Cherry Coke Cupcakes

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You may notice some changes around here if you're not reading this through a Reader today. There are still a few kinks to work out, but I expect to have everything looking as it did before (well, kinda) by the weekend. 

Now that I've bought the proper Wilton tips to use, I really like making cupcakes. First, their portion control and second, for someone like me who really isn't a fan of cake, its just the right amount for me to enjoy.

Cupcakes appear to be the new thing, everyone is making them and finding more and more stuff to put on or in them. I am a fan of just a simple cupcake with a simple frosting, but when we decided to have a New Years Eve party, I decided to go all out for desserts. Two cupcakes on Annie's blog immediately caught my eye as "fancy" enough for a NYE party.

These were the first.



Cherry Coke Cupcakes
Source: Annie's Eats
Servings: 12
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Ingredients:
Cupcake:
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 3/4 cup sugar 
    • 1 egg
    • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    • 3/4 cup Coca-Cola
    • 1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 12 stemless maraschino cherries 
    Glaze:
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 2 tbsp. Coca-Cola
    Frosting:
    • 2/3 cup heavy cream
    • 3-4 tbsp. powdered sugar
    • 12 maraschino cherries 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a cupcake pan with 12 liners.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth then add in the egg.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together.
4. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, Coca-Cola, cherry juice and vanilla. The mixture will look curdled.
5. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk mixture to the stand mixer. Mix until combined. Add the rest of both mixtures into the stand mixer until batter is formed.
6. Fill each cupcake liner 1/2 of the way full. Drop a cherry into each and cover with remaining batter.
7. Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
8. While the cupcakes are cooling, whisk together the glaze ingredients in a small bowl. Drizzle a small amount over each cupcake and allow to set. (You will have extra glaze.)
9. Add the heavy cream to the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add in the powdered sugar and continue to mix until there are stiff peaks. Spoon or pipe onto the cupcakes and top with a maraschino cherry.
Cupcakes can be refrigerated for 1 day before adding glaze and for up to 4 hours after adding frosting.

The coke flavor isn't all that prominent in the cupcake, but the cherries in the center are a really nice sweet surprise. These were immediately gobbled up at the party. 

Gingered Cranberry Pork

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Have you ever looked at the ingredients of a recipe and thought "hmm, well that seems like an interesting combination of ingredients"? That was my exact thought when I found this recipe. I knew pork and cranberries would go well together but I just couldn't picture it with the addition or Worcestershire sauce, orange juice and ginger.

However, pork tenderloin was on sale a bit ago and I had stocked up, so I figured this interesting combination of ingredients was worth a shot.



Gingered Cranberry Pork
Source: Weight Watchers
Servings: 4, 5 Points Plus
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed
    • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 1/2 cup red wine
    • 1/2 cup orange juice
    • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
    • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
    • salt and pepper
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425.
2. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-sticking cooking spray. Season the pork with salt and pepper and drizzle the Worcestershire sauce over it. Bake for 30 minutes.
3. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Spoon the sauce over the pork and serve immediately.

The combination of these flavors turned out quite well together. I was really surprised at how much the red wine and orange juice sweetened up the cranberries to make them edible. I served this with roasted red potatoes and green beans.

Sugar and Spice White Chocolate Cupcakes

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Have you ever tried to cut a cinnamon stick into pieces? If you haven't, I don't recommend it. I also recommend that when you ask the nice Wegman's employee if they carry cinnamon sticks and he tells you they carry whole ones or pre-cut ones, you don't save $1.50 by purchasing the whole ones.

The main reason why I chose to make these cupcakes is because I thought a cinnamon stick garnish on the top was extraordinarily pretty. Mine, however, didn't turn out quite that way since cutting through a cinnamon stick is a bit like trying to remove tree bark with your teeth. Scissors didn't work. Kitchen shears didn't work. A serrated knife didn't work. The only thing that worked was breaking them into jagged completely uneven pieces with my hands.



Sugar and Spice White Chocolate Cupcakes 
Source: Sweet & Skinny p. 217
Servings: 12
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Ingredients:
    • 1 cup cake flour
    • 2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
    • pinch of salt
    • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
    • 1/4 cup browned butter
    • 3 tbsp. milk
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 egg white
    • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. sugar
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
2. Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, stir together the pumpkin, butter, milk and vanilla.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and egg white on high speed until they are foamy, at least 5 minutes. Gradually add in the sugar a few teaspoons at a time. Mix for another 8 minutes.
4. Turn off the stand mixer and add in half of the flour mixture and all of the pumpkin mixture. Return the mixer to low speed until combined, then turn off, add the remaining flour and turn back on, mixing until combined.
5. Spoon the batter into the cupcake pans, filling 2/3 - 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

White Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients:
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
    • 3 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 
    • pinch of salt
    • 3 oz. white chocolate melted
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
    • 12 cinnamon sticks for garnish, optional
Directions:
1. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, cream cheese, cinnamon and salt on medium speed until the mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the chocolate and vanilla and beat for 1 more minute.
3. Either spread the frosting over the cupcakes with a spatula or transfer the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a tip of your choice and pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. Top each cupcake with a cinnamon stick garnish if desired.

