Limoncello Cheesecake Bars

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Months and months after making the limoncello, I'm finally finding recipes to use it in. I have a few more recipes up my sleeve that I'd like to share with you and that should deplete my current limoncello supply. I definitely plan on making another batch since it's so simple to do.



Limoncello Cheesecake Bars
Source: Giada De Laurentis
Servings: 16
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. biscotti 
    • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
    • 3 tbsp. lemon zest
    • 12 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese, drained, at room temperature
    • 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1 1/4 cups sugar
    • 1/2 cup limoncello liquor
    • 2 tsp. vanilla
    • 4 eggs, at room temperature 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Add the biscotti to a food processor and grind until fine. Stir in the melted butter and 1 tablespoon of the lemon zest. Process until the crumbs are moistened, then transfer the crumbs to the prepared baking dish and press into the bottom of the dish.
3. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden, then allow crust to cool completely on a wire rack.
4. Add the ricotta to the food processor and pulse until smooth, then add in the cream cheese and sugar and pulse until fully combined.
5. Add the limoncello, vanilla and remaining lemon zest. Then add in the eggs one at a time until fully combined. Scrape down the side of the bowl as needed.
6. Pour the cheese mixture on top of the cool crust. Place the baking dish into a roasting pan or half sheet pan and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
7. Bake for 1 hour or until the cheesecake is golden and the center is slightly loose.
8. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 1 hour.
9. Refrigerate for 8 hours until thoroughly chilled, then cut into 16 squares.




I couldn't really taste the liquor in these cheesecake bars, they just taste like a tart lemon variety of cheesecake. 

Chicken Fried Rice

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I feel like fried rice is the underdog of the Chinese food menu. It comes along with many lunch combos and most people think of it as just a filler or an appetizer along with their preferred meal. I, myself have been guilty of this. I tend to rotate between kung pao, schezuan,  and lo mein dishes when we order Chinese food.

Some days you just need a simple and classic fried rice recipe and I chose to make this one night when I wanted Chinese food and had extra rice in the fridge



Chicken Fried Rice
Source: Cooking Light, May 2011
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 1 tbsp.  reduced-sodium soy sauce + 4 tsp., divided
    • 1 tsp. cornstarch 
    • 2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
    • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
    • 2 tbsp. lime juice
    • 1 tsp. garlic chile sauce (Lee Kum Kee)
    • 2 tbsp. canola oil, divided 
    • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/2 cup green onion, thinly sliced
    • 2 cups brown rice, cooked 
Directions:
1. Combine 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, cornstarch and chicken together in a large bowl. Toss to coat, then set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine the 4 teaspoons of soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice wine vinegar, lime juice and garlic chile sauce. Set aside.
3. Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the eggs and cook until scrambled. Transfer to a plate to keep warm.
4. Add a tablespoon of canola in the skillet along with the chicken mixture and cook for 4-5 minutes or until chicken is golden brown. Remove from the skillet and keep warm.
5. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet, along with the onion, peas and carrots. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
6. Stir in the cooked rice, egg and chicken and the soy sauce mixture. Stir frequently to coat everything and cook for 1-2 minutes or until everything is heated through.
7. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the green onions, Divide among 4 plates.



Most chicken fried rice recipes don't include a sauce made with hoisin and garlic chile sauce which I now believe is absolutely necessary to a tasty fried rice dish at home. You couldn't tell this dish was even a lighter variety and I'm pretty sure it's going to be my go-to choice for making it at home. 

Copycat Texas Roadhouse Rolls

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I had never heard of Texas Steakhouse until early in 2012 when they began to build one not far from me. It opened during the summer of 2012 and when we first visited there, in the fall, it was still super crowded like it had just opened the day before. Even now, about two years since they have opened, they are still incredibly busy practically every night.

During our visit I did try one of their rolls with the butter and thought it was a pretty tasty roll for a chain-style restaurant. As I was more interested in my steak, I didn't put too much stock into these rolls and didn't really think of them again.

Then I started seeing them everywhere on the blog-o-sphere. Everyone was making these rolls! I'm not sure if Texas Roadhouse had a massive restaurant launch or they released this recipe to the public or what, but these rolls were all over the place. Knowing we probably wouldn't be back for a visit to the restaurant as quickly as I'd like, I opted to make these rolls to tide me over.



