Sunday, December 23, 2012

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

This is my first year really making Christmas cookies, and I have no idea why I waited so long. I didn't have too much confidence in my baking skills, but I think I pulled it off this year! You can substitute whatever kind of jam you would like, but raspberry is my favorite. Hope you enjoy these cookies!

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup raspberry jam

Directions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a medium. Bowl combine flour and baking powder. Mix well with a wire whisk. Set aside.

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and beat on medium until smooth. Add the flour mixture and blend at low speed until thoroughly combined. Dough will be firm.

Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough, roll into 1-inch diameter balls and place on parchment lined baking sheets 1 inch apart. Poke center of the cookie ball with finger. Place 1/2 teaspoon of jam in the center of each cookie ball.

Bake 22-24 minutes or until light golden brown. Transfer to a cool, flat surface. Makes approximately 4 dozen.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Italian Stuffed Peppers

If you are looking for a good stuffed peppers recipe, this is one to try!  The Italian flavors were a nice change from using rice as a filler with ground beef or turkey.  Using bolognese sauce with the frozen spinach worked really well.  Hope you enjoy these as much as we did!
Ingredients
1 lb lean ground turkey (or lean ground beef)
3 bell peppers
2 cups spaghetti sauce (I used bolognese)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1 garlic clove, pressed)
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach (De-thawed and squeezed dry with paper towel)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese + 6 tablespoons to garnish over top of each pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line baking sheet with foil (for easy clean up), coat with non-stick cooking spray.  Wash peppers and cut around the stem to remove.  Remove stems.  Cut peppers in half length-wise, and remove the seeds and ribs inside the peppers.  Set peppers on baking pan.  Meanwhile, cook ground turkey in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Stir and break up the turkey while it's cooking.  When turkey is almost completely cooked through, add the sauce and seasonings to the pan.  Stir and continue to cook until the turkey is completely cooked (when it is no longer pink).  Add the spinach and Parmesan and stir until everything is well combined.  Scoop 1/2 cup of the turkey mixture into each pepper.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon Parmesan over each pepper (or another low fat shredded cheese, such as mozzarella).  Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is melted, and lightly golden brown.  

Russian Tea Cakes

Like most of you, I started making holiday cookies this week.  Russian Tea Cakes are some of my favorite cookies, and this was my first time making them.  They couldn't be easier, and taste SO good!  It was hard to resist eating all of them at once.  Enjoy!
Ingredients
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
parchment paper
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan for 6 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.  Cool completely (about 20 minutes).  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Process almonds in a food processor 30 seconds, or until finely ground.

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add vanilla and 1 cup powdered sugar, beating well. (Dough will be crumbly)

Combine flour, salt, and almonds; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended.

Shape dough into 3/4" balls, and place 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake at 325 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes.  Transfer to wire racks and cool 10 minutes.  Roll cookies in 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

S'more Krispy Treats

Thank goodness for Pinterest!  If you love s'mores, then you will love these bars.  They are just as easy as rice krispy treats to make, but a nice way to change it up.  I think next time I will add some more whole marshmallows when I am mixing everything together in addition to the melted ones.  Hope you enjoy these!
Ingredients
1/4 cup butter
1 (10 oz) bag regular marshmallows
1 box Golden Graham cereal
1-2 cups chocolate chips (I used half of a bag)

Directions
In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add marshmallows and keep stirring until the marshmallows completely melt and you get a marshmallow sauce.  Remove from heat.  Add Golden Grahams and stir until they are all well coated.  You can chose to crush up some before adding them if you want some smaller pieces.  Next, stir in chocolate chips.  Grease a 9 x 13 pan and press s'mores down.  Once they are all pressed down and cooled, drizzle with some melted chocolate chips if you would like additional chocolate.

