Friday, December 30, 2011

December 30, 2011

The last post of the year, and what a year it has been! Hard to think that way back in April I began this blog and have since found so many great recipes to share. My family has tried out many more recipes than have made it here as "keepers", and they have been great sports about the whole process. Hannah and Liam are my primary kitchen helpers, and Ryan and Owen will try just about anything.

I guessed it would be kind of a light week of new recipes, and I was right. In addition to what I shared here we tried out another dinner recipe which was good (a braised beef stew I served with mashed potatoes), but needs a little tweaking. It called for sun dried tomatoes (which you know I LOVE), but they seemed a bit out of place. I think mushrooms would do better in the recipe, so I will try that in the future. We did make the candy cane shaped bread that my mom used to make for Christmas when I was growing up, and for my first attempt it wasn't too shabby. The flavor was great (I tasted like I remembered it), but making one big loaf was a bit much; I should have made two loaves out of it. Now I know for next time. It was fun to make something for my kids that was from my childhood, and they loved it (bonus!). I would have loved to use raspberry filling, but I couldn't find any, and I didn't have time to make any myself.

The other new recipe that was voted a keeper is definitely a family friendly option. The dish came together very quickly, used only one pot (fantastic!), and went over well with everyone at the table. My husband even took the leftovers to work for lunch, much to the chagrin of my big kids who were hoping to have it for lunch themselves the next day; I guess that proves it was a winner! This is not a fancy meal, not one you'd want to serve to someone you were hoping to impress, but if you are looking for an easy weeknight meal that keeps the dishes to a minimum and will put a smile on everyone's face, than One Pot Chili Pasta might be just right!

If you can believe it next week's entry will be January 6, 2012. Happy New Year to all, and as I love to say around this time, see you next year!

New Recipes

Candy Cane Shaped Bread
One Pot Chili Pasta

Candy Cane Shaped Bread

* 1 cup sour cream
* 1 package active dry yeast
* 1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
* 2 tbsp butter, softened
* 2 tbsp + 1.5 tsp sugar
* 2 tsp salt
* 1 eggs
* 3 cups all-purpose flour

1. Heat sour cream over low heat just until lukewarm.
2. Dissolve yeast in the warm water (110-115 F). Stir in sour cream, butter, sugar, salt, eggs and 1.5 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in enough remaining flour to make it easy to handle.
3. Turn dough onto well-floured board. Knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl. Turn once to bring greased side up. Cover. Let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour. To test for rising, stick two fingers in dough. If holes remain but top stays smooth, dough is ready.
4. Heat oven to 375° F. Punch down dough.
5. Roll the dough into a rectangle. Place on greased baking sheet. With scissors or a knife, make 2-inch cuts at 1/2-inch intervals on both long sides of the rectangles.
6. Place the filling down the center of the rectangle.
7. Crisscross strips over the filling. Stretch dough to 22 inches. Curve to form a “cane.”
8. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. While warm, brush with butter and drizzle canes with Thin Icing (recipe follows). If desired, decorate with cherry halves or pieces.

For thin icing:

Blend 2 cups powdered sugar with about 2 tablespoons water. If icing is too stiff, add water a drop at a time. If too thin, add more powdered sugar a little at a time.

The original recipe is double all of these ingredients and makes 3 loaves. I halved the recipe (what I used is what is shown above in the ingredients list) and made one large one. I bet I could have made two small size ones with the same amount of ingredients as I used because it came out really large. Also, the original recipe has a recipe for a mixed fruit filling using apricots and maraschino cherries, but during my childhood my mom would use pie filling as the bread filling. I followed her example. I used apple filling, but raspberry or cherry would look quite festive, and I bet blueberry would taste great as well! You'll see in the pictures below that I used parchment paper to ensure that bread wouldn't stick!

One other tip...when Hannah and Owen saw this bread, they told me we could make it for Halloween and have it be Mummy Bread! That would be cute too!

One Pot Chili Pasta

* 1 lb. extra lean ground beef
* 1 yellow onion, chopped
* 1 cup each chopped red and yellow peppers
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 2 tbsp chili powder
* 3 cups water
* 1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
* 3 cups wagon wheel pasta, uncooked
* 1/2 cup frozen corn
* 1 cup shredded cheese, your choice on flavor
* green onions, diagonally cut into thin slices (we used 4)

1. Brown the meat with onions in Dutch oven or deep large nonstick skillet. Add peppers; cook 5 min. or until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic and chili powder; cook 1 min.
2. Add water and sauce; stir. Bring to boil. Stir in pasta; cover. Simmer 15 min. or just until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in corn; cook 3 to 4 min. or until heated through.
3. Serve, letting each person top with cheese and green onions.

My kids love pasta, and I love one pot meals. The fact that the pasta cooks right in with the sauce thereby using one less pot made it a recipe I wanted to test. This was a hit. By no means is this a company worthy meal (unless all your guests are under the age of 10), and it is reminiscent of a Hamburger Helper type meal. I have a hard time with the original recipe name (One pot taco pasta) since it didn't taste like tacos to us. We are calling it One pot chili pasta as that is what it tasted like to us. Maybe for kicks next time we'll replace the chili powder with taco seasoning and see how that goes over!

It calls for extra lean ground beef because you don't drain the meat after you brown it. If you use a higher fat content ground beef, I would suggest you drain it before adding the peppers. You could also try this with ground turkey or ground chicken, and whole grain pasta.

Friday, December 23, 2011

December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas (almost)! I can't believe that this weekend is Christmas, and the new year is around the corner.

This week has been busy with last minute preparations for the holidays and festive activities, so it really didn't leave much time to try out new recipes. I can't guarantee that we are going to make a lot of new things this coming week, either, but we'll see what happens. We made one fabulous new dinner (Pork and Mushrooms over Noodles), and I have a few cookie recipes to share. Additionally, we made Shepherd's pie again, so I included the recipe for the way that I make it. This "recipe" can be tweaked to suit your own tastes.

The weather hasn't been cooperating in terms of snow and cold weather, which is a bummer for our winter break. Since we were hoping to build a snowman, we had to build one inside. Everyone at the holiday luncheon we hosted this week loved it, kids and moms alike!
At the luncheon I served Ham & Swiss Quiche and Cranberry Chicken Salad for the adults. Both were a big hit, and I was so glad to make the quiche. I absolutely LOVE quiche (any kind), but for some reason my family doesn't love it, so I don't have many opportunities or excuses to make it very often.

I attended my sister's annual cookie exchange party this week, and there were some really fabulous cookies. Mint seemed to be a theme as there were a few varieties of mint cookies, but my favorite from the night was a cookie called Petite Peppermint Sandwiches that my sister made. I added the link to the recipe she used below. While I haven't made these myself, I certainly plan to in the future!!!!

I made my absolute favorite Christmas cookies this week, Creme de Menthe bars. I make these every year, and eating them transports me back to my childhood. My mom always makes a few types of Christmas cookies, and I always reached for these first. The picture with the recipe isn't great, but the bar certainly was!

Merry Christmas!

