Baked Chocolate Doughnuts - Cinnamon Sugar and Chocolate Glaze

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Near where I used to live there is a flea market on the weekends that sold mini doughnuts. There was a machine that reminded me of a ferris wheel that dropped the doughnuts into the fryer, then picked them up, each in their own little bin to rotate them and shake off the excess oil. Then they dropped off into a holding bin where the woman behind the machine would scoop them out into a paper bag and ask "powdered or cinnamon sugar?"

I loved going to the flea market on the weekends as a kid so I could enjoy these doughnuts. Usually I went to the flea market with my dad, so these delicious little puffs of fried dough made looking at tools and other manly things much more bearable. :)

When I came across this recipe in my reader, I thought it'd be worth a shot to see if a baked cinnamon sugar doughnut would be anything like the fried ones from the flea market.


Baked Doughnuts
Source: Prevention RD
Yield: ~36 mini doughnuts
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Doughnut Ingredients:
    • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
    • 1 tbs. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 cup milk (low-fat)
    • 1 egg
    • 3 tbs. applesauce (unsweetened)
    • 1 tbs. canola oil
    • 1 tsp. vanilla

    Cinnamon Sugar Mixture
    • 2 tbs. sugar
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. unsalted butter, melted

    Chocolate Glaze
    • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
    • 1 tbs. corn syrup
    • 1 tbs. canola oil
    • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
    • sprinkles, optional 

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 450. Coat your doughnut pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Then add in the wet ingredients and stir until combined.
3. Fill each doughnut hole halfway with batter and bake for 4 minutes.
4. Let doughnuts rest in the pan for 2-3 minutes then use a butter-knife to gently remove from the pan and place on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter.

To dust with cinnamon sugar, combine the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Brush the tops of the doughnuts with melted butter then immediately dip into the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Flip doughnut over and repeat with other side.

For the chocolate glaze, place the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and melt at 30 second intervals, stirring after each until the chocolate has melted. Stir in the corn syrup and microwave 20 seconds. Stir in the canola oil and microwave another 20 seconds. Stir in the vanilla. Swirl each doughnut into the chocolate glaze and then top with sprinkles.

Even though these are chocolate, when covered in cinnamon sugar, these are actually quite similar to the fried ones from the flea market, but if you're expecting a baked doughnut to taste anything like a Krispy Kreme, well, these just aren't for you.

Bacon Lover's Mac and Cheese

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RUN do not WALK to your nearest grocery store and immediately pick up the ingredients for this recipe. I'm not joking. You must make this right away. You'll thank me, I promise.

I follow Annie's blog but somehow this recipe got past me. It wasn't until it was popping up all over Pinterest and a group of my Facebook friends were talking about it, did I notice this recipe. And my immediate thought was 'I can't make that. It says Bacon Lover's and I'm still part of two weight loss challenges.' But everyone kept saying how amazing it was and the recipe did call for low-fat milk, mushrooms and spinach. Those relatively healthy ingredients balance out the bacon and cheese, right?

Actually, it honestly doesn't matter if it doesn't. After eating this, you really won't mind spending another 20 minutes or so on the treadmill. It's that damn good!


Bacon Lover's Mac and Cheese
Source: Annie's Eats
Yield: 4-6 servings
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Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 cups pasta
    • 6-7 slices bacon
    • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (baby bella or button)
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 2 1/2 cups low-fat milk
    • 1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
    • 1/2 cup Gouda cheese, grated
    • 3 cups spinach leaves, roughly chopped
    • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    • cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
3. In a skillet over medium-high heat cook the bacon until crispy. Transfer the bacon a plate and blot with a paper towel to absorb excess grease. Reserve two tablespoons of the bacon grease in a small bowl. Discard the rest, but leave the skillet just barely coated.
4. Add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook for 5-7 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
5. In a large saucepan, combine the bacon grease and butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and garlic and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is lightly golden.
6. Whisk in the milk. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cheddar and Gouda cheese with a wooden spoon until completely melted. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.
7. Crumble the bacon, reserving a bit for a garnish. Add the pasta, spinach and remaining bacon to the saucepan and stir until combined.
8. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let rest for a few minutes, then serve topped with reserved bacon bits.

I really can't even explain how delicious this dish is in words. You just have to try it. Today.


Soft Pretzel Bites

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I've always loved pretzels. Soft pretzels or hard pretzels, it doesn't matter. I love them both just the same. I am, however, a bit particular on my brand of pretzels for the hard variety. I only like Utz. Utz is located in Hanover, PA and they only distribute to a few states. Which means I'll never be able to move too far north, south or west. Well, considering you can order online, I guess I could, but that's beside the point.

As for soft pretzels, I'm not nearly as picky. I just prefer them to have a reasonable amount of salt and not be so chewy that you can tell they were previously frozen.

There seem to be trends of foods going around in the blog world, no doubt caused by Pinterest and soft pretzels was recently one of them. (I rarely ever get a chance to make and blog something while its still in its super popular phase, but I'm okay with that.)


Soft Pretzel Bites
Source: Beantown Baker
Yield: approximately 100 pretzel bites
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Ingredients:
    • 5 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
    • 2 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 1/2 cups warm water
    • 6 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
    • 2 tbs. brown sugar
    • 1 envelope dry active yeast (not rapid rise)
    • 8-10 cups water
    • 1/4 cup baking soda
    • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbs. water
    • sea salt

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, combine 5 cups of flour and the salt.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attached, combine the water, butter, brown sugar and yeast. Stir and then let sit for 5 minutes.
3. Add the flour and salt to your stand mixer and mix on low speed until just combined, then increase to medium speed and continue mixing until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
4. Add the additional 1/4 cup of flour. If dough is still sticky, add more flour. Lightly dust a work surface with flour and knead dough by hand for 5 minutes, shaping into a ball.
5. Grease a large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm area until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
7. Divide the dough into 8 equally sized portions. Roll each portion into a rope about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cover the remaining dough while working. *You can also freeze the dough at this point. I frozen half.*
8. Cut each dough rope into approximately 1" pieces and place on the baking sheet.
9. Add the water to a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Carefully add the baking soda (it will foam up). Whisk together the egg and water and set aside.
10. Drop 10-15 dough pieces into the water at a time, turning over once and cooking for 30-45 seconds each. Use a slotted spoon to remove the dough pieces and place back onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all pieces have been cooked.
11. Spread out the pretzel bites and brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with the sea salt and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
12. Serve with mustard, cheese or other dipping sauces.

