delish!!
Easy Empanadas
3 medium sized boneless skinless chicken breasts, shredded
Cream cheese (your fav savory flavor - I used chive and onion)
2 sheets defrosted puff pastry
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder to taste
1 egg

I am going to tell you how I did it -there are obviously many, many ways to get shredded chicken...

I put the chicken in my crock pot with 1qt of chicken stock, set it on high for 2 1/2 hours. Pulled it out and shredded it with 2 forks. Seasoned it with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Set out the puff pastry about 45 minutes before you are ready to use it. Make sure you PAM your baking sheet and that you seperate the sheets from each other so they thaw in that time frame.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Unfold the dough and cut each sheet into 4 squares. Put about 1/4 cup of the shredded chicken on one side of each of the squares. Make sure you leave room at the edges to crimp it closed.

Add a small spoonful of your fav cream cheese on top of the chicken. Use a small amount of water on your finger to wet the corners on the 'filled' side of the pastry. Fold the 'unfilled' half of the pastry over the chicken mixture so you have a triangle. Seal the filling in by crimping the edges with a fork.

Use egg wash (one egg + 1 T water) on top of the pastry to get that little golden hint and a bit of shine.

Cook at 375 for about 15 minutes.

I cut them in half and we ate them like pizzas - so super delish!!!

*My hubs dipped his in Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce (by Fischer & Weiser) yummmmm...

I am excited to experiment more with puff pastry! Do you have a fav recipe you use it for?

Bucatini and Broccolini Pasta

I saw this recipe on the Rachael Ray show. I had extra broccoli I needed to use up and this looked like the perfect way to do it!

This recipe is delicious, very healthy and so cheap!
Bucatini and Broccolini Pasta
Salt and pepper
*1 pound bucatini pasta
*2 bunches broccolini, 1 head romanesco or 1 large bunch broccoli rabe
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO )
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced or chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
A few grates nutmeg
Grated or shaved Pecorino Romano cheese, to pass around the table

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a ladleful of the pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, bring a few inches of water to a boil. Cut the broccolini into 3-4-inch pieces and halve the larger florets (or trim the romanesco and cut into thin florets, or trim the broccoli rabe and cut into 3-4-inch pieces). Salt the boiling water in the skillet, add the broccolini (or romanesco or broccoli rabe) and parboil for 4 minutes. Drain well and let cool on a clean towel.
In the same skillet, heat the EVOO, four turns of the pan, over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir for 2 minutes, then add the crushed red pepper and stir for a minute more. Add the broccolini (or romanesco or broccoli rabe) and season with the nutmeg. Add the pasta and reserved cooking water and toss vigorously for a minute or two. Season with salt and black pepper. Pass the Pecorino-Romano at the table for topping.

*I used whole wheat spaghetti and 2 heads of regular broccoli
**I also sauteed 1/2 c onions before I started the garlic (b/c I just LOVE onions!)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Buffalo Salad

My hubs travels a lot. He was coming home tonight so I wanted to serve him something special. He LOVES buffalo wings - like LOVES them. I decided to incorporate his love of that flavor into a main dish - this is what I came up with and it was freakin' delish!!
Buffalo Salad
2 heads romaine lettuce
½ c chopped celery
1/2 c crumbled blue cheese
3/4 c Ranch dressing
3 chicken breasts (bscb)
2 T butter
1/3 c Franks Red Hot Sauce
1 T Salad Supreme (spice aisle)

Add EVOO to your sautee pan. Cut your chicken into bite sized pieces and add to the oil. Cook until no longer pink. Add butter, Franks and Salad Supreme. Simmer for a few more minutes to allow the flavors to marry.

Chop and wash your lettuce and celery and plate it. Top with chicken and dressing – top with blue cheese.

*I had soccer practice, so I made the chicken in the afternoon and then put it in the fridge so I could throw this together at the last minute.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Crock Pot Goulaush

I don't have another name for this - I put it together on the fly. I didn't take a picture b/c it just looks like goulaush - which doesn't look so pretty - but tastes amazing:)

Jen's Crock Pot Goulaush
6 sausages (your preference - mild, sweet, hot)
1 bag of frozen hasbrowns (the cubed kind - not the shredded kind)
1 diced onion
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup (or whatever cream of ... you have on hand)
Bag of fresh (or frozen) broccoli
2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients except cheese together. Cook in your crock pot on high for 4 hours - stirring occasionally. The last 30 - 45 minutes, add the cheese.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Green Chile Sauce

I bought 25lbs of roasted green chiles - so you'll probably see a bunch of recipes with those in it (if you don't have fresh roasted chiles - you can use canned)
I found this recipe - it's a Bobby Flay recipe so you know it's good!! The honey really balances out the heat nicely.
Green Chile Sauce – Bobby Flay
2 poblano chiles, grilled, peeled, seeded, and chopped (I used green chiles)
1 medium white onion, grilled and chopped
1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh epazote, or fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

*Obviously - I multiplied this recipe. I poured the sauce into containers to freeze so that we can enjoy this deliciousness year round

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ode to Parmesan

My husband called me a few days ago and asked what we were having for dinner. This is pretty odd. He loves everything I make - so requests are pretty rare. He told me that he was starving and that he really wanted me to make spaghetti and meatballs with a Ceasar salad on the side.

