Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quesadilla with Cranberry Salsa

Remember when I told you that I finally went through all of my recipes and separated them by favorite and to-try? Well, this recipe had been hanging out in the back of the binder for who knows how long. I'm guessing quite some time since it's been over two years since the original recipe was made. I held off on making this recipe for so long because I was pretty sure Tom was going to hate it.

I rarely do that, though. Usually when I'm choosing recipes I have a pretty good idea if he is going to like something or not and even if I think not, I make it anyway. You never know what he'll end up liking. So finally, after this poor recipe was hidden in a binder for way too long, I decided to make it.


Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quesadilla with Cranberry Salsa
Slightly Adapted from: Pink Parsley
Servings: 10 1/2 sized quesadillas
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Cranberry Salsa Ingredients:
    • 1 cup fresh cranberries
    • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
    • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 tbsp. shallot, minced
    • 1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
    • zest and juice of 1 orange
    • salt and pepper
    Quesadilla Ingredients:
    • 10 flour tortillas
    • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
    • 2 1/2 lbs. assorted mushrooms, chopped
    • 1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2/3 cup white wine
    • 6 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
    • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • salt and pepper
Salsa Directions:
1. Combine the sugar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustard, orange juice and zest, salt and pepper together in a food processor. Add the cranberries, jalapeno pepper, pecans and shallot. Pulse until it reaches a salsa like consistency.
2. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed.
Quesadilla Directions:
1.  Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Then add the mushrooms, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce and cook for 5 more minutes.
2. Add the white wine and cook until it has evaporated, about 6-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl to keep warm.
3. Spray with large skillet with non-stick cooking spray.
4. Prepare the tortilla by sprinkling about 1/4 cup of Monterrey Jack cheese on one side of the tortilla. Crumble 2 tbs. of goat cheese on top, then add about 2 tbs. of the mushroom mixture. Fold the tortilla in half.
5. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Cook two halved tortillas in the skillet at a time, 3-5 minutes on each side or until lightly golden brown. Transfer tortillas to a plate to keep warm. Repeat with all remaining tortillas.
6. Cut quesadillas into wedges and serve with the cranberry salsa.

My gut feeling was right. Tom didn't like this. It was mostly because of the salsa but he said the goat cheese was a little too dry for what he expected in a quesadilla. I did agree with him on the dryness part. Maybe a combination of goat cheese and cream cheese (?) would be better. Either way, I liked it enough to finish mine for dinner and take the extras for lunch the next day.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekly Menu 1/29 - 2/3

I've mentioned this whole weight loss challenge thing I'm doing right? Well, I guess now is the time to tell you that it isn't working at all. I'm quite confident that my metabolism has went on permanent vacation. For the past three weeks I've exercised almost daily and counted calories. When I've stood on the scale, the numbers don't move. Well, they did the one time the scale went kinda crazy and told me I gained 10 lbs. Then I lost 10 lbs. Then I was right at the same weight I had been all along.

In three weeks I've barely lost a pound. That's just ridiculous. So I spend most of my time wondering if I barely have enough time to relax after working/commuting 12 hours and making dinner, should I really take away any of my 2-3 hours of me time by exercising just to see absolutely no changes?  I really don't know.

The only thing that makes me feel like I'm burning a decent amount of calories is Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. Lets first mention that in order to do the exercises I must have Jillian on mute so I don't off and haul my television out the window. Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Next we have the issue of running. I can't. Well, I can, but I can't do it without pain. You don't actually run in the 30 Day Shred but you pretend to kick yourself in the ass by bouncing from foot to foot. Unfortunately this creates sharp shooting pains in my shins after about 30 seconds.

So what would you do? Remain at a weight that you hate and makes clothes shopping without a tailor impossible? Or continue to exhaust yourself day after day by exercising just in case your asshole of a metabolism finally returns and decides to show some results?

This week I'm going to opt to exhaust myself. If, on next Sunday, anyone were to see a 30 Day Shred DVD soaring through the skies and hear a really loud frustrated scream, well, just know it was me.

Sunday - Pork with applesauce, barley mushroom saute and green beans 

Monday - Mushroom and Brie Soup 

Tuesday - Chicken with Roasted Pears, Wild Rice and Green Beans 

Wednesday - Risotto 

Thursday - Jalapeno Popper Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Corn 

Friday - to be determined by Tom

For lunches this week I made a large pot of chicken noodle soup. Breakfast will be whole-wheat fruit muffins.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Recipe Swap: Asian Meatballs with Lime Dipping Sauce

The category for this recipe swap was healthy foods which I'm pretty sure everyone is now tired of eating the same old thing right? Well, assuming you started at the beginning of January, you're almost a whole month in so I'm sure you can keep it up! For this swap I was assigned Delicious Melicious. My first thought was "how in the world have I not visited her blog before?"

Every meal looks great! And I won't lie to you. I'm blog shallow. If I like the font and pictures someone uses on their blog, I'm much more likely to continue looking at other recipes. Yes, I realize this is ridiculous.  But I like pretty fonts.