These soft pretzel bites are delicious! Tom repeatedly asked me where I found the recipe and what I did differently because they tasted just so...pretzel-y. I honestly don't have a clue but I'm not complaining and I'm definitely glad there is another half batch of dough in the freezer just waiting for me to make!

Weekly Menu 2/26 - 3/2

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You know how I live in the middle of no where? I didn't realize until today just how much I've become used to  a lack of people. One of my friends was hosting a Thirty-One party today and since she lives in civilization, I decided to use my trip down there as an excuse to run some errands.

I had bathing suits to return at Target, checks to deposit (yes, my bank isn't even in the county I live in) and my rings needed to be dropped off at the jeweler to be replated. My first stop was at the bank which shares a parking lot with a flea market on the weekend. The number of cars in the parking lot made me feel slightly claustrophobic. I quickly got over that and headed to Target. Now this is a popular Target and the only one in a pretty large area. But it was absolutely packed! I parked at least a quarter mile away and when I finally got inside, there weren't even any carts left! I'm not used to this stuff! The mall was my last trip and honestly, the worse. Since it is winter and there isn't that much to do, I get that people go shopping or teenagers go there to hang out. But I was seriously overwhelmed at the sheer amount of people I encountered walking through Macy's home and across the "hall" of the mall to my jewelry store.

I'm really curious to see how long its going to take me to adjust once we move back to civilization. But now, that I'm home again, $60 poorer from the Thirty-One party, I'm quite content to hibernate in middle of no where apartment until I need to venture out again on Monday for work.

Sunday - Asian Chicken Noodle Soup 

Monday - Pot Roast in the Crock Pot

Tuesday - Mushroom and Shallot Fritatta

Wednesday - Asian Noodle Salad

Thursday - Shrimp Bisque

Friday - to be determined

Have I mentioned before that Tom now cooks on Fridays so I can start cleaning once we get home? If not, well now you know. :-)


I Need Your Help

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 For a while now I've debated on adding a new section to my blog. Based off what I see on Pinterest, most people are looking for ways to simplify grocery shopping or cooking dinner. Printable menus are pretty popular. A weekly menu with grocery list also seems to be something many people are interested in. Household or food related tips are other big pins. Since I do care about what my readers want/are interested in, it'd be stupid for me not to take this opportunity to make some changes.

After talking with a few Facebook friends it also appears there is a desire for people to reuse ingredients in different meals so they're not throwing away items at the end of the month. Even with all of the planning that I do, I'm guilty of this more often than I'm willing to admit. Recently it seems there's been a decent amount of media coverage on the amount of food people and restaurants throw away. The numbers are really alarming so if me posting 10 Recipes That Include Broccoli saves as little as one sandwich sized baggie of food from being thrown away, I'm all for it.

But here is where I need your help. What do you want to see? What will help you?

Are you interested in a few meals that use the same ingredients or would you rather see a post with a list of recipes that include a specific ingredient? Do you want to know some cooking/baking/kitchen tips or substitutions? Do you want to see more cooking for beginners recipes? Would a list of common pantry ingredients help you? Is there a type of recipe you want to see more of? Do you want to know where I get my recipes from? Do you want to see a funny picture of my cats?

I realize I won't be able to do everything that every person wants, but I'd like to try. So please take a minute to email me at cookaholicwife@gmail.com or leave me a comment on this post and let me know anything and everything you'd be interested in seeing!

Thanks!

The last question was rhetorical. Of course you want to see a funny picture of my cats. 
 I don't know how I captured Gidget in mid-yawn but it was just too perfect of a picture not to add a speech bubble. Since Tom and I frequently look at Itty and say "Its so FLUFFY!", I decided that Gidget thinks the same way we do.

Recipe Swap: Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream

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The category for this recipe swap was soup. As soon as I found out, I was immediately excited to participate. I am always looking for new soup recipes to try, even though the weather hasn't really cooperated to be cold enough for soup.

Are you easily able to find roasted red peppers in your grocery store? I can never find them. Personally, I'm starting to think its just a conspiracy against me. Of course, after purchasing red peppers to roast on my own, Tom and I happened to wander into a new dollar store and what was sitting on the front shelf? A jar of roasted red peppers.

While food from the dollar store just seems a bit odd to me, at least I know if I ever need roasted red peppers again, they are actually sold somewhere!


Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream
Source: Sweet Beginnings, via Life and Kitchen  
Yield: 6-8 servings
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Red Peppers:
    • 4 large red peppers
    • 1 tbs. canola oil
    • salt and pepper
    Soup Ingredients:
    • 2 tbs. unsalted butter
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic,diced
    • 6 cups vegetable stock
    • 1/4 cup tomato paste
    • 2 tbs. cilantro
    • 2 cups half and half 
    • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
    • 1 tbsp. cold water
    • salt and pepper

    Cilantro-Lime Cream:
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1 tsp. cilantro
    • juice of 1 lime
Red Pepper Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Brush the red peppers wit olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet and broil for 5 minutes or until the peppers are lightly charred. Rotate peppers and continue to broil and rotate until all sides are lightly charred.
3. Remove from the oven, transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 10 minutes.
4. Remove the plastic wrap and gently pull the skins off the peppers. Discard. Cut off the tops of the peppers and remove the seeds. Roughly chop peppers and set aside.

Cilantro-Lime Cream Directions:
1. Whisk together the sour cream, cilantro and lime juice until light and creamy. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Soup Directions:
1. In a large pot melt butter over medium heat.
2. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are soft, 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the vegetable stock, tomato paste and red peppers. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the half and half, cilantro and salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and cold water until no lumps remain.
5. Return the pot to the heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Simmer for 5 minutes then remove from the heat.
6. Use an immersion blender or blender to puree soup. Ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of the cilantro-lime cream mixture. 

