Blogger's Choice Recipe Swap: Roast Beef and Cheddar Panini


It's that time again! Blogger's Choice recipe swaps are one of my favorites because you get free reign to choose whatever suits you. Although, this can be somewhat unhelpful if you are indecisive. Or if everything that your assigned blogger has made in the past month or two appeals to you.

Which was my problem. For this swap, I was assigned the blog of our lovely host, Sarah. My problem was that everything she's blogged recently looked absolutely delicious. How was I supposed to choose between ham and swiss sliders, Italian sausage, potato and kale soup, or chicken burritos with sour-cream poblano sauce? Then I saw the panini's. I have a bit of a soft spot for a panini sandwich as I feel like they get somewhat of a hoity-toity wrap when they're really just a sandwich with pretty grill marks. So I was sold.

Roast Beef and Cheddar Panini 
Source: A Taste of Home Cooking, as seen on Kate's Recipe Box, from Williams-Sonoma
Servings: 4
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    • 2 sweet onions, thinly sliced
    • 3 tbsp. butter
    • 3 tbsp. mayo
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. Sriracha 
    • 8 slices thick Country bread
    • 3/4 lb. roast beef
    • 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
1. Combine onions and butter in a small skillet over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until onions have caramelized, 35-45 minutes. Drain any remaining butter and keep onions warm.
2. Meanwhile, combine mayo and Sriracha together, adjusting to your tastes.
3. Preheat a panini press or griddle. Spray one side of each slice of bread with cooking spray.
4. Spread the Sriracha mayo on both sides of the bread. Top with roast beef, cheddar cheese and caramelized onions. Assemble the sandwich and grill for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese is melty.

The only change I made to this recipe was to use a Sriracha mayo instead of a chipotle one since Tom isn't a fan of chipotles anymore. This sandwich is incredible! I highly suggest splurging on a more expensive sharp cheddar. We bought a Tillamook sharp cheddar from Wegman's that I think really enhanced the panini. I could've easily ate 2 of these!

If you're looking for a panini press or griddle, Williams-Sonoma has a nice variety. The link will take you to their coupon page.

Chicken Tostadas and Avocado Salsa


I've been so busy lately that I am all about recipes that can be made quickly and use pre-made ingredients. I know, I know. It typically goes against everything I've ever done on this blog, but sometimes, you just need a rotisserie chicken to save the day. 

While this recipe definitely involves less prepared ingredients than others, its still super quick to make and perfect when you happen to have one of those Mexican food cravings! 

Chicken Tostadas with Avocado Salsa
Source: Cooking Light, August 2012
Servings: 4

    • 1 cup tomato, chopped
    • 1 avocado, peeled and chopped
    • 1/2 cup onion, diced
    • 1 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
    • 3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1/2 tsp. cumin
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 4 tortillas
    • 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 2 cups shredded chicken
    • 2 cups lettuce, shredded
    • 1/2 cup queso fresco
1. Combine tomato, avocado, onion and cilantro together in a small bowl. In another small bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, cumin, pepper and salt. Pour over the avocado mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate until ready to use. 
2. Preheat oven to 350.
3. Add a splash of olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Place a tortilla in the skillet for 30-45 seconds, or until puffy and lightly browned. Repeat with remaining tortillas. 
4. Divide black beans, chicken and queso fresco among tortillas. Transfer tortillas to a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes, or until chicken is warmed through. 
5. Divide the avocado salsa and lettuce among the tortillas and serve immediately. 

I was pretty surprised that Tom liked these considering they had those pesky vegetables on them. He did pick off the lettuce but ate the rest of it, so I'd consider that a success. I served this with a sour cream Mexican rice which unfortunately was not pretty enough to blog no matter what I did to it. 

Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie


I've never been much of a pie person unless it was apple pie but even then, it needed to be made with fresh apples and not the canned apple pie filling which I found to be too sweet. When I came across this recipe I was intrigued. While I think of apples and pumpkin as staples of the fall season, I would never think it combine them together.

Since I recently just made apple butter I couldn't pass up using some of it in this recipe.

Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie
Servings: 8 

    • 9" pie crust, homemade or store bought
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 cup apple butter, homemade or store bought
    • 1 cup pure pumpkin
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. ginger
    • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
    • 3/4 cup fat-free half-and-half
Crumble Topping:
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 oz. cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Place pie crust into a 9" round pie plate. 
2. In a large bowl whisk eggs until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, except for half-and-half. Stir until well combined. 
3. Whisk in half-and-half. Pour into prepared pie crust. 
4. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 350. 
5. Continue baking for 35-40 minutes or until the pie has set. 
6. Meanwhile, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt together in a bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbles. Stir in pecans. 
7. Spread crumble mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet. When the pie has 15 minutes left, place the baking sheet in the oven. 
8. Remove pie and crumble from the oven. Once crumble is cool enough to handle, sprinkle generously over the pie. 