Copycat Texas Roadhouse Rolls
Source: The Recipe Critic
Servings: 12
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Ingredients:
    • 1/4 cup warm water
    • 2 tsp. dry active yeast
    • 1 tsp. sugar
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 tbsp. melted butter
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 3-4 cups flour
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp. salt 
Directions:
1. Add water, yeast and sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer and allow yeast to proof, about 5 minutes.
2. Microwave milk for 45 seconds, then add butter to milk, stirring until combined. Allow milk to cool until lukewarm.
3. Pour the milk mixture into the stand mixer, then add sugar and 1 1/2 cups flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until it resembles a muffin batter. (Add more flour if necessary) Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
4. Then stir and egg and salt into the mixture until combined. Attached the dough hook and add remaining flour, mixing until a soft dough forms.
5. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise until it has doubled in size. Then punch down the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.
6. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and form into a large rectangle about 1/2-inch thick. Cut in half and then keep cutting each half by half until you have 12-18 pieces.
7. Transfer pieces onto a greased baking sheet and allow to rise again, until they have doubled in size.
8. Preheat the oven to 350. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden.



I didn't end up making the honey-cinnamon butter that goes along with these rolls and it was a real shame. I think it's the only thing out there that could have made them taste even better. I plan to make these again, along with the butter to enjoy the full experience. 

Lighter Veggie Dip

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I was watching an old episode of Good Eats one Sunday afternoon where Alton was pondering what exactly makes a dip, a dip. Most dips are typically sour cream based or cheese based. I know I've made my fair share of these recipes.

Unfortunately I didn't catch the part where Alton actually defines a dip, but it got me thinking about how I currently had a bunch of ingredients necessary to make a dip hanging out in the fridge. With no other plans for them, I set out to make a lighter veggie dip.

Here's what I came up with.



Lighter Veggie Dip
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 2 cups
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Ingredients:
    • 1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
    • 1/2 cup mayo
    • 1/2 cup light sour cream 
    • 2 tsp. zesty seasoned salt 
    • 1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped
    • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Directions:
1. Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl until combined. Cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
*This will keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.*


The zesty seasoned salt was a random addition since I wanted to add some color to the dip and I'm really glad I went this route. It provided just enough kick to a simple veggie dip. I enjoyed this with veggies throughout the week.

Weekly Menu 1/26 - 1/30

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Is it spring yet? I am so over winter. On Tuesday we got hit with another snow storm. It was also pretty windy that day so I'm not sure exactly how much snow we got, but it was in the 6-8 inches variety, which is 6-8 inches more than I ever want to deal with on a weekday.

My car is covered in a thick coating of salt and I need to have some words with Jiffy Lube because my windshield wiper fluid is of the anti-freeze variety and is completely frozen. Do you know how much fun it is to pull over every 20 miles or so to pour water on your windshield and then scrape off the ice that forms because it's been 20 degrees or less every day this week? Not fun at all. At this point I'm ready to pay Mother Nature for a day over freezing so I can get it working again!

Thinking that we still have about 2 months left of winter is enough to make me want to cry. It started snowing in November. Its been one of the worst years we've had in a long time. I'm over it.

With the weather, the roads and the traffic, I really need to replenish my stock of freezer meals because the last thing I feel like doing is getting home after 6 PM and having to prep dinner. I'm making as much of the items from this week in advance and I think we're going to live off the crock pot next week.

Sunday - chicken pot pie soup with garlic-cheddar biscuits

Monday - mozzarella stuffed meatballs slider, fries and salad 

Tuesday - penne alla vodka

Wednesday - tater tot casserole 

Thursday - prosciutto egg cups 

I'm planning on a cranberry orange bread for breakfast and a grilled chicken salad for lunch. Many of the recipes this week are out of necessity to empty out the random items in the fridge.

I'm hoping to get the pantry reorganized this weekend so I can take an inventory of what we have in there so I know what to use up. 

Homemade Laundry Detergent

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I decided to take a quick break from sharing edible recipes with you and wanted to share this recipe for homemade laundry detergent instead.

I realize I am quite a few years beyond the popularity craze of making your own detergent at home, and I am more than okay with that. This was something I'd wanted to do for a really long time but I was hesitant of the recipes out there. Some didn't seem to include enough ingredients and other seemed to have too many. I just wanted a simple, cost-effective recipe for homemade laundry detergent that I could use in our washer.

Many months ago I finally decided to purchase all of the necessary ingredients. Of course, it was right after a Costco trip where we had purchased one of their ginormous containers of laundry detergent. Since we don't have a lot of space in the laundry room, I decided to wait until that container was almost out before making my own.