I didn't think I was going to like this soup, but I managed to prove myself wrong. The combination of the red peppers and the cilantro-lime sour cream was delicious!  

Pear and Walnut Muffins

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I easily get bored with breakfast. I'm one of those people who can't eat first thing in the morning and need at least an hour before my stomach is able to handle food, which means I always eat breakfast at work. There aren't too many options of portable breakfasts that are healthy. Or at least that are portable, healthy and I like.

I'm pretty picky when it comes to breakfast foods. I don't like reheated eggs, some cooked fruits, biscuits or sausage. Which eliminates quite a few foods. I'm always up for a muffin though and these are less than 200 calories each!

Pear and Walnut Muffins
Source: Cooking Light, January 2006
Yield: 12 muffins  
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Ingredients:
    • 3 pears, peeled and diced
    • 8 oz. plain yogurt
    • 1 egg
    • 2/3 cup brown sugar
    • 2 tbs. canola oil
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
    • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • Sugar in the raw

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg and brown sugar. Then ad the yogurt, canola oil and vanilla extract until well combined.
3. In a small bowl, combine the flours, walnuts, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gently mix the flour mixture into the wet mixture until just incorporated. Gently fold in the pears.
3. Spoon the mixture into the muffin pan, filling 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle some of the sugar in the raw on top. Bake for 20 minutes or until muffins are cooked through.
4. Use a knife to gently run around the edges of the muffin pan and place the muffins on a wire rack to cool.

Not only did these make the apartment smell amazing while they were cooking, they tasted just as delicious! I'm going to have a hard time sharing these muffins with Tom for breakfast this week!
 

Jalapeno Popper Chicken

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When I was around 10 or 11 a new sub shop opened near our house and sent out a menu. I happened to get the mail that day and decided to flip through the menu to see if this place was offering anything better than the others in the area. My eyes stopped in the appetizers section on 'jalapeno poppers with cream cheese'. I'd never had a jalapeno popper before but I instinctively knew they'd be delicious.

The next time my mom wanted to order out for dinner, I suggested that sub shop so I could get the jalapeno poppers. They were just as delicious as I expected them to be. Almost every time I order food from a sub shop, I order jalapeno poppers now. I'm still not a huge fan of them made with cheddar cheese, but I'll eat them just the same.

So when I found this recipe for Jalapeno Popper Chicken, I knew I needed to make it right away. I've actually made this quite a few times but never blogged it. We had this again recently and I finally remember to take a picture, so here you go.

Jalapeno Popper Chicken
Source: Tastes, Tales and Tours
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 4 slices pepperjack cheese 
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and minced
    • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
    • 1 tsp. chili powder
    • 1 tsp. dried oregano

Directions:
1. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. In a shallow dish , whisk together the eggs with a splash or two of water. In another dish combine the Panko, chili powder and oregano.
3. Slice into each chicken breast like you would to butterfly it, but do not open the ends. Stuff each pocket with pepperjack cheese and jalapenos.
4. Dip each chicken breast into the egg wash then into the Panko mixture, coating on all sides and then place into the prepared baking dish. Spray the tops of the chicken lightly with cooking spray.
5. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the bread crumbs are golden brown.

I always get bored with making chicken even though I'm sure there are millions of different ways to prepare it but this is definitely one of my favorite ways to do so.

Blueberry Banana Bread

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One Saturday morning I had three super ripe bananas hanging out on my counter. I had bought them in a big bunch from the farmers market and had intended on using them in smoothies throughout the previous week but I just didn't make enough smoothies. I didn't want to throw away the bananas, but what to do with them? It was one of those days where I just didn't feel like leaving the house either. So whatever I was going to make had to currently reside in my pantry, fridge or freezer.

Banana nut bread was my first thought but I quickly realized we didn't have any nuts left in the house. A quick peek into the freezer reminded me that we had frozen blueberries. So blueberry banana bread it would be.

Blueberry Banana Bread
Source: A Cookaholic Wife creation
Yield: 1 loaf, 16 slices
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Ingredients: 
    • 3 ripe bananas
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 tbs. vanilla yogurt
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 2/3 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a potato masher or fork. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and sugar.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Add the applesauce, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine. Then add in the flour mixture until combined.
5. Fold in the bananas and then the blueberries. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Slice and serve.

Yum! This bread was delicious! And the best part, its only around 200 calories a slice!


 

Parsnip Puree

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For the longest time I had no idea what a parsnip looked like. I'd heard of it; either as being pureed or roasted and served for Christmas dinners but I'd never had one or even bothered to figure out what they look like. Not too long ago I had some extra time to wander around in the grocery store so I decided to test my knowledge on different leafy greens. What? You don't do this?

While I was looking at them and guessing their names, a white carrot-looking vegetable off to my right caught my eye. I quickly glanced down at the name tag and realized it was a parsnip. I don't know why, but I expected parsnips to look different. I expected it to look more like ginger root than a white carrot.

I wanted a different side dish for the roasted beef I was making and figured this could work well.


Parsnip Puree
Source: Tyler Florence
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 3-4 large parsnips, peeled and cut into pieces
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 spring thyme
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • salt and pepper
Directions:
1. Season the parsnips with salt and pepper. Combine the parsnips, cream, milk, garlic, bay leaf and thyme in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, 12-15 minutes.
4. Scoop out the parsnips and add to a food processor. Add the butter and 1/4 cup of the milk mixture. Puree the parsnips, adding more of the milk mixture if needed, to desired consistency.

I had no idea what to expect these to taste like. I was assuming they'd kind of taste like a pureed carrot which doesn't sound all that pleasing, but I was surprised with this. Tom liked them as well and our only complaint is that there wasn't more! I could easily eat these instead of mashed potatoes on a regular basis.

Weekly Menu 2/19 - 2/24

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Are you one of those lucky people who doesn't have to work on President's Day? After some back and forth changes to the handbook, I am once again one of those people. I never realized just how nice it is to have MLK and President's Day as holidays until I realized that there are some people who don't have a vacation day between New Years Day and Memorial Day. I can't even imagine!

I don't have any plans for this three day weekend other than to relax. It's kind of exciting.

