Weekly Menu

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Thursday night I was trying to think of what to make for this week and Tom decided he would plan the menu.

Sunday - Crock Pot Spaghetti with Meatballs

Monday - Pork Slubs with Onion Rings

Tuesday - Pancakes and Bacon

Wednesday - Shrimp Risotto

Thursday - Grilled Cheese and Beef & Vegetable Soup

Friday - Parmesan Herb Chicken Tenders and Fries

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

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I spend a good chunk of time on the What's Cooking board on The Nest. This month there have been tons of posts for sugar cookies decorated with royal icing in Halloween themes. Since we received a 100 different cookie cutter collection and I was interested in royal icing, I decided I would join in.

I decided I would make the cookies from scratch, then the icing, then decorate, wait, decorate some more, wait and finish the cookies. However, unless you have an entire weekend with not much else to do, I really don't advise this. Next time I'm just going to buy the sugar cookie dough from the grocery store. It would have saved quite a few hours from this project.

I followed directions from Annie of Annie's Eats. Find her royal icing directions here. Okay, lets get started:

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You'll need:
1 batch of sugar cookie dough
2+ batches of royal icing
cookie cutters
colored gel icing
4+ small squeeze bottles
small containers with air-tight lids
pastry bags
small round pastry tip

a ton of time and patience

Cookies:
Use your favorite sugar cookie recipe or pre-made dough. Use the cookie cutters to cut out different shapes. Bake according to directions.  

Royal Icing - 1 batch
2 egg whites
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 cups powdered sugar (yes, really)

1. Combine the egg and the lemon juice in a stand mixer. Add in the powdered sugar and mix together on low until an icing forms.
2. Transfer the icing into the containers.
3. Using the colored gel icing of your choice (or color combo) stir with a toothpick to combine. This will take a while. When done, put on the lid.

To Decorate the Cookies:
1. Make sure that the cookies are completely cooled.  
2. Put your color choice of icing into a pastry bag with a small round tip. Steadily trace an outline around the shape of the cookie. Let icing set for 1 hour.
3. To color in the cookie, add a teensy bit of water to your desired icing color. I used about 1/4-1/8 of a teaspoon. Using the toothpick, stir well until the icing has thinned out and will be easily spread over the cookie.
4. Transfer the icing to a squeeze bottle. Squeeze some of the icing onto the center of the cookie and use the toothpick to spread around. Let set for at least 4 hours, but overnight is better.
5. If you want any extra designs on the cookies, put the remaining icing in the pastry bag and pipe on the detail. Let set for at least another hour.



My cookies definitely aren't magazine material. I think its going to take a lot more time a practice, but for my first time, I think they turned out pretty well. I also realized once I had the icing in the pastry bag that Annie recommends using a size 2 tip. Unfortunately, my small pastry tip kit didn't come with that size and living in the middle of no where, I couldn't exactly run out to buy one. I'm going to pick up on these week though. I think it will make a huge difference on the quality of the cookies.

Weekly Menu 10/24/10

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For some reason, planning out meals for this week was really difficult. Usually I can just flip through my recipe binder or see what I have starred on my Google Reader. This week I just flipped through recipe after recipe aimlessly trying to find something that would pop out to me.

Last week we visited a nearby orchard for apples. I really should have picked up all of our vegetables from there, but it was crowded and I wasn't thinking. I did, however, manage to pick up a butternut squash. This is a pretty foreign food for me. I never ate it growing up and always thought it sounded kind of gross.

In my mind, it was just like pumpkin and I never liked pumpkin, so what was the point in trying it? Well, when Tom and I went to see Jason & Grant of the Ghost Hunters earlier this month, I had an Autumn Harvest Soup from the venue. It was butternut squash and pumpkin. And then I even tried pumpkin cheesecake. You know how they say that every so many years your tastes change? Well, mine have. I can now say that I do like pumpkin. I even like it enough that we picked up a can of pumpkin from the grocery store and I'm going to use it to make pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes and pumpkin ravioli.

Anyway, I found a recipe for butternut squash risotto and knew that was exactly what I needed to do with this squash. Eventually the rest of the meal ideas fell into place.

Sunday - Steak with Butternut Squash Risotto

Monday - Crock Pot Beef Fajitas

Tuesday - Homemade Pizza 

Wednesday - sloppy joes

Thursday - Grandma's Beef and Vegetable Soup

Friday - Mango Habanero Chicken Sandwiches

Beef, Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna

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If I'm making a meatless dish, I usually have to be pretty creative about it. Like me, Tom grew up where dinner consisted of meat and potatoes. Variances were rare. Unlike me, he still can't get it out of his head that dinner doesn't need to be that way.

I try to make one meatless dish each week. The week I had planned on making this, it would have been mushroom and spinach lasagna. For whatever reason I didn't get to make it that week. The next week I already had a meatless meal so I figured I'd just make this a really hearty lasagna and include the meat and veggies.