Pretty tasty! 

Crock Pot Apple Butter


The first time I ever had apple butter was after Tom and I had visited an orchard. He loves the stuff and picked up a jar of it while we were there. I'd never heard of it before and was interested to see just what this stuff tasted like.

Let's just say I was instantly made an apple butter fan. When I realized how incredibly easy it is to make, especially in the crock pot, I couldn't help but whip up a batch.

Crock Pot Apple Butter
Inspired by: Cooking Light, October 2004
Servings: 2 cups
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    • 6 medium apples, peeled, cored and chopped
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 2 tbsp. honey
    • 2 tbsp. water
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. nutmeg 
1. Combine all ingredients in a 4 quart crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 5 hours or low for 10 hours.
2. Use a wooden spoon to lightly mash the apples. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl and transfer the apple mixture into the sieve. Let drain for 1 hour.
3. Discard the liquid. Transfer the apple mixture to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
4. Transfer apple butter into containers and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Since I used Cortland apples for the apple butter I chose to use water instead of apple cider in the recipe. I also left my apple butter somewhat chunky, kind of more like apple-sauce than a store bought apple butter, but hey, its all about preference. I'm glad I made the decision to switch out the cider for water because this ended up much sweeter than I expected. Next time I'm going to use a combination of sweet and tart apples to hopefully reduce the sugary-ness.

Turkey Pot Pie


Are you still trying to figure out what to do with all of that leftover turkey from Thanksgiving? For once I decided to plan ahead for the leftovers and decided to make a pot pie with the turkey. My aunt made at 15 lb. bird and with only 7 of us there on Thanksgiving, there was more than enough leftover turkey to go around.

Not only does this use up your leftover turkey, but also any gravy and celery you may have left.

Turkey Pot Pie
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 3
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    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 3 celery stalks, diced
    • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
    • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 2 cups cooked turkey, shredded
    • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1 1/4 cup chicken or turkey stock 
    • 1 cup gravy
    • 1/2 cup frozen corn
    • 1/2 cup frozen peas
    • 1 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
    • 3 prepared pie crusts
1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, potato and onion and cook for 7-10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
2. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with foil.
3. Add the turkey, parsley, stock, gravy, corn, peas, salt and pepper to the skillet. Stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened up.
4. Place the prepared pie crust into three large ramekins, saving the extra crust for a topping that will cover the edges.
5. Scoop the turkey and vegetable mixture into the prepared ramekins and top with the remaining crust. Crimp the edges to seal. Cut an "x" shaped slit in the top of the crust to let the steam escape.
6. Bake for 25 minutes or until the pie crust is a light golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

I really need to ask for smaller ramekins for Christmas. This was so incredibly filling. I maybe ate half of my ramekin full which is probably about 1 1/2 cups. Honestly, I think this was almost better than Thanksgiving dinner. Its warm, hearty, filling and super tasty. Tom also commented that the turkey doesn't have that "leftover turkey taste". I have no idea what that means, but if you do, at least you know ahead of time this won't taste that way. 

Weekly Menu 11/25 - 11/29


If you're reading this I assume you've woken up from your turkey and stuffing induced coma and didn't get trampled by anyone out to find the cheapest television. :)

Wednesday after work, I got what I thought was a huge start on all of the Thanksgiving foods. I peeled the potatoes for mashed potatoes, made the green bean casserole, the mac and cheese, and caramelized onion dip and made the pumpkin garlic knots. I decided to take the pumpkin cranberry wreath off the menu since there would only be 7 of us.

Yet somehow Thursday morning I was rushing around like a crazy person trying to get everything else finished. I ended up cutting the cheddar bacon biscuits from the plan as well. Aside from a minor mishap with the pumpkin cannoli and accidentally preheating the oven with the pumpkin knots inside, everything else went pretty smoothly.

The caramelized onion dip was the biggest hit of the appetizers and the pear-honey cranberry sauce was the best side dish. The spiked apple crisp shooters were delicious, but I give first place of desserts to my mom's turtle cheesecake even though more than three bites and your teeth started to ache from all of the sugar.

I hope to share some of the recipes from Thanksgiving starting next week! But as for this week, here's what I have on the menu:

Sunday - turkey pot pie

Monday - Crock Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches, salad

Tuesday - Shrimp Tacos

Wednesday - Drunken Rosemary Chicken over Rice with Corn

Thursday - Pumpkin and Sausage penne

For breakfast this week, I'm debating between prosciutto egg cups or cranberry apple bread. Lunch will be minestrone soup in the crock pot. 

Happy Black Friday

Yep, that's right! I've taken two days off of blogging to stuff myself with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and tons of other goodies. Then I started working them off last night with some black Friday shopping.

Yes, I'm one of those people who are out there shopping on Black Friday like a crazy person. But, I can't help it. I love it! Its the perfect way to get into the holiday season.

If you're heading out today, I hope you find the best deals, but you're more than likely already home if you're a seasoned black Friday shopper.

