Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Mom's Stuffed Mushrooms

Ah, my Mom's Stuffed Mushrooms... Hands down one of my most favorite things she makes. I request these babies all of the time. Birthdays, my bridal shower and my baby shower just to name a few. I remember having these at family get-togethers growing up, and they were always the first thing to go. I'll tell you something else, when it comes to stuffed mushrooms, you've never had anything like these ones. I've tried googling the recipe before, it's nowhere to be found. That secretly makes me smile because it's still my secret... Until now, because this recipe is too good to keep to myself. It deserves to be shared. 

The one thing that separates this recipe from the pack, is a special secret ingredient. One packet of Lawry's Spaghetti Seasoning. There's something about the flavor from this mix that is incomparable. Thinking about it now, a few of my Mom's secret recipes involve spice packets. Her famous tortellini recipe also includes Lawry's, and her "Special Mayonnaise" has a packet of Good Seasons Zesty Italian Dressing. I'll have to share those recipes with you too, they make me happy.

Anyway, these stuffed mushrooms make a great appetizer, but could also serve as a main course if you make enough of them. You can also stuff larger Portobello mushrooms instead of a bunch of button mushrooms. A few years ago, my parent's got the idea to use the stuffing inside of a stuffed zucchini. I shared that recipe with you at the end of last Summer. I suppose you could stuff any veggie with this mixture! 

My Mom's Stuffed Mushrooms

1 LB ground beef
1 onion, minced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely diced
4 mushrooms, minced
1 package Lawrey's spaghetti mix
1/2 cup Colby jack, shredded
1 T Parmesan
Large mushrooms hollowed out with a spoon, reserve stems and chop them finely

Heat a pan over medium heat, cook ground beef, mushroom stems and onion until beef is cooked through. In a large bowl, mix the ground beef and onion with the tomatoes, mushrooms spaghetti mix, and both cheeses.

Put beef mixture into hollowed out mushrooms. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-20 minutes, or until heated though.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Pumpkin pie and salted caramel. Doesn't that sound like a match made in heaven? Let me tell you, it is! I made these babies for a holiday party I catered last Christmas. Not only are these cute, they're delicious and not complicated! The Salted Caramel Butter-cream is divine, good luck not eating it out of the mixing bowl. 

I made my cupcakes in a mini muffin tin, but the recipe is for regular sized cupcakes, so don't let the picture confuse you :) I wanted to share these with you before Christmas because they're a wonderful little dessert that is quite festive. Give these a try at your holiday table!

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 can (15 oz) Libby's Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pans with paper lines; set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the brown sugar, sugar, butter, and eggs.  Beat on medium speed until well combined.  Add dry ingredients, and mix on low until smooth.  Fold in the pumpkin puree.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway.  Bake until tops string back when touched, about 17 minutes, rotating pans once if needed.  Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  Recipe I followed said it makes 18 cupcakes... Mine were just the right size and I got 27!  Recipe also said to bake for 20-25 minutes, but at 17 I smelled something burning and pulled them right out.  One cupcake in the back had a black bottom, but the rest were just fine... I didn't rotate the pan.

Salted Caramel Buttercream
adapted from marthastewart.com via madeinmelskitchen.com {on Pinterest}

I just added an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup powdered sugar... here's the recipe with my little changes {because I was serving them to adults and kiddos, thought it might be a bit too salty for the littles}.

1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 sticks butter, 1 salted & 1 unsalted
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a small saucepan, bring the white sugar and water to a boil over medium heat.  Without stirring, let it boil until it reaches a deep amber color.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla & heavy cream.  Stir until smooth.  Let cool until easy to pour, but not hot {I put mine in the fridge for about 10 minutes}.  Meanwhile, beat the butter and sea salt in a stand mixer until lightened and fluffy.  Slowly add in the powdered sugar, scraping down the bowl and mixing until combined.  Turn off the mixer and slowly pour in the caramel mixture.  Mix on low until combined, t hen mix on medium-high for about 2 minutes, until fluffy and well combined.  If you pour your caramel in while it's still too warm, your frosting will be runny.  If that happens, refrigerate until firm enough to pipe on your cupcakes.

Made exactly the right amount {plus two small spoonfuls for my helpers} to pipe onto 24 cupcakes.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Freezer-Friendly Ham & Cheese Pockets

A couple of months ago I found myself in a rut when it came to my daughter's lunches. It was usually a grilled cheese, quesadilla or yogurt and crackers with fruit and veggies. I set out to find a few other options to add into the rotation, and found this recipe on Pinterest. They're little Ham and Cheese Pockets, and I loved that you can make a larger batch, freeze them and pop them in the microwave when you want them. One of my favorite parts of the recipe, is that it gives you bread machine instructions to make the dough! Fret not if you don't have a bread machine, there's directions to make the dough by hand. It's not complicated doing it by hand, I just love letting my bread machine do the work for me. These came together very quickly after the dough was done rising. You cut the dough into 10-14 balls (I made 12), then roll the balls out, add your ham and cheese, seal and bake.

I did change up the recipe to make these half whole wheat flour, and you'll see my changes in the recipe. If you would prefer using all AP flour, go ahead and use a total of three cups. So how did they taste? Oh, they were AMAZING! I had to try one for quality control, obviously. I used uncured black forest ham (without nitrates and nitrites) from Trader Joes, and Monterey Jack cheese, and let me just tell you... These weren't your run of the mill sandwiches. They tasted sophisticated and delicious, so do not try to compare these to a Hot Pocket, they're in a completely different league. My daughter loved these too, so we have a hit all the way around! These are great for anyone, not just the kiddos. You could play up the fillings a million different ways too, so experiment and try these out!

Freezer-Friendly Ham & Cheese Pockets adapted from Money Saving Mom

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (I also added 2t Vital Wheat Gluten to help keep the dough lite)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
4 Tablespoons dry milk
3 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons yeast
1 cup warm water

Sliced ham
Shredded or sliced cheese

To make dough in bread machine: Add ingredients in the bread machine in the order listed and run on the dough cycle. Check about halfway through to see if you need to add a little extra water or flour to make a soft dough.

To make dough by hand: Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in salt, sugar, and dry milk. Add flour and stir until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Dump dough onto a floured surface and knead for around 5 minutes, until a soft dough forms. Add a little more flour, if needed.

To make Ham & Cheese Pockets: Divide dough into 10-14 balls. Roll each ball into a rectangle. Put ham and cheese on half of the rectangle. Fold dough over and pinch sides to seal tightly.

Bake Pockets on a greased cookie sheet at 350-degrees for 15-18 minutes, until lightly browned.

To freeze: Let cool completely. Freeze in airtight ziptop freezer bags for up to 2-3 months.

To serve: Remove desired number of pizza pockets from the freezer and warm them individually in the microwave for about two minutes or until heated through. Or, warm on a cookie sheet in a 350-degrees oven for 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Spicy Peanut Chicken Salad

A few weeks ago I mentioned that in trying to streamline our food budget, I was purchasing a whole chicken and getting two meals out of it. I made a delicious Buttermilk Roasted Chicken, and this recipe used up the leftover chicken. I loved that this was so quick to put together, it's literally as easy as cooking up the pasta and chopping some veggies in the meantime. You make a delicious peanut sauce in the blender, and pour it over the whole thing and dig in! 