Even though the cinnamon sticks and I didn't get along, these were some really tasty cupcakes. They were super moist and the frosting was just sweet enough to make it feel less healthy than it actually is. 

Crock Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches

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Are you one of those people who only pulls out their crock pot during the winter months and forgets all about it during the summer? I am. I don't know why. As much as I don't feel like cooking on those super hot days, I could easily use the crock pot and have something all ready for me when I come home.

That's one of my cooking resolutions for the year, to use my crock pot throughout the year, not just when its cold outside.

Since the crock pot does everything for you in this recipe except toast the bread and assemble the sandwiches, I made it one day where I had a lot to do once I got home from work.



Crock Pot Italian Beef Sandwich
Source: A Year of Slow Cooking
Servings: 6-8 sandwiches
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Ingredients:
    • 2 1/2 lb. beef rump roast
    • 1 onion, thinly sliced
    • 2 tbsp. oregano
    • 2 tbsp. basil
    • 1 tsp. cayenne
    • 1 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1 14oz. can whole tomatoes, undrained
    • 12 oz. dark beer 
    • 6-8 hoagie rolls
    • 6-8 slices mozzarella cheese
Directions:
1. Place the beef roast in a 6 quart crock pot and top with onion, oregano, basil, cayenne and salt. Add the tomatoes and beer on top.
2. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Shred the meat with two forks and stir back into the crock pot.
3. Partially toast the hoagie rolls then add a slice of cheese on each. Return to the oven to continue toasting. Divide the meat mixture among the toasted rolls.

These were some tasty sandwiches. I think I'd like a little more onion and tomato to go along with the beef, but otherwise I really enjoyed them. They'd be great to serve on sliders or as full sandwiches for a football party or just any event. 

Weekly Menu 1/27 - 1/31

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I think there is something wrong with me. That evil white stuff that I normally hate has fallen from the sky twice in the past 10 days and...
I
DIDN'T
CARE.

No extreme whining. No grumbling. Nada. I just accepted that white stuff will fall from the sky as long as I live in this state during the winter. And confession: I almost kinda liked it.

I'm thinking this is some weird side effect that is only happening because we didn't get any significant snowfall last year. Or maybe I'm going insane. I'm not really sure.

The temperatures however, have been another story. It has been bitterly cold here. Like single digit plus a wind chill kind of cold. That kind of cold that seeps into your bones and gets stuck there no matter what you do to try and get warm.

However, this is the last week of January which means we really only have another 9-10 weeks before signs of spring should really start appearing. And I don't really want to rush that because we're FINALLY going to Florida and I have a ton of weight to lose.

Sunday - lighter chicken pot pie

Monday - deconstructed wonton soup

Tuesday - eggs benedict (hopefully)

Wednesday - shrimp bisque 

Thursday - steak with roasted red potatoes and asparagus 

I also need to whip up some muffins for breakfast next week and a huge pot of vegetable soup for lunches. 

Icebox Butterhorns {Homemade Crescents}

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What exactly is an icebox butterhorn? Do you have any idea, because I don't. I just saw these in the October/November 2012 edition of Taste of Home magazine and thought they'd be the perfect cute little rolls to serve with dinner one night.

I don't want to admit how long it took me to realize that it's essentially a homemade crescent. I made the rolls, photographed them, ate them, stared at the leftovers for a while and then finally after watching tv a few days later, a Pillsbury crescent roll commercial came on and there was an "AH HA" moment.

Regardless of my lack of association, these are quite the tasty little rolls and super quick and easy to make, as far as bread goes, at least.



Icebox Butterhorns
Source: Taste of Home magazine, October/November 2012
Servings: 24 rolls
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Ingredients:
    • 2 packages dry active yeast
    • 1/4 cup warm water
    • 2 cups warm milk
    • 3/4 cup butter, melted
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 6  1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • additional melted butter and kosher salt
Directions:
1. Dissolve the yeast in a small bowl with the warm water.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attached, combine the milk, butter, sugar, egg, salt and 3 cups of the flour. Add in the yeast mixture and mix on low until a soft dough forms.
3. Add in the remaining flour. The dough should be slightly sticky.
4. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
5. Punch down the dough, then turn out on a lightly floured surface.
6. Divide in half and roll each half into a 12" circle. Cut each circle into 12 wedges (like you'd cut a pizza). Roll up the wedges from the wide end to create a crescent shape. Repeat with remaining dough.
7. Place 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet, ends down. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 1 hour.
8. Preheat the oven to 350. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately brush with additional melted butter. Sprinkle kosher salt on top and serve hot.

This is definitely one of the easier bread recipes to make. If you are a beginner or afraid of yeast (like I used to be), I'd definitely recommend trying out this recipe. The dough is very manageable and this comes together quite nicely. 

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

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That title is a mouthful, huh?

Peanut butter
+
Banana
+
Chocolate Chips
=
Cookies

You'd think with that kind of combo at least one of the flavors would get lost in the mix, but I'm proud to report that you can actually taste all three in these small but tasty cookies.

One day, a while back, we accidentally picked up a box of banana cream pudding instant of vanilla. Into the pantry it went, sitting and sitting until one day I was reorganizing my baking shelf and came across it. Noticing that it was going to expire soon, I decided to see what I could do with banana cream pudding aside from, well, banana cream pudding.



Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Source: Chef in Training
Servings: 3 dozen cookies
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Ingredients:
    • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 3.4 oz. package banana cream pudding (dry)
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
    • 1/2 cup chocolate chips 
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease two large baking sheets.
2. In a bowl, combine flour and baking soda together. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until smooth.
4. Add in pudding package and mix until combined, then add in eggs, one at a time and vanilla.
5. Slowly add in the flour mixture until incorporated, then the peanut butter and chocolate chips.
6. Roll into 1" balls and place on the prepared baking sheets.
7. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden.

This almost reminds me of a peanut butter and banana sandwich with chocolate chips added. I was quite impressed!

Garbure {French Ham and Vegetable Soup}

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When I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, I was immediately drawn to it and wanted to make it right away, however it took forever for me to get to the farmers market to purchase a ham hock. For some reason, I didn't even see on at Wegman's and ended up finding it at the Amish Farmers Market down the street.

However, once I had this recipe on the menu, I had a hell of a time trying to find the ingredients. The store was out of leeks and turnips. Instead of searching around at other stores for them, I decided to just omit them, but I've left them in the ingredients since I hope you'll have better luck than me. To save time, I also opted to use canned beans although the recipe calls for soaking fresh ones.



Garbure {French Ham and Vegetable Soup}
Source: Cooking Light, September 2012
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1 large leek, thinly sliced
    • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock 
    • 6 oz. red potatoes, diced 
    • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence 
    • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
    • 8 oz. smoked ham hock
    • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
    • 6 oz. turnips, chopped
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 1/2 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
    • 2 tbsp. thyme 
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. cider vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp. salt 
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper 
Directions:
1. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot. Add the onion and cook for 8-10 minutes or until soft. Then add the leek and garlic, cooking 2 minutes more.
2. Add the stock, potatoes herbes de Provence, beans, ham hock, carrots, turnips and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 40-45 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are soft.
3. Remove the ham hock, discard the bones and return the meat to the pot. Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Serve hot with toasted garlic bread.

I cut the cabbage way back in this soup since the initial recipe calls for 4 cups which I thought would completely overpower the soup. I really enjoyed this and thought it was really tasty. Tom wasn't a fan which surprised me since he likes all of the ingredients otherwise. 

Confetti Corn

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I'm sure I've said on here a hundred times that side dishes always seem to allude me. I grew up in a very meat-potatoes-vegetable family without much variety on the vegetable part, so I feel like I'm constantly making the same things over and over again, even if in actuality, we aren't.

I realize that since Tom isn't a fan of vegetables and prefers for them not to be there anyway, the only person this bothers is me.

I happened to be in the kitchen while menu planning one day, which is unusual. I'm usually in the bedroom (where the computer is) with my huge binders full of recipes (not women) in front of me. While trying to figure out what to make for that week, I happened to look up, and Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics cookbook caught my eye on the bookshelf.

I have a ton of cookbooks and I rarely remember to go through them. It's a habit I've been meaning to break for quite a while now. Anyway, I pulled Back to Basics off the shelf and began flipping through to see if Ina could inspire me.

I stopped on confetti corn and knew I'd be adding it to the menu. Granted, we've had a lot of different recipes including corn and bell peppers, but not recently and not this exact recipe. As you can see, I'm easy to please to find a new side dish.



Confetti Corn
Source: Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics, p. 160
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
    • 1 orange pepper, diced
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 4 cups corn kernels 
    • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1 tsp. pepper
    • 2 tbsp. basil, chopped
    • 2 tbsp. parsley, chopped
Directions:
1. Add the olive oil to a skillet over medium heat.
2. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes or until soft, then stir in the bell pepper and saute for 2 minutes more.
3. Add the butter and once melted, add the corn, salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes then stir in the herbs. Serve hot.

Simple, tasty, and quick. Pretty much all you want in a side dish. I'm sure this would be 100 times better with fresh corn instead of frozen so I can't wait to make this again next summer! 

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Muffin

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Do you have a recipe that you make constantly but never think to share it with anyone? This would  be one of those recipes for me.

Way back when I did the Abs Diet for the first time, one of the recipe was very similar to this and I began eating it on a pretty regular basis. It's basically the same thing you can get at McDonald's, only healthier.

I probably eat these sandwiches at least a few times a month, but for whatever reason, I never thought to share it with you until now.



Bacon, Egg and Cheese Muffin
Cookaholic Wife
Servings: 1
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Ingredients:
    • 1 whole wheat english muffin, toasted
    • 1 egg
    • 1 slice Canadian bacon
    • 1 slice cheese
    • salt and pepper
    • cooking spray 
Directions:
1. Spray a small skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium heat.
2. In a small bowl whisk together an egg with a splash of water. Add the egg to the skillet and cook for 45-60 seconds, then fold over to continue cooking through.
3. Add the Canadian bacon to the skillet and cook for 20-30 seconds on each side. Season the egg with salt and pepper.
4. Place a slice of cheese on top of the English muffin then add the Canadian bacon and egg. Top with the remaining muffin.

Warm and filling! You could easily make this healthier by adding in some sauteed veggies too. 