Anyway, the healthy recipe for me to make was Asian Turkey Meatballs with Lime Dipping Sauce. The first time I made a recipe with ground turkey...well, I don't know what went wrong but it was absolutely disgusting. Since then, I'd been afraid to just use ground turkey so I added some ground beef to this, hence the slight title change.


Asian Meatballs with Lime Dipping Sauce
Source: Delicious Meliscious
Servings: 4
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Meatball Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. extra lean (93%) ground turkey
    • 1/4 lb. extra lean (93%) ground beef
    • 3 green onions, chopped
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
    • 1 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
    • 2 tsp. sesame oil
    • 1/2 tsp. salt

    Dipping Sauce:
    • 4 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
    • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
    • 2 tbsp. water
    • 2 tsp. sesame oil
    • 1 green onion, chopped

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to broil. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, lime juice, water and sesame oil for the dipping sauce. Add the green onions and refrigerate until ready to use.
3. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs. Form into meatballs and place onto the baking sheet.
4. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Serve the meatballs with the dipping sauce drizzled over them.

I served this with steamed brown rice cooked in half water, half low-sodium chicken broth along with a bag of frozen stir fry veggies mixed with 1 tablespoon of stir-fry sauce. The entire meal came out to under 450 calories and was really good! I definitely plan on making this again in the near future!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Steak with Mushroom Saute

I love the combination of steak and mushrooms. They go so well together. When I was a kid, I would only eat steak well done. There couldn't be the slightest trace of pink in the center of the steak or I wouldn't eat it. Why? Well first it was because that was the only way my mom could cook them (or anything). But it was mostly because of an unfortunate sunburn.

On the day of the unfortunate sunburn, I just happened to walk into the living room as there was a commercial on the television for steak at some restaurant. The steak was cut in half and very pink in the middle. As in, the same color pink as my arm from the sunburn. So being the weird child that I was, I refused to ever eat steak unless it was completely cooked because if not, I'd feel like a cannibal. Yes, I realize that doesn't make much sense.

Then something changed one day. I think I just got tired of well done, tough and chewy steak. I slowly began to cook my steak to medium well and once that was okay, I moved onto medium. I'll never be one of those people who orders medium rare steaks just because that still grosses me out, but hey, going from well done shoe leather to medium is a pretty decent change!

Steak with Mushroom Saute
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Yield: 3-4 servings
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Ingredients:
    • 2 lb. London Broil steak, cut into 3-4 oz. portions
    • 2 lbs. mixed mushrooms, sliced
    • 1/2 cup beef broth
    • 1/2 cup red wine
    • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
    • sea salt and pepper

Directions:
1. In a large skillet, melted the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more.
2. Remove the mushrooms from the skillet and place in a bowl to keep war. Reserve the garlic. 
3. Season both sides of each piece of steak with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the skillet and increase the heat to medium-high. Once hot, sear the steaks for 4-5 minutes on each side (for medium). Transfer to a plate to let rest.
4. Add the wine to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrap up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Once the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes, add the beef broth and return the garlic. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half again. Discard the garlic cloves.
5. Serve the steak thinly sliced over or under the mushrooms. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Sooo good! If it was healthier, I could honestly eat this just about every night and be a happy camper. I served this with roasted red potatoes and green beans.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Green Bean Bundles

I have quite a few recipes that I make on a pretty regular basis but for some reason or another, have never blogged. This is one of those recipes. Tom doesn't like many vegetables so I'm always looking for different recipes for the five or so vegetables that he does eat.

Who wouldn't like green beans with brown sugar and bacon? Yeah, I thought so. :-)

Green Bean Bundles
Source: Pink Parsley, adapted from Rebecca Rather's The Pastry Queen Christmas 
Yield: 8 servings
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Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 lbs (about 64) green beans, ends trimmed
    • 8 slices bacon
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 1 tsp. brown sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
Directions:
1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, brown sugar, mustard and salt and stir until combined. Set aside.
2. Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add two large handfuls of the green beans to the boiling water and blanch for 2-3 minutes or until they are bright green. Remove the green beans with a slotted spoon and place immediately into the ice water bath. Repeat with remaining green beans until they all have been blanched and cooled.
3. Transfer the green beans to a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. Blot until dry. Empty and dry the bowl of ice water and return the green beans to it. Pour the butter mixture over the green beans, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a baking sheet or casserole dish. Gather 8 or so green beans and wrap a slice of the bacon around them. Secure with a toothpick if necessary. Place the bundle bacon seam side down on the baking sheet or casserole dish. Repeat with remaining green beans. Pour any remaining marinade over green beans.
5. Bake for 45 minutes or until the bacon is cooked through and the beans are slightly wrinkled. Change the oven to broil and broil for 1-2 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.