My husband and I really enjoyed this meal, the only thing that would make it better would be some egg rolls or summer rolls alongside. I love using leftovers to make something entirely different, and I love it even more when it only takes 10-15 minutes to put together. The sauce was delightful but I wanted it sweeter, so I added more honey to fit my tastes. Don't be afraid to change up a recipe to fit your liking. It's no fun eating something that doesn't taste quite right to you. This is a great meal for the kiddos too! Hiding a gamut of veggies in with pasta and a peanut sauce is a great way to do that. You could use any leftover meat here (turkey, pork, even steak) and it would be delicious. Any way you decide to make it, just give it a try. 

Spicy Peanut Chicken Salad, serves 6, from Pinch of Yum

1 cup julienne red and yellow pepper
1 cup shredded or julienne carrots
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 cup chopped or shredded cooked chicken breast
8 oz. cooked soba noodles or whole grain linguine

5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons sesame or canola oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
1 minced small red Thai chili pepper, seeds and ribs removed (another hot chili pepper, such as jalapeno or serrano, could be substituted)
1/3 cup peanuts

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Puree dressing ingredients (except peanuts) in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Add peanuts last and process until just finely chopped. Pour over salad and toss well.

Top individual servings with fresh basil and cilantro!

Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Meatless Monday: Baked Two Bean Taquitos (Freezable!!)

I've been experimenting with beans lately, specifically dried beans. I like how cheap they are compared to their canned counterparts, and I love that it's a great source of protein! I noticed I was building up a stockpile of dried beans in my pantry so I went in search of some recipes to help me use them up. I saw one recipe for bean taquitos, but it didn't sound amazing enough. So I went in search of other bean taquitos, and this recipe fit the bill. I liked that it used black beans and refried beans because I always have a stash of Crock Pot Refried Beans in my freezer. I also loved the fact that it's freezable!

The recipe came together really easily. You literally just mix everything together, then spoon some filling into a tortilla and roll! Easy peasy. I'll also mention that I only had 18 tortillas, so we had quite a bit of filling leftover. We ate it up with some chips as a bean dip and it was delicious!

The taquitos themselves were wonderful! We all thoroughly enjoyed them, even our sometimes picky toddler! Next time I make these, I'm going to use flour tortillas (instead of corn) to see which we like better. The original recipe said that they liked the flour tortillas just as much as the corn, if not more. We had these with Mexican Slaw, sour cream, salsa and guacamole. My husband and I each had four taquitos, and we were more than satisfied. They're pretty filling!

These are great to have on hand for a last minute meal, they're super inexpensive and are sure to be a new family fave!

Baked Two Bean Taquitos adapted from The Curvy Carrot
Servings: about 36 taquitos

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup fresh salsa
Juice from one small lime
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons onion, chopped
One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
One 15-ounce can refried beans
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (I used sharp cheddar)
Small Corn or Flour Tortillas (I used corn tortillas), about 36 or so  (depending on how full you fill them)
Sea salt
For garnish: sour cream, salsa, guacamole, etc.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, garlic, onion, both kinds of beans, and cheese, mixing until well combined.

Heat your tortillas briefly so they're pliable for rolling. Place a scoop (About 1 1/2 tablespoons for me) of the bean mixture in the center of each tortilla and, starting at one end, roll each taquito up tightly.

Place taquitos seam-side down onto the rimmed baking sheet.

Generously spray the taquitos with cooking spray and lightly sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake the taquitos for 15-20 minutes, and flip once halfway through.

Freezer Instructions: Prepare the taquitos through rolling them out and placing them on the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze until solid, then transfer to a large freezer bag. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425 and place the taquitos on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats, as seen on Pennies on a Platter, originally from Our Best Bites.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Meatloaf Brasciole with Prosciutto and Provolone (Roll Ups)

Please don't let the title of this recipe scare you! Brasciole is usually made with thin pieces of beef that are rolled around a filling of some kind, and simmered in marinara sauce. Doesn't that sound yummy? Well this recipe is even easier, because you don't have to worry about finding or pounding out beef to make it thin. You make a meatloaf mixture, roll it out and add some proscuitto, provolone and spinach, roll into a log and bake! 

Now this meatloaf mixture is special. It's got garlic, onion, raisins, pine nuts, Parmesan and parsley. It's got a little bit of sweet from the raisins, but it's salty from the cheese, and it's got some crunch from the pine nuts. It's different than any other meatloaf I've ever had, and I love it! This recipe in general is fantastic. The flavors are beyond amazing together, and once it's cooked and sliced, it's beautiful! I know I say this often, but this recipe has the "Wow Factor" and it's definitely a crowd pleaser that will knock the socks off of anyone who tries it! I'm already thinking about when I can make this again. It's great served with mashed potatoes, and maybe some green beans or broccoli and a salad. It's also perfect for the Holidays and dinner parties... and since Christmas is in a few short weeks, it should end up on your menu soon!

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, pork and veal mix from the butcher's counter (meatloaf mix) I used all beef
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 small white onion, grated
2 tablespoons golden or dark raisins, chopped
3 tablespoons pine nuts, chopped
3 tablespoons grated cheese, Parmigiano or Romano
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup arugula leaves or baby spinach
6 slices prosciutto di Parma
6 slices deli sliced provolone
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Mix meat and next 10 ingredients as if you were making meatloaf. Flatten meat out on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet into a thin layer: 1/2-inch thick, 12 inches long by 6 to 8 inches wide. Cover meat with arugula or spinach, prosciutto and cheese then roll the meat, using the waxed paper to help roll up into a large log, working across the 6 to 8-inch side, resulting in a 12-inch long log. Drizzle the log with extra-virgin olive oil to coat lightly.

Roast meatroll 20 minutes. Cut into 1-inch slices, 3 pieces per portion, and serve. - The 450 degree/20 minutes doesn't cut it to get it done. I turned it down to 425 and cooked it more like 30-40. I cooked it on parchment and transferred it to a paper towel lined plate to absorb the grease when it was done.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuscan Sausage Soup (Freezable)

I've had this recipe pinned for a long time, and I finally got around to making it. I've been trying to streamline our menu at home, and one way to make things easy for lunches is to make a big pot of soup that Husband and I can eat off of for the week. I have been giving us soup, cut up veggies with hummus and fruit. It's been awesome! This week I made Tuscan Sausage Soup. It's full of sweet Italian sausage, carrots, onions, garlic, white beans, tomatoes, basil, whole wheat pasta and spinach. It also took less than 30 minutes to prep and cook, which is always a bonus!