The rest of the day will be spent decorating for Christmas and heading back up to the middle of no where, MD to pick out our Christmas tree.

Happy Thanksgiving

Just wanted to wish you a happy Thanksgiving!

I hope your turkey turned out perfectly, your mashed potatoes were delicious and you are completely stuffed on pie!

with Love, 

Best Ever Pie Crust


I pulled this recipe out of my recipe binder and had to laugh at the date. I printed this on December 21st, 2006. I've used this pie crust on a ton of recipes before, but I never thought to blog about it. I'll be honest, if I'm spending a lot of time in the kitchen, I tend to cheat and use refrigerated pie crust instead of making it from scratch, but I'll always use this recipe if I need a lattice top for a pie.

Best Ever Pie Crust
Source: All Recipes
Servings: 1 9" pie crust
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    • 1 cup all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
    • 1/2 cup shortening
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/2 tsp. salt 
1. Combine flour and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
2. Stir in water with a wooden spoon until dough forms, adding extra flour if needed. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but up to overnight.
3. Lightly flour a surface. Roll dough out to desired size. Use as directed for pie recipe.

Apple Pie Ice Cream


I've never been a big cake or pie person but I have always loved apple pie. Something about the cinnamon and the sweet baked apples leaves me wanting it throughout the year. One of my favorite things about fall is the abundance of apples which always leads me to making apple pie. But before I could make an apple pie, I came across this recipe and immediately added it to the week's desserts.

Apple Pie Ice Cream
Source: Our Best Bites
Servings: ~ 4 cups
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    • 1 1/2 cups 2% milk
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
Apple Pie Filling:
    • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 3 Fuji apples, peeled and diced
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1 tbsp. all purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Pie Crust:
    • 1 refrigerated pie crust
    • 1 tbsp. melted butter
    • 1/2 tsp. sugar
    • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon 
Custard Directions:
1. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Heat the milk and sugar in a saucepan over low heat until bubbles form around the edges.
2. Once the milk is warm, slowly pour half of it into the eggs, whisking constantly. Once the mixture is combined, slowly pour it back into the saucepan, whisking constantly.
3. Stir in the heavy cream and attach a candy thermometer to the saucepan. Stir frequently until the temperature reaches 160 degrees then remove from the heat and add the cinnamon and vanilla.
4. Let cool, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until chilled.
Apple Pie Filling Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Use the butter to generously coat an 8x8 baking dish.
2. Place the apples in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, brown sugar, flour and pumpkin pie spice. Toss to coat.
3. Transfer into the prepared baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
4. Let cool to room temperature.
Pie Crust Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon.
3. Unroll the pie crust and brush it with the melted butter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Cut into strips.
4. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool to room temperature.
Ice Cream Directions:
1. Combine the custard and apple pie filling together and mix according to ice cream maker directions. Crumble in half of the crust.
2. Mix the remaining crust pieces into the ice cream and freeze according to directions.

I won't lie, this looked so good I couldn't even wait until this was frozen enough to be ice cream. I ended up eating some when it was just barely soft-serve consistency and oh holy cow is it amazing. It tastes just like an apple pie, only in ice cream form. The strangest part is you almost want to have vanilla ice cream along with it, like you would with a real apple pie.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork


I have no idea why it has taken me so long to make pulled pork. We've owned a crock pot for quite some time now so I couldn't use that as an excuse. I like pulled pork and so does Tom, so that isn't a reason either. So really, I just have no idea why.

But the other day I had a desire to have a saucy bbq pulled pork sandwich topped with coleslaw on a big hearty roll so I added pulled pork to the menu.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork
Source: Skinny Taste
Servings: 16
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    • 4 lb. pork roast, fat trimmed
    • 4 tsp. liquid smoke
    • 4 tsp. red wine vinegar
    • 2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1 tsp. pepper
    • 2 cups barbecue sauce 
1. Place pork in a 6 quart crock pot. Add liquid smoke, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, pepper, and 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce.
2. Cook on high for 9-10 hours. Remove the pork from the crock pot and shred.
3. Return the shredded pork to the crock pot, add the remaining barbecue sauce mixing well to coat and cook on low for 30 minutes.
4. Serve on toasted buns with coleslaw.

My only regret was not making this sooner. The pork is absolutely delicious and I've been eating the leftovers for three days now without any complaints!

Weekly Menu 11/18 - 11/22


How did it get to be the week of Thanksgiving already? I have SO much to do this weekend that I'm exhausted just thinking about it. From now on, I'm taking off the day before Thanksgiving to clean and do all of my prep work. Actually, I may just start taking off the entire week. Wouldn't that be nice? 

In addition to preparing foods and cleaning, I also need to do some shopping for dress pants and Christmas gifts. I'm so glad we have nothing planned for next weekend because I think I'm just going to lay around all day. Oops, that's not true. I have Christmas cards to sign and mail. But at least that can be done while hanging out in pajamas! 