Yum! I have a hard time just eating one bundle of these! I made them on Christmas when everyone was here and they were one of the first things to go.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

This is about the time where you've run out of healthy things to eat for your new years resolution to lose weight, right? You're sick of salads, soup doesn't always fill you up, your teeth hurt from crunching on healthy cereal, the fresh fruit at the store is stupidly expensive, it's too cold to drink a smoothie and you're going to cry if you have to make another dinner consisting of grilled chicken breast, brown rice and a veggie.

Can you tell that I've been there? While I may not have a million healthy recipes to get you through this month and however long you're planning on keeping this exercise/lose weight thing going, I can give you another alternative for breakfast. You'd have no idea these muffins are healthy or less than 200 calories each from the way that they taste.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
Source: Blissfully Delicious, adapted from Ellie Krieger as seen on Food Network
Yield: 16-18 muffins
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Ingredients:
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 golden delicious apple, peeled, cored and chopped
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 cup natural or sugar-free applesauce
    • 3/4 cup buttermilk
    • 3/4 cup + 2 tbs. brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
    • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400. Spray a muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray or use silicone muffin/cupcake liners.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking sod and salt. Stir until combined, then set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the 3/4 cup of brown sugar together with the vegetable oil. Then add the eggs, one at a time. Once combined, add in the applesauce and vanilla.
4. Add half of the flour mixture to the wet mixture. Stir until combined, then add half of the buttermilk. Once combined add the remaining flour and buttermilk and mix until combined. Then fold in the apple pieces.
5. Scoop the mixture into the muffin pans, filling 3/4 of the way full.
6. In a small bowl, mix together the pecans, cinnamon and 2 tbs. of brown sugar. Sprinkle over each muffin. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
7. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan and continue to cool on the wire rack for another 15 minutes.

The brown sugar and pecan mixture on top does wonders to cut into the wheat flour taste. If you really like apples, it wouldn't hurt to chop up another apple to put in these.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Veggie Frittata

I am always looking for different recipes without meat that I can make without Tom noticing that they're meatless. According to him, if you don't have meat for dinner you're going to starve the rest of the night. I disagree. I'm perfectly content with a meatless meal, hence the reason why I ignore his claims and go right on making them.

This recipe came more out of necessity than anything else. I had somehow managed to accumulate a carton of eggs expiring in two days, and an extra green and red pepper that I didn't want to go bad.


Veggie Frittata
Source: A Cookaholic Wfie Creation
Yield: 8 servings
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 green pepper, chopped
    • 1 red pepper, chopped
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
    • 1 1/2 cups milk
    • 7 eggs
    • 1 tbs. unsalted butter
    • salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat then add the mushrooms, green pepper, red pepper and onion and cook until slightly soft, about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 and lightly spray a 8 or 9 in cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.
3. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Add the cheese, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
4. Once the vegetables are soft, add them to the bowl with the eggs and cheese. Stir to combine and then pour into the cake pan.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the eggs have set through and are a lightly golden brown color on the edges.
6. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Yum! We devoured this right away. It's definitely something that I plan on making again.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekly Menu 1/22-1/27

The last two weekends, I've pretty much lived in my kitchen. With all of those months where I could hardly bake anything let alone cook anything during my college classes, I'm now in some sort of kitchen overdrive. I've made so many recipes I actually have them scheduled out through the middle of February. And that's with a post every day. Starting this week, you'll see that.

I realize I could easily just save some of these recipes to post for a time when I don't have as many, but I just can't. I want to share them all right.this.second. So bear with me while I go a bit recipe crazy.

Sunday - Herbed Roasted Beef with Parsnip Puree, Roasted Potatoes and Vegetables

Monday - Roasted Vegetable and Rosemary Chicken Soup 

Tuesday - Shepherd's Pie

Wednesday - Caramelized Onion and Garlic Pasta

Thursday - Spicy Shrimp Fried Rice

Friday - Chicken Tacos

Aside from my extremely long list of baking, I've also started prepping as many recipes as I can to make throughout the week. I've started exercising recently and I pretty much need all of the time that I can get. I leave for work at 7 AM and I don't get home until close to 6 PM. It's kind of ridiculous. I can't wake up any earlier so as much as I'd absolutely love to exercise in the morning, I can't quite convince myself that waking up at 4:30 AM is worth it.

So for this week, I spent today making the soup and the meat and vegetables part of the shepherd's pie. Other than that, I've made apple cider doughnuts, granola, marshmallows and blueberry lemon bread.  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Jalapeno Popper Dip

You've heard of Pinterest, right? And you've joined? If not, Pinterest (pronounced pin-terest) is like a gigantic bulletin board on the internet. You can make different boards for different topics (food, clothing, decor, etc.) and any time that you come across something you like, you "pin" it to that specific board. It's addictive. Really, really addictive. If you're interested in following me, click on this: Follow Me on Pinterest

This recipe was re-pinned quite a bit around the holidays since its delicious and really easy to make. I had to jump on the bandwagon and make this as an appetizer for New Years Eve.