Which ended up being just a few weeks ago. On an ugly, cold day, I gathered my supplies, printed out the recipe and set out to make laundry detergent.

20 minutes later, I realized grating soap by hand is really tedious and that this may not have been the smartest ingredient list for one who is very sensitive to smells.  By the time I was done, I only suffered one small knick to the knuckle but I was in desperate need of a Zyrtec. Just something to keep in mind if you also suffer from smell sensitivity or have allergies. For my next batch, I plan to wear just a cheap paper mask to see if that helps me.

Before You Get Started:

  • You'll need a large container to store this in. A rubber tote, a large bucket with a lid, or my choice: a plastic container previously housing 35 lbs. of cat litter. (Cleaned, obviously.)
  • A large hand grater or a food processor. Putting soap in my food processor weirds me out, so I purchased the largest hand grater Walmart carried. It was a whopping $2. 
  • What to store the made laundry detergent in, a funnel, and possibly a scoop. (A coffee scoop works great!)


Homemade Laundry Detergent
Yield: 18 lbs. of detergent 

Ingredients:
    • 3 lb. 7 oz. box Super Washing Soda
    • 4 lb. 12 oz. box Borax
    • 4 lb. box Pure Baking Soda
    • 1.3 lb. container of Oxi-Clean
    • (2) 5.5 oz. bars of Fels-Naptha soap
    • 28 oz. Purex Crystals (scent of your choice)
Directions:
1. Grate one bar of Fels-Naptha into your container. Then stir in half the box/container of every other ingredient. Grate the final bar of Fels-Naptha, add in the remaining of all ingredients and stir until fully combined. 
2. Transfer into smaller containers. 
3. Use 1-2 tablespoon sized scoops for each load of laundry. 

You could pour in the whole box of everything before stirring, but I found even with a heavy duty large wooden spoon, this was hard to stir up properly even in halved amounts. As for the smaller container, I opted to pry the lid off my Purex container and fill that with the homemade detergent. Bonus: the lid of the Purex container shows three lines. Filling it up to the first or second line is what you'll need in detergent. 

My huge batch of this filled the old cat litter container a little more than half full. After filling two Purex bottles, you can't even see a dent in what was in the container. At about a tablespoon (first line of the Purex lid) per load of clothing, I have a feeling we're going to have this stuff around for a very, very long time. 

As for the money saving factor, I haven't figured out an exact amount per load. I spent around $23 for all of the necessary ingredients (grater excluded) and I'm estimating there are 30 tablespoons in a Purex container which I will also estimate can be filled 7 times from the main container. So: 

30 x 7 = 210 x 2 (I have 2 Purex containers) = 420. $23.00 / 420 = $0.05 per load of clothing. 



This isn't completely accurate because there are times where I know we will overfill the lid but I think it's a pretty good estimate. 

Now is $23 and the time it takes to mix up the ingredients worth it to you? That's your call, but so far I can say I'm completely happy with this homemade variety of laundry detergent. Our clothes come out cleaner than using the store bought stuff, plus I feel like it's going to last us longer. 







Recipe Remake: Sugar Coated Pecans

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Recipe Remake: These sugar coated wonders of goodness were one of the first recipes I ever made. I first served them for Thanksgiving and everyone quickly gobbled them up. Since the price of pecans has increased significantly over the past few years, I hadn't made these as often as I would have liked, but when the holidays came around again, I knew it was time to splurge on the cost and make these again.



Sugar-Coated Pecans
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: ~ 1 1/2 cups.
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Ingredients:
    • 12 oz. pecan halves 
    • 3-4 egg whites
    • 2/3 cup white sugar
    • 1 tbsp. cinnamon 
    • 1 tbsp. vanilla 
    • pinch of kosher salt 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 250. Line a large baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together 3 egg whites, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Stir in the pecans and toss to coat. The pecans should look glazed. If they do not, add the remaining egg white and continue to toss them until fully coated.
3. Spread out the pecans on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.
4. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, tossing and stirring the pecans in 15 minute intervals.
5. Allow to cool completely before breaking up into clusters.
Pecans will keep for 2-4 weeks in an air-tight container. 

Good luck on keeping them in your house that long though. I've never managed to keep these around for more than a few days.