The menu for this week is pretty simple and I'm taking advantage of 90 second rice, steam-in-the-bag potatoes and frozen veggies to maximize the time I can spend on Thanksgiving foods. 

Sunday - Chicken with Roasted Pears and Green Beans over Wild Rice

Monday - Loaded Baked Potato Soup 

Tuesday - Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sauteed Apples and Roasted Red Potatoes

Wednesday - Grilled Cheese and Soup 

For breakfast this week I'm making a spiced pear cake and I think I'll have some pumpkin mac and cheese for lunch. 

As for the Thanksgiving prep work, I plan to do the following today: make the cannoli filling, coin carrots, chop celery, make cranberry sauce, and make the apple crisp for the apple pie shooters. Tuesday I'll make the green bean casserole for the green bean casserole stuffed mushrooms and Wednesday I'll do the majority of the work, making the caramelized onion dip, the biscuits, garlic knots and pumpkin cranberry wreath. 

Recipe Swap: Crock Pot Sloppy Joes


Of all of the events where I've cooked for people, a Game Day event has never been one. This is probably because I married a PA boy who likes the Steelers and we live in Ravens country, but still. That being said, I wasn't sure if I was going to participate in this swap since the category was Game Day, but the more I thought about it, I realized we typically eat "game day" type foods on the nights I don't feel like cooking so I might as well get another recipe for those days.

As I've mentioned before, I'm not the biggest fan of sloppy joes but since I'd never had them in the crock pot, I was definitely intrigued to try out this recipe. It's not your typical crock pot recipe that takes hours and hours either, you could easily whip this up in the morning for an afternoon game since it only takes 2 hours in the crock pot.

Crock Pot Sloppy Joes
Source: Sparks from the Kitchen
Servings: 8-10 people
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    • 2 lbs. very lean ground beef
    • 1/2 large green pepper, chopped
    • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
    • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
    • 8 oz. tomato sauce
    • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
    • 3 tsp. mustard
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add the ground beef, green pepper and onion. Cook, stirring frequently until beef is browned. Drain any fat.
2. Add the mixture to the crock pot, then add the remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine.
3. Cook on low for 2 hours. Serve on toasted buns.

Irony. We live it. I really, really liked this version of a sloppy joe. I topped mine with a few thin slices of pepperjack cheese and found it to be amazing. I can only assume its because of the mustard since I've never had a sloppy joe recipe call for mustard before. Now for the ironic part, Tom thought these were just okay.

Seriously? I rarely ever make sloppy joes because I usually can barely choke down a whole sandwich and now that I found a recipe where I could easily eat two, he's not super impressed? ::Sigh::

And thanks again to Sarah for organizing all these swaps! :)

The Official Abs Diet Burger


I'd been intrigued by this burger since I saw this recipe in one of the Abs Diet books way back in 2005 or so when I did it the first time. I have no good reason for never making the burger before, so it was one of the first recipes I decided to try out.

Don't let the ingredients turn you away. They are a bit...unusual...for a burger to say the least but I guarantee that its worth a shot!

The Official Abs Diet Burger
Source: The New Abs Diet Cookbook, page 195
Servings: 4
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    • 1 lb. very lean ground beef
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup spinach, chopped
    • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
    • 1/3 cup onion, minced
    • 2 tbsp. reduced-fat Mexican-blend cheese
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    • whole wheat burger buns 
    • Optional Toppings: lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickles
1. Combine the ground beef through crushed red pepper flakes together in a bowl. Form into 4 large patties. Place on a plate and refrigerate until ready to grill.
2. Preheat grill to high heat. Grill burgers for 6-8 minutes per side or until cooked through.
3. Serve on whole wheat buns with your choice of optional toppings.

This recipe has 5 power foods; lean ground beef, egg, spinach, oats and cheese. I wasn't sure if Tom was going to even eat this burger since it had quite a bit of 'green stuff' in it. But I made them up anyway and hoped for the best. Holy cow is this a filling burger. I honestly had a hard time eating the whole burger. Depending on your specific ingredients the calories will vary a bit, but even with the bun, you should easily be able to keep this under 400 calories which is incredibly impressive for how much it fills you up.

Nutella Pumpkin Muffins


Pumpkin and Nutella. Nutella and pumpkin. Two ingredients that are so easily used in the baking world that it only makes sense to combine them together into a delicious baked goodie.

Nutella Pumpkin Muffins
Source: Tasty Kitchen member mynameissnickerdoodle
Servings: 10
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Nutella Mixture:
    • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened 
    • 1/3 cup Nutella
    • 1 egg


    • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 cup pumpkin puree
    • 4 oz. unsweetened applesauce
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil 
1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat cream cheese, Nutella and egg together until smooth. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking sofa, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, whisk eggs together, then whisk in sugar, pumpkin puree, applesauce and vegetable oil until smooth.
5. Slowly whisk the flour mixture into the wet mixture until combined and no lumps remain.
6. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin mixture into each muffin liner. Top with 1 tablespoon of the Nutella mixture and then add another tablespoon of the pumpkin mixture on top. Use a toothpick to swirl ingredients together.