The person I pinned this from says that it freezes beautifully, which is great because it makes a ton! I cut the recipe in half, and still got ten 1 cup servings. Husband and I both really enjoyed this soup. It's hearty, and reminded us of Minestrone. Next time I make this, I think I'll add extra beans. Maybe kidney beans for variety. I'm also going to bulk up the veggies. Celery, bell peppers, or zucchini would be nice in here. And instead of spinach, I'm going to use kale. I like that kale doesn't completely wilt in soups, it still has a bite to it. Other than that, this soup is definitely a keeper and will be a repeat in our house. If you like spicy foods, feel free to use hot or mild Italian sausage in place of the sweet. For a complete meal, pair with a salad, some freshly baked bread and you're in business!

Tuscan Sausage Soup

2 lbs. sweet Italian sausage
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 quarts chicken broth
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes, with juice
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon dried basil
1-lb (16-oz) whole wheat shell pasta, uncooked
8 ounces spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese for topping (if desired)

Remove sausage from casings and brown over med-high heat in the bottom of your largest stockpot. Crumble the sausage as you brown it.

Add the carrots, onion and garlic and saute until tender and starting to turn a bit golden, about 7 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, beans, pasta and basil. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and continue cooking until pasta becomes a bit tender, about 7 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted. Taste and season with salt and pepper, according to your preference.

Serve hot garnished with grated Parmesan, if desired.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Meatless Monday: Papa Murphy's Copy-Cat Gourmet Vegetarian Pizza with Creamy Garlic Sauce Recipe

A vegetarian pizza is not something I'd typically order for myself. But a few years ago, my adventurous foodie cousin Sonya ordered this for our dinner one night. I was skeptical at first, but after one bite I was in love! This Gourmet Vegetarian Pizza from Papa Murphy's is now one of my favorites, and even though we're talking Meatless Monday today, you might want to try it with added pepperoni sometime. Trust me. Anyway, when I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I was so so excited and had it on my menu for the following week. 

You know me, I prefer making my own copy-cat versions of take-out/restaurant foods. This delicious pizza hosts a garlic sauce in lieu of a red sauce, mushrooms, tomatoes (which I leave off), spinach, zucchini, artichoke hearts, onions, mozzarella and parmesan. The flavor from the garlic sauce and the veggies are beyond perfect, and you don't even miss the meat! I'm also very happy to report that this recipe tastes just like the original, and you control all of the ingredients! I made ours with a whole wheat crust, organic veggies and homemade ranch. Twas delish! This is also a great way to get some veggies into picky eaters, pizza and cheese makes any veggie more bearable. Give it a try on your next Meatless Monday or Pizza Night!

Papa Murphy's Copy-Cat Gourmet Vegetarian Pizza with Creamy Garlic Sauce Recipe

1 unbaked pizza crust, homemade or store-bought
1 recipe Creamy Garlic Sauce (see recipe below)
Fresh spinach
Sliced zucchini
Artichoke Hearts
Minced Onions
Grated Mozzarella Cheese
Parmesan Cheese

Spread pizza crust in pan. Spread creamy garlic sauce on top of crust. Add fresh vegetables (and any other toppings you like), sprinkle cheeses on top, and bake according to crust directions.

Creamy Garlic Sauce Recipe 
This sauce is amazing! I love to use it in place of regular tomato pizza sauce. This will make enough sauce for one very large pizza or about 3 personal-sized pizzas.

1 cup ranch dressing
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic salt
Dash of minced green onions
Dash of Italian seasoning

Mix all ingredients together and use as desired.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu

I've been eating Chicken Cordon Bleu since I was a little kid. You know those stuffed Chicken Cordon Bleu or Chicken Divans you can get in the freezer section at your grocery store? Yeah, those are what I grew up on. And you know what? I'd still eat them now (because personally I think they're delicious), except I have a few variations on how to make my own sans preservatives and chemicals! This particular recipe isn't breaded or fried, and it's served with a sauce over the top. So that's a little different than your typical Chicken Cordon Bleu, but it's got all of the same flavors. 
I made this for the French five course murder mystery dinner I mentioned in the Creme Brulee post. This was the main course that evening and was a huge hit with our guests. As you can see in the picture, I served this (on my trial run at home) with some sauteed zucchini and spaghetti with browned butter and parmesan. This would also be good with green beans or roasted veggies. 

This recipe starts with a chicken breast that's stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese, sauteed until browned then simmered in a wine/broth until the chicken is cooked through. When the chicken is done, you make a sauce out of the pan juices with some cream and you pour that over the cooked chicken. Mmmmm so good! This is another one of those knock-your-guests-socks-off recipes, and only you will know how easy it was. Those types of recipes are my favorite!! 

6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
6 slices Swiss cheese
6 slices ham
3T all purpose flour
1t paprika
3T butter
3T olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1t chicken bouillon granules
1T cornstarch
1c heavy cream
chopped basil for garnish (optional)

Pound breasts to 1/2 inch thickness. Place a cheese and ham slice on each breast within 1/2 inch of the edges. Fold the edges of the chicken over the filling, and secure with toothpicks. Mix the flour and paprika in a small bowl, and coat the chicken pieces. 

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over med-high heat, and cook the chicken until browned on all sides. Add the wine/broth and bouillon. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear. 

Remove the toothpicks, and transfer the breasts to a warm platter. Blend the cornstarch with the cream in a small bowl and slowly whisk into the skillet. Cook, stirring until thickened and pour over chicken. Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee... doesn't it sound fancy? Doesn't it seem complicated? It is kinda fancy, but it's definitely not complicated! Basically, it's a chilled custard with a burnt sugar/caramel top. This is great for entertaining because you can make the custard a day ahead and brulee (burn) the top when you're ready to serve. It also always gets rave reviews and it will knock your guest's socks off. 

The first time I made this for a Murder Mystery Dinner a college student produced to earn money for tuition. I collaborated a five course French dinner menu, and this was dessert. I also made fresh raspberry and blueberry sauce, that's what you see drizzled on the plate. That night was so fun, and this dessert was the highlight of the meal!

There's all kinds of variations on Creme Brulee, like lemon, orange, coffee, chocolate and coconut. This recipe is your basic Creme Brulee, flavored with vanilla. It's a great place to start. And no worries if you don't have a torch to burn the sugar, you can use your broiler in the oven. Just make sure that the broiler is rippin hot, you don't want to heat the custard, just melt the sugar. 

Whether or not you've had Creme Brulee, or you're just looking for something new to make for dessert, this is a fun, delicious and decadent dish to try!

1 extra-large egg
4 extra-large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for each serving
3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of the sugar together on low speed until just combined. Meanwhile, scald the cream in a small saucepan until it's very hot to the touch but not boiled. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the cream to the eggs. Add the vanilla and orange liqueur and pour into 6 to 8-ounce ramekins until almost full.

Place the ramekins in a baking pan and carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the custards are set when gently shaken. Remove the custards from the water bath, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until firm.

To serve, spread 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly on the top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar carmelizes evenly. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minute until the caramelized sugar hardens.