Jalapeno Popper Dip
Slightly Adapted from: Closet Cooking 
Yield: 2 1/2 - 3 cups of dip
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature (Philadelphia)
    • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
    • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (Kraft)
    • 1/2 cup mayo (Kraft)
    • 1/4 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
    • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
    • 6 oz. (canned) sliced jalapenos

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Lightly spray a baking dish or two large ramekins with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan, cheddar, mayo, Mozzarella and sliced jalapenos. Divide evenly into the baking dish or the ramekins.
3. Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and Panko bread crumbs.
4. Place on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned on top and bubbly. Serve immediately with chips.

After step 2, the mixture can be refrigerated. Return to room temperature 30 minutes before baking. Baking time may increase 10+ minutes if mixture is still cold. I served these with Tostitos chips.

Oh this was so good! I could have easily curled up with a ramekin of this and not shared with anyone. I only wish it was healthier! Unfortunately, it was too tasty for me to remember to snap a picture once we dug in.

Also, if anyone knows how I can add a "Pin It" button onto each blog post with out specifying the recipe, please let me know!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Improv Challenge: Lemon and Sour Cream Donuts

There's something about the smell of lemons that makes me happy. I absolutely love to zest or juice lemons because even after washing my hands, that lovely lemon smell remains. I'm really curious as to why the don't sell lemon scented candles. Or at least any that I've found. I'm sure I'm not the only person in the world who loves that lemony smell.

For January's Improv Challenge our ingredients were lemons and sour cream. Ironically, as much as I love to cook and bake, my favorite part of the Improv Challenge is finding a recipe. There are about 60 of us that participate and there aren't any guidelines on where we can search, so its pretty likely that there will be repeat recipes. But I take the word Challenge very seriously. Instead of just picking one the first results that come up after searching "lemon and sour cream recipe" I break the challenge into two parts. One is finding a recipe that I don't expect anyone else to make. The second part is to (obviously) successfully make the recipe.

While I realize its January and most people are still trying to eat healthy, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to make donuts. I've never made donuts before and I've been debating on purchasing a donut pan from Amazon with my gift cards so I can bake donuts. Because really, if you can shave some calories off something as delicious as a donut by baking it instead of frying it, you'd do it too, right?

Lemon and Sour Cream Donuts
Adapted from: Tartelette
Yield: 20+ donuts
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Ingredients:
    • zest and juice of one lemon
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tbs. olive oil
    • 1 cup cake flour
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • pinch of salt
    • 1 cup vegetable or canola oil 

    Glaze Ingredients:
    • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
    • 2-3 tbs. milk
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
    • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the zest and juice of the lemon, sour cream, sugar, eggs and olive oil until smooth.
2. In another medium sized bowl, combine the flours, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until smooth with a spatula.
3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
4. Place a wire cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. Top the rack with a layer of paper towels.
5. Bring the oil to 325 in a Dutch oven. Scoop 1/4 cup fulls of the batter into the oil. Cook in batches of 4-5 for 5-6 minutes each or until lightly golden.
6. Transfer the donuts to the paper towel lined cooling rack and repeat with remaining batter.
7. In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, milk, lemon juice and zest together until a glaze forms. Make adjustments to each ingredient until you reach the desired consistency.
8. Once donuts have cooled slightly, drizzle glaze over donuts and serve immediately.

These were pretty tasty, but I felt like the lemon flavor should have come through more. I'm not sure if its the type of oil I used or what, but I wouldn't mind messing with the recipe a bit to make some adjustments.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

S'Mores on a Stick

I waited until the last minute to come up with ideas for a New Years Eve menu. The guest list kept changing and I couldn't decide on anything. Eventually I gave up and googled "bite sized desserts" and somehow ended up with this recipe. I thought it was pretty cute considering everyone loves s'mores. Oh, they don't? Well, more for me than.

S'Mores on a Stick
Inspired by: White on Rice Couple
Yield: 20
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Ingredients:
    • 20 regular-sized marshmallows
    • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
    • 3-4 graham crackers
    • 20 skewer sticks

Directions:
1. Process the graham crackers in a food processor until they turn into crumbs. Transfer into a small bowl.
2. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler.
3. Dip each marshmallow into the melted chocolate then immediate dip into the graham cracker crumbs. Place the marshmallow chocolate side up on a plate. Repeat with all remaining marshmallows.
4. Transfer the plate of marshmallows to the refrigerator and cool for at least 30 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened.
5. Spear each marshmallow with a skewer stick and return to the plate. Serve immediately.

I wish I had a small kitchen torch so I could have toasted the marshmallows but unfortunately I don't. Either way, these turned out pretty tasty and were definitely a cute treat to make on New Years Eve since if you held them upside down, it kind of resembled the ball in NYC at the top before it comes down.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dorito Casserole

Disclaimer: In case you couldn't tell from the title, this recipe isn't the least bit healthy. So if you're doing that whole new years resolution thing where you eat healthy,  just bookmark this for when you get tired of eating vegetables.

When I saw this recipe I was caught between thinking "wow that sounds good" and "holy crap, that's unhealthy". For the most part, even though I live with the chocolate and carb o-holic, I try to make recipes that are as healthy as possible. I actually like healthy foods better than unhealthy ones.