Weekly Menu 1/20 - 1/24

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Oops. I'm a bit late on posting this, aren't I?

Last night I had a Thirty-One party, which if you don't know, is purses, totes and general organization type stuff. I waited until the last minute to clean, choose the food and make the food so yesterday was pretty busy and I didn't get a chance to get the menu for this week typed up and schedule to post this morning.

The party went pretty well and I can't wait for my stuff to arrive. I'm hoping I can get a few more online orders in to see if it will bump me up to the next price point where I could get some more free stuff, but we'll see.

I initially planned out the menu for this week early into last week, but then I found some recipes that just looked too incredibly tasty to pass up making so I changed the menu all around at the last minute.

Sunday - french onion soup casserole

Monday - Hawaiian chicken sandwiches and fries

Tuesday - balsamic honey-glazed roast beef au jus sandwiches

Wednesday - chipotle chicken and corn chowder

Thursday - pizzas

For breakfast this week I made up some apple muffins. I'm still trying to decide on what I want for lunches. Since I still have English muffins leftover, I think I'm going to have mini pizzas again. 

Recipe Swap: Crunchy Chicken with Sesame Rice and Green Beans

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I always get nervous when I see that the next recipe swap is for celebrity recipes. For some reason I rarely make recipes by celebrities anymore. I think this means I should pull out the huge pile of cookbooks currently collecting dust on my bookshelf and get to it, huh?

For this swap, I was given our lovely host Sarah's blog and a Rachael Ray recipe. I was a bit hesitant since I don't always get along with Rachael Ray recipes. There was once a time where I tried a pretzel coated chicken dish she had and ended up with burnt pieces of pretzel all over my kitchen and the smoke alarm going off. I also haven't fried anything since we left the comfort of the electric stove in our last apartment.



Crunchy Chicken with Sesame Rice and Green Beans 
Source: A Taste of Home Cooking, adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray
Servings: 3-4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 cup rice
    • 2 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
    • salt and pepper
    • 1/3 cup mayo
    • 1 tsp. soy sauce
    • 1 tsp. Sriracha
    • 1 cup Panko
    • 2 eggs
    • oil, for frying
    • 1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
    • 1 lb. green beans, trimmed
Directions:
1. Cook rice according to directions. Add salt and pepper and 1 tbsp. of sesame seeds. Keep warm.
2. Combine mayo, soy sauce and Sriracha in a bowl and stir together. Set aside.
3. Place Panko in a shallow dish. Whisk together the eggs in another shallow dish.
4. Add enough oil to a skillet to be 1/4 inch deep. Heat over medium. Preheat the oven to 200.
5. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Dip each piece of chicken into the eggs then into the Panko. Repeat with all remaining pieces of chicken.
6. Fry the chicken in batches until golden brown. Place on a paper towel lined baking sheet, then transfer to the oven to keep warm.
7. Wipe out the skillet and add a bit more oil. Add the green beans and cook for 5-7 minutes or until tender.
8. Plate the chicken with the dipping sauce. Sprinkle remaining sesame seeds over the green beans.



I couldn't help but add a little bit of heat to the dipping sauce by adding in the Sriracha. Somehow the recipes I've made recently wouldn't work well with Sriracha and I could sense the bottle was feeling a little lonely in the cabinet. The chicken was perfectly crunchy, the dipping sauce was incredible and sesame seeds are such a nice addition to jazz up some rice. It was only the green beans and I that didn't get along. I didn't want to fry them, so I attempted to saute them which didn't really turn out so well. When I make this again, I'm just going to steam them I think. 

Improv Challenge: Banana French Toast

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Even thinking about bananas gives me a tingly feeling in the back of my throat and makes my ears itch. I don't know how to explain it better than that. I can't eat a plain banana. I can mix it into cereal or put it on top of ice cream or use it in a baked good, but I just can't eat them plain.

Don't you love that I share all this weird stuff about me with you? 

I didn't start a post talking about bananas for no reason. They, along with nutmeg were the ingredients for the improv challenge this month. It's becoming a habit lately to wait until the last minute to make something. I need to stop this. So Sunday morning I was browsing around in the pantry, trying to figure out what I could eat when the bananas on the counter reminded me that I needed to make my improv challenge recipe. 

It had been forever since I ate french toast and I figured stuffing it with bananas was too common so maybe I could do a play on bananas foster and use it as a topping. This is what I came up with. 



Banana French Toast
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation 
Servings: 2

Ingredients:
Bananas:
    • 1 tsp. butter
    • 2 ripe bananas, cut into slices
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. sugar
    • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
French Toast:
    • 4 slices bread
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tbsp. milk
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
    • powdered sugar or syrup

Directions:
1. Combine the bananas, cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg together in a small bowl. Toss to coat. 
2. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a shallow dish, then whisk in the cinnamon, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. 
3. Heat two skillets over medium heat. Spray both with non-stick cooking spray. 
4. In one, melt the butter then add the bananas. Cook, stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes or until the bananas are lightly caramelized. Keep warm. 
5. Dip bread into egg mixture and coat both sides. Place in the skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Repeat with other slices of bread. 
6. Plate the french toast and top with the bananas. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or drizzle syrup on top. 