Bourbon- Cranberry Compote

I decided to change up my cranberry sauce this year, and I am glad I found this recipe.  My little cousin Jenna helped me prepare this, and I think she liked stirring the cranberries and listening to them burst.  I was able to make this the night before Thanksgiving, and refrigerated it covered.  Be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving, however!  Enjoy!
Ingredients
1 (12 oz) bag fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup bourbon (I used Jack Daniels)

Directions
In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, apple juice, and bourbon.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to burst and the sauce thickens, 20-25 minutes.  Let cool before serving.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Spiced Maple Sauce

My family isn't huge on sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving, but I still bring them each year.  These are by far my favorite ones I have ever made!  They smelled incredible, and the spiced maple sauce was a great addition.  Enjoy!
Ingredients
2/3 cup roughly chopped pecans
3 lbs sweet potatoes, peel and cut into large dice
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons real maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions
Heat oven to 450 degrees F and arrange rack in the middle.  While oven heats, place pecans on a baking sheet to toast until they smell nutty and are slightly darker, about 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.  Place sweet potatoes on baking sheet, drizzle with oil.  Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, and toss to coat.  Roast until golden brown and tender when pierced with a knife, about 40-45 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  When it foams, stir in maple syrup and cayenne and let cook briefly, about 1 minute.  Serve sweet potatoes with a drizzle of maple butter and a scattering of pecans.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Turkey Noodle Soup

This was the first year I used my leftover turkey for something other than sandwiches, and it was perfect for a chilly day.  You can substitute a rotisserie chicken if you are all out of leftovers.  It is a light recipe at only 280 calories per serving and 7.2 grams of fat.  Much needed a couple days after Thanksgiving!  Enjoy!
Ingredients
Cooking spray
1 cup (1/4" thick) slices carrot
3/4 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (1/4" thick) slices celery
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups fat free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 cups uncooked egg noodles (I added more)
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 bay leaf
2 cups shredded turkey
Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)

Directions
Heat a large saucepan (I used my Dutch oven) over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add carrot, onion, and garlic; saute 5 minutes or until onion is lightly browned.  Add celery, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; saute 3 minutes.  Add broth and next 3 ingredients (through bay leaf); bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.  Add shredded turkey; cook 3 minutes.  Discard bay leaf.  Sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Slow Cooker Oatmeal

My new fall/winter plan is to make my oatmeal for the week every Sunday night to have for the rest of the week.  I had never cooked it this way before, but it is definitely the way to go.  I used old fashioned oats and it cooked really thick, which is the way I like mine.  If you want it creamier, you can also add some additional milk to it in the morning.  I also sprinkled mine with brown sugar.  Enjoy!
Slow Cooker Oatmeal
Ingredients
1 2/3 cup oats (steel cut or old-fashioned rolled, not instant)
2 cups water
2 cups skim milk
pinch of salt
*I also added a little bit of cinnamon

Directions
Combine oats, water, milk, salt, and cinnamon in slow cooker, and stir.  Cover and cook for 8 hours on low heat.

Tangy Slow Cooker Pork Roast

This pork roast turned out very flavorful, and perfect for a day when you don't feel like spending a lot of time getting dinner ready.  I actually forgot to take a picture of the roast when it was finished because we were all so hungry, but you need to try this recipe!  Enjoy!

Ingredients
1 large onion, sliced
2.5 lb boneless pork roast (I used a 3 lb)
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I used balsamic)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 dash hot pepper sauce, or to taste

Directions
Arrange onion slices evenly over the bottom of the slow cooker, and then place the roast on top of the onions.  In a bowl, mix together water, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, black pepper, salt, garlic powder, and hot sauce.  Pour over roast.  I also added baby carrots and diced red potatoes.  Cover, and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours.


Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Now that the cold weather has set in, there is nothing better than a good tomato soup recipe.  This is one of my favorites, and I am pretty sure I ate most of it.  It was great for leftovers with grilled cheese sandwiches!  I made this in my Dutch oven on the stove, but you could also use a slow cooker.  Enjoy!
Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
Ingredients
2 (28 ounce) cans whole tomatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
6 ounces tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable if you prefer)
5 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup fresh basil, shredded (about 10 large leaves)
5 ounces evaporated milk
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Drain and reserve juices from tomatoes (there should be about 3 cups of juice).  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.  Place tomatoes in a single layer on foil.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and chopped onion.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until slightly brown and tomatoes appear dry.  Dice tomatoes, careful of the hot juice!  In a crock pot or large pot, combine roasted tomato mixture, reserved juice, tomato paste, chicken broth, garlic, and allspice.  If using a pot, simmer for 4-6 hours over low heat.  In a crock pot, cook for 8 hours on low.  Add basil, evaporated milk, salt, and pepper.  Turn heat on crock pot up to high, or continue to simmer in pot for additional 30 minutes.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Homemade Turkey Meatball Sandwich Casserole

My friend Andrew, whom I have known since kindergarten, works for ConAgra and has been working on a Hunt's tomato sauce which comes in a resealable carton, as opposed to a can.  He gave me a carton of it to try, and Skirell and I were trying to come up with something different to try it with, since it's a new product.  We decided meatball sandwiches would be amazing, and after a little Pinterest searching, this is what I ended up with.  The Hunt's tomato sauce was perfect to use for this, and I had some leftover which I was able to save since it is resealable now!  Next time you are at Target or Wal-Mart, look for the sauce to try on your own! (How was that, Andrew?)