The original name of this recipe is "nutella cheesecake pumpkin muffins" but I felt that was a bit misleading so I changed it. The pumpkin and nutella flavors are mild enough that you can hardly distinguish them in the muffin and there is definitely no cheesecake portion. Its just a moist tasty muffin, but definitely not what you would think of when you hear "nutella cheesecake pumpkin muffin".

Thanksgiving 2012 Menu


Way later than I anticipated on posting this, but better late than never right? I'm also winging it quite a bit this year. I don't have any time for the new recipes I'm making to be tried out beforehand. I definitely do NOT advise doing this. Which also means, unfortunately, I am not going to have any recipes to share with you until after the holiday. This really bothers me, but I hope you understand.

Currently there are going to be 8 of us for Thanksgiving, but that is definitely subject to change. We shall see. 

Thanksgiving Menu 2012

Caramelized Onion Dip served with crackers, carrots and celery
Green Bean Casserole Stuffed Mushroom Caps 
Prosciutto Pear Cups 

Turkey, to be prepared by my aunt 
Garlic Chive Mashed Potatoes 
Creamed Spinach
Glazed Carrots
Wild Rice, Mushroom and Celery Stuffing
something with sweet potatoes, to be made by my aunt 

Pumpkin Garlic Knots
Cheddar Bacon Biscuits
Brown & Serve Rolls 

Spiked Apple Crisp Shooters
Pumpkin Caramel Cannoli  
Pumpkin Cranberry Wreath
pumpkin pie, to be made by my mom
turtle cheesecake, to be made by my mom

I'd say that looks like more than enough food for the 8 people currently invited. Which is pretty much a common recurrence. I make a ton of food, invite my family, we eat as much as possible and the rest of it goes home with them in storage containers to have later on. 

Apple Pie Cupcakes with Honey-Cinnamon Frosting


I have a ton of apple recipes that I want to make this fall. So many that I don't think I'm going to get them all made before it officially becomes winter. Which leaves me with two choices. 1. Continue blogging apple recipes right on through winter. Or 2. Save them for next year.

While I am somewhat concerned that I may overwhelm you with apple recipes, I figure that's better than saving them for next year only to find that I have a ton of other apple recipes I saved throughout the year.

The recipe for apple pie cupcakes immediately stood out to me. I love apple pie. For the longest time, it was the only type of pie I'd even eat! But I do enjoy portion control which is why I love when you can take a larger recipe and scale it down into a smaller one, like a cupcake. However, this are SO GOOD that I can't guarantee that you're only going to eat one of them. But hey, at least I warned you first!

Apple Pie Cupcakes
Source: Baked In
Servings: 12 cupcakes
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    • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon 
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 2 eggs, at room temperature
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla 


    • 3 medium apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
    • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tbsp. water
    • 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch 
1. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt together.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until pale. Add the buttermilk, vegetable oil and vanilla to the mixer until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture into the stand mixer until no lumps remain. The batter is runny.
4. Fill each paper line 2/3 of the way full with the batter. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
5. While the cupcakes are cooling, combine the apples, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until the apples are tender.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the water and cornstarch. Pour over the apple mixture and stir to combine. Remove apples from heat and set aside.
7. When cupcakes have cooled, use a paring knife to cut an inverted cone shape out of the center of each cupcake. Fill the cupcake with a spoonful of the apple mixture.

Honey-Cinnamon Frosting
Source: Martha Stewart
Servings: ~ 2 cups, or 12 cupcakes frosted

    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 tbsp. honey
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/4 cup whole milk, optional
1. Combine the butter, powdered sugar, honey and cinnamon together in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until smooth, adding the milk by the tablespoon if needed.
2. Transfer frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large decorative tip. Pipe icing onto cupcakes.

I hope you have a sweet tooth. These cupcakes taste just like an apple pie but with an extra dose of sweetness from the frosting. I already cut back the sugar in the original cupcake recipe, so if you aren't a big sweets person, I'd go with a less sugar-heavy frosting.

Weekly Menu 11/11 - 11/16


Thanksgiving is in less than 2 weeks! How did this happen? Somehow I've managed to skip right over Halloween and Thanksgiving and my brain is only full of things related to Christmas. Usually I'm very anti-Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, but I've heard quite a few songs and made no complaints. I always have a menu planned for Thanksgiving by now and I'm usually making the recipes to have them blogged beforehand. Except for this year. The holiday just creeped right up on me and I'm relatively unprepared.

Yesterday my cousin messaged me on Facebook and asked what we were doing for Thanksgiving which sent me into a bit over an overdrive. Two hours later, I had a fully prepared menu planned out. Which I'll share with you this Tuesday.