Sunday - Recipe Swap: Soup 

Monday - Toasted Ravioli with salad

Tuesday - Slow Cooker Chicken, Corn and Poblanos over Quinoa

Wednesday - Turkey, Cheddar and Apple Paninis with Sweet Potato Fries

Thursday - Bacon Lovers Mac and Cheese

Friday - Jalapeno Jack Burgers with Baked Onion Rings 

For breakfast this week I'm going to try out a batch of baked oatmeal, probably with blueberries and bananas since I have some extras.  

Shepherd's Pie

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I'm taking an (educated) guess that sometime around or during the Depression, my great-grandmother created a dish that was hot, filling and cheap. She then taught this dish to my grandfather who taught my grandmother since they had a lot of kids to feed and it somehow managed to be one of the very few dishes my mother ever learned how to cook. She tried to serve it to my father and me on a pretty regular basis. I'm sure I ate it a good 100 or so times before my taste buds properly developed and I realized just how gross it was.

Let me explain the dish. Boil some carrots, celery, onions and potatoes. Brown some ground beef. Use the grease and some flour to create a very water gravy. Add barely a dash of salt and pepper. Serve.

Are you curious to know whats under that pile of golden-y delicious mashed potatoes? 

That doesn't sound too appealing now does it? That's what I assumed Shepherd's Pie would be like. Yes, I know, Shepherd's Pie is topped with mashed potatoes but sometimes there would be mashed potatoes with that dreadful dish listed above. So it took a long time before I could ever think of making Shepherd's Pie. My first time was an failure. It tasted very similar to the dish my mom used to make, although I'm not sure how.

When I was sorting through recipes I hadn't made before, I came across this Shepherd's Pie recipe and decided to give it another shot.


Oh, nothing important. Just this pile of delicious awesome-ness.


Shepherd's Pie
Source: Peace, Love and French Fries
Yield: 6-8 servings
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Meat Mixture Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
    • 3 large carrots, peeled and coined
    • 2 celery stalks, diced
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
    • 1 cup frozen peas
    • 2 tbs. all purpose flour
    • 2 cups beef broth
    • 1 cup beer
    • 2 tbs. butter
    • 1 tbs. steak sauce (A-1)
    • 1 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
    • 1 tsp. fresh sage, chopped
    • 1 tsp. fresh basil, chopped
    • salt and pepper

Potato Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 3 tbs. unsalted butter
  • salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Place the potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook for 12-15 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain water and set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 350.
3. In a small skillet, brown the ground beef. Drain any excess grease and set aside.
4. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until vegetables have softened.
5. Add the beef to the Dutch oven. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and vegetables and stir to coat. Cook for 1 minute, then add the beef broth and beer. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
6. Bring to a simmer, the reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the steak sauce, oregano, sage and basil. Cook for 15-20 minutes more or until all of the vegetables are fork-tender. Add the corn and peas and continue to cook until the mixture has thickened, another 5-7 minutes.
7. Spray 6-8 large ramekin dishes with non-stick cooking spray. (Or use a combination of ramekins and baking dishes.)
8. Scoop the meat mixture into the ramekins/baking dishes. Season with salt and pepper.
9. Add the cream and butter to the potatoes and mash until smooth. Stir in the cheese until melted and season with salt and pepper.
10. Spoon the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture. Place the ramekins/baking dish onto a large baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes then increase the oven to broil and broil for 2-3 minutes or until the potatoes are lightly golden brown.

WOW! I don't know if it was because I made these in individual dishes or what, but this was absolutely delicious. The recipe wasn't all that different from the one I had tried previously, but this was easily 100 times better. I had a very hard time convincing Tom not to eat seconds and thirds so we could have the leftovers for lunch.

Improv Challenge: Carrot, Parsnip and Ginger Puree over Risotto

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It feels like just yesterday I was participating for the first time in the Improv Challenge in January. But, a whole month has flown by and here it is, time again to participate for February. The two ingredients for February were carrots and ginger.

I had a really hard time trying to figure out what to make for this recipe. I only like carrots in their raw form and I wanted the two ingredients to be main ingredients in the recipe. This seriously limited my recipe search. I was debating between an Asian coleslaw and thai noodles when I planned a parsnip puree for dinner one night.

The idea to puree carrots, ginger and parsnips popped into my head and I thought they'd go great served over risotto.

Carrot, Parsnip and Ginger Puree over Risotto
Inspired by: Tyler Florence
Servings: 1 1/2 cups puree
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Puree Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup carrots, peeled and coined
    • 1/4 cup parsnips, peeled and coined
    • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, roughly chopped
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • salt and pepper, to taste
    Risotto Ingredients:
    • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1 cup Arborio rice
    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
    • 1/4 cup onion, diced
    • 1/4 cup dry white wine
    • 1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 tbsp. parsley
    • salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
1. In a large saucepan, combine all of the ingredients for the puree and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the carrots and parsnips are fork tender.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the chicken broth over low heat.
3. In a large skillet, melt 1 1/2 tbs. of butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until the onion is soft. Add 1 tbs. of butter and the rice and stir until the rice is lightly golden. 
4. Add the white wine to the rice and stir until the rice has absorbed the wine. Add 1 cup of the chicken stock and stir occasionally until the rice has absorbed the wine. Repeat with the remaining 3 cups of chicken stock.
5. Once you've added the last cup of chicken stock to the rice, transfer the puree ingredients to a food processor or blender and pulse until pureed or you reach the desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese, parsley and remaining butter. Spoon into bowls and top with the puree mixture.

The color on this is incredibly pretty but it didn't quite have the taste I was going for. I was concerned about using too much fresh ginger and the taste being too strong, but I think you could easily double it without issue. The carrot flavor came through the strongest.

Since this didn't turn out the way I expected, I did debate on scrapping it and making a new recipe but I finally decided that just because it wasn't exactly what I expected it to be didn't mean it was a bad recipe. The puree would also go nicely with a roast or with more liquid, it'd be a great soup if you someone who enjoys the taste of carrots.



Lemon Ice in a Lemon Cup

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Have you ever had one of those trips to the grocery store where you hope they have an ingredient you hadn't found there previously and it turns out that they do? And not only do have that ingredient you want, but its sitting there on the shelf all obvious like its just waiting for you to come along and pick it up.