* Propane Torch Safety

Propane gas torches are highly flammable and should be kept away from heat, open flame and prolonged exposure to sunlight. They should be used only in well-ventilated areas. When lighting a propane gas torch, place the torch on a flat, steady surface, facing away from you. Light the match or lighter and then open the gas valve. Light the gas jet, and blow out the match. Always turn off the burner valve to "finger tight" when finished using the torch. Children should never use a propane gas torch without adult supervision.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Meatless Monday: Cappellacci di Zucca (Pumpkin Ravioli)

I was so excited to try this recipe! I was intending to copy a butternut squash ravioli I'd had at Il Fornaio in Seattle. Their version is described as: Fresh ravioli filled with butternut squash and walnuts; tomato sauce, brown butter, parmesan and crispy sage. It was nothing short of amazing. I hadn't thought of recreating it, but I came across another recipe on Pinterest that reminded me of it. So then I went in search of an original Cappellacci di Zucca and found one that sounded like it had all of the components required.

Did you know that you can use won ton wrappers for homemade ravioli? Well, you can! It works great, and takes ravioli making to a more accessible level for the average person. Also, the cool thing about squash recipes is you can usually swap out different kinds of squashes. Butternut squash, pumpkin, delicata squash, and hubbard squash are all fairly interchangeable. I had a few hubbard squash from my parent's garden sitting in my pantry, so I roasted one, pureed it and used instead of the pumpkin.

Now, this was not a complicated recipe, but there are a few steps to it. You have to assemble the ravioli (easy), and make two sauces (easy). I adjusted the amounts of ingredients to use an entire package of won-ton wrappers, the package I bought had 45. I don't know about you, but I can't eat 45 raviolis at once, so I froze half of the batch. You can leave them on the cookie sheet so they can freeze individually, then you can package them together. Oh, and trust me you'll want a batch of these in the freezer because this recipe is amazing!

I loved everything about these raviolis! The combination of flavors is unbelievable. You get a spicy marinara, a slightly sweet pumpkin ravioli and then the sage-spiked nutty browned butter sauce drizzled over the top. Wow. It's a different combination of flavors, but once you've had it you'll understand. To make this dish even more special, I used my homemade ricotta recipe! Now, I will mention if you plan on serving this to kids, you'll want to cut down or omit the chili flakes from the marinara because it definitely has a kick to it.

This is perfect for the Fall, and it's a sure hit for you squash lovers (or even a squash hater!!). So make, and enjoy!

Cappellacci di Zucca (Pumpkin Ravioli)

1 cups pumpkin puree, can butternut squash, hubbard squash, etc
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 T brandy, I used 1T Marsala wine
3 T ground pine nuts (I used a food processor to get a good consistency)
1 1/2 T brown sugar
1 package wonton wrappers

1/4 cup + 2 T unsalted butter
10 fresh sage leaves, chopped in half or thirds at the width
2 T dry white wine

1 1/2 cups plain marinara sauce
salt, pepper, chili flakes to taste

parmesan shavings for garnish/extra deliciousness


Mix together the pumpkin puree, ricotta, brandy, pine nuts and brown sugar until incorporated.  Place in a sieve over a bowl for a couple hours to let the mixture drain.  Once firm, scoop the mixture by the teaspoonful and place in the center of the wonton wrappers. Fold the wrapper in half diagonally, then fold each of the corners in, to create a little hat-like thing. Place them on a generously-floured cookie sheet and refrigerate until serving time.

Brown butter sage sauce:

In a small saucepan, melt the 1/4 cup of butter on a medium-low heat.  Midway through the melting, throw in the sage. Stir occasionally until the butter reaches a golden brown color.  Remove from heat.  Pour 2 T white wine into the butter for bite.

Spicy marinara:

Warm the marinara with the reserved 2 T of butter.  Add about 1 teaspoons of chili flakes (less if you don't like it too spicy), salt and pepper to taste.  Let simmer.

Create a bed of spicy marinara sauce in the center of a plate.  Boil your ravioli (I only boil for 90 seconds or so), place in a circle around the sauce, then pour a healthy serving of the brown butter sage sauce on top.  Finish with a piece of crispy sage and a parmesan cheese shaving atop each pillow, and serve.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Freezer to Crockpot Lime Salsa Chicken

I've been really into the idea of meals that go right from the freezer to the crock pot. For the most part, you're just chopping veggies, adding spices/herbs and adding it to a Ziploc then popping it into your freezer until you're ready to eat. Doesn't that seem super awesome? In theory yes, but in my experience there are some recipes where it doesn't work well. Some veggies don't freeze well (potatoes), and some veggies can't stand up to a long cook time in a crock pot (peppers, zucchini). Because of this, I've had a few freezer-to-crock pot recipes that didn't turn out well. However, I came across a few that seemed really promising and I'm happy to report this one was a winner!

It was really easy to put together, and reminded me of fajitas! I served the chicken mixture in tortillas with sour cream and cheese and we had Cilantro Lime Brown rice on the side. So so yummy, and close to no work at all! I definitely recommend giving this recipe a try.

Lime Salsa Chicken from Kojo Designs

Juice from one lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
1.25-oz. package taco seasoning
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (optional)
3 lbs. boneless chicken breasts or thighs (I used half thighs, half breast tenderloins)
1 chopped red pepper (I used an orange pepper)
1/2 onion, chopped
24 ounces salsa

Add all ingredients except salsa to a gallon sized ziplock bag and freeze.

When ready to eat, add contents of the bag and one 24-ounce jar of salsa (Kojo used mango salsa, but I used regular salsa) to the crock pot. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve in corn tortillas (I used flour) with rice.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What to Do With Thanksgiving Leftovers - 7 New Recipes

Thanksgiving is only a few days away, and this pregnant lady is SO excited! I love Thanksgiving food. Turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes with homemade gravy, stuffing, rolls, etc. Sounds like a carb fest, and you know... I'm totally ok with that. I've been getting the same question lately about Thanksgiving leftover ideas, so I thought I'd compile a list of recipes I've seen in the last few weeks that utilize your leftover bounty. In our house, we do a lot of turkey sandwiches with my Mom's special mayo, which reminds me that I still need to share that recipe with you! But let's face it, turkey sandwiches get boring after awhile. So here's some fun ideas for you and your family. Keep in mind that leftover chicken would work here as well!

I saw this recipe on ABC's The Chew, and it hails from Daphne Oz (Dr. Oz's daughter). I loved this recipe because it uses up your leftover stuffing, gravy and turkey! She melts Grueyere cheese over the top of the peppers and serves them with a dollop of Greek yogurt. I definitely want to try this recipe this year. 

Another recipe from Daphne. This would be great the morning after Thanksgiving! With sweet potatoes, leftover turkey, apples, onions, thyme and a fried egg over the top. Packed with flavor and great nutrition!

I found this recipe on Pinterest. It's your basic Chicken and Wild Rice Soup, but uses turkey instead and is made in the crock-pot! It's got onions, carrots, celery and you don't even have to cook the wild rice first. Score!

This is a Rachael Ray recipe. It's reminiscent of a stroganoff, but there's no sour cream. It's a cream sauce with turkey, fennel and onions that she serves over buttery Parmesan egg noodles. It's also a make-ahead meal! She gives instructions for that at the bottom of the recipe.