Original Post: November 20, 2010
I made these for the first time last year. They were a huge hit. My mom and my aunt both requested the recipe from me. Luckily for them, I managed to hide an extra bag of them because Tom and I started snacking on them waiting for everyone to come over and ate about half of them. They are that delicious!



Skinny Butternut Squash Lasagna Rolls

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I love butternut squash. It is by far one of my favorite winter vegetables out there. I could easily eat it all of the time, but I am unfortunately the only one in the house willing to eat it. So I've not had nearly as much of it as I would've liked. If you're in a similar situation, I think this recipe could really work out for you.

The squash isn't in the lasagna rolls and instead provides a rich, thick sauce on top. You could easily make all of the lasagna rolls the same and serve up the butternut squash sauce for those who like it and have a marinara-style for those who want the traditional lasagna.

I make and freeze lasagna rolls quite often so I definitely plan on freezing some of this sauce as well so I can have my butternut variety.



Skinny Butternut Squash Lasagna Rolls
Source: SkinnyTaste
Servings: 9
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Ingredients:
for the butternut parmesan sauce:
    • 1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and diced
    • 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
    • 1/4 cup shallots, minced
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/8 - 1/4 cup water or stock 
    • 2 tbsp. fresh grated Parmesan cheese
    • salt and pepper, to taste 
for the lasagna:
    • 9 lasagna noodles
    • 8 oz. fat-free ricotta cheese
    • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 3 oz. shredded Italian Blend cheese 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 450. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
2. Toss the squash with 1 tsp. olive oil and spread out in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
3. Roast for 25-35 minutes or until squash is fork tender.
4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until golden.
5. Allow squash to cool slightly, then transfer to a blender or food processor. Add shallots, garlic, water/stock and Parmesan cheese. Puree until smooth, adding more water/stock until it reaches your desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then set aside.
6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook until al dente. Allow noodles to cool slightly on a foil-lined baking sheet.
7. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, . Spread a 1-2 tablespoon-sized dollop of the mixture down each lasagna noodle. Carefully roll up each noodle and place seam side down on the baking sheet.
8. Preheat the oven to 350. Spread 1/2 cup of the butternut squash sauce on the bottom of a prepared 9x13 baking dish. Place the lasagna rolls on top and then top with remaining butternut squash sauce. Sprinkle with Italian Blend cheese and bake for 40 minutes or until cheese has melted and is bubbly.
*To Freeze: Follow directions until Step 7. Place the lasagna noodles on the baking sheet in the freezer for 1-2 hours, then transfer to a ziptop bag for further freezing. Sauce can also be divided into container and frozen once cooled. To serve, allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before completing Step 8.



I wonder if the store still has butternut squash on sale. After typing this out, I'd really like to have this again soon.

Banana Applesauce Oatmeal Bread

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During my travels for work, I stayed at a Residence Inn hotel because they offered breakfast in the morning and a light dinner 3-4 nights a week. Not being familiar with the area and not being able to see very well at night, I  figured this was the best choice for me.

Another service they offer is a grocery pick up. You write a list and they go out and purchase the items and charge them to your card on file. I decided I'd have them pick me up some snacks, popcorn and apples. Seems simple enough, yes? 

My list said : 
94% fat free popcorn - 3 pack Pop Secret or similar 
(3) apples honeycrisp, gala or fuji 

Do you know what I had delivered to my room? 9 apples (3 of each type) and a note saying "sorry neither of those brands of popcorn at store"

"Similar" is apparently a brand now. Haha. I knew there was no way I'd be able to eat 9 apples before they all went bad, so I immediately started thinking of some recipes I could make on my weekend back at home. In the end, I opted to make applesauce. Which I then used in this recipe. 



Banana Applesauce Oatmeal Bread
Servings: 1 loaf

Ingredients:
    • 2 very ripe medium bananas, mashed
    • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk 
    • 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
    • 1 egg*
    • 2 tbsp. honey* 
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 
    • 1 cup rolled oats + 1 tbsp. 
    • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon 
    • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. 
2. Mash the bananas in a medium bowl, then stir in milk, applesauce, egg, honey and vanilla until combined. 
3. In a large bowl, combine flour, 1 cup oats, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir together until no lumps remain. 
4. Pour into the prepared pan, sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of rolled oats and bake for 65-70 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Wrap bread tightly to keep in moisture. *For vegan: egg can be left out and honey can be substituted with agave.*



I actually doubled the recipe and made two loaves of this. You'd honestly have no idea how healthy this bread is if someone didn't tell you. I had Tom take the other loaf into work and once they found out it contained minimal processed sugars and was healthy it disappeared in minutes. It comes in right around 130 calories per slice. 