In my dream world where I'm independently wealthy, I live on a farm with cows, chickens and an insane vegetable garden. Other people take care of the animal killing and vegetable picking because I spend all day every day in my ginormous state-of-the-art kitchen making everything from scratch. Anything that I can't get from my fantasy farm comes from a high quality butcher and organic farmers market.

Unfortunately, none of that exists in the real world. You'd think living in a really rural area would make this pretty possible in my real world, but apparently everyone else who lives in the middle of no where, Maryland with me either buys everything from the grocery store or doesn't sell their eggs/chicken/whatever.

So ever so often when I get bored of the usual healthy recipes, I made Tom extremely happy by making something like this.



Dorito Casserole
Slightly adapted from: Pearls, Handcuffs and Happy Hour, as seen on Jam Hands
Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:
    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 1/4 cup chicken broth (or water)
    • salt and pepper
    • 2 cups crumbled Doritos, plus extra for topping (I used Cooler Ranch)
    • 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese, divided
    • 1 can cream of chicken soup
    • 1 can Rotel
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 3 tbs. taco seasoning

Directions:
1. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place in the crock pot and pour the chicken broth or water over them. Cook on low for 8 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Add 1 cup of the Doritos to the bottom of the dish. 
2. Using two forks, shred the chicken and transfer to a medium sized bowl. Add 1 cup of the Mexican cheese, the cream of chicken soup, Rotel, sour cream, milk and taco seasoning to the bowl. Stir to combine.
3. Scoop half of the chicken mixture on top of the Doritos. Make another layer with the remaining Doritos and chicken mixture. Top with the remaining Mexican cheese.
4. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove the foil and bake for another 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned.
5. Serve in bowls and top with extra crumbled Doritos for crunch.

I could tell you this was disgusting and I couldn't eat it, but that would be a complete lie. This was actually really good. Cheesy, gooey, completely unhealthy, but really good. The extra crumbling of Doritos on top really give this a nice crunch. You could easily serve this as a dip with extra Doritos or Tostitos for scooping. Would you be surprised if I told you that Tom had seconds? :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weekly Menu 1/15 - 1/20

Accomplishment: I managed to exercise three days last week. Goal: To exercise 5 days this week.

I think I mentioned that Tom's family is doing a biggest loser style challenge and Tom and I are participating. It's based off who loses the largest percentage of weight. I'm pretty sure we've lost from the start considering practically everyone else who is participating doesn't spend 11 hours a day getting to work, working and getting home from work. So they get a ton more time to work out than we ever will. But, we're still participating, because who knows what will happen by the end of the competition?

I never find it easy to come up with healthy dinner options. They all seem boring and plain. So I found relatively healthy recipes, or recipes I could make healthier by changing the ingredients and figured as long as we're eating a healthy breakfast and lunch, we can cheat a bit on dinner.

Sunday - Pumpkin Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce and Salad

Monday - Chicken and Dumplings

Tuesday - Healthy Recipe Swap Meal 

Wednesday - Lasagna Soup 

Thursday - Shrimp Scampi

Friday - Sesame Beef with Stir Fry Veggies

For breakfasts this week I'm making fruit filled granola bars and for lunches, fajitas.

I'm trying to branch out on snack ideas and I'll I've managed to come up with is veggies and hummus, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, yogurt and fruit.

What are some of your favorite healthy meals or snacks?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Recipe Swap: Bacon and Cream Cheese Jalapeno Bites

For this Recipe Swap it was decided that we would go SRC style and chose any recipe we wanted from the blog that we were assigned. Ironically this happened in the month where the SRC decided to take a break, which made it perfect for me. While I can spend any day of any week choosing a recipe from a blog, it's somehow just more special when there is more purpose behind it.

For this Recipe Swap I was assigned Jaida's blog, Sweet Beginnings. I had Jaida's blog for a recipe swap once before and ended up getting to make the ever delicious Tailgate Sliders. Jaida was also the one to nominate me for the Liebster award, which I am proud to say, since receiving the award, I've gained 11 new followers! So I knew I wouldn't have any trouble finding a recipe to choose. Instead, I had trouble choosing just one recipe!

Luckily, timing was able to help me narrow it down. We received our blog assignments right before New Years Eve. I was planning on making some appetizers but I hadn't narrowed it down yet. When I saw the Bacon & Cream Cheese Jalapeno Bites I knew I that was the perfect recipe and something I needed to make right away!

Have I ever mentioned that I'm slightly addicted to jalapeno poppers? Or cream cheese? No? Well, I am.

Bacon and Cream Cheese Jalapeno Bites
Source: Sweet Beginnings
Yield: 10 bites
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Ingredients:
    • 5 jalapeno peppers
    • 5 slices bacon, cut in half
    • 2 oz. cream cheese, slightly softened

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Slice the jalapeno peppers in half and remove the seeds and inner membranes.
3. Spoon the cream cheese into each half of the jalapenos.
4. Wrap each jalapeno piece with bacon and secure with a toothpick.
5. Place the jalapenos onto the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until the bacon is cooked and crispy.