New Recipes

Pork and Mushrooms over Noodles
Shepherd's Pie
Creme de Menthe Bars

Shout out Recipe
Petite Peppermint Sandwiches

Creme de Menthe Bars


* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
* 4 eggs
* 1 (16 ounce) can chocolate syrup
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 cup unbleached self-rising flour (if you have all purpose flour, see note below)
* 1/2 teaspoon salt


* 2 cups powdered sugar
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
* 2 tablespoons Creme de Menthe

* 1 cup chocolate chips
* 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. In the bowl of the stand mixer, cream together the sugar, butter, and eggs. Add the chocolate syrup and the vanilla and mix well.
3. Stir the flour and salt together in a small bowl, then add to the mixer bowl a little at a time. Mix well.
4. Spread the mixture evenly in a prepared 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 25 -30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely, about 30 to 60 minutes.
5. Make the middle layer: In the bowl of the stand mixer, mix together the powdered sugar, butter, and Creme de Menthe. Spread all over the chocolate bottom layer, and then put the pan in the refrigerator.
6. Make the glaze: In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and butter together and stir until combined. Allow to cool slightly, and then spread all over the top of the mint layer. Put the pan back in the refrigerator and allow to chill thoroughly. Cut into small squares and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Growing up my mom used to make a few different kinds of cookies each Christmas season, and these were my absolute favorite! Making them and eating them now transports me back to my childhood...I hope you will enjoy them, too!

If you do not have self-rising flour, you can make it. For each cup of all-purpose flour, add 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Mix to combine.

Shepherd's Pie

* left over roast
* left over carrots
* left over gravy
* onion
* frozen peas
* mashed potatoes

1. Make mashed potatoes.
2. Put roast and the onion (1/2 onion or whole depending on how much leftover roast you have) in your food processor, mix together.
3. Place the meat and onion in oven proof bowls.
4. Mix chopped leftover carrots and frozen peas with the meat.
5. Heat up the gravy, and spoon over the meat and vegetable mixture.
6. Spoon or pipe the mashed potatoes over the top of the meat, vegetables and gravy.
7. Heat until bubbling in a 350 degree oven.

We most recently made this with the cola braised pot roast, and it was delicious!!! When we make it we love to individualize it - Owen and Liam love peas but not carrots, Hannah doesn't like either, Ryan and I have both. Instead of doing one big one, which also works out really well, the individual servings are fun and everyone is much happier at the dinner table.

Pork and Mushrooms over Noodles

* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 1 tbsp butter
* 1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into two inch pieces
* 8 oz button mushrooms, quartered
* 1/2 cup shallots, sliced
* 1 carrot, diced
* 2 tbsp flour
* 1cup apple cider
* 1 cup chicken broth
* 1 tsp dried thyme
* salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
* egg noodles

1. Remove the silver skin from the pork tenderloin then cut into small bite size pieces. Pat dry with a paper towel then season the pork with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot add the pork and sauté until brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove pork to a plate.
3. Add the mushrooms, carrot, and shallots in the same skillet over medium heat. Cook until softened, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
4. Add the apple cider to deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low. Add pork with residual juices and the thyme.
5. Simmer for 15 -20, taste and re-season with salt and pepper. Serve over egg noodles.

I was initially skeptical about cider in this dinner, but it was a huge hit! All 5 of us enjoyed this, and will definitely be making it again. This is a great fall meal - such autumnal flavors with the pork and cider, and very warm and homey. It would be great to serve after a day of apple picking or a trip to the pumpkin patch!

Petite Peppermint Sandwiches


* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 1 cup sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 egg
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 recipe Peppermint-Cream Cheese Filling (below)
* Finely crushed peppermint candies or red sprinkles


1. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg, vanilla, and peppermint extract until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour.
2. Divide dough into four portions. Shape each portion into an 8-inch roll. Wrap each roll in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Freeze for 2 to 3 hours or until dough is firm enough to slice.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut rolls into 3/8-inch-thick slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or just until firm. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
4. To assemble, spread Peppermint-Cream Cheese Filling over the bottom of one cookie, spreading to the edges. Press the bottom of a second cookie against the filling, pressing lightly until filling comes just slightly over edges. Roll edges of cookies in crushed candies or sprinkles.
5. Layer filled cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Peppermint Cream Cheese Filling


* 3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
* 1/4 cup butter, softened
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
* 3 cups powdered sugar
* Milk


In a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in vanilla and peppermint extract. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. If necessary, beat in enough milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make a filling of spreading consistency. Makes 1-2/3 cups.

My sister made these and I LOVED them! I haven't made these myself yet, but certainly will in the future.

Link to original from Better Homes and Gardens: Petite Peppermint Sandwiches on

Friday, December 16, 2011

December 16, 2011

Just over a week until all your shopping done? What about your baking? I haven't even started the holiday baking and I'm not sure what cookies I'll make. I am sure the kids will help me out when we get going on it this weekend, no matter what we bake.

This week was a pretty successful new recipe week! 2 side dishes, a main dish and a dessert; not bad! The most exciting dish of the week - you'll have to solve a riddle first. What is a vegetable and a side dish all in one? Cauliflower "rice"! It is ridiculously easy and so delicious. Even Liam loved it!!! This is going to be a regular in our home.

The pot roast was surprisingly flavorful, and with the leftovers later in the week we made individual Shepherd's pies. I forgot to take a picture, and there isn't a true recipe for this, but it was a great way to reinvent leftovers, and it was a hit at the table. Anything individualized, with initials piped in mashed potatoes on the top is likely going to be a keeper in our house.

I served mustard potatoes with the pot roast, and they were a huge hit. I had more stone ground mustard to use, so this was the perfect outlet for it. I was bit nervous because it seemed like a lot of the dressing for the potatoes was left in the bowl after mixing them, but the recipe said to leave it behind after you finish mixing them. I did leave it in the bowl, and cooked them as directed, and the potatoes turned out fantastic, and all were gone in a flash. The recipe I present here is half of the original, so clearly it will double well if you are serving more than 4 people.

Just a funny little story about Liam. When the pot roast was served, Liam looked at the meat on his plate and said "no no". But when we passed the gravy and asked him if he wanted some on his plate, he got on board. "More sauce" came out of his mouth a few times! I guess this baby just doesn't like dry meat! And he turned his nose up at the potatoes for most of dinner. By the time he finally tried one, and decided he did like them, they were all gone! I guess he learned the hard way - if you snooze you lose, especially with carbs like potatoes or pasta at our table!

Finally, the marbled graham crackers. My book club (and the monkeys) gave thumbs up all around on these - and even Ryan had a few pieces! It was a really easy recipe that turned out to have a beautiful presentation because of the marbling. You could break this into the natural pieces of the crackers, or break it more randomly for the traditional "bark" appearance - it is up to you.

Good luck with your baking and last minute holiday prep! Don't forget to put your feet up if you have time!

New Recipes
Cauliflower Rice
Marbled Chocolate Graham Cracker Treats
Cola Braised Pot Roast
Mustard Roasted Potatoes

Mustard Roasted Potatoes

* Nonstick vegetable oil spray
* 1/4 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
* 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 tablespoons butter, melted
* 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
* 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
* 1 1/2 pounds 1- to 1 1/2-inch-diameter mixed unpeeled red-skinned and white-skinned potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch-wide wedges

1. Preheat to 425°F. Spray 1 large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.
2. Whisk mustard, olive oil, butter, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, and salt in large bowl to blend.
3. Add potatoes; sprinkle generously with freshly ground black pepper and toss to coat. Place potatoes on prepared baking sheet, leaving any excess mustard mixture behind in bowl. Spread potatoes in single layer.
4. Roast potatoes 20 minutes. Turn all the potatoes, roast about 20-25 minutes longer, until they are crusty outside and tender inside. Transfer potatoes to serving bowl.

Do ahead: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand on baking sheet at room temperature. Rewarm potatoes in 425°F oven 10 minutes.