Weekly Menu 1/19 - 1/23

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Hi there! I've been a bad blogger lately. I've been traveling for work and didn't need to create a meal plan for the last week. With spotty hotel internet access, it's been impossible to do my usual social media blog updates in the morning so I feel as though I've abandoned you all a bit.

Traveling for work, when it's not something you're used to, really messes with your head. Or at least it does to mine. Meal planning this morning took forever. Getting back into a cleaning routine also threw me for a loop. I'm feeling very disorganized right now.

Hopefully these feelings go away soon!

Anyway, here's what I'm planning for this week:

Sunday - orange-glazed turkey breast with cranberry rice and roasted green beans 

Monday - country beef and vegetable soup 

Tuesday - huli huli chicken over brown rice with spicy green beans 

Wednesday - beef and mushroom stroganoff

Thursday - taco bread

I'm hoping not to freeze to death by having smoothies for breakfast. I'm also making healthy muffins just in case its too cold for the smoothies. Lunch will be black bean burgers and cucumber salad.


Improv Challenge: Lighter Roasted Red Pepper Dip

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The ingredients for the Improv Challenge this month were cheese and crackers. My initial plan was to make my own crackers and then a dip involving cheese to combine them together. However, time ran out and as I figured a cheesy dip and store-bought crackers would just be the way to go.

But I definitely plan on making some homemade crackers soon. And maybe a new dip recipe to go with it. What do you think?

I chose this roasted red pepper dip mainly because I had all of the ingredients on hand and I was curious to see if I could lighten it up a bit.



{Lighter} Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Source: Mom on Time Out
Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. jarred roasted red peppers 
    • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 4 tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
    • 1 tbsp. fat-free mayo 
    • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
    • 2 cups reduced-fat shredded Italian blend cheese 
    • 1 tbsp. fresh grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 tsp. onion powder
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • crackers, for serving 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Drain the liquid from the red peppers and pat dry with a paper towel. Dice into small pieces.
3. In a bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients until combined, then stir in the roasted red pepper.
4. Transfer to an oven-safe baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until melted and lightly browned. Serve with crackers.



For such an easy recipe, this dip packs in a lot of flavor. I definitely plan on making this the next time we have people over. If you're working on being healthier, you could just as easily serve this dip with cut veggies instead of crackers.


Drunken Italian Noodles

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I'd been saving this recipe until we made a trip to Wegman's because it is the only grocery store around here that actually sells papparadelle pasta, but then I was slowly wandering down the aisles of our local store and found a bag of pasta called "homewide wide ribbons" on the top shelf of the pasta aisle. 

I'm not sure what's wrong with calling it papparadelle, but it sure looked like it so I grabbed the bag and immediately changed up the menu for the week in order to include this menu. It actually turned out pretty well as the sausage was on sale for half price and the I had a coupon for a 3 pack of peppers! 

Drunken Italian Noodles
Source: The Cozy Apron
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. papparadelle pasta
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 4 spicy Italian sausage links, casings removed
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
    • 1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
    • 1 orange pepper, thinly sliced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning 
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine
    • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
    • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
    • 2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
    • salt and pepper
Directions:
1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage, and cook until browned and crumbled. Transfer to a bowl.
3. Add the onions and bell peppers to the skillet and allow to cook until softened. Add extra olive oil if necessary. Then add in the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Stir in the Italian seasoning.
4. Add the white wine and stir. Once the wine has reduced by half add in the diced tomatoes and return the sausage crumbles to the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then season with salt and pepper.
5. Stir the cooked pasta into the skillet and toss to coat. Divide among four bowls and top with the fresh parsley and basil.



I'm not a huge fan of sausage and I really enjoyed this recipe. It was spicy from the sausage, sweet from the bell peppers and savory from the tomatoes, wine and seasonings. Surprisingly Tom wasn't a fan of this recipe, which makes no sense because he's had similar ones he's enjoyed.



Parmesan Thyme Crackers

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It's been almost four years since I received Ina Garten's cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. One of the first things I did was put a sticky note on each recipe that I wanted to make. One of the first recipes in the cookbook are these parmesan thyme crackers.