Cooking the bananas in cinnamon and sugar definitely took away the starchy-tartness that usually makes me unable to eat them. And since I rarely eat a warm breakfast, this was a much needed treat. 

Shrimp Bruschetta

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 Maybe its a Maryland thing, but I have this notion in my head that seafood must be fresh or its not worth eating. I don't know how you people in land-locked states do it. I don't think I could. Shrimp is the only exception I have to the frozen rule. Mostly because you can buy them already deveined and for as much as I love shrimp, deveining is one of my least favorite tasks ever.

So, we eat a lot of shrimp. When I can find a good deal on the frozen two pound bags (which is $10 or less to me) I'll buy a few of them to stock up. But I rarely think to ever use it in an appetizer.

When I was on an appetizer hunt, I searched "shrimp recipes" and somehow ended up on the Old Bay website. Why I didn't think to check there initially is beyond me. I saw the shrimp bruschetta recipe and immediately knew it was the one to make.



Shrimp Bruschetta
Source: Old Bay
Servings: 24
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. shrimp, cooked and finely chopped
    • 1 roma tomato, diced
    • 1/2 red pepper, diced
    • 2 green onions, minced
    • 2 tsp. Old Bay
    • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1 loaf french bread, cut into 24 slices
    • 2 tbsp. mayo
Directions:
1. Combine shrimp, tomato, red pepper and green onion together in a small bowl. Season with Old Bay and garlic powder. Toss to coat.
2. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and broil for 1 minute or just until lightly browned.
3. Reduce the oven temperature to 350. Spread the mayo over the bread slices and top with the shrimp mixture.
4. Bake for 10 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm.

I changed up the recipe a bit, leaving out the olive oil and egg white since I didn't think they were necessary and adding the red pepper along with the tomato. This was incredible. I couldn't believe how quickly these were gobbled up. Overall, its a pretty affordable recipe to serve for a crowd. 

Potato and Chorizo Tacos

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The package of chorizo I bought for the Jalapeno Cheddar Chorizo muffins was larger than I needed so I immediately sought out to find out what to do with the remaining chorizo. I came across this recipe and thought it was only fitting since it was also a Secret Recipe Club choice.



Potato and Chorizo Tacos
Source: Crumb: A Food Blog, adapted from The Pajama Chef
Servings: 2
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Ingredients:
    • 1 chorizo link, casing removed
    • 1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
    • 1/2 poblano pepper, diced
    • 2 cups red potatoes, diced
    • 1 tsp. paprika
    • 4 whole wheat tortillas 
    • 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 1/4 cup sour cream 
    • shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce (optional)
Directions:
1. Add the chorizo to a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Break the chorizo into small pieces, letting it brown.
2. Add the onion and poblano pepper and cook 2-3 minutes more. Drain any fat.
3. Add the potatoes to the skillet and season with the paprika. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally.
4. Divide the mixture between the tortillas and top with the cilantro, sour cream and any desired optional toppings.

I really like the flavors of these tacos but I think, even drained, chorizo is just too greasy for me. I ended up with an upset stomach for the rest of the night. I'm not happy about that since I'd definitely like to eat these again. 

Crock Pot Cranberry Turkey Meatballs

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I waited until almost the last minute to put together the menu for Christmas and then I did the same thing again for New Years Eve. Usually I have this kind of stuff planned weeks in advance, but I just didn't get around to it this year.

I think almost everyone has attended a party where one of the appetizers was meatballs in the crock pot with grape jelly. I think I am one of the few people left on the planet who has never tried this. I debated on making it for an appetizer on Christmas, but I'm just not a fan of grape jelly so I got the idea into my head that maybe I could use a different type of sauce instead. Like cranberry sauce since I still had half a batch in the freezer from Thanksgiving.

Then I found this recipe by Nicole of Prevention RD. Turkey (meatballs) + cranberry sauce! What could be a better combination?



Crock Pot Cranberry Turkey Meatballs 
Adapted from: Prevention RD
Servings: 4-5 dozen meatballs
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Ingredients:
    • 2 cups pear honey cranberry sauce  (double the recipe)
    • 1 lb. ground turkey
    • 1 lb. Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
    • 1 cup bread crumbs
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 2 1/2 tbsp. Sriracha
    • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tsp. oregano
    • 1 tsp. onion powder
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with foil and place wire racks on top. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Combine all the ingredients except for the cranberry sauce together into a large bowl. Mix well using your hands.
3. Form into 1" meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheets.
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
5. Place the cooked meatballs in a 4 quart slow cooker. Pour the cranberry sauce over them and stir to coat. If cranberry sauce is cold, heat on low for 2 hours. If sauce is warmed, set crock pot to "keep warm" setting.
Meatballs can be made and refrigerated for 2 days in advance. Sauce can be frozen for 1 month.

These were gobbled up incredibly quickly. My mom, who refuses to eat turkey in any form other than sliced from an actual turkey even liked these.

Weekly Menu 1/13 - 1/17

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I'm feeling particularly uninspired to write anything along with the menu this week. There are probably a hundred different things I could share with you or write about, but nothing is coming to me. It's been a very blah last week or so and nothing new is coming up soon, so I feel like I'd just be repetitive.