The potatoes looked a little overdone (even some looked burnt) when I took them out of the oven, but they were all delicious and we ate every last potato. Do make sure to leave the excess dressing in the bowl and ignore the urge to pour it on the potatoes - it will just burn.

Cola Braised Pot Roast

* 4 1/2 pound boneless chuck roast
* 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
* 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
* 2 tablespoons minced garlic
* 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves, or 3/4 teaspoon of dried
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 2 cups beef stock or low-sodium canned beef broth
* 12 ounces cola soda
* 2 tablespoons tomato paste
* 2 tablespoons flour

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Season the roast well on all sides with 2 teaspoons of the salt and the pepper.
3. Using a small paring knife, make thin slits into the roast on all sides, about 2 inches apart, and fill the holes with the garlic and rosemary by rubbing this on the roast and getting it into the slits.
4. Heat a Dutch oven over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the roast and cook until very well browned on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Add the beef stock and cola and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release any browned bits. Add the tomato paste and stir to blend. The liquid should be about 1/2 way up the sides of the roast.
6. Cover the Dutch oven, place in oven, and roast until the meat is fork-tender, about 2 3/4 to 3 hours, turning the meat every 45 minutes or so. Add extra water if necessary to keep the liquid level at about 1/3 up the sides of the roast.
7. When the meat is fork-tender, remove the roast from the oven and carefully transfer the roast to a serving platter. Cover loosely to keep warm.
8. Skim off as much of the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid as possible. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the fat in a small bowl and add the flour. Stir to make a smooth paste. Add 1/2 cup of the hot cooking liquid to the bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk this mixture into the hot cooking liquid that remains in the Dutch oven and place over high heat on the stove top. Cook, whisking frequently, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
9. Serve the roast with the hot gravy.

Marbled Chocolate Graham Cracker Treats

* Graham Crackers, broken in half, enough to cover your tray
* 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate
* 1/2 cup creamy peanut Butter
* 3 ounces of white chocolate

1. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Place grahams on bottom of pan, cutting as needed to completely cover bottom.
2. Microwave semi-sweet chocolate and peanut butter in medium microwaveable bowl on high 1-1/2 to 2 min. or until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring every 30 sec. Alternatively, you can melt this on the stove.
3. Pour chocolate peanut butter mixture over grahams; spread to completely cover.
4. Melt white chocolate on high 1-1/2 to 2 min. or until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring every 30 sec. Drop spoonfuls over semi-sweet chocolate; pull the white chocolate through the chocolate gently with knife to create the marbling effect.
5. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Use foil handles to lift dessert from pan; peel off foil. Break into pieces.
5. Store the treats in the fridge.

Talk about easy, and delicious. I put the chocolate peanut butter mixture on the crackers and then the kids did the marbling.

You need to cover your cookie sheet with graham crackers, so depending on what size cookie sheet you use that will determine how much chocolate, peanut butter and white chocolate you will need to melt. I used my largest cookie sheet so I doubled the ingredients for the chocolate, peanut butter and white chocolate.

Cauliflower Rice

* Head of cauliflower

1. Wash and remove the stem from the cauliflower.
2. Run the cauliflower through the food processor to create "grains".
3. Put cauliflower in a microwaveable bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
4. Microwave on high for 6 minutes.
5. Serve!

Wow! What a great side dish and vegetable all rolled into one! Everyone at the table loved this, and had seconds if not more. You can put salt and pepper and butter on this, or pour on the sauce from your main course. Owen loved it with Frank's Hot Sauce (though that wasn't surprising). Liam loved it with gravy. We will definitely be making this on a regular basis.

Friday, December 9, 2011

December 9, 2011

Friday again...where does each week go? Around our house we are busy singing Christmas carols, looking each morning for Harry, our Elf on the Shelf, and opening Advent Calendars. We are armpit deep in the Christmas season, and loving every minute of it! We aren't traveling for the holidays this year, but are making the season special by doing lots of great things as a family - screening the Muppets movie, seeing the Holiday Light Show in town, going to the winter train exhibit at the botanic garden.

Today our family activity Advent Calendar told us to make a batch of cookies for dessert. I must say, there was a little underlying reason for this particular activity...I am attending a Christmas Cookie exchange later this month and am looking for a great cookie to bring. Well, I may have found the recipe I'll be making for the exchange! My usual helpers (the biggest and littlest monkey) helped me make Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprint Cookies. Talk about yum!!! I still may try out a few other new cookie recipes (luckily I have Book Club next week and can use those ladies as taste testers), and I'll let you know what I finally settle on for the exchnage.

This week also continued the pantry clean out. I had some whole grain mustard, as well as a small amount of cornflakes. I found two great dinner recipes to share this week using those ingredients. Baked Crab Cakes uses corn flakes as an outside coating. These crab cakes had a fantastic flavor, and really no filler. It was nice to bake the crab cakes and not fry or saute them in oil. Ryan was quite surprised to have crab cakes for dinner on a Tuesday night!

The second "keeper" dinner recipe used the whole grain mustard that has been in the pantry for a while with no clear use in sight. I used it in the pork and mustard sauce recipe which we all enjoyed immensely! The original recipe only called for 2 cups of noodles, but next time I make it I will likely make more - my kids love egg noodles! So, depending on who is at your dinner table and how much they like (or love) egg noodles, make anywhere between 2 and 3 cups. I was a little skeptical, to be honest, as I am not a huge mustard fan. I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy this dinner, but I was surprised and loved the flavor! And it was a cinch to put together. It only calls for a few ingredients, and is so quick to cook. In the time it takes to make the egg noodles you'll have the rest of the dish pulled together. This is a great and easy weeknight meal, but absolutely can be served to dinner quests as well.

Not sure what is on the meal plan for this coming week...perhaps another batch of cookies, and a few other dishes made with pantry ingredients on hand, we'll have to see! Have a great week!

New Recipes
Baked Crab Cakes
Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprint Cookies
Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce

* 2 1/2 cups uncooked medium egg noodles
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 1 pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut crosswise into 12 slices (about 1 lb or so)
* 1/2 tsp black pepper
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1 cup dry white wine
* 3 tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard
* 2 tbsp water
* 2 tsp cornstarch

1. Cook noodles according to package directions; drain.
2. While the noodles cook, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the pork with pepper and salt. Place pork in pan; cook 5 minutes, turning once.
3. Combine the wine and mustard; pour into pan. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes; flip pork after 5 minutes. Remove pork from pan; keep warm.
4. Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into pan; bring to a boil, and cook 1 minute or until thick. Serve pork with sauce and noodles.

Delicious! Have you ever gotten a food gift basket? I will bet you that it included some sort of whole-grain mustard. Now you have a recipe that calls for it! We loved this dish, even all three kids! If your family loves noodles, you might want to cook 3 cups of noodles instead of 2 1/2.

Baked Crab Cakes

* 1 1/2 cup cornflake crumbs
* 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat
* 1 1/2 teaspoon mayonnaise
* 1 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
* 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1 large egg yolk
* 2 teaspoons unsalted butter (optional)
* fresh lemon slices

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Place crabmeat in a bowl, checking for shells without breaking up the meat too much.
3. Distribute the cornflake crumbs on a platter or in a low bowl.
4. In a small bowl or large measuring cup combine mayo, old bay, mustard, yolk and cayenne pepper; mix well.
5. Add crab to dressing toss gently until well blended.
6. Form 6 to 8 crab cakes no more than 3 inches thick, pressing the ingredients together. Place the cakes in the crumbs and coat lightly on all sides.
7. Put the crab cakes on a parchment lined baking sheet. If desired, dot each with a bit of soft butter. Bake the cakes until just hot, about 10 minutes.
8. Serve with lemon slices.