Now that we got that out of the way, I have something else to share with you. I start a new job on Tuesday. After 4+ years at the company I decided it was time for a change and I'll be working for a graphics company. I'll still be doing accounting work just in a different setting. The holidays off are the same, my semi-planned vacation in April is authorized and the hours are better. I'm excited!
As my replacement can't start until after I leave, I'll be training her after work, which means a lot of quick meals and less time to update on here.

Sunday - Butternut Squash Soup 

Monday - Shrimp Po'Boy Sandwiches and Fries

Tuesday - Breakfast Burritos

Wednesday - Cream Cheese Chicken Chili 

Thursday - Shrimp Tacos 

I'm not sure how much baking I'll get done this weekend, but I'd really like to make the pumpkin roll I've had my eye on for a while now as well as an apple pie that I've been craving forever.

Pumpkin Banana Bread


Have you ever tasted something and thought "No way. That could not possibly be healthy." That was my experience with this bread. I'd been craving pumpkin bread again and went in search of a new recipe. I found this one and set out to make it right away.

Pumpkin Banana Bread
Source: Skinny Taste
Servings: 12 slices (1 loaf)
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    • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
    • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
    • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
    • 1 egg
    • 1 egg white
    • 1 tsp. vanilla 
    • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice 
    • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
1. Preheat the oven to 325. Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the banana, pumpkin, egg, egg white and vanilla.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the flours, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt together with a whisk.
4. Gradually add the flour mixture into the stand mixer until combined.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

I was expecting this to be kind of dry, but it was quite the opposite. The bread is really moist and the pumpkin and banana flavors come through strongly. I had a slice for breakfast each morning.  

Support for Sandy: Barley and Vegetable Soup


Last week I found out that one of the bloggers I follow, Jenn Cuisine was hosting a blogging event today called Support for Sandy. 

On Monday, October 29th a super storm named Sandy began to wreak havoc on the eastern seaboard. Meteorologists and National Hurricane Center employees had various models of where this super storm was going to hit but no one knew for sure. The main problem, Sandy was huge. She mixed with a cold front which resulted in the news people giving her names like Frankenstorm, The Perfect Storm, Superstorm, etc. I think it was the European model that showed Sandy coming right up the Delaware Bay. Tom's family lives right on the bay. Needless to say, we were both a bit anxious waiting to see what would happen.

In a miracle of sheer luck, Sandy left the Delaware Bay mostly unharmed. Unfortunately, others were not so lucky. My favorite beach town of Ocean City, MD got beat up pretty badly, but the devastation there is nothing compared to what Sandy did to the NJ coastline. It brings tears to my eyes to look at the pictures from that area.

Americans are a resilient bunch though. They will rebuild. They will pick up the pieces and move on. But they shouldn't need to do it alone. The Red Cross and Salvation Army are accepting donations as well as Feeding America. I get it, you may not have a lot of extra cash right now but anything you can donate counts. If your $10 donation provides even just one person with a warm blanket or a hot meal, you will have made a huge difference.

Support for Sandy is about sharing a recipe that you would make for someone in need to make them feel at home so I've decided to share this barley and vegetable soup. Chock full of veggies and made super filling with the barley and beans, I can only hope if I was really feeding this soup to someone in need, it would make them feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Barley and Vegetable Soup
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 6
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    • 4-6 cups fat-free low-sodium chicken broth 
    • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, not drained
    • 14.5 oz. can navy beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1/2 cup corn kernels
    • 1/2 cup peas
    • 1/4 cup barley
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 sprig rosemary
    • 1 sprig thyme
    • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1. Combine 4 cups of chicken broth and the rest of the ingredients into a large saucepan over medium heat.
2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer. Cook for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes and adding chicken broth as needed. Soup is done when the barley has plumped up. Discard bay leaf before serving.

Filling and tasty! I hope you'll try out this soup soon, but even more importantly, I hope you can donate.

The Recovery Burger aka Teriyaki Turkey Burgers


I was really impatient waiting for The New Abs Diet Cookbook to arrive. I couldn't wait to see what new recipes were included and just how many recipes were repeats I had from previous books. I will admit, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the majority of the recipes in this book are new.

One thing that really impressed me is there is a section on grilling. When I don't feel like heating up the apartment by turning on the oven or sometimes even the stove, I love that I can pull out our Cuisinart Griddler and make something on there quickly. So I was immediately drawn to the grilling section where I found the recipe for this burger.

The Recovery Burger a.k.a
Teriyaki Turkey Burgers
Source: The New Abs Diet Cookbook, page 202
Servings: 4
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    • 1 lb. ground turkey
    • 6 tbsp. teriyaki sauce, divided 
    • 4 slices red onion
    • 4 slices fresh pineapple
    • 4 slices Swiss cheese
    • 1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced
    • 4 whole wheat burger buns, toasted 
1. Preheat your grill.
2. Form the ground beef into 4 patties. Brush each patty with teriyaki sauce.
3. Place burgers, onion, and pineapple on the grill. Grill burgers for 4-5 minutes per side and pineapple and onion 1-2 minutes per side.
4. Spread the remaining teriyaki sauce over the burger buns. Top the turkey burgers with cheese and let melt.
5. Assemble the burgers on the bun, topped with a red onion and pineapple slice and a few rounds of jalapeno slices.