Sunday - recipe swap meal 

Monday - beef & veggie bowls

Tuesday - bacon ranch pasta

Wednesday - kung pao chicken tacos

Thursday - spiced pork with sauteed apples and roasted potatoes 

For lunch I'm making pizza on English muffins along with a salad and I think I'm doing muffins for breakfast. I'm not sure yet. 

Ham and Potato Soup

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We've already seen more white stuff fall from the sky this winter than we did all of last year. This does not please someone like me who absolutely dreads that white stuff.

The only thing I like about the white stuff from the sky (aside from when it gives me the day off work) is that it makes me crave soup. I could easily eat soup twice a week or more from October through April, but Tom would never go for that. 

Usually I prefer the lighter broth based soups, but some days you just need a hearty, thick, filling bowl of soup to end off your day. This soup is absolutely perfect in that regard and BONUS: it comes together in about 45 minutes, which includes your prepping time. 



Ham and Potato Soup
Source: All Recipes
Servings: 8

Ingredients:
    • 3 cups white potatoes, peeled and diced
    • 2 stalks celery, diced
    • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
    • 3/4 cup cooked ham, diced
    • 1/2 cup onion, diced
    • 3 1/4 cup water
    • 1 beef bouillon cube
    • 3 tbsp. butter
    • 3 tbsp. all purpose flour
    • 2 cups low-fat milk
    • salt and pepper, to taste
Directions:
1. Combine potatoes, celery, carrots, ham, onion and water together in a large stock pot. 
2. Bring to a boil, then cover and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Add the bouillon cube. 
3. In another saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour slowly until the mixture thickens then slowly whisk in the milk, making sure lumps don't form. 
4. Reduce the heat to low and continue to stir until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Transfer into the stock pot with the vegetables and ham. Stir until combined and cook for 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

This is one of those comforting soups. There isn't a whole lot of flavor, so feel free to add in some spices like thyme or rosemary. 


Creamed Spinach

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If you would have told me 10 years ago I've voluntarily make creamed spinach and like it, I'd have laughed at you for a really long time.

It took me until my early twenties to even eat spinach leaves and cooked spinach was still completely out of the question. I had it a few times, sauteed with olive oil and garlic but didn't think it was any better than "barely tolerable".

So what made me decide to make a creamed spinach recipe? I honestly have no idea. Sometimes I randomly go on the hunt for new side dishes and for some reason this one caught my eye. Maybe it was the cheese that sold me on it, but I figured it was worth a shot.



Creamed Spinach 
Source: Skinnytaste
Servings: 8
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Ingredients:
    • 2 tsp. unsalted butter
    • 2 large shallots, minced
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 2 tbsp. flour
    • 1 1/2 cups milk (fat-free)
    • 2 tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese
    • 1/4 tsp. pepper
    • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
    • 4.4 oz. Light Boursin cheese (your choice in flavor)
    • 16 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained 
Directions:
1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes.
2. Whisk in the flour until combined, then slowly pour in the milk while whisking constantly.
3. Stir in the Parmesan, pepper, nutmeg, and Boursin cheese until smooth.
4. Stir in the spinach until combined.
5. Serve hot, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

The cheese is definitely a game-changer in this recipe. I went with a garlic-herb flavored cheese and I really think it made the dish. I doubt I would have enjoyed this otherwise. I liked it so much I even ate leftovers! 

Shrimp Tacos

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For years I heard of people eating shrimp or fish tacos and I just couldn't imagine them being any good. Chicken, ground beef, or steak could all go on a taco and that seemed "normal" to me, but I just couldn't picture seafood going well on a taco.

Shrimp in any type of sandwich has always seemed weird to me as well, but after trying the shrimp po' boys from a recipe swap and really, really liking them, I decided to shove aside my preconceived notions shrimp tacos and take the plunge by making them.



Shrimp Tacos
Adapted from: The New Abs Diet Cookbook 
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined 
    • 1 tbsp. taco seasoning
    • 2 cups broccoli slaw mix
    • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
    • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
    • 1 tbsp. lime juice
    • 8 whole wheat tortillas 
    • diced tomatoes, cheese, shredded lettuce (optional)

Directions:
1. Toss the shrimp in a bowl with the taco seasoning to evenly coat. Preheat a grill or saucepan.
2. In a large bowl, combine the broccoli slaw, sour cream, jalapeno and lime juice. Refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Grill or saute the shrimp for 1-2 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
4. Meanwhile, dampen a paper towel and wrap it around the tortilla. Microwave for 30 seconds or until warmed.
5. Divide the broccoli slaw between the tortilla shells, top with the shrimp and any desired optional toppings.

This was much spicier than I was expecting it to be. I mean, I've had raw jalapeno in dishes before, but this must have been an extra spicy one. The lime juice and sour cream did nothing to diminish the heat. Either way, I'm so glad I finally tried these. Not only is a healthy recipe, but it's damn delicious! 

Pumpkin & Sausage Penne

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I think I've shared before that I'm not really a sausage person, right? I just think it tastes weird. Not quite the texture of ground beef but not the texture of a hot dog either. But this recipe appealed to me because I have a bit of an addiction with finding savory pumpkin recipes. 