Yum! I ate almost all of these by myself. Sorry guests! These are definitely going to become a staple appetizer when we entertain people. Simple, quick, and hey, you could even be healthy about it by using fat free cream cheese and turkey bacon.

If you're interested in checking out the other SRC style recipes from the Recipe Swap or any other Recipe Swap, check our our host, Sarah's blog, Taste of Home Cooking.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Crock Pot Asian Pork with Mushrooms

You know how I mention quite frequently that I live in the middle of no where and usually have a hard time finding certain ingredients? This recipe was no exception. Even before reading this recipe I'd heard of Chinese Five Spice. I swear I've even found it in a grocery store before. Yet when it came time to buy some for this recipe, was it anywhere? No, of course not. I tried three different grocery stores with absolutely no luck. So I figured I'd do the next best thing, buy the ingredients that make up Chinese Five Spice and just use those. Except those three grocery stores also didn't manage to carry any of the five ingredients that go into Chinese Five Spice. Really? How is that even possible?

This just confirms that I really need to jump on the Penzey's bandwagon and order some spices online! At least they carry Chinese Five Spice. And a ton of other spices that I can make good use of.



Crock Pot Asian Pork with Mushrooms
Slightly Adapted from: Skinny Taste
Yield: 6-8 servings
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Ingredients:
    • 2 lb. boneless pork roast, trimmed of all visible fat
    • 3 packages ramen noodles 
    • 8 oz. mushrooms
    • 2 cups shredded carrots
    • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 cup chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup soy sauce
    • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 3 tbs. sugar
    • 1 tbs. olive oil 
    • 1 tbs. sesame oil
    • 1 tbs. fresh ginger root, grated
    • pinch of red pepper flakes, cinnamon, ground ginger and nutmeg each
    • salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Season the pork roast with salt and pepper.  In a large pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Once hot, sear the pork roast on all sides, 7-8 minutes per side.
2. Meanwhile, add the carrots, onion, garlic, chicken broth, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, ginger root and spices to the crock pot. Once the pork has been seared add it to the crock pot and cook on low for 7 hours.
3. Add the carrots to the crock pot and cook for 30 minutes. Then remove the pork and allow to rest. Add the mushrooms to the crock pot.
4. Using two forks, shred the pork and return it to the crock pot, spooning the juice over the meat. Cook the ramen noodles according to package directions without adding seasoning packets.
5. Divide the ramen noodles among bowls. Scoop the pork and vegetable mixture over the noodles and add some of the broth.

This was just as good as it looks. I really wish I had fresh green onions to use as a garnish on top of this. I think they would have really rounded out the flavors. The one thing thats really great about this recipe is you can use just about any vegetable in this that you'd use in a stir fry and I'm sure it'd still be delicious! Of course, now I just need to place that Penzey's order and make this again with the Chinese Five Spice.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cheddar Beer Soup in Pretzel Bread Bowls

Some recipes are just meant to be. When I saw this pop up in my reader, three thoughts when through my head. 1. Mmmmm pretzels and cheese. 2. Why have I never made a bread bowl yet? 3. There's beer in my fridge taking up valuable real estate that I need to store holiday foods. See, meant to be!

Cheddar Beer Soup in Pretzel Bread Bowls
Slightly Adapted from: Fake Ginger, adapted from Williams-Sonoma
Yield: 4 bread bowls, soup for 4-6
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Pretzel Bread Bowl Ingredients:
    • 5 1/2 cups bread flour
    • 2 cups + 4 tbsp. hot water (about 125F)
    • 2 envelopes rapid rise yeast
    • 2 tsp. sugar
    • 2 tsp. salt
    • 8 cups water
    • 1/4 cup baking soda
    • 2 tbsp. sugar
    • 1 egg white, beaten 
    • cornmeal
    • sea salt 
    Soup Ingredients:
    • 6 slices bacon, roughly chopped
    • 2 stalks celery, diced
    • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/3 cup AP flour
    • 12 oz. beer
    • 2 cups chicken broth
    • 2 cups milk
    • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
    • salt and pepper to taste
Pretzel Bread Bowl Directions:
1. Lightly grease a large bowl with oil. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attached, combine flour, water, yeast, sugar and salt until a dough forms.
2. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough into the greased bowl, turn to coat and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
3. Lightly flour a baking sheet and working surface. Turn out the dough onto the surface and punch down until the dough is smooth. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape into balls. Place each ball onto the baking sheet, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Bring the 8 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Add baking soda and 2 tbs. sugar to the water. (It will foam).
5. Gently place one dough ball into the water and cook for 30 seconds. Flip the dough ball over and cook for another 30 seconds. Carefully transfer the dough ball onto the baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Repeat until you have cooked all of the dough balls.
6. Brush the dough balls with the egg white and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Place the dough balls in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
7. Transfer to racks to cool, and once cool enough to handle, slice off the tops of the bread bowls and hollow out the insides.

