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.