I had that happen the other day. I really needed shredded white cheddar cheese for a recipe and its something that I've never found at the grocery store before. But there it was, nestled in between the shredded mozzarella and the sharp cheddar cheese. I was impressed. But I was even more impressed when wandering down the aisles of the produce section I saw a bag of 10 meyer lemons for less than $2. Even though I didn't have any recipes planned, I knew just how rare it was to find them so I immediately grabbed a bag. In hindsight, I probably should have grabbed two, but thats another story.

There is a restaurant near where I used to live that sold Italian food. While their food (especially their pizza) was delicious, my absolute favorite thing to get from the restaurant was their lemon ice. It was served in a lemon cup and absolutely delicious! When I started to search for recipes to make with the meyer lemons, Tom reminded me of that dessert and I knew right away it was what I needed to make.


Meyer Lemon Ice in a Lemon Cup
Adapted from: Family Fun Magazine
Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:
    • 4 Meyer lemons
    • 4 regular lemons
    • 3 cups water
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Directions:
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Zest all four of the Meyer lemons over the saucepan.
2. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
3. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to catch all of the lemon zest. Discard. Juice the Meyer lemons and pour into the sugar/water mixture.
4. Transfer the mixture to shallow plastic container(s). Don't fill the container(s) up with more than 1 inch of liquid. Cover and freeze for 1 hour. Remove the container(s) from the freezer and mash the mixture. Repeat each hour for 5 hours.
5. Place the powdered sugar into a dish. Slice the tops off the regular lemons. Scoop out the insides of the lemon and dip the cut size of the lemon into the powdered sugar. Fill the inside of each lemon with the lemon ice.

Not exactly the same as what they serve at the restaurant, but still really good! I may just purchase a ton of Meyer lemons, make the lemon ice and freeze it for the months where you can't find Meyer lemons. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

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I'll admit it. I don't really like Valentine's Day. Actually, I have nothing against hearts, cupids or the day itself; I'm just against everything else that goes along with it.

"Today only! A dozen long-stem red roses for the absolute bargain price of YOUR WHOLE PAYCHECK!!!" (Regularly, less than $50)

A phone call to a nice restaurant that is typically never booked on Wednesday, February 1st:
"Hi, I'd like to make reservations for Valentine's Day."
"Ah ha. Ah, hahahahaha. No I'm sorry, we've been booked since Christmas."

Or, the sign we saw outside of a roadside flower stand. If you don't stop and buy flowers, you don't love her.


I can't be the only person who is annoyed by this right? But like I said, while the commercialization of it annoys me, I find absolutely nothing wrong with making cute desserts, eating too much chocolate or going a bit crazy with the  free stuff on Picnik.


My idea of celebrating Valentine's Day includes going out to lunch or dinner a few days beforehand and finding something new to cook or making an old favorite. With Valentine's Day on a Tuesday this year, I decided to do all three.

This past Saturday, Tom and I went out to lunch at a local restaurant that is known for their steaks. So much so that they were on the Travel Channel's show, Man vs. Food back in 2009. I had the Tournedos, which I'm still not sure how to pronounce, but I can tell you it was delicious.

You're wondering what tournedos is right? Well, it was two filet medallions topped with crab imperial. It came with a side of mashed red potatoes and steamed veggies. Tom had the Angus beef steak burger with fries. I tried a bite and it was pretty tasty!

We happened to notice the Sunday Brunch menu while we were sitting there and quickly realized we need to return immediately on a Sunday between 11 AM and 2 PM. They have Belgium waffles with Bananas Foster, Crab Benedict, Filet Benedict and $4 Gigantic Mimosas. While the mimosas are a given, how in the world am I going to choose between crab or filet benedict?

On Sunday, since I have pretty much had an unlimited amount of time to cook, I decided to make Beef Wellington for dinner. Tom has asked me to make it since first seeing it on a episode of Hell's Kitchen.

Then for the actual holiday, I knew I needed a recipe that wouldn't take forever, but was still somewhat special. The bacon wrapped pork I chose to make is one of Tom's favorite so I thought that'd work well.



Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts

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After making the lemon and sour cream doughnuts for the Improv challenge, I've thought about doughnuts a lot lately. To the point where I finally caved and decided to buy a mini doughnut pan so I could make my own doughnuts and at least pretend they were healthy since I was baking them.

I also had a decent amount of apple cider left over after the rice pudding so I decided to look for an apple cider doughnut recipe. I came across this one on Healthy.Delicious. and knew I needed to try it out!

Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts
Adapted from:  Healthy.Delicious.
Yield: 24 mini doughnuts
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Ingredients:
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 2 tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup apple cider
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 1 apple, finely diced

Directions: 
1. Preheat the oven to 425. Spray a mini doughnut pan liberally with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt together. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg, apple cider and milk. Slowly pour the flour mixture into the stand mixer and mix until incorporated. Add in the apple and mix until just combined.
4. Fill the doughnut pan 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 2 minutes.

Just because of the name, I was expected these doughnuts to taste like a baked version of the apple cider doughnuts we get from the orchard near us. Unfortunately these were much drier and just didn't have the same taste. They were still good, but just not what I was expecting. I'd like to try this recipe again with a more liquid-like batter and removing the apple pieces to see if it would change the consistency or not.

Weekly Menu 2/12 - 2/17

How is it halfway through February already? It doesn't even feel like February. Has the weather been extraordinarily strange in your area too? Usually in MD we've seen a decent amount of snow already and its pretty cold outside, but not this year. A couple of weekends ago we had a wintry mix and today I woke up to just a dusting on the ground that had melted away by the afternoon. Considering I don't like snow, I really don't mind.

Sunday - Beef Wellington with Roasted Red Potatoes and Asparagus

Monday - Bourbon Chicken over Rice with Stir Fry Veggies

Tuesday - Bacon Wrapped Pork with Roasted Red Potatoes, Mushrooms and Green Beans

Wednesday - Shrimp Bisque

Thursday - either Crock Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs or Garlic Buttered Noodles

Friday - Pita Pizzas

I don't have anything planned to bake for this weekend so I think its just going to be a lazy weekend at home.