Soup Directions:
1. Heat a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove approximately two slices worth of the bacon (to use as a garnish) and set aside. Drain excess grease to leave about 2 tablespoons in the pot.
2. Reduce the heat to medium, add the celery, carrots and onion. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, 25-30 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
3. Whisk in the flour and cook for 3-5 minutes. Then add the beer, stirring constantly for 5 minutes.
4. Stir the broth, milk and Worcestershire sauce and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring the soup to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Let soup simmer for 15 minutes.
5. While stirring constantly, add the cheese in by the handful until it all has melted.
6. Ladle soup into the pretzel bowls, garnish with bacon and add salt and pepper to taste.

Drool! This soup is so incredibly delicious! The saltiness of the pretzel bowl and the melted gooeyness of the cheese are just great together. The original recipe calls for pureeing the soup before adding the cheese but I wanted some texture to the soup. Tom didn't think he was going to like this at all (he doesn't like beer in food) but he can't wait for me to make it again. It's definitely a great way to warm up on a cold night!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekly Menu 1/8 - 1/13

Have you ever had a day or moment where you outlook on things just changed without anything specific happening to cause it? I had one of those recently. Confession: Work has been pretty depressing for me lately. I know I've shared that we're short-staffed but I never really went into detail about it. In being short-staffed that's meant that everything has fallen on Tom and I and it became exhausting. Like to the point where I would come home and not even have the energy to make dinner because all of my energy was being sucked up by all of the things that needed to be done at work.

And then something just changed. It could have been that one of my friends came and hung out with us on New Years Eve and it reminded me that there is a life outside of work and the day to day tasks. It could have been that we had a meeting with our corporate office and pleaded our case that we need another office person. Even though they didn't say yes, they didn't say no. It could have been that we bought new bedding and I learned that its not exactly easy to shove a comforter into a duvet. It could have been that I'm not taking college classes this semester which means every night and every weekend is mine alone. I have no responsibilities! Okay, that's not true, but I have less responsibilities. Or it could have been that another friend and her husband came to visit yesterday and we had an awesome time. We wandered around in the small shops in my middle of no where town, ate dinner at my favorite seafood place here and then looked at houses online.

Either way, whether it was any of those things or none of those things that caused it, I just generally have a much lighter feeling about everything and I really like it.

Have I ever mentioned that the urge to do spring cleaning never happens to me in the spring? Twice a year, usually in completely random months, I look at the apartment and just want to scream. There's stuff there that doesn't have a proper home. Or there is a stray hair hanging out on the bathroom baseboard that I keep missing each time I clean it. These things drive me crazy. Yes, I realize this may make me a bit OCD and I'm okay with that. So last Friday I had a vacation day. And you know what I spent the entire day doing? Cleaning.

I'm talking cleaning out the file cabinet, throwing out expired medications, wiping out the inside of cabinets, scrubbing the floor on my hands and knees instead of using the mop, baseboard cleaning type of cleaning. That scary type of cleaning where you never feel like you're going to finish until absolutely everything is sparkling. The cats assumed I went crazy and hid from me most of the day. Tom left for work before 7 in the morning and that's when I started my cleaning escapades. At almost 6 in the evening when he came home, I was still cleaning and there was a mountain of trash bags next to the door. So maybe the cats were right.

But you know what that left me to do on Saturday? Damn near nothing! So what I decided to do was finally organize my recipes. Another confession: I print recipes like they are never going to sell ink or printers again. I have a 2" binder that was completely stuffed with recipes I had printed as long ago as 2006. I'm not joking. Some of these recipes I've never even made. But I went through that binder and the stuffed to the gills 1" binder of desserts and organized. I now have a binder full of my favorite recipes and desserts that have been tested and perfected (and are included on this blog). I also have two other binders, one with dinners to try and the other with recipes to try. They're even in shiny new page protectors! This calmed the inner OCD freak me to no end. I'm actually debating on going through my reader and printing out all of my starred recipes to add to the 'to try' binder. Maybe later today.

So what in the world does this have to do with the menu? Well, after I created the 'to try' binder, I decided I would require myself to make meals from there until I made a serious dent in the amount of recipes. Except for one, each recipe on the menu this week is completely new and untried. Which is good for you since you'll see a lot of new recipes coming soon (pending that they all turn out!)

Sunday - Flank Steak with Mushrooms, Parsnip Puree and Green Bean Bundles 

Monday - Vietnamese Pork and Noodles

Tuesday - Crab Bisque 

Wednesday - Jalapeno Popper Chicken with French Fries and Corn 


Thursday - Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Cranberry Relish 

Friday - mini pizzas 

Since I didn't get any baking done last weekend, I plan on making the apple muffins this weekend, along with my recipe for the Improv challenge.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Macaroni and Cheese - Crock Pot

Macaroni and cheese is one of those meals that I'm always looking for the perfect version. I'm starting to wonder if it just doesn't exist. Or maybe I'm just too picky about my mac and cheese. Luckily, its one of Tom's favorite foods so he doesn't mind eating each recipe in my quest for the perfect one.