Another RR recipe here. This is definitely on my radar for leftover turkey! It's essentially a Mexican lasagna, b/c you're using tortillas instead of noodles. There's a sauce you make for this recipe with poblano peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro and cream. That all by itself is what made me want to try this! This is layers of a turkey, corn, mushroom mixture, then the delicious sauce, then cheese, then tortillas. In the words of Rachael, YUM-O! Also a make-ahead meal.

Another Rachael Ray recipe, but I found this guy on Pinterest! It's turkey, stuffing  cranberry sauce and white cheddar all rolled into pizza dough and when cooked, are dipped into leftover gravy! How fun is that?!

This recipe also comes from ABC's The Chew, but it's made by Carla Hall (Top Chef season 5 & 8). I'm suggesting this sandwich because I'd personally never thought to make one with all of these ingredients. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, arugula, pickled onion, mayo and brown mustard. Sounds like a fresh and yummy spin on a traditional after turkey day sandwich. 

So there you have it, seven not-so-typical recipes for using up your Thanksgiving leftovers. I hope this gives you some inspiration! I know I'll be trying a recipe or two. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

I was just about to say that blue cheese isn't something I've always liked, that it's something I've acquired a taste for as I've gotten older. I realized I've said that a few times here on the blog. It's funny how your tastes change as you get older. Now if only I could develop a taste for fresh tomatoes! Ha! Anyway, I didn't start liking blue cheese until three or four years ago and it all started with a bite of a friends's Blue Cheese Wedge Salad while we were out to dinner. It was a wedge of iceberg lettuce, drizzled with blue cheese dressing, topped with crumbled bacon and more blue cheese (hold the tomatoes, obviously). It was divine. Heaven on a plate I tell ya. So what did I do after having a bite of this salad? Decide I need to make it at home, of course!

So, I went in search of a recipe. This was pre-Pinterest for me, so I browsed all kinds of different recipes from Ina Garten, to Alton Brown and the winning recipe came from Martha Stewart. I liked the use of buttermilk, and the addition of chives and shallots. The use of celery salt seemed a little different to me, but I followed the directions to a "T" and let me tell you, it's perfect! So don't omit the celery salt.

Now, I personally like a more mild blue cheese so I tend to use Gorgonzola, but definitely use whatever you like! If you're new to blue cheese, Gorgonzola is a great place to start. We don't always serve this dressing as a blue cheese wedge salad. Actually more often than not, we eat it over romaine or red/green leaf lettuce.

 I also wanted to mention a few changes you can make here. If I don't have chives or shallots on hand, I just substitute 1/4 cup of finely diced onion. If you're out of lemon juice, use vinegar (apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, white vinegar, etc). And if you forgot to buy buttermilk, you can make your own! Here's how: Place a Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Add enough milk to bring the liquid up to the one-cup line. Let stand for five minute. Then, use as much as your recipe calls for.

So there you go, lots of easy substitutions, and hints on how to ease yourself into liking blue cheese :) I hope you'll give this a try, it really is delightful!

Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot, I sometimes use 1/4 cup of finely diced onion in place of the shallot and chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, I've used vinegar in a pinch
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 cup crumbled domestic blue cheese, Gorgonzola is my favorite

Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, shallot, chives, lemon juice, coarse salt, pepper, and celery salt in a small bowl. Fold in blue cheese. (I just shake everything up in a jar. Saves on dishes, and it's ready to store!) Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

I don't know what my problem has been the last couple of months, but I've been going way over our food budget each month. I was trying to think of ways to cut down on spending, and one thing I thought of was cooking a whole chicken once a week. By doing this I can get two, maybe three meals out of one chicken. Here's how:

Dinner #1: Roast Chicken of some kind
Dinner #2: Repurpose leftover chicken into a new meal
Dinner #3: Use chicken bones/neck/giblets for stock, then make soup from the stock

Please ignore the bad picture, we already tore into one of the legs!
Seems like a really good idea, right? I thought it did, so I started looking for new ideas for roasted chicken. I have a fabulous go-to recipe for Classic Roast Chicken on the blog, but you know me... I can't leave well enough alone, and I like trying new things, so eating the exact same thing every week isn't going to work for me. I pinned a bunch of new and different roast chicken recipes, and the first one I'm trying this week is a buttermilk roast chicken. The original recipe used chicken pieces, but I wanted to use a whole chicken, so I cut the backbone out so I wouldn't have to change the cooking time. Did you know that cutting the backbone out of a chicken reduces the cooking time by almost half? Well, it does! If you haven't cut the backbone out of a chicken before, check out this website for some pictures. It's really easy, you just use some kitchen shears and cut both sides of the backbone, completely removing it.

This recipe comes together really quickly and easily . You mix some salt, pepper, sugar, garlic, and paprika into buttermilk, then pour it over your chicken. You let it marinade for 2-48 hours, then pat dry and roast. That's it! Also, it's beyond delicious. My husband said it's the best chicken he's ever had :) It was juicy, tender, flavorful and downright perfect. I love getting the bone-in roasted chicken flavor in only 40 minutes. You can't get those flavors and that texture from boneless chicken. Not to mention that cooking a whole chicken is cheaper!

We'll definitely be making this chicken again. It took no time to make the brine, or prep for cooking on the night of. Our daughter even ate quite a bit of it, and she's not a huge meat/poultry eater yet. This is a great alternative for your usual roast chicken, and since it cooks so quickly it works great for a weeknight! If you pair it with some buttermilk mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli, your family will be singing your praises!

Buttermilk Roast Chicken adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups buttermilk
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon table salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, plus extra for sprinkling (I used Hungarian, a smoked one would also be delicious)
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
3-4 pound chicken, backbone removed
Drizzle of olive oil
Flaked or coarse sea salt, to finish

Whisk buttermilk with garlic, table salt, sugar, paprika and lots of freshly ground black pepper in a bowl. Place chicken parts in a gallon-sized freezer bag (or lidded container) and pour buttermilk brine over them, then swish it around so that all parts are covered. Refrigerate for at least 2 but preferably 24 and up to 48 hours.

When ready to roast, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil (not absolutely necessary, but Nigella suggested it and I never minded having dish that cleaned up easily). Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and place in dish. Pat dry with paper towels. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with additional paprika and sea salt to taste. Roast for 30-45 minutes, until brown and a bit scorched in spots. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Creamy (No-Oil) Hummus

I didn't discover hummus until I was in my twenties. It's now one of my favorite snacks because it's high protein, and this recipe in particular doesn't have any oil in it! It's a great alternative to high fat/calorie dips as well. I've tried a few different hummus recipes, but none can hold a candle to this recipe in my opinion. I was purchasing store bought hummus for awhile, but I prefer to buy organic hummus and it's not always easy to find. It's also not always delicious. So I started making my own again, and surprise, surprise it's also cheaper when you make it yourself, especially if you use dried beans like I do! I like to cook beans in my crock pot, then I portion them out into 1 and 2 cup portions and pop them in the freezer. Easy peasy.