Pumpkin and Sausage Penne
Source: Taste of Home, October/November 2012
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 cup penne pasta
    • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage links or ground sausage
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 sweet onion, diced
    • 1 tsp. olive oil
    • 1/3 cup white wine
    • 1 cup chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
    • 3 tsp. fresh sage, chopped and divided 
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 
    • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    • 3 tbsp. half-and-half
    • 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, shredded
Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, add sausage to a large skillet over medium heat, breaking into crumbles until browned. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.
3. Add the garlic, bay leaf and onion to the skillet, cooking for 3-5 minutes or until the onion is soft.
4. Add the wine, bring to a boil and cook until the liquid has reduced by half.
5. Add the broth, pumpkin, half of the sage, salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook for 1 minute.
6. Return the sausage to the pan and remove the bay leaf. Stir in the half-and-half until combined.
7. Stir in the pasta until coated.
8. Serve, topping with remaining sage and the Parmesan cheese.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really, really liked this recipe. Ironically Tom didn't like it at all and I expected that he would. 

SRC: Jalapeno Cheddar Chorizo Muffins

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Don't worry, you didn't miss out on a December SRC reveal. The group decided to take off for the month of December because of the holidays. However, we received our assigned blog at the end of November. Which created a bit of a problem for me. It gave me WAY too much time to go through the recipes trying to choose one.

For this month, I was assigned Food Babbles. I've visited Kate's blog before as she also participates in the Improv Challenges, but this was the first time I really clicked around to see what type of recipes she had on her blog. I was immediately drawn to her posts tagged MuffinMondays. I'm a bit of a muffin addict. They are probably my number one breakfast food because if you really think about it, the only difference between a cupcake and a muffin is frosting. So you're kind of eating dessert for breakfast. Look, it makes sense in my head, okay?

Either way, I was incredibly giddy over finding all of the muffin recipes. I believe I have now found my go-to spot to search for new recipes. We won't talk about how many I've already printed out, okay? As much as I unintentionally gravitated toward the sweet muffins, I was intrigued by the savory muffins and figured there was no better time than the Secret Recipe Club reveal to try out a savory muffin.

It wasn't too hard to choose the Jalapeno Cheddar Chorizo muffins. I love jalapenos and cheddar and I've been interested in cooking with chorizo for the first time since I finally found it in our closest grocery store. So without further adieu, I share with you my foray into the world of savory muffins...



Jalapeno Cheddar Chorizo Muffins
Source: Food Babbles, adapted from Bakingdom
Servings: 12
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Ingredients:
    • 1 jalapeno, chopped
    • 1/8 poblano pepper, chopped
    • 1/2 cup chorizo sausage
    • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1 egg
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
2. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the jalapeno, poblano and chorizo and cook, breaking up the chorizo, for 3-4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a plate and blot excess oil with a paper towel.
3. Then transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the cheddar cheese until combined.
4. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk the buttermilk, oil and egg together in a measuring cup then pour into the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
5. Gently fold in the chorizo mixture. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tin, filling it all of the way.
6. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

A savory muffin is definitely interesting. I really like the flavors of this and the kick of heat from the jalapeno. The only thing I would do differently is a larger chop on the jalapeno and poblano so you could see them better in the muffin. 

Weekly Menu 1/6 - 1/10

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So how are you holding up with your new years resolutions? I've lost a pound so far, but I'm pretty sure it was just a fluke in the scale since I haven't really done anything yet.

However, as I'm typing this I'm dressed in my gym clothes because I had a smart idea. If I put on the clothes I wear to work out, shouldn't that be more than enough motivation to actually walk down the three flights of steps, around the corner and into the fitness center? We'll see how that works out, but I'm hopefully.

I still have a huge backlog of recipes hanging out there that I haven't shared with you, but if you read through the menu posts going forward, you'll see the majority of them are healthier. I don't have any plans to turn this into a health-food blog, but I've also come to realize that I can't hide behind the excuse that a cooking blog is what's keeping me fatter than I'd like to be.

Sure, I love sharing desserts with you, and based off the page hits I get, you seem to enjoy them as well. But for the last year or so, as I've gained weight, I've justified it to myself by saying "well, you have a cooking blog. It's not like you can eat rabbit food every night and expect to keep any followers".

I've gained weight because I've ate whatever I've wanted without exercising. Sure, some of the recipes I've made definitely haven't helped, but unhealthy foods in moderation is fine as long as you're still exercising.

So while these may not all seem like lighter or healthier recipes, they are and I hope to get them shared with you soon!

Sunday - Cajun Chicken Pasta

Monday  - Three Cheese Tortellini and Mushroom Soup 

Tuesday - Abs Diet Burgers and Fries

Wednesday - Shrimp Creole

Thursday - Beef and Broccoli Bowl 

For breakfast this week, I've whipped up a hearty batch of blueberry oatmeal muffins. Lunch will either be soup or some type of wrap. 

Peppercorn-Crusted Filet with Gremolata

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I rarely ever think of toppings to put on a steak. I guess because its something I didn't have as a kid that it doesn't come to me naturally now. Which is why I enjoy receiving cooking magazines so frequently. They're constantly giving me new ideas.