I actually made these years ago, but they didn't turn out nice enough to blog so I left the sticky note on that page, knowing that one day I'd come back to the recipe and hopefully make ones that were pretty enough to share with you.


While still not perfectly round, I think I did okay. Thoughts?


Parmesan-Thyme Crackers
Source: Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics
Servings: 20 crackers
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Ingredients:
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 3 oz. fresh grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
    • 1/2 tsp. black pepper 
Directions:
1. Add butter to the bowl of your stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until light and creamy.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and beat to fully combine.
3. Scrape the mixture onto a lightly floured board and roll into a 13-inch log. Tightly wrap the log in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden.
4. Preheat the oven to 350.
5. Slice into 1/2-inch rounds and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 11 minutes then flip the crackers over and bake for another 11 minutes, or until lightly golden on both sides.


I had these out with different types of cheese, veggies and grapes. They are a flaky crumbly cracker and not like what you'd get from a grocery store. The thyme flavor is mild, but comes through nicely. 

Recipe Swap: Salted Fudge Brownies

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There are thousands of brownie recipes out there. 


But then, 


there are THESE BROWNIES.



These Salted Fudge Brownies are unlike any brownie you will have enter encountered in your life. They will blow all of the other brownies out of the water.

Dense. 

Rich.

Fudgy.

Salty.

Sweet. 

Mind-blowing. 

Addictive. 

You NEED these brownies in your life. Today. Right now. GO! I'm telling you, you are seriously going to regret it if you don't make these brownies right.this.second! 



Salted Fudge Brownies
Servings: 16 brownies

Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
    • 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup brown sugar 
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla 
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp. sea salt 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line an 8x8 square baking pan with foil, then spray with non-stick cooking spray. 
2. In a large saucepan, add the butter and chopped chocolate and melt over low heat, stirring occasionally. Once fully melted, remove from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until fully incorporated. 
3. Repeat with each remaining ingredient (except for the salt), making sure it is completely mixed in before adding the next one. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. 
4. Sprinkle the salt on top of the brownie batter. 
5. Bake for 35 minutes or until the center is slightly gooey. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 more hour. 
6. Cut into 16 squares and serve. 

I made this recipe as part of the Holiday Cooking/Baking Recipe Swap. I was assigned to our host Sarah's blog,  A Taste of Home Cooking. Sarah will tell you she is definitely not a baker, so when I saw that even she was tempted enough to make them, I knew they had to be incredible. And really, that is like the understatement of the century. These brownies are so far above incredible that you can't even see "incredible" on the same chart. 



I had Tom try one and even he was completely impressed saying he'd never had a brownie as fudgy and rich as this one. 

Now, if you actually have more willpower than me, Sarah says you can freeze this brownies for up to a month. I really should try this. But good luck not eating them all first. 


Honey Chipotle Turkey Meatballs

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After finally going through our entire stash of freezer meals and then some extra meals I'd made along the way, I knew I needed to spend a weekend in the kitchen restocking the freezer.

One of the meals from the first batch of freezer meals were these honey chipotle meatballs. Ground turkey was on sale and I had already made burgers with that and beef and needed something else to do with the remaining two pounds. I had saved this recipe for quite some time and thought that it'd be a perfect freezer meal, especially one on a night that was still busy. 



Honey Chipotle Turkey Meatballs
Source: Fake Ginger
Servings: 32 meatballs

Ingredients:
    • 2 pounds lean ground turkey 
    • 1 yellow onion, minced
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/3 cup honey
    • 2-3 chiles in adobo sauce, chopped 
    • salt and pepper 
    Sauce:
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 2 chiles in adobo sauce
    • 6 tsp. cider vinegar
Directions:
1. In a large bowl mix together ingredients for meatballs. Form into 32 golf ball sized meatballs. 
To Freeze: place meatballs on parchment-lined baking sheets and freeze for 1 hour, then transfer to zip-top bags or air-tight containers and freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, allow to thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight. 
Sauce: combine sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Brush over meatballs before baking. 
To Bake: Preheat the oven to 375. Place a wire rack on top of a baking sheet lined with foil. Spray the rack with non-stick cooking spray. Place the meatballs on the rack and bake for 15-18 minutes or until cooked through.



I opted to add some of the honey and chipotle into the meatballs instead of just incorporating it into a glaze to go over them. The flavors came through nicely, even after freezing and were a nice spicy kick. These will definitely be repeated on my freezer meal rotation. 