Hummus is very easy to make, you put everything into a food processor and let it go until it's smooth. That's it! You can also experiment with other types of beans. I've seen recipes for black bean and white bean hummus. This recipe makes a lot, so if you don't think you can finish it within 5-7 days, go ahead and and freeze some!

Creamy (No-Oil) Hummus from The Biggest Loser Diet Book

3 cups chickpeas (2 15oz cans)
1/2c warm water
1T tahini
3T lime juice
1 1/2t cumin
1t salt
1T minced garlic
2T chopped cilantro, I left it out

Place the chickpeas, water, lime juice, tahini, cumin, garlic, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until very smooth, about 4 minutes.

Add an extra tablespoon or two of water if necesary.

Transfer to a bowl. Stir in Fresh cilantro.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Whole Wheat Fontina Portobello Pizza

We love pizza at our house, and we like to try new pizza combinations. I came across this recipe on one of my favorite blogs How Sweet It Is. This is not your typical pizza, as it doesn't have red sauce. Instead it is drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped garlic. It also features a whole wheat crust, crimini mushrooms, fontina cheese, provolone cheese, bacon and parmesan. It's wonderfully flavorful and delicious!

This is our new favorite pizza crust! It's a blend of whole wheat flour and white flour so you get the fluffy crust of a white flour but you also get the depth of a whole wheat flour crust. The flavors of this pizza are incredible. Even though this isn't a meat-packed pizza, you won't notice because you get meatiness from the mushrooms and the flecks of bacon throughout don't hurt either ;-) Oh, and a little tip for you... Sometimes it's hard to find specialty cheeses, even though most grocery stores nowadays have a specialty cheese case. But the place I'm able to find all kinds of cheeses at very reasonable prices is Trader Joes. So if you have one nearby, that's a great place to buy your cheese. They also have a growing selection of cheeses from grass fed cows, and they have nitrate/nitrite free bacon.

I highly recommend that you try this pronto! And if you're new to a whole wheat crust, this is a great recipe to start with.

dough: [I used my standard dough, use whatever dough you'd like.]

1 cup all purpose flour + 3/4 cup regular whole wheat flour

3/4 cup warm water

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt


1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms

3 slices bacon

3 garlic cloves, minced

6 ounces fontina cheese, freshly grated

4 ounces provolone cheese, freshly grated

1/4 cup grated parmesan + a bit more for topping

fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Combine water, yeast, olive oil and honey and mix with a spoon. Let sit for about 15 minutes until yeast becomes foamy. When I made this pizza I actually used my stand mixer + dough hook for simplicity, but you can also do it by hand. Add in flour and salt and mix until a ball forms and dough comes together (with the mixer, I mixed for about 5 minutes). Using your hands, knead dough for 1-2 minutes until it is somewhat smooth. Place in an oiled bowl (in a warm spot) and let rise for 60-90 minutes. Punch down the dough, then let rise for another 15 minutes.

When dough is almost ready, prepare your bacon so it is half-cooked with just a bit of fat rendered. I stuck mine in the over at 375 for 10 minutes, but you can fry it or even microwave it. Just make sure it is lightly cooked and then cut it into pieces.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly flour your workspace and using a rolling pin, roll dough to the shape you want. Brush dough with olive oil and cover in minced garlic cloves. Add half of each cheese onto the dough, the cover with mushrooms and bacon. Add remaining cheese on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is golden and crust is crispy. When pizza is done, top with additional parmesan and chopped parsley.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Meatless Monday: Chloe's Fried Egg with Dill and Cheddar Sandwich

A few years ago I belonged to a Book Club, and I absolutely loved it! One of the books we read was The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. It's fiction, and was so easy to get enthralled with. Here's an excerpt from Amazon "Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds her closet harboring Della Lee Baker, a local waitress who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey’s narrow existence quickly expands. She even bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who is hounded by books that inexplicably appear when she needs them—and who has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush. Soon Josey is living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that’s just for starters."

It was a wonderful book, and now one of my favorites. The reason I'm telling you about this book on a food blog is to share a recipe that's actually from the book. One of the characters  Chloe, works at a cafe and the way the book describes the sandwiches she makes literally leaves your mouth watering and the author provides recipes for those sandwiches on her blog! One sandwich was a Grilled Tomato and Three Cheese Sandwich, but since I'm not a huge fan of fresh tomatoes on a sandwich I made the other sandwich mentioned in the book, Fried Egg with Dill and Cheddar Sandwich.

It's by no means a complicated sandwich, but cooking the egg in butter, sprinkling it with dill, topping it with cheddar and serving on toasted and buttered sourdough bread just makes me and my tummy all kinds of happy. It's just one of those perfect combinations that begs to be shared. And that's what I do, I share amazing recipes you may have never come across if it weren't for me ;)

So if you're looking for a fun new book to read, give The Sugar Queen a look. And if you are a sucker for an egg sandwich, you'll want to try this fun and amazing new combo!

Chloe's Fried Egg with Dill and Cheddar Sandwich

Slices of sourdough bread, buttered and grilled beforehand
2 eggs
A pat of butter
1/4 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese
Pinch of dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Put a pat of butter into a hot frying pan or skillet.

When the butter melts, crack the eggs into it, close enough for their whites to merge.

Flip them carefully when the edges began to turn golden brown, then wait until the yolks
firm ever-so-slightly. Sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper and a pinch of dill.

Top with shredded cheddar cheese, allowing the cheese to melt slightly.

Scoop the eggs up with a spatula and put them on buttered, grilled sourdough. Serve warm.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sunday Morning Oatmeal from Ina Garten

The other morning I wanted to try something different for breakfast. I had just seen Ina Garten make what she calls Sunday Morning Oatmeal, and I just happened to have everything on hand for it!

It's decadent from being cooked in milk, and the fruit makes it surprisingly sweet without any added sugar. I didn't have an entire half cup of dried cherries, so I added some chopped dried apricots. You could use any dried fruit I would imagine. I topped my oatmeal with a touch of brown sugar and a pat of butter. If you're a gluten free eater, then you could absolutely use a gluten free option in place of the oats. Cooking time may or may not be affected.

This is a great twist on boring everyday oatmeal, it takes a little longer than just making it in the microwave, but you can't beat the taste!

Sunday Morning Oatmeal from Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups whole milk, plus extra for serving
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking (not instant) oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 banana, sliced
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup golden raisins
Pure maple syrup or brown sugar, for serving

Heat the milk plus 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan until it starts to simmer. Add the oatmeal and salt, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

Off the heat, stir in the banana, cherries, and raisins. Place the lid on the pot and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Serve hot with maple syrup or brown sugar and extra milk.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Freezer Turkey, Provolone and Pesto-Mayo Panini

I recently spent a few days with Jessie, my very best friend in the world, who happens to work at our church's cafe. While I was there, she made me a few sandwiches that blew my mind. She made me an Italian sandwich that had salami, ham and pepperoni on a hoagie with pesto-mayo and balsamic drizzle. She also made me a turkey sandwich that inspired today's recipe.