First, the recipe for the homemade turkey meatballs...I forgot to take a picture of just the meatballs, but you get the idea.

Ingredients
1 lb lean ground turkey
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used whole wheat Italian seasoned)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 tablespoon EVOO
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions
In a large bowl, place the ground turkey, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, cheese, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.  Quickly whip the 2 eggs together in a separate bowl, then pour in the large bowl with everything else, and mix all ingredients.

Use a tablespoon to loosely measure out the mixture.  Place the mixture in your hand and roll it into a ball and then set aside for cooking.  Repeat this process until you have used all of the mixture.  Place a large skillet over medium heat.  Drizzle the pan with the EVOO, and place the meatballs in the skillet.  Turn the meatballs every couple of minutes to brown on all sides.  When the turkey meatballs are all done, let them rest 3-5 minutes.  If they are extra large, finish cooking them in the oven.  

Now, use those meatballs to make the casserole.  If you want to skip the first step, you can use frozen turkey meatballs as well.



Ingredients
1 baguette French bread, cut into 18-24 slices about 1/4" thick
Olive Oil
Meatballs (I used about 30)
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (I used Hunt's)
shredded mozzarella cheese to taste 
2 small cans mushroom slices
8 oz frozen diced green peppers

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush each slice of bread with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.  Toast in the oven oil side up for 10 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.  In a separate bowl, mix together the meatballs, mushrooms, green peppers, and tomato sauce to coat.  Remove the bread from the oven, and line a baking dish on the sides and the bottom with the slices of bread.  Spoon meatball mixture into the baking dish on top of the bread.  Cover the top with the shredded mozzarella cheese.  Return to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.    


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Best Stir-Fried Chicken from Gwyneth Paltrow's My Father's Daughter

I finally bought a copy of Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook My Father's Daughter.  I became slightly obsessed after reading her introduction, and almost started crying when she was talking about her relationship with her father.  I never knew too much about her, or that she enjoyed cooking.  Each recipe is accompanied with a little story, which I love.  Basically, if you don't have the cookbook, go get it!  This is her recipe for the best stir-fried chicken, and we loved it.  It is nice to have a meal where you don't feel terrible after, especially when you are craving Chinese food.  The recipe didn't call for any vegetables, but I added carrots, broccoli, and diced green peppers.  I also toned down the garlic and ginger.  Enjoy!
Ingredients
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into small (about 3/4") cubes
2 tablespoons corn starch
coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup peeled and minced garlic
1/4 cup peeled and minced ginger (I used ground ginger, & cut amount in half)
1/2 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
pinch red chile flakes (optional)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (unrefined if possible)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used low sodium)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, for serving 

Directions
Toss the chicken with the cornstarch, a large pinch of salt, and quite a bit of pepper.  Heat the oil in a large nonstick wok over medium-high heat (this is a gentle stir fry).  Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and chile flakes if using them and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add the vinegar, sugar, and 5 or 6 grinds of black pepper.  Boil on high for 3 minutes, or until the sugar has really caramelized  the vinegar has mellowed a bit, and the whole mixture is dark brown and sticky and lovely.  (This is when I added the green peppers, broccoli, and carrots).  Add the soy sauce, cook for another 30 seconds, and serve immediately, sprinkled with the cilantro. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Brown Sugar and Dijon Glazed Pork Loin

I have been terrible lately at planning meals, which is why we have been eating out so much.  Last week we finally wanted to settle down and cook something new.  I was looking for something easy, but good, since I didn't prepare anything the day before.  I stumbled on this recipe and loved the way it turned out!  The mustard and brown sugar combo tasted great on the pork roast, and would be really good with a baked ham.  You may notice my nice makeshift roaster in this picture.  I don't own one yet, so I rolled pieces of foil to create one for the roast to sit on.  It actually worked out perfectly! One of these days I will get one :) Enjoy!
Ingredients
Pork loin roast (I used one about 2.5lbs to have enough for leftovers)
Large grain Dijon mustard (I used Grey Poupon)
Brown sugar