Alton's Baked Macaroni and Cheese

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While watching the Thanksgiving Live special on Food Network, I found out that the recipe for macaroni and cheese most popular on the site was none other than Alton Brown's. I have made Alton's recipes before but I shied away from his mac and cheese because of the addition of an egg. Eggs in macaroni and cheese just do not process in my head, but if tons and tons of people were trying out the recipe, I wasn't about to be left in the dust.


Alton's Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Source: Alton Brown
Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:
    • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 3 tbsp. all purpose flour
    • 1 tbsp. dry mustard
    • 3 cups milk 
    • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1/2 tsp. paprika
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • black pepper 
Toppings:
    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly butter a 9x13 baking dish.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until al dente.
3. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and dry mustard and continue to whisk for 5 minutes.
4. Slowly pour in a small amount of the milk and whisk until no lumps remain. Continue whisking while pouring in the rest of the milk. Stir in the onion, bay leaf and paprika.
5. Allow to summer for 10 minutes, then discard the bay leaf.
6. Slowly pour in the egg, while whisking so the egg doesn't become scrambled. Then stir in 3/4 of the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.
7. Stir the macaroni noodles into the cheese sauce and transfer into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese.
8. Melt the butter for the topping and then stir in the bread crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over the macaroni.
9. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.


I think the egg just made this version of macaroni and cheese a little bit creamier than a non-egg variety. I did really like this version, especially the addition of the bay leaf and paprika, but I think I had a particularly pungent onion, as even through the cooking and baking, it still left a strong enough taste throughout the dish. 

Quick and Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

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Nothing is more comforting than a big bowl of chicken noodle soup on a cold winter's day. I have a few varieties of chicken soup that I'll make, some with rice instead of noodles, some veggies other than then classic carrots, onion and celery, but this is my most used recipe just because of how simple it is to make and the fact that it makes 8-10 servings meaning you easily have some left over to freeze for another time.



Quick and Easy Chicken Noodle Soup
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 8-10
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Ingredients:
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 4 carrots, peeled and coined
    • 4 celery stalks, diced
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed and shredded 
    • 32 oz. carton low-sodium chicken broth 
    • 1 cup water 
    • 1 tbsp. rotisserie chicken seasoning
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1 tsp. parsley 
    • 1 bay leaf
    • salt and pepper, to taste
    • 1 package egg noodles, cooked
Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery and onions and cook for  10 minutes or until vegetables are softened.
2. Add shredded rotisserie chicken, chicken broth, water, rotisserie chicken seasoning, garlic powder, parsley and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
3. Simmer for 30 minutes but up to 2 hours. Add additional water/broth if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Ladle chicken soup into bowls and divide egg noodles among bowls. Stir to combine.



I love how quickly this soup comes together. You can easily have your youngin's help out by picking the meat off the chicken while you chop up the vegetables and get them cooking in the olive oil. One of the other great things about this soup is how wonderful it makes your house smell. Like homey-ness and comfort.

Weekly Menu 1/5 - 1/9

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BRRRR! 2014 has definitely came in with the winter weather we haven't had in this area in a long time. It's supposed to be the worst winter we've had in a while. 5 years to be exact, because Maryland has a trend of every 5 years we get a horrendous winter.

5 days into the new year and we already have snow and ice and temperatures that make me want to pack up and move south. Permanently. It snowed Thursday evening into Friday and my venture to the grocery store yesterday proved that the side roads still aren't really clear. The salt they've put down is kind of useless since it's eyelash-freezingly cold out there. And that's not even the worst of it.

Monday we're expected to reach a high of 45 with rain all day. Except, Monday's low temperature? 4 degrees. Then Tuesday will have a whopping high of 17 and a low of 3.

My aunt and cousin are driving down next weekend to go visit my aunt who lives in Florida. (Where we stayed in April) I am seriously considering hitching a ride and not coming back until it's warm here.

I figured since it's the beginning of the new year and everyone is all "I'm going to lose weight and eat all the healthy things!" that I should be the outsider who doesn't make many changes to the menu. My breakfast and lunch are going to be healthy. Dinner, not so much.