Baked crab cakes - what a nice change of pace! These have a fair amount of heat (spice) but they were not too hot. These have no filler, just lots of crab meat. I used canned crab meat, a mix of jumbo lump and regular crab meat. It was nice to have really large pieces of crab in the cakes, but didn't need to have 100% jumbo lump meat for a weeknight crab cake. They tasted great!

Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprint Cookies

* 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
* 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
* 1 cup(2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 1 large egg
* 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup granulated or sanding sugar
* 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
* 1/4 cup butter
* 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, with racks in upper and lower thirds.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup each butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 minutes.
4. Add egg and vanilla; beat to combine. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat to combine.
5. Place 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, then roll in sugar to coat. Place balls, 1 inch apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake 5 minutes.
6. Remove sheets from oven; with the bottom of a small round measuring spoon, make an indentation in center of each cookie.
7. Bake until cookies are just set but still look moist, 3 minutes (do not over-bake). Let cool on the cookie sheets on wire racks.
8. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips and 1/4 cup butter in 20 second increments until melted, on 70% power. Once fully melted stir in the peppermint extract.
9. Let cool until thick enough to pipe, 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large zip-top bag or piping bag; snip 1/4-inch hole in one corner. Pipe chocolate into cookie indentations.
10. Store in airtight containers, up to 1 week.

I used sanding sugar when we rolled the cookies, which gave them a really nice sparkle!

Friday, December 2, 2011

December 2, 2011

One of the reasons why I love this blog project so much is because I am actually trying out so many recipes. I have binders full of clippings going back to 1999 that I have collected, plus recipes that other people have given to me. For example, our PTO was having a bake sale as part of a Craft Fair this weekend, so I made 2 treats to donate, some seasonal rice cereal treats and some really cute Santa inspired cookies that I clipped from a magazine back in November 2003! And I am cleaning out the binders as I go along - if the recipe didn't earn "keeper" status, it gets tossed into the recycling bin.

It must be the time of addition to cleaning out the recipe binders, I have also begun a project to clean out the pantry and the freezer. I am finding recipes that use the various ingredients that are unopen or partially used but have no clear future use. I had some frozen puff pastry that I used for a dessert turnover. We'll see what recipes earn "keeper" status this coming week while I continue the pantry/freezer organization.

The other 2 recipes that I've shared here this week are Wilted Rainbow Chard and Manicotti. The manicotti recipe was so fun to make - Hannah and Liam really enjoyed helping me make it, and we all loved the finished pasta. As a group we agreed that the sauce wasn't our favorite, so next time we are going to use my homemade sauce. But I absolutely suggest you give this recipe a try, but use whatever sauce you love. And as for the chard recipe, we've been watching Chopped with the big kids lately, and they occasionally use ingredients we've never heard of, but often use ones we've never tried. We've seen rainbow chard a few times so we decided to pick some up and give it a try. We enjoyed it and will be making it again. You can use this recipe with Swiss chard as well.

Enjoy the recipes this week. 'Tis the season to cook up a storm, so why not try a few new recipes this week? You just may find a new favorite!

New Recipes
Wilted Rainbow Chard
Seasonal Bake Sale Treats
Nutella, Peanut Butter and Banana Turnovers


Ingredients for Cheese Filling and Pasta
* 3 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
* 4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
* 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (about 2 cups)
* 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
* 3/4 teaspoon table salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
* 16 no-boil lasagna noodles
* Use the sauce of your choice

Directions for Cheese Filling and Pasta
1.For the cheese filling, combine ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, eggs, salt, pepper, and herbs in medium bowl; set aside.
2. Pour boiling water into 13 by 9-inch oven safe baking dish, then add noodles one at a time. Let noodles soak until pliable, about 5 minutes. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on clean kitchen towels; discard water in baking dish and dry baking dish.
3. Spread bottom of baking dish evenly with 1 1/2 cups sauce. Using soup spoon, spread 1/4 cup cheese mixture evenly onto bottom three-quarters of each noodle (with short side facing you), leaving top quarter of noodle exposed. Roll into tube shape and arrange in baking dish seam side down. Top evenly with additional sauce, making certain that the pasta is completely covered.
4. Cover manicotti with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 until bubbling, about 40 minutes, then remove foil. Remove baking dish, adjust oven rack to uppermost position (about 6 inches from heating element), and heat broiler. Sprinkle manicotti evenly with remaining 1 cup Parmesan. Broil until cheese is spotty brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve.

We loved the pasta, but thought the sauce less than perfect, so in the future I will use our traditional sauce that I make and freeze. The pasta was fantastic, so I do suggest you give these a try, and they were really fun to make!
Next time I make these I may split them into two trays. The manicotti can be prepared and topped with sauce, covered with a sheet of parchment paper, wrapped in aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, thaw the pasta in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. To bake, remove the parchment, replace the aluminum foil, and increase baking time to 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Seasonal Bake Sale Treats: Santa Cookies and Festive Rice Cereal Treats

Santa Cookies

* 12 ounces white chocolate chips (save 36 chips)
* 1 package (1 pound) Nutter Butter sandwich cookies
* red colored sugar
* 72 mini chocolate chips
* 36 red candies (we used mini M&Ms)

General Directions
1. In a microwave, melt white chocolate chips at 70% power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave at additional 10- to 20-second intervals, stirring until smooth.
2. Dip one end of each cookie into melted chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. Place on wire racks. For Santa's hat, sprinkle red sugar on top part of chocolate. Press one vanilla chip off-center on hat for pom-pom; let stand until set.
3. Dip other end of each cookie into melted chocolate for beard, leaving center of cookie uncovered. Place on wire racks. With a dab of melted chocolate, attach mini chips for eyes and a red candy for nose. Place on waxed paper or cooling rack until set.

Festive Rice cereal treats
To make quick festive Rice cereal treats, I bought a bag of red and green marshmallows and separated them. Then I followed the directions for the rice cereal treats, halving it and using the green and red marshmallows separately. I did add a little red food coloring to made the red "redder". I made the treats side by side in a large 15 x 10 pan, then cut them and placed them on top of each other. adhering with a little vanilla frosting. The regular batch I made I just sprinkled seasonal mini M&Ms on top. Great for a bake sale!

Wilted Rainbow Chard

* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 cloves garlic, smashed
* 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
* 1 bunch Rainbow chard or Swiss chard, ribs removed and chopped, leaves roughly chopped
* Kosher salt to taste
* juice of half of one lemon

1. Heat the oil to a large saute pan with the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat until the garlic turns golden. Remove the garlic and discard.
2. Add the chopped chard ribs and saute until soft, about 4 minutes.
3. Add the chard leaves and season with salt, to taste. Cook until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the fresh lemon juice, and serve immediately.

I used the rainbow chard because the kids were intrigued by the vibrant colors, which included bright yellow, orange, pink and red. I will say that the colors did mute a bit while cooking, but were still fun to see on the plate! The kids helped make this dish, and were excited to try it. They thought it was good, Ryan and I loved it, so all in all we have a new vegetable in the rotation!