Roasted Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes

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I laughed when I received my recipe for the potato recipe swap. I had originally printed out this recipe,  around the time that Mary Ellen first blogged it, and tucked it away in my binder of recipes to make. I had just "found" it again and was planning on making it soon when I received it for the swap. I think something was telling me I needed to make these potatoes.


Roasted Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes
Source: Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations
Servings: 6-8
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Jalapeno Puree Ingredients: 
  • 2 large jalapenos
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
Potato Ingredients:
    • 2 lbs. red potatoes, washed and quartered (skins on)
    • 3 tbsp. sour cream
    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1/4 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
    • 1/2 tsp. chives, chopped
    • salt, to taste
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to broil. Place jalapenos on a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil.
2. Broil jalapenos for 3-5 minutes on each side until the skins are browned and puckered.
3. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375.
4. Once jalapenos have cooled enough to handle, peel, seed and chop them. Combine with heavy cream and salt in a blender or use an immersion blender to puree. Set aside.
5. Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are fork tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain water.
6. Add sour cream, butter and jalapeno puree to the mashed potatoes. Mash with a hand masher until smooth or use immersion blender.
7. Transfer the potatoes to a 8x8 baking dish and sprinkle with Mexican cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted into the potatoes.
8. Serve topped with chopped chives.

I'm usually a take them or leave them type of girl when it comes to mashed potatoes. Sure, mashed potatoes are tasty but I've never had any desire to eat a large quantity of them. Until this recipe, that is. These mashed potatoes are absolutely delicious! I had a very, very hard time not continually scooping pile after pile onto my plate. These will definitely make reoccurring appearances on my weekly menu.

Want to see what other recipes were part of this swap? Check out our host Sarah's blog. She always does a recap of all the recipes a few days after the swap!
 

Herbed Roast Beef

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Do you know the difference between each type of roast sold in your grocery store? Like whether sirloin is better than rump? Or which one is best for a pot roast? I honestly don't have the slightest clue. This is something that has always baffled me and instead of every looking into it, I've taken the easier option of rarely making a roast.

Which is pretty dumb considering I really like roast and its a great meal to have on a Sunday when you have extra time to let it cook in the oven. So I'm promising myself that I need to look into the different cuts of meats and figure out which ones are better for certain meals. Unless, one of you happens to know the difference and cares to enlighten me via email or in the comment section? It'd be greatly appreciated.


Herbed Roast Beef
Source: Stick A Fork In It, originally from Cook's Country
Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:
    • 4 lb. top sirloin roast, fat trimmed
    • 1 shallot, minced
    • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • 2 tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
    • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
    • 1 tbsp. salt
    • 1 tbsp. pepper

Directions:
1. Combine the shallot, parsley and thyme in a small bowl. Remove 2 tablespoons of the herb mixture. Add the butter and mash until combined. Refrigerate until 30 minutes before roast is done cooking.
2. With the remaining 2 tablespoons, add the Dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Stir until combined.
3. Spread the mustard-herb mixture all over the meat. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour but up to 24 hours.
4. Adjust the oven rack to the middle and preheat the oven to 275.
5. Season all sides of the meat with salt and pepper. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat.
6. Sear the roast on all sides for 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer the roast to a roasting pan and place in the oven. Cook for 2-2 1/2 hours.
7. Remove the roast from the roasting pan and spread with the herb-butter mixture. Tent the roast with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes. Cut into slices and serve immediately.

This was really good! I served it with a parsnip puree and roasted vegetables. The only change I would make is to increase the cooking time. The original recipe says 1-1/2 to 2 hours. At 2 hours the roast was still medium-rare. Since everything else was ready, I just put each slice of meat in a hot pan and cooked it a minute or two longer to get it to medium.

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Chicken Stock

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Chicken stock.
 
One of those simple things to make. Yet I'd never done it. Why? Because I'd never think to make chicken stock until right before I needed it for a meal so it was easier to just pick some up at the grocery store. I finally decided to make some after making the chicken and dumplings. Mostly because I had the carcass and skin of a rotisserie chicken just sitting there waiting to be used for something!


Chicken Stock 
Source: A Cookaholic Wife creation
Yield: 8-10 cups
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Ingredients:
    • Carcass and skin from a rotisserie chicken
    • 6 large cloves garlic
    • 3 large carrots, cut into thirds
    • 3 large celery sticks, cut into thirds (leaves included)
    • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
    • 1/2 cup green cabbage, roughly chopped
    • 10 cups water
    • 1 tbsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. oregano
    • 1 tsp. thyme
    • 1 tsp. parsley
    • 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Add all of the ingredients to a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam.
2. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 4-6 hours. Pour mixture through a strainer to remove the vegetables and chicken skin. Pour through a smaller mesh sieve to remove any herbs. Let cool slightly, then pour into containers and refrigerate.
3. Remove from the refrigerator, remove any solid fat and either return to the refrigerator or freeze.

Finally! I've successfully made stock! Now I'm just on a mission to use it before it goes bad since we're completely out of freezer space. :(

Chicken and Dumplings

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Confession: I've never had chicken and dumplings before. 
I know, I know, what the hell did I eat during my childhood right? The same old boring stuff. Repeatedly. But yes, I realize that almost everyone I know had chicken and dumplings for dinner on a regular basis except for me. I'm going to take a pretty accurate guess that the reason why I never had it is because my mom didn't like the dumplings.


Chicken and Dumplings
Adapted from: The Pioneer Woman 
Servings: 8

Ingredients:
    • 1 traditional flavored rotisserie chicken, shredded with skin included
    • 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
    • 3 stalks celery, diced
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 6 cups chicken stock  
    • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
    • 1/2 cup frozen peas
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • 1/2 cup apple cider
    • 2 tbs. unsalted butter
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. thyme 
    Dumplings:
    • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup cornmeal
    • 1 heaping tbs. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1 1/2 cups fat free half and half
Directions:
1. In a large pot or Dutch Oven melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery and onions and cook for 5-7 minutes or until soft. 
2. Add the chicken and skin, chicken stock, apple cider, salt, pepper and thyme. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, covered for 20 minutes. 
3. Meanwhile, make the dumplings by combining the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Add the half and half and stir until a batter forms. Set aside. 
4. Add the corn, peas and heavy cream to the Dutch oven. Cook for 2-3 minutes more and return to a simmer.
5. Skim the the mixture to remove any skin from the pot. Make sure the liquid is still simmering and then use a cookie scoop or small ice cream scooper to drop the dumpling dough into the pot. Cover the pot halfway and continue to let simmer for 15 minutes. 
6. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

I will be calling my mother to ask her why she decided to deprive me of such delicious goodness for my childhood. I had a really, really hard time no joining Tom and eating a second bowl. This may have just become my new favorite comfort food. By using a rotisserie chicken, this took hardly any time at all to make so it's definitely something I can easily make after work on those cold nights!