I love sandwiches, and I also love soup. I tend to make soup for dinner at least once a week, and sometimes I want something more substantial to go with the soup besides salad or a roll. So as I was writing out my family's menu for the next two weeks, I remembered the delicious sandwiches Jessie made. The wheels in my head began turning and I decided to experiment with a panini that could be cooked from a frozen state. I came up with this simple but delicious combination! I wanted to use a smaller sandwich roll, and the organic par-baked ciabatta rolls from Trader Joes are absolutely perfect! The pesto-mayo is what really makes this sandwich stand out. It gives an ordinary sandwich a bright kick and tons of flavor.

If you've been around the blog for awhile, you know that I love make ahead foods. Not that sandwiches are time consuming or hard to make, but it just makes an entire soup/sandwich meal come together with that much more ease. You can also choose not to bake these, just put them into the refrigerator overnight before you want to eat them. They should be defrosted and ready for lunchtime the next day.

These sandwiches come together really quickly, and it's awesome to have such delicious morsels hanging out in your freezer waiting to accompany a delicious soup or they can save the day when you don't have anything planned for lunch!

Freezer Turkey, Provolone and Pesto-Mayo Panini

6 ciabatta rolls sliced in half (I used the organic par-baked ciabatta from Trader Joes)
3 slices Provolone cheese sliced in quarters
12 slices turkey
3T Mayo
3T Pesto

If using par-baked ciabatta, follow instructions on packaging for par-baking.

While rolls are baking, mix the mayo and pesto together in a small bowl and set aside.

Once rolls are cooked and cooled, spread pesto-mayo on both sides of the roll.

Add a slice of cheese on each piece of bread, then add two pieces of turkey to the sandwich.

Wrap the finished sandwiches in foil and store in a gallon sized ziplock in the freezer.

When ready to eat: Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes or until heated through and cheese has melted. Enjoy immediately!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Meatless Monday: Yam and Spinach Bites

Ever since I wrote up the recipe for my Broccoli Potato Bites, I've been wanting to try a version with yams and a leafy green of some kind. The recipe for the Broccoli Potato Bites is also the third most popular recipe on my blog, so I figured quite a few of you enjoyed it as well. What really got me motivated to experiment was that my daughter seems to have fallen into a rut of what she will and will not eat. She's not into eating meat, unless it's chicken nuggets, hot dogs or a cheeseburger. And she can't have peanut butter until she's two, so lunch time around here has been repetitive and boring. My daughter loves yams, and since the broccoli potato bites kinda look like chicken nuggets, I thought we'd give this new recipe a go!

I made a few changes and adjustments to make this recipe work. The yam mixture turned out to be more liquidy, so instead of coating the bites with breadcrumbs, I added them to the mixture making this even easier assemble! I also sprinkled the Parmesan on top of each bite, giving it a little crunch and saltiness.

My daughter and I both loved these! I ate four of them by myself. These also look very much like chicken nuggets, so getting your kids to try them shouldn't be too hard because they look somewhat familiar. I hope you and your family will enjoy these as much as we do!

Yam and Spinach Bites

1 Lb yams
6 cups spinach, swiss chard, kale, etc. chopped fine
2 T butter or oil
1/2 c medium onion finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup shredded cheese, I used Fontina
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup Panko or Breadcrumbs
2 T Grated Parmesan

1. Scrub your yams, poke with a fork and microwave for about four minutes until cooked through.

2. While potatoes are cooking, chop onion and garlic, then saute in a small pan with butter or oil over medium low heat for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add your greens of choice, saute for a minute then turn the heat off and put the lid on. Let sit for two minutes until greens are wilted. *If using kale, saute for a few more minutes, and you'll probably have to let it steam for a few minutes with the heat on.

3. Once yams are done scoop the flesh from them skin and add to the mixing bowl with greens, onions and garlic. Add beaten egg, cheese, salt and panko/breadcrumbs then mix with hand mixer (or stand mixer, potato masher, fork, etc) until well blended.

4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and spray a sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray. Wet your hands, and take a scoop of the yam mixture (golf ball sized) and roll into a ball, then flatten and place on the cookie sheet. Repeat until you're all out of potato mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until brown and crispy. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Roasted Garlic Chicken Pesto Pizza

If you were to tell my husband he could only eat one thing for the rest of his life, he would choose pizza. I'm not making this up, I literally just asked him even though I already knew the answer. It would be either pizza or tacos. Let me just be clear though, he has a very refined palate and loves everything I make. I even got him to like Brussels sprouts (the one food he told me he hated). Anyway, I say all of this to tell you that I try to make pizza at least once a week at home. We all love pizza around here, our toddler included.

Sometimes you just wanna branch out and try something new, especially when you make something so often. So when I saw this Roasted Garlic Pesto Pizza on Pinterest (surprise!), and realized I had everything on hand for it, I got really excited! Now, since you have to roast a head of garlic for this little baby, it's not something you can whip up last minute. Unless you have roasted garlic on hand 24/7 (which isn't actually a bad idea), you're gonna have to plan ahead a little bit. But that's ok, because it will allow you time to make your own dough!

This pizza has a ton of flavor! I used an entire head of roasted garlic, but next time I'm gonna use two :) I just love roasted garlic! I also added some sun dried tomatoes and chopped green onion, it just seem fitting and they ended up being perfect additions. I can't wait to make this again, I hope you'll give it a try too it's a gourmet new twist on plain ole' pizza.

Roasted Garlic Chicken Pesto Pizza Adapted from Sugar Cooking
1 pizza crust
1/2 cup prepared pesto (store bough or homemade)
1 bulb of garlic
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked
Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

To roast the garlic: Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Using a knife, cut off 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of the top of cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic. Place the garlic heads in a baking pan; muffin pans work well for this purpose. Drizzle a couple teaspoons of olive oil over each head, using your fingers to make sure the garlic head is well coated. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 400°F for 30-35 minutes, or until the cloves feel soft when pressed. Remove garlic gloves and smash with a fork.

Spread roasted garlic over pizza dough. Do this to taste. I used almost the whole (small) bulb, but I LOVE roasted garlic.

Spread the pesto on the pizza.

Add the sliced, cooked chicken.

Sprinkle with mozzarella.

Top with fresh grated Parmesan.

Bake on preheated pizza stone for 8 - 12 minutes

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dinner Rolls & Cinnamon Rolls in the Bread Maker (Freezable!) and Cinnabon Cream Cheese Frosting

I first made these bad boys for Thanksgiving this year. For the first time in my life, Thanksgiving wouldn't be at my parent's house. They moved to Spokane last Summer, and going over the mountain passes at that time of year can be tricky. So, for my husband, my daughter and I, it was Thanksgiving on our own. Because I am who I am, I wanted to make everything from scratch, even the little things like dinner rolls. As usual, I went off to Pinterest for inspiration and found the perfect recipe! Perfect? Yes, perfect and I'll tell you why... This recipe will not only make delicious dinner rolls, but it also makes cinnamon rolls!!!!!! That's right, cinnamon rolls. I love cinnamon rolls, but I'd never made them from scratch before. So like I said, perfect recipe because it will make awesome rolls for dinner, but it will also take care of breakfast! And if you've ever had to make Thanksgiving dinner, you know that you don't want to spend time making breakfast morning of.