There are three (3) Power Foods in this recipe; ground turkey, whole-wheat buns and Swiss cheese. I'll be honest, there isn't a ton of flavor in this recipe. It could easily be doctored up by adding some extra teriyaki sauce, which we did, or by including some salt and pepper. Overall, it wasn't bad, but if you're one of those people who can't stand to eat "diet" food, just because you know its diet food, this recipe won't work out for you.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


Some days, you just need a tower of cookies. Especially when those cookies come from Cooking Light magazine and say that they are only 96 calories each. You would think knowing this would help you eat less of them, because hey, 100 calories snacks are cool, but these are just so damn tasty that you can't help but pick one up every time you walk by them.

My apologies in advance to your diet if you are on one. If you aren't, more cookies for you to consume!

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Cooking Light, October 2012
Servings: 40 cookies
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    • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 2 tbsp. canola oil
    • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
    • 1/2 cup sugar 
    • 1 tsp. vanilla 
    • 2 eggs
    • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until browned. Remove from the heat, add the canola oil and set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and salt.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine sugars. Add melted butter. Mix on low until combined, then add eggs and vanilla.
5. Once combined, add the flour and mix until a dough forms. Stir in chocolate chips.
6. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart from each other.
7. Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool on a wire rack.

I initially cut this recipe in half because I don't really have the willpower to have forty 96 calorie cookies hanging around. But then I tried one of the cookies and I immediately whipped up another batch because I knew these were going to be scooped up like hot cakes. The browned butter really does something incredible to these cookies, changing the flavor to being a chocolate chip cookie with a slight hint of nuttiness.

SRC: Turkey and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich Braids


There is one downside to receiving your Secret Recipe Club assignment during your lunch break on a particular rainy and blah Monday afternoon. That being, you get so entranced looking at recipes that you completely forget to eat your lunch.

I couldn't help it though. When something (anything really) in my life is crazy and hectic, I find myself subconsciously searching for the simple. Simple colors, simple background, simple layout, simple whatever. When I find something that meets my "simple" expectations, its like taking a breath of air after being underwater. Refreshing and calming.

While it sounds a bit silly, I found just that in Isabelle's blog, Crumb. It also left me with a bit of a craving for toast (see her header) but that is another story. Hopefully my description of simplicity doesn't come off as insulting and you (and Isabelle) realize I mean it as a compliment. Which is why I slowly scrolled through the recipes in the index, clicking on most of them and staring at the picture for a few seconds, seeing what would pop out at me and completely forgetting to eat my lunch.

And that is where the problem lies. So many recipes called out "make me! make me!" I printed out quite a few of them to try in the (near) future and finally chose the first recipe that stuck with me. Warm, cozy and tasty were the first words that came to mind when seeing this recipe.

Turkey and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich Braids
Source: Crumb
Servings: 8
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    • 1 1/4 cup warm water
    • 2 envelopes dry active yeast
    • 1 tbsp. sugar
    • 4 cups bread flour
    • 2 tsp. salt
    • 2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 lb. oven roasted turkey breast
    • 8 thin slices provolone cheese
    • 1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
    • 4 tbsp. spicy brown mustard
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 1 tsp. sesame seeds
    • 1 tsp. poppy seeds
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1. Combine the yeast and sugar with the water in a measuring cup. Stir until the yeast has dissolved  then let proof for 5 minutes.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attached, sift the flour and salt together. Add the water mixture, the rosemary, and the olive oil to the stand mixer and mix on medium speed until the dough has formed then continue mixing for 5-6 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
3. Lightly oil a bowl. Shape the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
4. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half and knead a few times. Cover both pieces of dough with a wet towel and let rest for 5 minutes.
5. Roll out each piece of dough into a rectangle, at least 6 inches wide by 12 inches long. Spread the spicy mustard down the center of each rectangle. Top with the turkey breast, red pepper slices and cheese. Cut 1" wide strips on both sides of the filling.
6. Fold the dough strips up, alternating sides to create a braid-like pattern, Tuck the top and bottom of each up. Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet, cover with a damp towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
7. Preheat the oven to 400. After the 30 minutes, spread the beaten egg over the dough with a pastry brush. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic powder and onion powder. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

I only made slight changes to the recipe, switching out the condiments and making mine more of an "everything" style bread. The original recipes calls for this to be baked for 45 minutes. I checked at 30 and my braids were more than baked through. I'm thinking this is because mine weren't quite as big as the ones Isabelle made.