Directions
Trim the fat from the roast, leaving only a quarter inch of fat on top at the most.  Season the pork loin with salt and pepper and open roast the pork on a rack at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cover the entire surface with the large grain mustard, then press the brown sugar into the mustard, all over the roast.  Return the roast to the oven, reduce the heat to 375 degrees.  Continue to roast until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees on a meat thermometer.  Baste the roast with drippings several times during cooking.  Let it set for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mini Pizza

I know this is pretty basic, but a lot of you have kids and are looking for kid friendly recipes.  After making hamburgers one night we had a lot of leftover buns.  I took each bun and rolled them a bit thinner with a rolling pin for the crust of the pizza.  I used wheat buns to make it a little healthier, along with turkey pepperoni and pineapple.  Use just about a spoonful of sauce, and top with your favorite toppings.  I like to broil them to really melt the cheese and get some good color, but be sure to keep an eye on them to make sure they don't get burnt!  Enjoy!



Rigatoni and Corn

I am so happy I came across this recipe!  It is definitely one of my favorites I have made this summer.  It is so fresh and easy.  It is a great recipe to stock up on ingredients at your farmer's market.  I made this on a night when Skirell had plans for dinner because there was no meat involved.  Next time I will definitely serve some grill chicken with the pasta, but it also works great as a side.  Enjoy!

Ingredients
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 ears corn, shucked
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cups grape tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 12 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 small bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for topping
  • Torn basil, for topping
Directions
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the corn and cook until slightly tender, about 3 minutes. Remove with tongs, reserving the boiling water. Let the corn cool slightly, then cut off the kernels.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook until the tomatoes soften, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the rigatoni in the corn water as the label directs. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the chicken broth and corn kernels to the skillet and bring to a simmer.
Add the pasta to the skillet; add the scallions, Parmesan, the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss to combine, adding the reserved cooking water as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Top with more Parmesan and basil.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer Potato Salad

I have been slightly addicted to clipping coupons these days.  My record so far was saving $26 at Target.  Even the cashier complimented me on how much I saved!  I found this recipe next to a coupon for the new Philadelphia Cooking Creme.  I really liked this potato salad because it wasn't made with mayonnaise, and had more flavor than you usually have with a traditional potato salad.  This recipe is made to serve 22, so definitely cut it down unless to  you are going a large gathering.  Hope you all enjoy it!

Ingredients
3 lbs baby red potatoes, quartered
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup Kraft Zesty Italian dressing
1 tub (10 oz) Philadelphia Reduced Fat Italian Cheese & Herb Cooking Creme
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/4 cup Kraft Shredded Parmesan Cheese


Directions 
Place potatoes in a 2-qt. microwavable dish.  Add water; cover with lid.  Microwave on high 12-15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.  Place in a large bowl.  Add dressing; toss to coat.  Refrigerate 1 hour, or until completely cooled.  Add remaining ingredients; mix lightly.

Fruit Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing

Thank goodness for Pinterest!  I know most of you are on it, but I figured I would still post the recipe for you.  It is a nice way to serve mixed fruit, rather than just doing a fruit salad on it's own with no additional flavors.  The citrus mixed with sweet honey is so good!  This is definitely a good one to bring to a barbecue with friends and family!

Ingredients
1 pint strawberries
1 pint blueberries
1 bunch grapes (red, green, or both)
1/4 cup honey
Juice from 2 limes (about 2-3 tablespoons)

Directions 
Rinse strawberries, blueberries, and grapes.  Gently pat dry the fruit. Hull strawberries and cut each in half; cut into quarters if large.  Remove stems from blueberries, if any.  Remove grapes from stems.  Gently combine strawberries, blueberries, and grapes in a large bowl and set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk together honey and lime juice.  Pour over fruit and mix.  Refrigerate until served.

Broccoli Salad

I receive the daily emails from Real Simple and Food Network featuring a recipe of the day.  I save a lot of them, but haven't tried most until this one.  It was going to be perfect for a barbecue we were going to on Saturday night to celebrate the 4th of July with food and fireworks.  It is a Paula Deen recipe, which surprisingly doesn't include butter :)  I loved that the dressing was light.  I don't like it when too much mayonnaise is used, and that is all you can taste.  Enjoy!