Peppercorn-Crusted Filet with Gremolata
Source: Cooking Light, December 2012
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 4 4-oz. filets
    • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • 3 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 2 tsp. black pepper
    • 1 tsp. dried oregano
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/4 tsp. red pepper
    • cooking spray
Directions:
1. Combine parsley through red pepper together in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Preheat a grill.
3. Spray filets with cooking spray and place on the grill. Cook  3-7 minutes depending on your level of desired doneness.
4. Divide the gremolata among the steaks and serve on top.

Tasty! If you ever have any extra herbs lying around this would be the perfect way to use them up.

Glazed Carrots

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I'm not really a fan of cooked carrots. I never have been. I'd much prefer to eat carrots in their raw state than ever eat them cooked.

Glazed carrots are a pretty common recipe made for Thanksgiving and Christmas so I finally decided to bite the bullet and try them out. I figured an Alton Brown recipe was the way to go since he's never led me astray with a recipe before.



Glazed Carrots
Source: Alton Brown
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 7 carrots, peeled and coined
    • 1 cup ginger ale
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 
    • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
    • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Directions:
1. Combine carrots, ginger ale, butter and salt together in a saucepan over medium-heat. Cover and bring to a simmer.
2. Remove the lid, stir, then reduce the heat to low. Cover again and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Remove the lid, add the chili powder and increase the heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally until the carrots are soft and the ginger ale has reduced to a glaze.
4. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with fresh parsley.

As you can see from the picture, my ginger ale didn't really turn into a glaze. I think its because I was rushing the recipe a bit and didn't let it simmer enough. Either way, there was a light glaze on the carrots and the flavors went together really nicely. For someone who doesn't like cooked carrots, I had no problems at all eating an entire serving of these and I'd definitely like to add them into the holiday meals rotation. 

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

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I wasn't even planning on making this recipe until I saw that Wegman's had pretty little bunches of fresh sage for $1.29. The smell of the sage was so intoxicatingly delicious that I bought a bunch and immediately sought out to find a recipe where I could use it.

When I think of sage, I think of pumpkins and when I think of pumpkins I think of Thanksgiving, so it only seemed fitting that I would find a recipe for pumpkin mac and cheese that called for fresh sage.



Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
Adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens Magazine
Servings: 8
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Ingredients:
    • 2 cups elbow macaroni
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. kosher salt 
    • 1 tsp. nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 2 cups Fontina cheese, shredded
    • 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
    • 2 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9x11 dish with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg into melted butter then add the cream and milk.
4. Cook, stirring until slightly thickened and bubbly, then stir in the cheese and pumpkin until the cheese has melted.
5. Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce until coated, then transfer to the prepared baking dish.
6. Combine olive oil, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese together in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the pasta.
7. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

The reviews suggested adding nutmeg and more cheese to increase the flavor of this because its pretty bland. I did both and found that it didn't really make too much of a difference. This is a very, very mild mac and cheese but you could definitely increase the flavor by using another cheese  or adding a spicy element like crushed red pepper.

Happy New Year & Top Recipes from 2012

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Happy New Year! I hope you're not too hung over from last night's festivities because oh boy do I have something fun to share with you. Posts like these are definitely some of my favorite ones.

I can't believe its that time again.

What time?

Time for me to share the top recipes from 2012! While you could determine your top recipes in quite a few different ways, I decided to choose the recipe with the highest page views for each month.

So let's get this party started.

January 2012 - Dorito Casserole.
Apparently the 627 of you who viewed the page decided weight loss was not in your new year's resolution list, huh? 
(What a horrible picture. But really, how can you make a casserole of Doritos look pretty?)

February 2012 - Jalapeno Popper Chicken 
I'm right there with y'all on this one. This is definitely a delicious recipe. Apparently you like jalapenos as much as I do considering the Roasted Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes were the second most popular post. 

Still one of my favorite side dish recipes. I could eat this as a meal. 

Honestly, I'm kinda shocked. I thought it would be the cake batter pudding cookies, but hey, to each their own. 

Yum, I need to make this again. 

Not only were these the prettiest cupcakes I'd ever made, they were super tasty too. 

Another one I wasn't expecting. I thought you'd choose the Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches or maybe the Prosciutto Paninis

August 2012 - Pot Roast Sliders
This doesn't surprise me, but there were so many great recipes I shared this month that it was a close tie between the Pot Roast Sliders, the Shrimp Po'Boys and the Summer corn, Tomato and Scallop Pasta. 

September 2012 - Baked Churros 
Mmmm I remember these well. So tasty. This was another month with very, very close contenders, like the Prosciutto Egg Cups, Caprese Skewers, Mini Mac and Cheese Cups and Honey Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting

October 2012 - Homemade Pizza Rolls 
I'm still in shock at how much these taste like the kind you get in freezer section of your local grocery store. 

Soooo good. I need to make these again soon too! 

And finally, 
December 2012 - Crinkled Grinch Cookies
I can't tell you how much this warms my Grinch-loving heart to know there are so many others out there who love the Grinch just as much as I do. 

So there you have it folks, the top recipes from 2012. I hope you enjoyed them!!
And here's to a great start to a new year! 


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