This recipe really is easy too. The bread machine does all of the work for you in terms of rising and kneading. All you have to do is shape your rolls. Oh, I forgot to mention... This recipe is freezable! Yes, that's right, you follow the recipe all the way to shaping your rolls, then you freeze! How cool is it to have homemade cinnamon rolls hiding in the freezer? You leave them out on the counter overnight, then bake in the morning!!!!!! That just makes me really happy. There's also a recipe for making orange rolls, which my husband loves. 

So, were the cinnamon rolls and the dinner rolls good, you ask? Heck yes they were! The cinnamon rolls were some of the best I've ever had, and the frosting was perfect! Sorry, I don't like glazed cinnamon rolls. And if you're going to take the time to frost them, I think it should be with a cream cheese frosting. Just a personal preference! The dinner rolls were fluffy, buttery and perfect. I love this recipe, and love that it does double duty!

If you haven't tackled homemade dinner rolls or cinnamon rolls, this is a perfect way to start. And since this makes a ton of rolls, you can have some stashed in your freezer for a rainy day!

Cinnabon Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
1 c. of butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon juice
3 c. of confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. whole milk
1/4 tsp. salt

Remove cream cheese from package and place in a bowl. Allow cream cheese to soften for about 15 minutes outside the refrigerator.

Measure out butter into a measuring cup and allow to soften for 5 minutes.

Combine cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with a mixer until the ingredients combine and start to cream.

Slowly add in the confectioner's sugar and beat until smooth and frosty.

Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of whole milk into the mixing bowl.

Mix in the remaining ingredients until all ingredients are fully incorporated.

Shannon’s Best Ever Rolls and Cinnamon Rolls, from Lucy Jane's Best

Basic Roll Recipe

1 2/3 cups Water
2 Tablespoons Butter
4 2/3 cups Flour
2/3 cup Sugar
2 teaspoon salt
1 rounded Tablespoon yeast
In the chamber of a bread maker add all ingredients except the yeast.  Stir around to blend sugar into mixture.  Add yeast.

Set bread maker to “dough” setting… wait for cycle to finish (should take about an hour and a half)

When cycle is complete, turn out dough onto a board sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, and shape to desired type of roll.

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon mixture:

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1T cinnamon
2T flour
Mix the above ingredients in a bowl

In a separate bowl melt 6 Tablespoons of butter

Divide dough into 2 even sections.  Roll out one section(using Pam) into a rectangle.  Brush with butter.  Sprinkle with ¼ cup cinnamon mixture.  Roll up and cut into rolls.  (Should make about 9 pieces)  Repeat with second section of dough (So entire batch makes 18 rolls)
*At this point dough can be frozen or baked.  See baking instructions.

Dinner Rolls

Divide dough into 3 equals parts.  Roll into circles and cut into 8 crescent shaped pieces.  Roll into crescents.  *At this point dough can be frozen or baked.  See baking instructions.

Orange rolls

Follow basic roll recipe, except add the zest of one orange to the dough ingredients.

Then divide dough into 2 equal parts.  Roll into rectangles, and cut into 12 strips, vertically. Tie strips into knots, tucking ends under to form rosettes.  *At this point dough can be frozen or baked.  See baking instructions.

Glaze for Orange Rolls

1 stick butter, melted

8 cups powdered sugar

orange juice to desired consistency

* These glazes can be poured into plastic bags (in 1 cup portions)and frozen with the rolls, then left on the counter to defrost while the rolls are baking.  Then just snip a corner off the plastic bag and pipe onto rolls.

Baking Instructions for Rolls:

Place rolls onto a jelly roll pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Allow rolls to rise for a couple of hours or longer, covered by a dish towel until the desired volume is achieved.

Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned.

If you have chosen to premake the rolls and freeze them, there are 2 baking methods:

Quick Method

Remove rolls from freezer & place in a 9×13 pan that has been sprayed with a non-stick spray (Pam.)
Leave on counter to rise for 1 hour.
Leave bag of glaze on the counter to thaw.
After an hour, place the rolls in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Remove rolls from oven and reset temperature to 375 degrees.
When oven reaches 375, put rolls back in and bake for
12 minutes for dinner rolls or orange rolls
15-18 minutes for cinnamon rolls until tops are golden brown.

For rolls with glaze (orange) snip the bottom corner off the glaze bag, and pipe glaze onto warm rolls

Overnight Method (this is what I prefer):

Remove rolls from freezer & place in a 9×13 pan that has been sprayed with a non-stick spray (Pam.)
Leave on counter to rise overnight.
Leave bag of glaze on the counter to thaw.
Bake rolls at  375 degrees for
12 minutes for dinner rolls or orange rolls
15-18 minutes for cinnamon rolls until tops are golden brown. When they're mostly cooled down, top with cream cheese frosting.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meatless Monday: Freezer Egg and Black Bean Breakfast Burritos

I don't know about you, but I need protein at breakfast. For the last few weeks, I've been making myself a breakfast burrito almost every morning. I realized though that I was spending about 20 minutes each day just making a burrito. So I decided to make up a big batch to freeze so I could have breakfast in seconds, helping speed my morning along. I have seen a ton of recipes for breakfast burritos on Pinterest, but I wanted to do a meatless version and add some veggies and some black beans to mine for extra protein and fiber.

These babies are packed with eggs, black beans, onion, spinach, cheese, sour cream and salsa and they are oh-so satisfying! You could add any veggies you like, next time I might add some zucchini. Did you know zucchini goes really well with eggs? One of my favorite omelettes is mushrooms, shallots and zucchini. I digress. I have to say, I really love these guys! They pair wonderfully with a fruit smoothie. Did I mention there's 13 grams of protein in each one? And they're only 300 calories with the ingredients I used? Well there you go, good stuff right there!

So if you're looking to shake up your breakfast routine, you like make-ahead foods, and you want a hearty and satisfying breakfast, well then give these babies a try!

Freezer Egg and Black Bean Breakfast Burritos

3 cups cooked hash browns
1/2 large red onion, diced
1c black beans (or bean of your choice)
2c chopped spinach (or kale, chard, etc)
5 eggs
2T milk
6oz shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
12 whole wheat tortillas (taco size)
Sour cream (optional)
Salsa (optional)

In a non-stick frying pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and beans and cook until onions are tender, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add spinach to the pan and saute for a few seconds while it begins to wilt. Mix eggs and milk then add to the pan and cook until they're done.

Heat tortillas slightly so they're pliable. Working with four at a time, spread a few teaspoons of sour cream over the middle of the tortilla, then add hash browns, egg mixture, cheese and a few teaspoons of salsa. Wrap tortilla into a burrito, then wrap in plastic wrap, sealing tight. Store in the freezer in a gallon sized ziplock bag.

To heat: Unwrap and discard the plastic wrap from the burrito.Wrap the burrito in a paper towel. Microwave for 1 minute, flip over and microwave for another 1 minute or until heated through. This worked perfectly in my microwave, yours might be different so you may have to experiment with heating times.