Nutella, Peanut Butter and Banana Turnovers

* 1 square of puff pastry – thawed
* 1 egg
* 2 tablespoons water
* 1/3 cup Nutella
* 1/3 cup peanut butter
* 1 banana – sliced
* cinnamon sugar

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Roll out thawed puff pastry to a square. Cut into 8 equal parts. Set aside onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
3. Beat egg and water together until mixed. Set aside.
4. Mix Nutella and peanut butter together. Place equal amounts of Nutella peanut butter mixture in the middle of each piece of pastry.
5. Place slices of banana onto the Nutella peanut butter mixture (I got 2 or 3 slices per pastry).
6. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush sides of pastry with egg wash. Fold over to make a pocket and press sides together.
7. Brush the top of the turnovers with egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
8. Put into the oven and cook for approximately 10-12 minutes, until the turnovers are golden brown.

I used 1/2 package of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry. Also, let the pastries cool a bit before eating, as the filling will be very hot - don't burn the roof of your mouth!

Friday, November 25, 2011

November 25, 2011

Happy day after Thanksgiving!!! I hope you had a wonderful day with your friends and family yesterday. I must admit, I have no new recipes to offer this week. I hosted Thanksgiving dinner, and you know how it goes - all week I was planning and prepping for the main event this week. Dinner was great, and everything was cooked and ready at the same time (no small feat when serving quite a few different things). Even the from-scratch yeast rolls worked out! This was the first major holiday with my double oven, and it was great to have the ability to cook at two temperatures.

I don't have any recipes to use up your leftover turkey, because you likely don't have very much left. We have only a few pieces of turkey left in our fridge because everyone ate it for lunch today! We made homemade pizza tonight, and I did use a little turkey on mine as I created my bbq pizza (usually bbq sauce, pepper jack cheese, red onions and chicken). It worked perfectly. After lunch tomorrow I imagine the rest will be gone.

Now as this next week begins I am already trying to decide what to cook in the hopes that I have a couple of great keepers to share with you on Friday!

Friday, November 18, 2011

November 18, 2011

I have a funny story about jambalaya and mac & Cheese; are you ready? We love recipes from America's Test Kitchen, and my "go-to" cookbook is The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. We've never made a recipe from there that we didn't love, until Saturday night. We were trying to decide on dinner for the evening, and Ryan was in the mood for shellfish. So, I pulled out my trusty cookbook, and we started flipping through the pages. We had almost settled on Shrimp Scampi, a recipe we've made numerous times and absolutely love, when Ryan saw Shrimp Jambalaya. I was game, so we decided on that. Hannah is not a fish lover, and absolutely doesn't eat shrimp, and I guessed that Liam wouldn't like it either. Hannah asked for mac & cheese, but instead of breaking out the blue box, I decided to try a baked mac & cheese recipe. Both were ready at the same time, and everyone was invited to try whatever they wanted. As fate would have it, no one liked the Jambalaya, and everyone loved the mac & cheese! Hilarious! The leftover mac & cheese went mush faster than the jambalaya. I guess it goes to show that sometimes you just never know what recipe will earn keeper status!

You probably can guess by now that we eat a lot of chicken around here. True to form, this week was no different, we had chicken a few times. One evening I made a new chicken recipe, and the chicken was FANTASTIC!! The sauce that accompanied it, not so much. It calls for toasted sesame seeds, and I had some in the cupboard from when I made the hamburger cupcakes. I put the seeds in a small pan and toasted them up prior to using them in the recipe. It worked great, and I think the seeds were a nice addition to the breading. Also the egg wash called for some fresh lemon juice, and I think that really brightened the flavor as well. All in all, the chicken was great, but you'll have to look in your fridge for something to dip it in. I know I'll be making this in near future, so if I come up with a better sauce, I'll add it to the blog.

Happy Thanksgiving! The next time I "see" you it will have already come and gone. I'll have to see what recipes I can come up with to use up any extra turkey! Enjoy your friends and family, and give thanks for all that you have.

New Recipes
Lemon Sesame Crusted Chicken
Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cheesecake Squares
Baked Mac & Cheese

Lemon Sesame Crusted Chicken


* boneless chicken breasts, pounded to even thickness
* 1 egg
* 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
* 1/2 cup Bisquick mix
* 1 teaspoon paprika
* 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
* 1 tablespoon oil for cooking


1. Make sure the chicken is pounded to an even thickness. Cut into serving size pieces, or into strips.
2. Beat the egg and lemon juice in a bowl just large enough that the chicken can be dipped.
3. In another bowl, or in a gallon size zip-top bag mix the paprika, sesame seeds and Bisquick.
4. Take each piece of chicken - dip first into the egg wash, then coat it with the seasoned mixture.
5. Cook the chicken in a skillet with the heated oil over medium to medium high heat until cooked through, flipping once.
6. Serve hot, with a dipping sauce of your choice.

This recipe had a lemon sauce that you made at the same time (you can see it in the photo). No one at the table liked the sauce (it was way too sweet) but we couldn't get enough of the chicken! The kids used ketchup, I just ate it without any sauce, Ryan used some hot sauce. So while it seems a bit strange to offer you this chicken recipe without an accompanying sauce, the chicken was just too good not to share it!

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

* 2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
* 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
* 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
* 1 2/3 cups (10-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® SWIRLED™ Milk Chocolate & Peanut Butter Morsels, divided
* 2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
* 4 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 325° F.
2. Combine crumbs, butter and 1/4 cup sugar in medium bowl. Remove 1 cup mixture and reserve for topping. Press remaining mixture onto bottom of ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle 3/4 cup morsels over crust.
3. Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar, flour and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Pour over crust and morsels in pan. Sprinkle with reserved crumb topping and remaining morsels.
4. Bake for 30 minutes or until set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into bars, serve and enjoy!

If you like cheesecake but making cheesecake intimidates you, try it in bar form. These were easy to make, and came out delicious! Hannah and I made these at 7pm the night before I needed them. After they were cooked and cooled, I refrigerated them and didn't cut them until about 5pm the next day.

For the graham cracker crust, using two of the three packages in a box of graham crackers is the perfect amount. Just run them through your food processor to create the crumbs.

I used Philadelphia 1/3 Less Fat Neufchatel Cream Cheese instead of original cream cheese. It worked beautifully in the recipe.

Baked Mac & Cheese

* 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
* 3 tablespoons butter
* 3 tablespoons flour
* 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
* 3 cups milk
* 1/4 cup yellow onion, grated
* 1/2 teaspoon paprika
* 1 large egg
* 12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
* 4 ounces mozzarella or Monterrey jack
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* Fresh black pepper

* 3 tablespoons butter
* 1 cup panko bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.
3. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps.
4. After 5 minutes, stir in the milk, onion and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes.
5. Temper in the egg, then pour the egg into the sauce. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
7. Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs.
8. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

We couldn't believe how much we all enjoyed this! It was delicious! The recipe calls for only 1/2 lb of noodles, but it was so cheesy I think you could increase that to 3/4 lb of noodles if you wanted to stretch this for a bigger crowd.

Friday, November 11, 2011

November 11, 2011

11-11-11...pretty cool date!

It has been a pumpkin week around here! I processed a few pumpkins and then went on a pumpkin recipe spree. We tried a pumpkin chip cream pie, but the only one who liked that was Hannah. We of course roasted the pumpkin seeds, which were delicious. Other pumpkin recipes we made were pumpkin lasagna and pumpkin squares. The pumpkin lasagna was not a keeper, and I actually made the pumpkin squares two days in a row! There is a funny story behind that...