Not only is a fancy looking sandwich but its a damn tasty one too! Tom and I gobbled this up for dinner and then took the leftovers in for lunch until it was gone. This would be a great snack for a party since the fillings are really up to you. Fancy some ham, Swiss and banana peppers? Turkey, cheddar and onion? Ground beef, Mexican cheese and taco sauce? All veggies? Pepperoni, mozzarella and olives? The options are pretty much endless and I definitely plan on taking advantage of that and making this again and again!

Weekly Menu 11/4-11/8


I can't believe it's November already! I need to start thinking about a Thanksgiving menu! Although I know what month it is and I even went to the mall yesterday and saw it in all its holiday-decorated glory, I can't help but feel like the holidays should still be a long way off. I'm just not ready!

I have no idea what to buy anyone and I haven't thought of anything for myself yet. Well, that's not completely true, I know I want new baking sheets, but that's hardly a list. :)

Sunday - Cheesy Mini Meatloaves with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy and Roasted Green Beans 

Monday - Chicken and Orzo Skillet

Tuesday - Recipe Swap Meal 

Wednesday - Jalapeno Popper Quiche 

Thursday - BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Coleslaw and Garlic-Chive Fries 

For desserts this week I'm making a pumpkin roll and some apple pie ice cream. I completely forgot to figure out what to make for lunches this week. I may whip up a small batch of chili and have that with salad this week.

Grilled Chicken Florentine Pasta with Broccolini


One Friday afternoon Tom asked me what grocery store we needed to go to that night.
"We need to go to Wegman's because I need broccolini." I responded. 
"Broc-a-who?" he asked.
"Broc-o-lini" I said, sounding it out. 
"...and that is?" he responded. 
"...uhhh..."I started.
"Right. You don't even know what it is. Of course you're cooking with it." he said.

In case you were wondering, I did go home that night (after purchasing the broccolini) and looked it up. So, if you are curious, its a vegetable very similar to broccoli but it has smaller florets and longer stems. It's a cross between the regular broccoli that you know and Chinese broccoli. The more you know, right? :-)

Grilled Chicken Florentine Pasta with Broccolini
Source: Cooking Light, September 2012
Servings: 4

    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 8 oz. linguine pasta
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 3 tbsp. all purpose flour
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 cup fat-free low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 2 cups baby spinach 
    • 2 cups broccolini, stems trimmed 
    • salt and pepper
1. Spray a grill with non-stick cooking spray and heat to medium-high. 
2. Grill chicken for 6-8 minutes on each side or until browned and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and let rest. 
3. Meanwhile, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain, and set aside. 
4. Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and flour and stir constantly for 1-2 minutes or until the garlic has browned. 
5. Add the chicken broth and milk and bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly or until the mixture thickens. Add the cheese and stir until the cheese melts. 
6. Dampen a paper towel and place it in a plastic bag with the broccolini. Do not seal the bag. Microwave the broccolini for 1 minute. While the broccolini cools slightly, slice the chicken into bite sized pieces. 
7. Add the baby spinach, broccolini, chicken and pasta to the skillet and stir to coat. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until thoroughly combined. Serve, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. 

This doesn't taste like a lightened up or healthy recipe at all. The sauce is rich and creamy and this is a incredibly filling meal. If there had been leftovers, I easily would have taken this for lunch the next day. 

Seafood Stew


I was clicking around on Amazon the other week and somehow it lead me to this new cookbook. As I've mentioned before, years ago I did the Abs Diet with great success. I've half-heartedly tried it a few times again without any real results, but when I saw this cookbook I knew I wanted to try it out again.

It's not really hard to create meals that are Abs Diet friendly. The diet provides you with a list of foods that you should eat on a regular basis. They are part of the power foods. I believe its something like each meal should have at least 3 power foods and each snack should have one. But, since I'm easily sidetracked with unhealthy recipes like jalapeno popper quiche or milky way cookies, I need the option to flip through a nice healthy cookbook and pick my dinner choices that way.

Seafood Stew
Source: The New Abs Diet Cookbook, p. 157
Servings: 6
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    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 1 red pepper, diced
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 28 oz. tomato sauce
    • 28 oz. diced tomatoes, not drained
    • 1/4 cup red wine
    • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
    • 1/2 lb. scallops
    • 1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 10 oz. baby clams, drained
    • 2 1/2 cups baby spinach 
1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly softened.
2. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, wine, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, crushed red pepper flakes and oregano. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the scallops, shrimp and clams. Return to a boil and boil for 6-8 minutes or until the scallops are tender and the shrimp are pink.
4. Stir in the baby spinach and cook for 1 minute more.

This soup has 3 power foods; olive oil, shrimp and spinach.  It was a bit too acidic for my taste. I think I'd like it better with half of the tomato sauce and more water, even though that would make it more soup-like than a stew. Otherwise, the flavors went together really nicely and its one of those foods that fills you up quickly so you don't end up eating too much.
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