Ingredients
1 head broccoli
6-8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup raisins, optional
8 ounces sharp Cheddar, cut into very small chunks
1 cup mayonnaise (I used low-fat)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Trim off the large leaves from the broccoli stem.  Remove the tough stalk at the end, and wash broccoli head thoroughly.  Cut the head into flowerets and the stem into bite size pieces.  Place in a large bowl.  Add the crumbled bacon, onion, raisins if using, and cheese.  In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, stirring well.  Add to broccoli mixture and toss gently.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

3 Cheese Macaroni & Cheese Muffins

My Aunt has two little ones home for summer, and she asked me if I could help her find some good recipes for lunch and dinner the kids would like and be able to help with.  These macaroni and cheese muffins are perfect for kids and adults!  I served these as a side at our barbecue last night, and the portions are perfect (especially if you are trying to control portions).  I used fat free cheese and skim milk to cut calories where I could.  The next time I make these I am going to add spinach to them as well!  Enjoy!
3 Cheese Mac & Cheese Muffins


Ingredients
1 lb elbow macaroni
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
5 cups skim milk
1 1/2 lb sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

For the topping:
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease standard 12 cup muffin pan with butter (I used Pam).

Bring saucepan 3/4 full of salted water to a boil.  Add macaroni, stir once, and return to a boil.  Cook just shy of al dente, 6-7 minutes.  Drain.  Set cooked macaroni aside.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture just starts to darken, about 3 minutes.  Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk, raise the heat, and bring the sauce to a boil.  Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce begins to thicken, 3-5 minutes longer.

Add the cheeses, salt, and pepper to the sauce and stir until all of the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.  Remove from heat.  Add the macaroni and stir to coat thoroughly.  Cover to keep warm,

To make the topping, in a small bowl, stir together the butter, bread crumbs, and Parmesan until well mixed.

Fill each prepared muffin cup to the rim with the macaroni mixture.  Sprinkle the muffins with the topping, dividing it evenly.  Bake until the tops are golden brown and the sauce is bubbling, 15-20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely in the pan, then refrigerate the muffins still in the pan for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours so they hold their shape.

Unmold the muffins using a small sharp plastic knife (so you don't scratch your pan).  Rewarm in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes and serve.

Lemon Rosemary Roasted Asparagus

We had a last minute barbecue at my parents house last night with grilled chicken and steaks.  My mom was making the eleven hour drive home from Michigan, so I decided to make all of the sides we would have.  If it was up to the boys they would have put a bag of chips on the table and called it good.  This asparagus turned out wonderful.  Be sure not to over roast them, they should still have a slight crunch to them.  The rosemary was a nice complimentary flavor, and not overpowering.  The citrus was perfect for the kick-off to summer weekend!  Enjoy!
Lemon Rosemary Roasted Asparagus
Ingredients
1 bundle of asparagus
1 lemon
handful of rosemary sprigs
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Thinly slice 1/2 of the lemon.  Prep asparagus shoots, and spread them along with the lemon slices and rosemary on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Toss all with the olive oil, as well as salt and pepper.

Squeeze juice from remaining 1/2 of lemon.

Roast in oven for 7 minutes, then carefully turn asparagus over and continue roasting for another 8 minutes.  Watch for preferred doneness.  Add additional time if needed.  Total roasting time should be between 15-20 minutes.

Serve warm.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Taco Pasta

I have seen this recipe on Pinterest for a while, and have been meaning to make it.  I finally made it this week, and it's good!  It is basically like a homemade Hamburger Helper, but way better.  I used medium salsa and it was a bit spicy for me, so next time I will use mild and some hot sauce on the side.  For the cream cheese, I used the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cooking Creme, and it was easier than waiting for the cream cheese to melt.  Enjoy!

Ingredients
1 lb ground beef (I used 94% lean)
8 ounces small pasta
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup salsa
1 packet taco seasoning
3 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
Shredded cheese for topping

Directions
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the ground beef and onion over medium-high heat until no longer pink.  Once the meat is cooked through, drain off the excess fat and mix in garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the salsa and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream, and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Top with shredded cheese and more sour cream and salsa if desired.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Potato Gratin

This is another recipe we used at our cooking class at Williams-Sonoma.  These potatoes are amazing!  The Gruyere cheese was distinctive, but not overpowering.  These would be great to make with just about any meal.  I used the mandoline from Williams-Sonoma, which I purchased the night of my class, and it sliced the potatoes evenly and quickly.  It is very sharp though!  I ended up with a kitchen wound, but all is good!