The day after I made the pumpkin squares, the kids and I came down to the kitchen to make breakfast and pack school lunches. They both wanted a pumpkin square as the their dessert, but I couldn't find them! How is it that I lost an entire pan of pumpkin squares? Only three had been eaten the night turns out that Ryan took the whole pan into work to share with his co-workers! I was glad some folks from his work were able to enjoy them, but the kids were a little less than thrilled. Because I still had fresh pumpkin puree in the fridge I whipped up another batch. Needless to say, since we didn't have any other keeper recipes this week, I've included this one. Any recipe we make twice in one week is certainly worth sharing!

I realized that I told you about my kitchen renovation, but never shared some before and after pictures. It took a while, since I did almost all of it myself, but it is finally complete! I removed the wallpaper and painted, and refreshed the cabinets with a few coats of semi-gloss white and new hardware. I am really pleased with the way it turned out, especially as I looked back at the old kitchen pictures! I am so thankful the wallpaper is down! And to have a double oven in a single oven space...fabulous, especially with as much as I love to cook!!!

Here are three pictures showing the transformation:

With wallpaper and old appliances

Fresh paint and new appliances

And finally with new tile backsplash and painted cabinets with new hardware

We loved the countertop in the kitchen, and I knew I had a VERY small budget, so I used the counter as an inspiration piece and jumping off point. All in all, I am very pleased with the finished kitchen. :) Come on over and share a meal with us!

Here's hoping that this coming week has more keeper recipes than this past week!

Tried and True
Pumpkin Squares

Pumpkin Squares

Ingredients & Directions
* 1 package yellow cake mix
* 1/2 cup softened butter or margarine
* 1 egg

1. Reserve one cup of the cake mix to use in the topping.
2. Grease or spray a 9x13 pan.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4. Mix the remainder of the cake mix, the egg and the butter together. Pour into the prepared pan, pat until the entire bottom is covered. This will be the crust.

* 2 cups fresh pumpkin (or 15 oz can of pumpkin)
* 2 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 2/3 cup of evaporated milk (one 5 ounce can on evaporated milk is prefect)

5. Mix these ingredients together and pour over the crust.

* 1 cup of reserved cake mix
* 1/4 cup of white sugar
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/4 cup softened butter or margarine

6. Mix these ingredients together and sprinkle over the top of the filling. The consistency should be sand-like.
7. Bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve warm or cool, possibly with whipped cream of Cool Whip if you like.

These are one of Ryan's favorite desserts. He and I enjoy them as they are, but the kids love to add whipped cream to any dessert. They keep well stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for about 2-3 days. Let me know if they last that long at your house when you make them!

Friday, November 4, 2011

November 4, 2011

Fantastic; we have two new dinner ideas, a side dish or appetizer, and a breadstick recipe! I would say this week was a success. There were a few other new things we tried that were not voted keepers (Shrimp and Scallop Baked Ziti, Balsamic Roasted Parsnips), but to have 4 keepers to share in one week does make me happy!

Yeast scares me...I never feel confident working with it. I run to the computer, google how to proof yeast, watch a video or read a description about it EVERY TIME. I think I get nervous because I haven't had fabulous success in the past with recipes that need to rise. I know the biggest part of my problem (beyond my general inexperience with the ingredient) is my very open kitchen. Smaller spaces work better for yeast recipes to rise appropriately. So, to combat this I put my trays of breadsticks in our laundry/utility room. It is a very small room, and it is fairly warm because of the furnace. I also let my breadsticks have PLENTY of time to rise...I mean PLENTY! And as hoped, the breadsticks doubled in size, tasted light and fluffy after baking, and I must say, they were delicious. Even heated in the microwave for 15 seconds the next day yielded great results. I am going to keep working with yeast, and maybe I will gain confidence over time.

The lemon onion chicken was a huge success...Liam ate just as much of it as the older kids, and everyone was looking for more when it was all gone. That rarely happens at our table with a chicken dinner. Normally everyone has enough and is satisfied, but this time the kids wanted a third helping. I know for next time...I need to make more than I made this time! The recipe makes a ton of sauce, so feel free to make quite a few chicken breasts. Also, in the picture you will see that the onion seems to have lost the red color. This particular onion didn't have all that much red to begin with, so the cooking process stole the rest of the color. But don't let the lack of color turn you off...I really think you should try this recipe!

I served the jalapenos as a side dish with the salmon because the salmon called for jalapenos in the ingredient list. Everyone (except Liam) loved these. I think I could have made 50 and they all would have been eaten! I will certainly be serving these as an appetizer the next time I host dinner. I think the kids and Ryan are hoping they end up on the dinner table next week! We'll have to see about that...

Happy November!

New Recipes
Lemon Onion Chicken
Stuffed Jalapenos
Skillet Seared Salmon

Lemon Onion Chicken


* 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, sliced or pounded thin
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme, plus 1 small bunch fresh thyme
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 4 tablespoons olive oil
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 red onion, thinly sliced
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 1 cup chicken broth
* 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (approx 3 lemons)
* 1 tablespoon butter


1. Season chicken with dried thyme and salt and pepper. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the oil. Dredge the chicken in flour, add to the hot oil and saute until cooked through. Set chicken aside to rest in 9 x 13 pan covered with foil.
2. In same saute pan, turn heat to medium high and de-glaze the pan with the wine, chicken broth and lemon juice until starting to reduce
3. Lower the heat to low, add onions and fresh thyme and cook until aromatic.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and finish the sauce by whisking in butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

We loved this dinner! Liam had as much chicken as the older everyone thought it was a keeper! I would serve this with noodles or rice next time so there is something with which to enjoy the extra sauce.


Ingredients for the dough
* 1 package active dry yeast
* 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour,plus more for dusting
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1 tablespoon fine salt

Ingredients for the breadstick topping

* 3 tablespoons unsalted melted butter, divided
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
* 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
* Pinch of dried oregano


1. To make the dough, place 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer; sprinkle in the yeast and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, butter, sugar, fine salt and 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water; mix with the paddle attachment until a slightly sticky dough forms, approximately 5 minutes.
2. Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface until very smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Roll into a 2-foot-long log; cut into 16 pieces. Knead each piece slightly and shape into a breadstick; arrange 2 inches apart on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover with a cloth; let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled, 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on your environment.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the risen breadsticks with 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt with the garlic powder and oregano. Brush the warm breadsticks with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with the flavored salt.

I have an open kitchen which is wonderful for cooking and entertaining but not great for yeast breads that need to rise. So, I had my breadsticks rise in the utility room on the dryer, near the furnace and water heater. I had tried these in the past and had not let them rise long enough. This time, I had them rise for 2 hours, and it finally did the trick. When I don't leave them alone for long enough, the breadsticks turned out very dense. This time, when given enough time to properly rise, they were much lighter and delicious. My suggestion to you, especially if you don't work with yeast very often, is to err on the side of more time vs. less. I would rather have big fluffy breadsticks than smaller dense ones, wouldn't you?

One other note: flour your hands as well as your board when you turn the dough out to knead will be glad you did!

Skillet Seared Salmon

* 4 5 - 6 ounces skinless salmon fillets, about 1 inch thick
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 4 large roma tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped (or whatever kind you want, but you need about 1 1/2 cups)
* 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1/4 cup fresh cilantro


1. Lightly season salmon with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon; cook 8 to 10 minutes or until salmon flakes easily when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through cooking. If salmon browns too quickly, adjust heat to medium.

2. Transfer salmon to serving platter. Add tomatoes, jalapeno, and butter to skillet; cook and stir 1 minute. Spoon over salmon; sprinkle cilantro. Serves 4.