I don't really have a recipe for these meatballs - I didn't measure anything. I used ground turkey, pesto sauce, italian style breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and sauteed onions - I'll measure next time and post the recipe.

Anyhow... my husbands comment about this meal (other than it hitting the spot) was about the Parmesan. "I love that you have been using fresh parmesan - everyone should - it makes a HUGE difference".

He is right - and I thought you should know about it too!! I just buy a chunk at the grocery store and use my cheese slicer to shave a little on lots of things! It really 'bumps up' the presentation factor and the taste difference is wonderful!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Meatloaf - Bacon Cheeseburger Style

As I've mentioned - I recently moved. Before the move, I was using up all of my 'freezer stuff' for dinners. Now, we are in the new house, I've been too busy to even hit the grocery store so the only thing I had in my freezer was 1 lb of ground beef.

It's hard for me to come up with ideas to use with ground beef. It's basically burgers, spagetti, burritos, etc...
Then it hit me - meatloaf - but kicked up somehow... this is what I came up with:

Meatloaf - Bacon Cheeseburger Style
1 lb ground beef
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (with the juice)
1/2 an onion, diced
1 lb bacon, crumbled
1 1/2 c cheddar cheese, shredded
1 stack of Ritz crackers, crumbled
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder all to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with your hands. After it is all incorporated, put into a 9x13 casserole. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

When you put the meatloaf in the oven - it will be a solid(ish) piece. When it is done cooking, the meatloaf will be surrounded by a 'soup.' It's the juice from the can of the tomatoes, as well as the water that has cooked out of the tomatoes. This 'soup' keeps the meatloaf nice and moist - I had hoped that would happen and it did!! A little 'bonus' for me!

I used a slotted spoon to serve - so that all that is left on the plate is that delicious, moist meat. Sweets said "this is the best meatloaf I have ever had in my life" he is a good husband who compliments my food often - but he was raised having his mothers meat loaf as one of his favorite dinners - so I was pretty dern proud of myself:)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ham & Broccoli Bake

I am in the middle of moving from one side of town to the other - so when I heard little stomach growls from my kids - I knew I needed to whip up something FAST! This is what I whipped up...
This recipe is so versatile. You really can use any protein, veggies and cheese you like.
Ham and Broccoli Bake
2 cups Diced Ham
1 cup Velveeta cheese, diced
1 cup sauteed onions
2 cups broccoli (steamed or frozen and thawed)
Salt & pepper to taste
Pillsbury "pizza crust"
Sautee your onions, add ham, broccoli and cheese. Mix. Spread out pizza crust on a baking sheet (rectangular). Spoon mixture onto the middle of the pizza dough. Bring opposite corners of the dough together and pinch. Fill in the gaps by pinching the dough together so that the the mixture is completely enclosed (we don't want any of that goodness oozing out).
Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until the dough is nice and browned. Pull out of the oven and brush with melted butter. Let rest for about 5 minutes and slice into servings. Serves 2 adults and 3 little ones...
*I always have a pack of Farmland diced ham in my fridge - awesome in a pinch

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Scrambled Eggs with Goat Cheese

I saw the Barefoot Contessa make this on her show the other day and I was drooling!

I scaled her recipe waaaaay back b/c I was just making enough for me and my lil' foodie:) Also, I just cooked the eggs on low heat on my stove top.
Scrambled eggs with goat cheese - Ina Garten
16 extra-large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk or half-and-half
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
6 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Heat a charcoal grill with coals. Spread them out in one dense layer.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl with the milk, salt, and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saute or omelet pan over the hot grill. Add the eggs and cook them until the desired doneness, stirring constantly. Off the grill, add the goat cheese, chives, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir and allow the eggs to sit for 30 seconds, until the cheese begins to melt. Check for seasonings. Serve hot.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chili's Santa Fe Wrap

This is my version of this recipe. It's yum!
Chili's Santa Fe Wrap
Corn (I had grilled corn left over from last night)
Diced Tomatoes
Diced Red Onion
Diced Grilled chicken
Tortilla Strips
Diced Avocado
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Ancho-Chili Ranch Dressing*

Combine all ingredients except tortilla. Spoon mixture onto the middle of your tortilla. Wrap the tortilla like you would a burrito (envelope style so that everything is packed nice and tight inside).

Put a little butter** in your frying pan and slap that delicious wrap on it. Cook over medium heat for a minute or two on each side - and there you have it! Delish!!