Ingredients
2 cups heavy cream
2 eggs
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
6 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/16" thick slices
4 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded (I used 6 oz)
1 Tbs chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a shallow 2-quart ceramic baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine the cream, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and whisk until just blended.  Add the potatoes and toss gently until evenly mixed.  Transfer to the prepared baking dish.  Using your fingertips, spread the potatoes in an even layer, pressing them lightly so the absorb the liquid.  Sprinkle the cheese and then the parsley evenly over the top.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is golden, the gratin is bubbling, and the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, 15-20 minutes more.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. 

Romaine, Gorgonzola, and Walnut Salad

My mom and I took a cooking class a couple weeks ago at Williams-Sonoma, which I highly recommend, and we learned how to make this salad during the class.  We both loved the salad so much, we decided I would definitely be making this for Easter.  It is different enough to make you excited to eat a salad, rather than the same boring toppings.  One thing the instructor specified was to make sure you get a good Gorgonzola cheese.  I got the Gorgonzola dolcelatte at Whole Foods, and it was perfect.  It was rich, but certainly not overpowering.  Also, when you wash the lettuce, make sure you dry it best you can to make sure the dressing sticks.  Enjoy!



Ingredients
For the walnut vinaigrette:
7 Tbs walnut oil
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs aged balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs sherry vinegar
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 cup walnuts, preferably halves
3 heads romaine lettuce, leaves separated and torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup red or black seedless grapes, halved (optional)
2 small pears, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 to 2/3 lb Gorgonzola dolcelatte cheese, at room temperature, broken into bite-size pieces

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make walnut vinaigrette, in a bowl, whisk together the walnut and olive oils, balsamic and sherry vinegars, and salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and place in the oven.  Toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown and fragrant, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Transfer to a small bowl, add 3 Tbs of the vinaigrette, toss lightly, and let stand for 15 minutes before assembling the salad.

Place the torn romaine in a large bowl.  Add the marinated walnuts and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.  Toss well.  Divide among individual plates, and top withe the grapes, pears, and cheese.

Serves 6.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Scottish Shortbread Cookies

My dad's side of the family is from Scotland, and for years he has been talking about wanting to go there.  It honestly comes up in conversation at least once a week with my family.  My mom decided to surprise my dad with an amazing trip to Edinburgh at the end of this summer to celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary, and his birthday.  For Easter, we made him a Scottish themed basket to tell him about their upcoming trip.  To go along with telling him, I made Scottish Shortbread cookies for dessert.  I have never made them before, and they turned out great!  I looked at lots of recipes, and they are all so similar.  I think next time I will add some vanilla to add a different flavor.  Enjoy!


My dad's Easter basket

Scottish Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
3/4 cup butter at room temperature

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Blend all ingredients well (it works best to use your hands). Dough will be stiff.  Press into a 9 x 9" buttered dish.  Prick top with a fork (I did every 1/2").  Bake until pale golden brown on the edges.  Be sure not to over-bake.  Cool and cut into squares.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Brown Sugar Meatloaf and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

After a long weekend, Skirell and I needed comfort food at its best.  We decided on meatloaf, potatoes, and Brussels sprouts.  I found this recipe for brown sugar meatloaf to change up my normal routine for making meatloaf, and it was so good!  I changed the recipe a bit, and the brown sugar addition was perfect.  I usually have to use extra sauce or ketchup, but with this recipe I didn't, it was so moist and flavorful.  A picture of meatloaf doesn't really do it justice, so I just added a picture of the roasted Brussels sprouts.  Enjoy!



Roasted Brussels Sprouts
I took one bag of frozen Brussels sprouts and defrosted them in the microwave.  Once thawed, slice each one in half.  Toss them with olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper.  Roast in a covered Dutch oven for 45 minutes on 350 degrees.  Stir every 10 minutes for even roasting.