SRC: Lasagna Soup

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The Secret Recipe Club took a break in January so I was more than impatient to choose a recipe for the February reveal. For this month, I was assigned Cook Lisa Cook.

There is almost a month between when you are assigned your blog and when your recipe is due. I always make my recipe within the first two weeks just in case it doesn't turn out for some reason. Then I have enough time to make it again or find something else to try. This lasagna soup was the recipe that almost didn't exist because of one little ingredient.

Zucchini. For weeks there have been piles of zucchini in the grocery store. Piles! When I was picking up the ingredients for this I was first disappointed that the farmers market didn't have any. I found some at the grocery store near work, but for $1.39 per pound I figured I could find them cheaper at the grocery store near home. But they weren't there. Nor where they at any other grocery store near home. It was like the produce gods knew I needed to make this recipe and decided to hide all of the zucchini from me. Not cool, produce gods. Not cool at all. So I waited a week. Then two. Now I was getting kinda cranky. I wanted to make this soup, damn it! Then I managed to find a bag of frozen zucchini and squash and actually said "Good enough, produce gods" out loud in the grocery store. We'll choose not to discuss the strange looks I got and just go right on to the recipe, okay?


Lasagna Soup
Slightly adapted from: Cook Lisa Cook
Servings: 10-12
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Ingredients:
    • 6 oz. pasta (Farfalle, shells, penne, rotini, etc.)
    • 8 ounces cottage cheese
    • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 2 tbs. fresh basil, chopped
    • 1/2 lb. Italian sausage
    • 1/2 lb. Kielbasa
    • 1/4 lb. extra lean ground beef
    • 2 tbsp. butter
    • 1 yellow onion, diced
    • 1 bag frozen zucchini and squash
    • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh spinach leaves, chopped
    • 8 cloves garlic, minced
    • 28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
    • 30 oz. canned tomato sauce (or homemade)
    • 6 cups chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
    • 1 tsp. oregano
    • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    • salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Fill half of a medium-sized saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the cottage cheese, Parmesan, basil and salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use. 
3. Remove the casing from the Italian sausage and Kielbasa and break into large pieces. Add the sausage, Kielbasa and ground beef to a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking the meat into small pieces, until the meat has browned. Drain the grease and transfer the meat to a bowl or plate.
4. Return the stockpot to the stove. Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter. Once melted, add the onions and cook for 10 minutes or until the onions have softened and are just beginning to caramelize. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more.
5 Add the zucchini, diced tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, chicken broth, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Return the meat to the stockpot as well. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes.
6. Stir the spinach and basil in the soup and cook a few minutes more until the spinach begins to wilt.
7. To assemble, scoop some of the pasta into the bottom of the bowl. Add a scoop of the cottage cheese mixture on top of the pasta in the center of the bowl. Ladle the soup into the bowl. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Neither of us were sure how we were going to feel about this recipe. I mean, lasagna isn't exactly something you think of in soup form. I was a lot less hesitant than Tom who even made some scrunched-up-nose funny faces at me when I told him about this recipe.

But we were wrong. This was really, really good. Like you could eat it for leftovers every day type of good. Unfortunately we don't have the fridge or freezer space for that so I decided to be extra generous and bring the remaining soup to work for my coworkers. Who inhaled it before lunch time. So I think I can confidently say that this recipe was definitely a winner.


Weekly Menu 2/5 - 2/10

Do you have Superbowl plans today? Honestly, I've never really cared much for the Superbowl. I've never been a big football fan and I don't see the point in having a very important game on a Sunday night when the majority of Americans have to work on Monday. Even though I have no interest in watching the Superbowl, it's a good excuse to make some appetizers so look forward to seeing these blogged soon.

In other news, Tom and I took a trip to Costco today. He'd never been to one before and I have to say, the trip was pretty amusing. I've been hundreds of times and rarely remember the shock and awe I experienced at seeing damn near everything in bulk form so it was very amusing to watch someone else have that reaction. I think the trip may have convinced him that we do absolutely-without-a-doubt need a deep freezer. :-)

Sunday - Pretzel Bites, Crab Dip, Black Bean and Corn Empanadas

Monday - Pumpkin Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce

Tuesday - Mushroom and Shallot Frittata with Bacon and Fruit

Wednesday - Shrimp Scampi


Thursday - Chicken Fingers with Roasted Red Potatoes, Green Beans and Mushrooms

Friday - Pierogi 


Granola bars with Bananas, Cranberries and Pecans

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Granola has always been one of my go-to meals for breakfast. I love that I can mix it in with yogurt, serve it with warm fruit or make it into bar form. It's also pretty healthy and keeps you full, so I can' complain on that front.

When I saw this recipe on Nicole's blog, Prevention RD, my immediate thought was "Those flavors sound good together!". It turned out the weekend I wanted to make these, I also had planned on making smoothies for snacks during the week. I usually toss at least half a banana into the smoothie. Since this recipe also calls for bananas, I was able to take advantage of the bundles of 8 large bananas at the farmers market for $1.

Granola Bars with Bananas, Cranberries and Pecans
Source: Prevention RD, originally seen on Cookin Canuck
Yield: 15-18 bars
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Ingredients:
    • 3 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
    • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
    • 3 large bananas (ripe)
    • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
    • 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
    • 2 tbs. ground flax seed
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spread oats and pecans out on a large baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, tossing occasionally until the are lightly toasted.
2. Line a 9x11 baking dish with parchment paper that hangs over the sides of the dish.
3. In a large bowl, mash the banana with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Then fold in the oats and pecans.
4. Scoop into the parchment lined baking dish and press down to make the mixture even. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until the granola is a light golden brown.
5. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15-20 minutes.
6. Use the parchment paper hanging over the dish to lift the granola bars out of the dish. Return to the wire rack and let cool competely.
7. Slice into bars.