Beef, Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:
    • 6-8 lasagna noodles
    • 1 lb. ground beef
    • 10 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
    • 6 oz. tomato paste
    • 8 oz. mushrooms
    • 1 10 oz. package frozen spinach
    • 2 cups cottage cheese
    • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
    • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tbsp. parsley
    • 1 tbsp. garlic
    • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook lasagna noodles according to directions for al dente. Once cooked, space the noodles out on a sheet of aluminum foil to keep them from sticking.
2. Cook the spinach according to the directions on the package. Drain. Dice the mushrooms.
3. In a skillet, brown the ground beef and drain the grease.
4. Preheat the oven to 375.
5. Pour the spaghetti sauce and tomato paste into a bowl. Stir until combined. Add in the mushrooms and stir again.
6. In another bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, eggs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.
7. In a 9x13 baking dish, layer 3-4 noodles on the bottom. Layer in this order: ground beef, tomato mixture, spinach, cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat.
8. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned on top. If you like really brown cheese and your broiler is on the top of your oven, switch it to broil and broil for 1 minute.
9. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

I thought this lasagna was pretty good. You could taste each ingredient without it being overwhelming or too heavy of a lasagna. Tom didn't like it all, but he couldn't pinpoint why.

Costs: ground beef $1.79, lasagna noodles $0.99, cottage cheese $1.89, mozzarella cheese $2.00, mushrooms $1.79, spinach $0.59, eggs $0.22, tomato paste $0.50, spaghetti sauce $1.89, Parmesan cheese $0.30. Total Cost: $11.96

Smores Brownies

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The one thing I miss with living in an apartment is that I can't grill foods. The apartment complex does have grills outside of some of the buildings, but finding somewhere to store charcoal and walking down a flight of steps and around the entire building if you forget something hasn't been appealing enough for us to use it.

It's been a long time since I've had a marshmallow over the grill. When I found this recipe and looked at the picture, the marshmallow looked just like one that had been hanging out over the fire for a bit. I knew I needed to make it. The recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate and Earth Balance buttery spread and I didn't have either so I just substituted with what I had.

Smores Brownies
Source: Cathy's Kitchen Journey
Servings: 16 
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Ingredients:
    • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
    • 1 cup unsalted butter
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 5 eggs
    • 1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 cup graham cracker, roughly crushed
    • 15-18 large marshmallows

Directions:
1. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350.
2. Using a double boiler, add about 2 inches of water to the bottom pan and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer. In the top pan, add the chocolate and butter and stir until combined and smooth.
3. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking power and salt. Mix until combined.
4. Beat the eggs, sugars, and vanilla in a large bowl. (I used the Kitchenaid Mixer for this) Next, add the melted chocolate, then the flour mixture and finally the graham cracker crumbs.
5. Pour into the 9x13 dish. Press the marshmallows into the mixture trying to keep them evenly spaced from each other.
6. Bake for 40 minutes. The marshmallows will still be puffy when you remove it from the oven. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

I was a bit worried about how these would turn out because the batter was really thick and obviously lumpy from the graham crackers, but these are delicious! They are a bit thicker than a regular brownie and the graham crackers add more density to them. And of course, gooey toasted marshmallow makes everyone happy!

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Cupcakes

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I love cream cheese. It's the only way I will eat a bagel. I put it with salsa and dip tortilla chips in it. I love it as a frosting. I could practically eat it plain.

Even with all of that said, I'm not a huge fan of cheesecake. Maybe its just too sweet or too dense, but I will rarely ever eat a slice of cheesecake, even if its with chocolate or fruit. But something told me I should really make this recipe. Maybe its because the recipe includes raspberries and with the cooler weather taking over, I needed a reminder of summer. Or maybe because I can handle small doses of cheesecake and a cupcake size sounded perfect.

The one thing I forgot before making these is that cheesecake needs to be refrigerated. I usually avoid recipes that call for refrigeration because we have a tiny fridge (stupid apartment complex) and it is usually full with just the basics that we pick up from the grocery store. But, since we're going to the store today I only needed to move a few things around to make space to refrigerate these.

Oh, and don't forget in order to make this recipe you'll need the cream cheese and eggs and room temperature. 

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Cupcakes
Source: Annie's Eats
Yield: 32 cupcakes (I only made 24)
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Crust Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 1 package in a 2 package box)
    • 3 tbs. sugar
    • 4 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
    Topping:
    • 6 oz. raspberries
    • 2 tbs. sugar
    Filling:
    • 2 lbs. cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1/8 tsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 4 eggs, at room temperature  


Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325. Line the cupcake tins with paper liners.
2. In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar. Stir together until the mixture is moist.
3. Scoop 1 tbs. of the graham cracker mixture into each cupcake liner. Press down with a glass. Bake for 5 minutes and the transfer to a cooling rack while you make the other parts of the recipe.
4. Rinse off the raspberries and put them into a blender or food processor. Add the sugar and pulse until smooth. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to strain out all of the seeds.
5. For the cheesecake portion, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed in a stand mixer until fluffy. Add the sugar in and process until smooth. Add the salt and vanilla. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg.
6. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture into the cupcake liners. Add 1/2 tsp. of the raspberry puree to the liners. Use a toothpick to swirl around.
7. Bake for 12 minutes and then rotate the pans. Bake for another 12-15 minutes or until the filling has set.
8. Transfer to a cooling rack and let them come to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.



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