Brown Sugar Meatloaf
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I ended up using a little less)
1/2 cup ketchup
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
3/4 cup milk (I used skim)
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup finely crushed saltine cracker crumbs

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease 5x9" loaf pan.  In a mixing bowl, mix the the beef, milk, eggs, salt, pepper, onion, ginger, and cracker crumbs thoroughly and shape into a loaf.  Place in loaf pan, and top with the brown sugar.  Spread ketchup on top of the brown sugar evenly.  Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until juices are clear.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Basil Chicken Pasta

After Skirell and I ate way too much at the Oscar party at my parents, we needed something light and somewhat healthy.  We have been on a little pasta kick, but nothing boring.  This basil chicken pasta was so good!  I added more hot sauce than it called for, and it was perfect.  The amount of basil was good because it wasn't too much, and didn't take over the flavor of everything else.  This is definitely a recipe you can play with and add your favorite spices and ingredients.  


Ingredients
8 oz pasta (I used thin spaghetti)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups boneless chicken breast, cubed
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I doubled it, and used Cholula hot sauce)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until it is al dente, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and add chicken.  Cook until chicken is no longer pink.  Add the oil and onions and cook until onions are translucent.  Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds more.  Add tomatoes, sugar, basil, salt, and hot sauce.  Reduce heat to medium and cover skillet.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until mixture is hot and tomatoes are soft.  Toss sauce with the pasta to coat. Serve with Parmesan cheese.





Monday, February 27, 2012

Cake Batter Rice Krispie Treats

I may have a slight weakness for desserts, and Skirell may have some input on the degree of my problem.  I think I had four cake batter rice krispie treats at our Oscar get together last night!  The cake batter is a new ingredient for me to use while making them, and it is going to stay.  They were so good!  It adds just a slight cake batter taste, and who doesn't love that?  I used Funfetti cake mix, then use the left over cake mix to make cookies.  My brother made me leave the cookies at their house, so they must have been good.  Enjoy!


Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter
1 10 oz bag mini marshmallows
1/4 cup cake mix
6 cups rice krispie cereal
1 1.75 oz container of sprinkles

Directions
Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat and add marshmallows.  Stir until they begin to melt, add cake mix slowly so it gets mixed well.  Stir in cereal until it is completely covered in marshmallow mixture.  Sprinkle in half of the sprinkles and mix well.  Press into baking dish using a piece of wax paper to make them even in the pan.  Top with remaining sprinkles.  Let sit 30 minutes before cutting to allow them to cool.  

To make cake batter cookies:  Mix 18 oz cake mix, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, and 3 eggs.  Mix well, and bake on 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

On Oscar night, it is a tradition for my family to watch them together and cast our ballots for what we think will win (I didn't do so great this year and placed 5th out of 8).  We had a couple friends over this year and we all contributed with small bites for everyone to snack on.  This year I brought hot spinach and artichoke dip, a Betty Crocker recipe.  Next time I think I would add some garlic salt to give it some more flavor.  I served it with sliced cucumbers, red peppers, baby carrots, celery, and tortilla chips.  Enjoy!


Ingredients
1 cup mayonnaise (I used light)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 can (about 14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained, and coarsely chopped
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed, and squeezed to drain
1/2 cup chopped red pepper (I used the extra pepper to serve with the dip)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I used more)

Directions
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese in a medium size bowl.  Stir in artichokes, red pepper, and spinach.  Spoon mixture into a 1 qt casserole dish.  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Cover and bake about 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted (I wanted to brown my cheese a little bit so I broiled it, and kept an eye on it).  Serve warm with vegetables, chips, baguette slices, or crackers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Linguine with Pancetta and Peas

This recipe was such a great find!  I can't wait to play with it next time, and have some fun adding different ingredients.  I think I would add some red pepper flakes to make it a little spicy, and add some more cheese.  This is a great recipe when you are short on time, or can't make it to the store.  Most of the ingredients you probably already have at home.  Enjoy!



Ingredients
12 oz linguine
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz pancetta, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 10 oz package frozen peas
1/4 cup sour cream (I used light)
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more

Directions
Cook pasta according to package directions in liberally salted water.  Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.

Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat.  Cut pancetta into small pieces and add to pan.  Cook until fat has been rendered, about 5 minutes.  Add shallot and garlic, and cook for a few minutes longer.  Add peas and cook until tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes.

Add cooked pasta and the reserved pasta water.  Stir in sour cream and cheese; toss until melted and sauce has formed.  Serve with additional Parmesan.