Stuffed Jalapenos


* 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, cut into strips
* 7 jalapeno peppers, halved length-wise and seeded
* 2-4 tbsp dry bread crumbs
* 2 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled


1. Preheat oven to 425. Lightly spray a baking sheet.
2. Wash the jalapenos; cut them in half and remove the seeds and ribs
3. Place the peppers on the baking sheet. Put a piece of cheese in each pepper, then add some breadcrumbs and bacon on top of the peppers
4. Cook the peppers for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted and the peppers are soft.
5. Serve out of the oven!

The peppers weren't too hot, I didn't even think they were too spicy. If you wanted to make them a bit spicier, you could try to make these with pepper-jack cheese.

Using the spray on the baking sheet made clean up easy because of the cheese and breadcrumbs that spilled onto the sheet. Liam didn't try these, but the rest of them devoured them!!! The kids already want to know when we are making these again!

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 28, 2011

The last full week of October, wow! It was an interesting week meal wise; unfortunately, of the three new dinner recipes I tried, only one was a keeper. The Green Chile Beef Burritos were good, they could still use some tweaking, but everyone at the table agreed we should make them again, so I decided to include the recipe here. We did also have one of our very favorite dinners this week - pasta with chicken, broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes. I added that here for you as well. A very straightforward dish that comes together in a snap, and has all your components in one dish (and only two pots to wash!).

On the disappointing front - this week's baking session. I hosted a coffee get-together on Friday morning, and made a few new muffins to include as part of the spread. The muffins were fine, but nothing to write home about, and a bit more work than they should have been. The chocolate chip pumpkin bread, bananas and grapes were all much more of a hit than the muffins. Oh well...better baking luck next time!

Have a happy Halloween on Monday!

New Recipe
Green Chile Beef Burritos

Tried and True
Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli and Sun Dried Tomatoes

* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 4 boneless chicken breasts cut into strips or chunks
* 3/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
* 1-2 cups broccoli florets
* 2 cloves of garlic
* 1 tsp basil
* pinch of crushed red pepper (to taste)
* salt & pepper (to taste)
* 1 cup chicken broth
* 1 tbls of butter or margarine
* 1 lb cooked pasta
* grated Parmesan

1. Cook the pasta according to box directions
2. Heat olive oil over medium heat, saute the garlic for 1 minute
3. Add chicken and saute until no longer pink.
4. Add broccoli, tomatoes, basil, crushed red pepper, chicken broth and butter or margarine. Cook for 3-5 minutes.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Combine chicken mixture with pasta, and finish with Parmesan cheese.

What can I say...we love this dinner! Quick and easy - veggies, protein and pasta all in one! As long as it takes you to cook your pasta (we use rotini or ziti noodles usually) is how quickly you can have dinner on the table! You can also substitute some of the chicken stock for white wine - about 1/4 cup, and then use chicken stock for the other 3/4 cup.

Green Chile Beef Burritos

* 1 beef sirloin tip roasts (3 pounds)
* 2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies
* 1/2 medium onion, chopped
* 2 medium jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
* 1 tsp garlic
* 1 tbsp chili powder
* 1 teaspoons ground cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon salt-free seasoning blend, optional
* 1 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
* fat-free flour tortillas (8 inches), warmed
* Chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, avocado, and shredded cheddar cheese, optional

1. Trim fat from roasts; cut meat into large chunks. Place in a 5-qt. slow cooker. Top with the chilies, onion, jalapenos, garlic, chili powder, cumin and seasoning blend. Pour broth over all. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or until meat is tender.
2. Remove beef; cool slightly. Shred with two forks. Cool cooking liquid slightly; skim fat. In a blender, cover and process cooking liquid in small batches until smooth.
3. Return liquid and beef to slow cooker; heat through. Place 1/3 cup beef mixture on each tortilla. Top with tomatoes, lettuce and cheese if desired. Fold in ends and sides.

I forgot to take a picture! (Next time we make this I will add that to the posting.) We all enjoyed this, though I think next time I will add some more cumin, and see if I can find medium heat green chiles to add. There wasn't too much heat, and it could handle beefing up the seasonings. But, for a quick week night meal that everyone enjoyed and was fun to individualize at the table, I would recommend this. One last suggestion - if you do happen to have an immersion is another great use for it! I was able to just use the immersion blender right in the crock pot (I put the meat on a plate while I blended the sauce). Perhaps I might serve the shredded meat separate from the sauce and let everyone add their own sauce; the burritos did get a bit runny from all the sauce.

Friday, October 21, 2011

October 21, 2011

Another whirlwind week...I guess that's the new norm with me in grad school, the kids in sports, and school in full swing! Plus running around after Liam... he is more a little boy than a baby these days. Where has the time gone?

Book club was this week, and I love to break out the big guns and make something new and exciting for dessert to bring to book club, so that was really fun. Given that we are getting close to Halloween, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a Halloween dessert I had seen...and orange and black trifle! It was a hit with the adults (and the kids loved the leftovers), and it was so easy to throw together.

We made another crock pot dinner, and the kids were putting the gravy on everything! They smothered their veggies in it, poured it on mashed potatoes, and of course had it on their pork chops. The great thing about this gravy was that it was thick enough right out of the slow cooker that there were no additional steps to get the sauce ready. Excellent!


New Recipes
Crock Pot Pork Chops and Gravy
Apple Spice Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting
Halloween Trifle

Halloween Trifle

Trifle Layers

Chocolate cake mixed with candy corn
Vanilla pudding tinted orange (larger size)
Fresh sweetened whipped cream

1. Make box cake mix as directed in 9x13 pan. Let cool completely.
2. Once the cake is cool, break it up and crumble it directly into the trifle bowl, mixing with candy corn (1/2 to 1 cup).
3. Make the vanilla pudding according the box directions. Tint with yellow and red food coloring to make it orange. Let it fully set and cool in the fridge.
4. Close to when you are ready to serve, chill a mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer. Make the fresh whipped cream.
5. Layer the pudding on the cake, and then the whipped cream on the pudding. Decorate with additional candy corn on the top if desired!

I only used about 2/3 of the cake in my trifle.
I used a 5.1oz box of Kraft Jell-O vanilla pudding and followed the directions on the package.
To make whipped cream, mix 1 cup cold whipping cream, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Whip until soft peaks form.

Crock Pot Pork Chops and Gravy

* 4 bone in or thick cut pork chops
* 1 envelope onion soup mix
* 1 envelope dry pork gravy mix
* 1 can cream of chicken soup
* 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
* 1 onion, sliced

1. Brown the pork chops in oil.
2. Put sliced onions on bottom of the crock pot.
3. Place pork chops on top of the onions.
4. Mix onion soup mix, pork gravy mix, cream of chicken soup and chicken broth together; pour over the pork chops.
5. Cook on low 8 hours

I served this with mashed potatoes and roasted cauliflower. The gravy that the pork chops cook in ends up being thick enough to serve alongside the dinner without doing anything to it which is a really nice time-saver. My kids put the gravy on everything (I think I even saw Hannah eat a spoonful by itself)!