Since my stove/oven versions of mac and cheese have been good, but not amazing, I decided to try out a crock pot recipe to see if that's the secret.

Macaroni and Cheese - Crock Pot
Inspired by: Fake Ginger
Yield: 4-6 servings
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Ingredients:
    • 2 cups elbow macaroni
    • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
    • 12 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed
    • 12 oz. can evaporated milk
    • 1 1/2 cups milk
    • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
    • 3 eggs
    • 1/2 tsp. paprika
    • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • Optional Toppings:
    • 1 tbs. butter
    • 2 tbs. breadcrumbs
    • Italian seasoning
    • crushed red pepper
Directions:
1. Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and the elbow macaroni. Cook the macaroni for 5-7 minutes or halfway through the cooking time listed on the box.
2. Spray the inside of your crock pot with non-stick cooking spray. Combine the evaporated milk, milk, butter and eggs in the crock pot. Whisk until smooth.
3. Add the cheddar, Velveeta and Parmesan cheese. Drain the pasta and add to the slow cooker. Stir in the paprika and dry mustard.
4. Cook on high for 30 minutes then reduce the temperature to low and cook for 3 - 3 1/2 hours.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, or use the optional toppings:
Preheat the oven to 350. Transfer the mac and cheese into a 9x13 baking dish or into individual ramekins.
Melt the butter and mix in the breadcrumbs until lightly coated. Sprinkle over the mac and cheese. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper.
Bake for 3-5 minutes or until breadcrumbs are browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


This was some really yummy mac and cheese. While eating my bowl of it, I decided it currently held the top position for best mac and cheese, but that my quest to always find a delicious mac and cheese recipe would probably always continue.
.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Garlic Butter Noodles

I've mentioned quite a few times now that Saturday's are my lazy days and I typically don't cook. Usually I spend my Saturday baking whatever I've decided for the week. This usually results in some strange choices for meals. I can't tell you the number of times I'll eat things like a bag of popcorn, a bowl of cereal or cheese and crackers and pretend that its a real meal.

So just like every other Saturday, sometime around the time we usually eat dinner I get hungry (go figure) and go in search of something to eat. This particular Saturday I just wasn't feeling popcorn, cereal or cheese and crackers. I wanted something different.  

I opened the fridge. Cheese, pickles, bacon, potatoes, yogurt. Eh, not exactly what one would call a meal. I opened the freezer. Chicken breast, frozen fruit and ice cream were in my immediate line of vision. I debated on the chicken breast for a few minutes but decided I didn't feel like going through the effort of defrosting it. Then I wandered over to the pantry. Crackers, bread, canned tomatoes, baking needs and about 600 different types of pasta.

Hmm, pasta. I moved some boxes around and found that there was just enough angel hair pasta left for one serving. And inspiration hit. Garlic butter noodles. With bacon. And maybe Gouda.

Garlic Butter Noodles
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 1
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Ingredients:
    •  2-3 oz. angel hair pasta
    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/4 tsp. parsley
    • 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbed (optional)
    • shredded Gouda cheese (optional)
Directions:
1. Bring a small pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until soft. Drain the water. 
2. Return the pot to the stove over very low heat. Add the butter, garlic, and parsley. Stir until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl.
3. Sprinkle with bacon and cheese.

As much as I really wanted the Gouda cheese, it just didn't go well with the garlic buttered noodles. It made them clump together and kinda difficult to eat, but the flavor was nice. Leave the Gouda, take the bacon! While not exactly healthy, this was a nice change from my typical Saturday lunch and dinner choices.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Weekly Menu 1/1 - 1/6

2012. I really can't believe that its another year already. As I'm sure everyone else is saying, I have no idea where 2011 went. It was just a blur of a year. So hopefully 2012 will slow down a bit!

Last night I had a small get together. I had planned on inviting more people but the holidays flew by and then all of a sudden we were three days from New Years Eve and I hadn't invited anyone. So, one of my friends who lives the closest came over with her fiance and son. Since it was just 5 of us, I tried to keep the menu small, but failed as usual.

We had: veggies and dip, jalapeno popper dip, meatball sliders, oreo cheesecake bites and s'mores on a stick. I hope to get the recipes blogged soon.

As for this week, the menu is kind of a mess because after I planned everything out, we got a call from the corporate office at work asking for us to come up on Wednesday and Thursday to have the meetings that we rescheduled before the holidays.

Sunday - pork and sauerkraut with mashed potatoes 

Monday - Italian Chicken over pasta with vegetables

Tuesday - Vegetable Frittata

Thursday - Shrimp Bisque

Friday - Sloppy Joes

I had planned on Chicken Caesar Salads on Wednesday so I think I'll eat those for lunch this week. As for baking, I'm making marshmallows and apple muffins.

Hope you're having a great start to your new year!