Sunday - Maryland crab soup with bread

Monday - brown sugar meatballs, baked beans, sauteed green beans

Tuesday - waffles and fruit 

Wednesday - honey-sesame chicken over rice, sweet and spicy green beans 

Thursday - sloppy joes with garlic-chive fries 

Breakfast is fruited bran muffins and, if I can stand it after exercising, smoothies. Lunch is black bean burgers

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Crunch Muffins

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Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Crunch Muffins 
Source: Nosh My Way
Servings: 12

Ingredients:
    • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
    • 1/3 cup canola oil
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup light sour cream
    • 2 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Cinnamon Streusel:
    • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 3 tbsp. butter, softened 
    • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin pan with liners. 
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. 
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, canola oil and sugar together. Beat on low speed then add in eggs one at a time, followed by the sour cream and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture until fully combined. Use a wooden spoon to stir in chocolate chips. 
4. Prepare the streusel by combining the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon together. Use a fork to cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles wet sand. 
5. Fill each muffin tin halfway with the muffin batter then sprinkle with the streusel. Add more batter to fill each muffin cup 3/4 of the way then top with more streusel.
6. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.  



Garlic Herb Pork Tenderloin

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Garlic Herb Pork
Source: Once a Month Mom
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
    • 1 tsp. sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
    • 2 lbs. pork tenderloin, trimmed
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
Directions:
1. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the olive oil with the garlic, fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Rub over the pork.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in an oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat,
3. Add the pork to the skillet and brown on all sides, then place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning the pork over every 5 minutes.
4. Remove the pork from the oven and allow to rest, tented with foil for 5 minutes before slicing.

To Freeze: After step 1, place the tenderloin in a gallon sized bag and freeze. To cook, thaw completely in the refrigerator then start at step 2.


It doesn't get much easier than that does it? This is a great freezer meal to make since it only takes a few minutes to prepare and then just a little over 30 minutes to cook! I served this with some simple baked potatoes and sauteed vegetables. 

Herbed Cheese Souffle

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Happy New Year! I hope you had a great time ringing in the new year last night. We're rather boring people and opted to just stay in and watch tv instead of getting all dolled up and braving the cold weather and drunk people. I did opt to doll myself up a bit by wearing a sparkly tank top. Fancy, I know.

Assuming you're off work and home today, I'm guessing you're looking for something to eat to possibly sop up that alcohol from last night. May I just suggest...






Souffle.

Like risotto, souffles sit up there on the intimidating-to-many food list. Risotto requires attention, stirring and patience. Souffle requires the egg whites to be fluffy enough to cause the mixture to rise.

One of my favorite things about cooking and baking is taking recipes like these and sharing them with you. Why? Well because I have no culinary training what so ever. I am a home cook in the simplest of the sense and if I can get creamy risotto and a souffle that didn't deflate, I feel like its much more believable that you can as well. Recipes are only as hard as you make them and I feel the need to put that out into the blog-o-pshere every once in a while to remind people that you, yes YOU can also make that recipe that intimidates you.

Anyway, I was getting bored of the chicken-beef-shellfish-meatless routine of dinner that I typically follow every week and wanted something a little more interesting. My breakfast board on Pinterest is sadly underused as I don't have time for a sit-down breakfast during the week and Tom isn't a breakfast person in the morning, so the weekends are lost as well. This only leaves a breakfast for dinner option, which I gladly take advantage of whenever the opportunity presents itself.



Herbed Cheese Souffle
Source: Chocolate, Chocolate and More
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 2 tbsp. green onions, finely chopped
    • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 6 tbsp. all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. salt 
    • 1 1/2 cups milk 
    • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
    • splash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Texas Pete's
    • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    • 6 eggs, separated 
    • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced 
    • 1 tsp. marjoram 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray 6 one-cup ramekins with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add in the green onions and cook until tender. Whisk in the flour and salt and continue whisking until the mixture begins to bubble.
3. Slowly drizzle in about 1/2 cup of milk, whisking constantly. Once the milk is incorporated into the mixture, slowly pour in the remaining milk, continuing to constantly whisk. Whisk until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble.
4. Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded cheese, mustard and hot sauce. Then stir in the parsley and marjoram.
5. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks, then slowly stir into the cheese mixture until they are fully combined.
6. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on high until stiff peaks form. Fold into the cheese mixture until no streaks form.
7. Divide the mixture between the prepared ramekins and place ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown on top.



This was only the second savory souffle I've had and the first one I made. These were so tasty. Perfectly light, fluffy and eggy! If these didn't take so long to bake, I'd make them on a much more regular basis!

And if you're looking for dinner options for tonight, don't forget about Tom's family tradition of pork and sauerkraut in the crock pot. I'm serving ours today with mashed potatoes and corn. 
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