Apple Spice Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting

Ingredients for Cupcakes
* 1 box yellow cake mix
* 1 teaspoon apple pie spice (or pumpkin pie spice, or your own spice mixture)

Ingredients for Caramel Frosting
* 1/2 cup butter
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 1/4 cup milk
* 1 tsp. vanilla
* 3-4 cups sifted powdered sugar

Directions for Caramel Frosting
1. In large saucepan, melt butter and add brown sugar. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil and stir for 1 minute until thickened.
2. Remove from heat and add milk. Beat with wire whisk until smooth.
3. Add vanilla and beat again for another minute.
4. Add enough powdered sugar until of desired spreading consistency
5. Let cool and serve.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October 15, 2011

Wow! Another quick week has come and gone, and I forgot to post on Friday night! So, here it is Saturday morning, and I have three new recipes for you. Crock Pot Pork Tenderloin was a hit with everyone at the table, quick and easy to put together, and smelled great all day while it was cooking! Warm Caramel Apple Cake was my first attempt at an upside-down cake, and we all thought it was delicious! It was best the evening that we made it, but still moist and scrumptious even a few days after! And, the star of the week (in my opinion), Shrimp Fra Diavolo! My son Owen loves shrimp, and he takes after his dad when it comes to spicy food, so he devoured his dinner! Ryan and I loved it as well, and it was easy to put together. One thing I will say is that the house smelled like garlic the next day as well since there was quite a bit of garlic in this recipe.

I am not sure what is on the menu yet for this week, but hopefully some recipes that work out. Enjoy the fall weather!

New Recipes
Crock Pot Pork Tenderloin
Warm Caramel Apple Cake
Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Friday, October 14, 2011

Shrimp Fra Diavolo


* 1 lb shrimp, deveined and peeled
* salt
* 1 tsp red pepper flakes
* 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
* 4 tbsp mined garlic
* 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained
* 1 cup dry white wine
* 1/2 tsp sugar
* 1 lb spaghetti or linguine
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
* pepper


1. Cook pasta as directed.
2. Toss the shrimp with 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.
3. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add the shrimp in a single layer and cook until pink, just about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the cooked shrimp and set aside. Let the pan cool for 2 minutes.
4. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan with the garlic. Cook over low heat for about 8 minutes, moving the garlic around so as not to burn it.
5. Stir the remaining red pepper flakes, tomatoes, wine, sugar and 3/4 tsp salt to the garlic. Bring to a simmer and cook about 8 minutes.
6. Add the shrimp back to the sauce, along with the parsley. Cook about 1 minute until the shrimp and heated through.
7. Serve over pasta, and enjoy!!!

This recipe definitely has some kick, but we loved it! Serve with a salad and some crusty bread to sop up some of the sauce and you will have a fabulous meal! We cut the ingredients in half because only 2 adults and one child were going to eat the meal, and it worked out well.

Warm Caramel Apple Cake

* 1/2 cup butter or margarine
* 1/4 cup whipping cream
* 1 cup packed brown sugar
* 2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
* 1 box yellow cake mix
* 1 1/4 cups water
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil
* 3 eggs
* 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice


1. Heat oven to 350°F. In 1-quart heavy saucepan, cook butter, whipping cream and brown sugar over low heat, stirring occasionally, just until butter is melted. Pour into 13x9-inch pan. Top with sliced apples.
2. In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil, eggs and apple pie spice with electric mixer on low speed until moistened, then on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Carefully spoon batter over apple mixture.
3. Bake 40 - 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Loosen sides of cake from pan. Place heatproof serving platter upside down on pan; carefully turn platter and pan over. Let pan remain over cake about 1 minute so caramel can drizzle over cake. Remove pan.
4. Serve and enjoy!!!

This cake is best enjoyed the day it is made, though it still tastes great for a few days after. Keep it covered and it won't dry out.

Crock Pot Pork Tenderloin


* 2 pounds pork tenderloin
* 1 envelope dry onion soup mix
* 1 cup water
* 3/4 cup red wine
* 3 tablespoons soy sauce
* 3 tablespoons minced garlic
* freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Spray the crock pot with cooking spray to make clean up easier.
2. Place pork tenderloin in a slow cooker.
3. Mix soup packet, water, wine, and soy sauce. Pour this over the pork, turning the pork to coat.
4. Carefully spread garlic over the pork, leaving as much on top of the roast during cooking as possible.
5. Sprinkle with pepper, cover, and cook on low setting for 5 hours.
6. Remove pork from crock pot and cut or shred. Serve with cooking liquid on the side, or make into gravy on the stove with flour or Wondra.

Friday, October 7, 2011

October 7, 2011

Another week come and gone...we tried a few new recipes this week, including a few that didn't make it here. One was a quick brownie, which was good but not great. The other was crock pot applesauce, which I liked but my kids thought was a bit too overpowering. So I am going to make that again this week and I hope to have that for the blog next week. It was so easy to make, and I got to use my immersion blender! I will definitely be making it again this week with different apple varieties and a bit of a change to the additional spices. Keep your fingers crossed that it gets a few more keeper votes this next time around!

But, what did qualify as keepers? A brilliantly easy "lasagna" and some very crunchy chicken. My family loves lasagna, and when I make it I typically make a few and freeze them. Lasagna freezes fantastically well and if you are going to go to all the trouble to make it and really mess up your kitchen and about 10 pots and pans, you might as well make 6! So when a friend passed this recipe on to me from one of our favorite sites (, I had to try it. We all loved it. It is basically baked ravioli, but you do get the flavors of lasagna, and it truly couldn't be easier to throw together.

As for the chicken - you could use this breading on whole chicken breasts in the oven, or cut the chicken up to nugget or tender size pieces. There are quite a few spices in the mixture, and the panko really helps make it so crunchy! At the table the chicken was dipped in ketchup, wing sauce, hot sauce and eaten as presented. Everyone enjoyed it, and I hope you will too!

I already have my eye on two crock put dinners for this coming week, and another pumpkin recipe! We'll see how many keepers I have next week!

New Recipes

Savory & Crunchy Chicken
"Thrown together in 5 minutes" Lasagna

Savory & Crunchy Chicken


* 1 cup panko
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
* 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
* 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
* Pinch ground red pepper
* chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch strips
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Combine the panko, Parmesan, thyme, basil, oregano, salt, garlic powder, and red pepper.
3. Dip the chicken strips in the melted butter, then dredge them in the bread crumb mixture.
4. Place the chicken strips in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet.
5. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes depending on how thick you've cut your chicken (before removing it from them oven make sure it is cooked through and any juices run clear).

My kids love chicken nuggets, but using this mixture really elevates them from Shake n' Bake to something tasty! Use as much red pepper as you'd like (or leave it out if your family isn't into spicy food). These do get really crunchy in the oven, so keep and eye on them and take them out before they get over-done.

"Thrown together in 5 Minutes" Lasagna


* 26 ounce jar Spaghetti sauce (your favorite)
* 1 (25 - 30 ounce) bag Frozen large cheese ravioli, unthawed
* 1 (10 ounce) package Frozen spinach, thawed and drained (optional)
* 8 ounces Mozzarella, shredded
* 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lightly grease a 13-x-9-inch baking dish and spoon in about 1/3 of the sauce.
3. Arrange 12 of the raviolis on top; then evenly lay all the spinach over the top of the raviolis. Top that with half of each cheese. Now cover with another layer of raviolis, the remaining sauce and the remaining cheese.
4. Tent with foil (don't let cheese touch the foil or it will stick) and bake 45 minutes; then uncover it and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more until bubbly.

This is an ingenious idea! Ravioli has the cheese filling that you put together for lasagna, so this works great and can be thrown together in a snap on a weeknight. And adding spinach makes this even more nutritious, and adds flavor! I think I will try this with fresh baby spinach next time, just for a bit fresher texture and taste. I used my own meat sauce that I keep in the freezer for pasta rather than jarred sauce, but just use whatever you have on hand. And the picture isn't that great - but that is because we were devouring it before I took a photo! Next time I make it I will snap a new one.