*I diced up an ancho chili, added it to my ranch dressing and then used my immersion blender to dice the chili even finer and combine the two.
**If you don't want to use butter - you can just 'dry fry' it. Follow the directions - just eliminate the butter!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bobby Flay's LA Burger

I was feeling like a burger - so I went to Bobby Flay of course!
Bobby Flay’s L.A. Burger
Bobby's Perfect Patty
One slice of tomato
Watercress (peppery lettuce)
Monterey Jack
Avocado Relish:
2 chopped Hass avocados
1/2 diced small onion
1 minced jalapeno
juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
One slice of tomato
Top with watercress (peppery lettuce)
Monterey Jack

Bobby's Perfect Patty
Shape 6 ounces of 80 percent lean ground beef chuck into a uniform patty, no more than 3/4 inch thick (don't overwork the meat). Make a depression in the center with your thumb so the burger won't bulge; the indent will rise as the patty cooks. Preheat a grill or cast-iron grill pan to high. Brush the burger with canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until golden brown and slightly charred, turning once (7 minutes for medium-rare). Avoid pressing with a spatula! Add cheese for the last minute of cooking.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mimis Buttermilk Spice Muffins

Muffin Batter:

1 cup Sugar

½ cup Butter or margarine

3 Eggs

2-½ cups Flour

2 tsp. Baking soda

1 tsp. Nutmeg

½ tsp. Cinnamon

¾ cup + 1 tbsp. Buttermilk

Nut Topping:

½ cup Sugar

1 cup Walnuts (finely chopped)

½ tsp. Cinnamon

½ tsp. Nutmeg


Preheat oven to 375°.

In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and the butter together with an electric mixer. When they are thoroughly mixed, add eggs and beat one more minute.

Sift the flour into a separate bowl, together with the baking soda, nutmeg and the cinnamon.

Add the flour and the buttermilk to the first mixture, mix at low speed until smooth. To avoid lumps in the batter, add the wet and dry ingredients alternately, in small amounts.

Make the nut topping: Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Grease muffin tins with butter or margarine. You can also use paper baking cups. Fill each cup 3/4 full of batter.

Add a full, rounded tablespoon of nut topping on top of each muffin cup of batter. Bake immediately or the topping will sink to the bottom of the muffin.

Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. A toothpick inserted in the middle of the muffin should come out dry.

Home ovens heat differently from commercial ovens so you may need to adjust the temperature or the baking time accordingly.

Recipe yields 12 standard-size muffins, or six Mimi's-size muffins. If using the jumbo muffin pans, reduce the oven temperature by 25° and increase the baking time 5-10 minutes.

This recipe was found at ... also a very yummy recipe from Mimis!!

Mimis Corn Chowder


¼-cup butter, (½-stick)

6 tablespoons chopped onion

¾-cup diced celery

2-½ cups water

2 cups cubed peeled red or russet potatoes, (½-inch)

2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 can creamed corn (14 oz)

2 tablespoons sugar2

teaspoons salt

1 dash of white pepper

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups half and half cream

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat.

Add in the flour and whisk until smooth and a roux forms (2 minutes).

Add onions and celery and saute 5 minutes until soft but not brown.

Add water, potatoes, corn kernels, creamed corn, sugar, salt and pepper. Using a wire whisk, whisk until smooth.

Cover and simmer until potatoes are barely tender, about 30 minutes.

Add half and half and simmer uncovered until soup has thickened to a creamy consistency, about 15 minutes.

Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed.

I found this recipe at ... seriously SO good!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Spinach Lasagna

I made this for tonights dinner. It was super easy to make! I tripled the recipe (one for tonight, one for a friend and one to freeze) and it took me all of 20 minutes. My 4 year old made the one we are going to eat for dinner tonight - that is how easy it is! You don't have to pre-cook anything - its just about the assembly line.
Spinach Lasagna
1 jar(s) tomato, Alfredo, marinara, or vodka pasta sauce
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
15 ounce(s) part-skim ricotta cheese (I use cottage cheese)
6 ounce(s) baby spinach
8 ounce(s) part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon(s) pepper
6 tablespoon(s) Romano or Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375° F. Coat the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup sauce over bottom of dish. Top with 3 noodles. Spread with half of the ricotta. Top with half of the spinach, pressing it down into the cheese. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 tsp of the pepper. Drizzle with another 1/2 cup sauce. Repeat with a second layer of 3 noodles, remaining ricotta cheese and spinach, 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, remaining 1/4 tsp of the pepper, and 1/2 cup sauce. Top with remaining 3 noodles; spread remaining sauce over noodles to cover completely. Scatter remaining mozzarella and Romano cheeses over sauce.

Cover dish tightly with foil. Bake 45 minutes, or until noodles are tender. Let lasagna stand 10 minutes before serving.

We just finished dinner - and woah baby - that was even better than I expected it to be! My 2 year old had 4 servings!! My husband was out of town all week and she very proudly told him that she made tonight's dinner all by herself - just for him. During dinner she must've said "I totally love this" about 25 times.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Spinach Salad with Candied Almonds

This salad is so freakin' delish.

Spinach Salad with Candied Almonds
¼ c vegetable oil (I used EVOO b/c I like the flavor better)
2 T vinegar
2 T sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bag baby spinach
1 c sliced celery
½ c chopped green onion
1 can Mandarin oranges
½ c Candied Almonds

Mix first 4 ingredients together (dressing) and set aside. Put spinach in large bowl, add celery and green onions – mix together. Drain juice from oranges and then pour oranges over salad. Add dressing and candied almonds – mix well.


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