I had to make a few slight adjustments to this recipe because I realized that I didn't have an extra roll of parchment paper in the pantry like I thought I did. In the original recipe the parchment is used on the baking sheet and the bars are cooked there, not in a baking dish. Since the piece of parchment I had wasn't large enough to cover the baking sheet with any overhang, I opted to use a baking dish and increase the baking time by 15 minutes since my bars were much thicker.

If you're hesitant to make your own granola bars and still prefer the store-bought type, I highly suggest you get your behind into the kitchen and make these. I'm sure they'll change your mind. The soft chewiness from the banana and applesauce is something you'll never find in a store-bought kind, even the ones that say they're chewy.

And the best part, is if you can cut them better than I did and end up with 15 instead of 18 evenly sized bars, Nicole lists the calories at 157!                                    

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce

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I'm still working through that gigantic pile of to-try recipes. I printed this one out after the November Secret Recipe Club reveal. I have a bit of an addiction to gnocchi now after making it for the first time back in the summer. I also went a bit overboard on purchasing pumpkin puree.

See, sometime back in September or October I heard a rumor that it was going to be hard to find pumpkin puree by the time Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around. So I did what any logical person who just started to like pumpkin would do. I bought as much as possible. So, that's why it's February and I still have 3 large cans of pumpkin puree in my pantry. I justify this by the fact that I never seem to want foods when they are in season but rather when they are out, so now when I have a craving for something pumpkin related in oh say, June, I don't need to visit multiple grocery stores and end up paying an arm and leg to find some pumpkin. It's genius really.

Pumpkin Gnocchi
Source: Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives
Yield: 12-14 servings (about 10 gnocchi per serving)
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Gnocchi Ingredients:
    • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
    • 2 cups pumpkin puree
    • 1 egg, whisked
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    Mushroom Sauce Ingredients:
    • 4 oz. unsalted butter
    • 2 lbs. assorted mushrooms, chopped
    • 1 cup  Parmesan cheese, grated
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup chicken stock
    • 1 shallot, minced
    • 8 sage leaves
    • cooked gnocchi
Gnocchi Directions:
1. Place the pumpkin puree in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes or until the puree has dried out a bit. Let cool to room temperature.
2. In a large bowl, add the egg, pumpkin puree, salt and nutmeg. Stir until combined. Add 3 cups of the flour, one at a time, stirring until fully combined and a soft dough has formed.
3. Using some of the remaining cup of flour, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for one minute. Divide the dough into 3 equal sized parts. Return two parts of dough back to the bowl.
4. Roll out the dough into a 1/2" to 1" log and then cut into 1/2" pieces, using any extra flour as needed. Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Place the gnocchi onto the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
 *To freeze gnocchi: Refrigerate gnocchi for 5 hours then transfer to a Ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.
5. Place a wire cooling rack over another baking sheet. Top the rack with paper towels. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
6. Gently drop batches of the gnocchi into the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes or until they float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on the paper towel lined rack to drain. Repeat with remaining gnocchi.

Mushroom Sauce Directions:
1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently until the mushrooms release their liquid and have softened, 5-7 minutes.
2. Add the shallots and gnocchi and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add the sage leaves, heavy cream, chicken stock and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the gnocchi and mushroom mixture into bowls. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

I won't lie. This was by far the worst dough I've ever worked with. There was an incredibly fine line between the dough being manageable, too sticky and too dry. It usually takes me 40 minutes or so to roll out and slice the gnocchi into pieces. This took me almost two hours and an extra cup of flour. However, I was determined to make it work so I refused to give up. I'm beginning to wonder if the egg is even necessary since the pumpkin puree is pretty wet (even after "drying" it). So, if this will be your first time making gnocchi, I'd recommend this regular gnocchi recipe or even this ricotta cranberry one first. I don't want any first time gnocchi maker to think its as difficult as this pumpkin one.

Dough issues aside, the flavor of this was really good. There was only a hint of pumpkin that came through but mixed with the mushrooms and sage it was still really tasty. I'm glad I still have another meal or two worth of gnocchi in the freezer because I definitely plan on making this again.

Vietnamese Pork and Noodles

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Have you heard of Tanga? It's a website that offers deals on random things every day. One day they were offering a subscription to Clean Eating magazine for less than $10. I rarely remember to look at cooking magazines to find new recipes so I figured I'd have a much better chance if the magazine was mailed to me.

While I don't always follow the recipe exactly, because some ingredients are just not available around here, I like knowing that the recipes are pretty healthy.

A little while ago, I mentioned that I'm always looking for recipes that use pork tenderloin. When the Clean Eating magazine arrived in my mailbox, I immediately started flipping through it and found this recipe. Yay! Another way to use a pork tenderloin!

Vietnamese Pork and Noodles
Slightly Adapted from: Clean Eating, January/February 2012
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. pork tenderloin, fat trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 lb. green cabbage, thinly sliced
    • 8 oz. whole wheat linguine or fettuccine
    • 8 oz. can bean sprouts, drained
    • 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
    • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 small head broccoli, chopped
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
    • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
    • 1 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
    • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
    • juice of lime
Directions:
1. In a small bowl, combine the ginger, soy sauce, sea salt and lime juice together. Stir to combine. Set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain, transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbs. of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, onion and broccoli to the skillet and cook for 8-10 minutes or until  vegetables are soft. Transfer the vegetables to the bowl with the pasta.
4. Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet over medium heat. Add the pork and cook, stirring frequently until the pork pieces are cooked through and golden brown. Transfer the pork to the bowl with the pasta and vegetables.
5. Pour the ginger sauce into the bowl and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

The original recipe is 399 calories per serving. I only made slight changes so I'm going to guess its still right around 400 calories. I really liked this and had the leftovers for lunch the next day but Tom thought it needed more flavor.

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