Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ham and Swiss Sliders

Knowing that we would have a lot of leftover ham from Christmas dinner, I searched for some recipes that would let us use up the ham without getting bored.  One of the first recipes that I ran across was this recipe for ham sliders.  This recipe used up two of our leftovers: rolls and ham.  We also at leftovers sides with it, so it was a good meal to clean out some of the extras.

Ham and Cheese Sliders
slightly adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything
4 Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
6 slices honey ham, halved
2 slices baby swiss cheese, quartered
1/3 cup mayonnaise

Poppy seed sauce (you probably could half this...I had plenty extra)
1 Tablespoon poppyseeds
1 1/2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tablespoon minced onion

1) Spread mayonnaise onto both sides of the center of each roll. Place a quarter of Swiss on each side of the roll, and put three of the ham halves in the center. Close rolls and place them into a large baking dish or heavy cookie sheet. Place very close together.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the poppy seed sauce ingredients. Pour evenly over all of the sandwiches. You do not have to use all of the sauce! Just use enough to cover the tops. Let sit 10 minutes or until butter sets slightly.

3) Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Uncover and cook for 2 additional minutes or until tops are slightly brown and crispy. Serve warm.

These sandwiches were awesome.  They were a little bit messy, but so good that you didn't mind licking your fingers using your napkin afterwards.  We didn't have Miracle Whip, so just used mayo, and the flavor was subtle but still there.  The two pieces of swiss provided flavor, but since it was baby swiss, the swiss cheese was less pronounced.  The sauce was what made the whole thing.  The buttery, mustard sauce just tied everything together.  Jacob happily downed three of these and considered making more, but decided to make them the next day for lunch.  He loved them and hopefully this recipe will wipe out the extra ham that we have in the house.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cherry topped New York Cheesecake

Since I started cooking, I have only attempted one cheesecake.  I was talking to some friends that were coming over for Christmas dinner and I was talking about possibly making cheesecake for dessert instead of pies.  They seemed to jump on that idea, so I decided I would attempt another cheesecake.

Cherry topped New York Cheesecake
from Keebler
2 cups Keebler Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

4 packages cream cheese (8 oz), softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream 
1 can cherry pie filling 

*make sure all ingredients are room temperature
1)  In small bowl toss together graham crumbs, margarine or butter and 2 tablespoons sugar. Reserve 2 tablespoons of crumb mixture for garnish. Press remaining crumb mixture onto bottom and 2 1/4-inches up sides of 9-inch springform pan. Chill in freezer while preparing filling.
2)  In large mixing bowl beat cream cheese on medium speed of electric mixer until fluffy. Add 1 1/3 cups sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. Beat until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition. Stir in sour cream.
3) Pour into crust. Bake at 325°F about 1 1/4 hours or until center is almost set. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Loosen sides of pan. Continue cooling on wire rack for 45 minutes more.
4)  Refrigerate at least 3 hours. Garnish as desired with cherry pie filling. Store in refrigerator. 

The second that the plates had been cleared from dinner, someone said,"Cheesecake?".  We all laughed and pulled it out.  This cheesecake got rave reviews from my friends.  It was creamy and had great flavor.  I loved the cherries, but I love cherries on everything.  This would also be amazing just plain.  I ended up covering mine because of a huge crack down the center.  I researched what happened and everything I read said your ingredients have to be at room temperature, which mine all were, so if you aren't going to top the cheesecake, research ways to keep it from cracking.  I'm thinking cheesecake may start to be a Christmas tradition, as I had fun making a dessert I normally don't make.  The only sad thing was this was the main thing people wanted to take home for leftovers, so I only have two small pieces left.

Horseradish Crusted Filets

When I received the recipe for the Special Occasion Recipe Swap, I was pretty excited.  I had all the ingredients at my house already.

I can't eat a lot of spices, so I swapped the steak seasoning for a little bit of ranch and dried minced onion.  The horseradish creates most of the flavor in this dish though, so you really could use almost any seasonings on your filet.

Horseradish Crusted Filet
slightly adapted from  The Jey of Cooking
2 Filet Mignons (we used Turkey Mignons intead)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ranch seasoning
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons horseradish
1/4 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese

1) Remove filets from refrigerator about a half hour prior to cooking to allow the meat to reach room temperature. 
2) Season filets on all sides with steakhouse seasoning or salt and pepper, to taste.
3) Heat a seasoned cast iron pan over high heat.
4) In a medium bowl, cream the butter with a wooden spoon.  Add the horseradish, Parmesan, and panko and mix to combine.  Set bowl in the fridge for 5 minutes to stiffen.
5) Preheat broiler or turn oven to its highest setting.
6) Add the filets to the skillet and sear for 2-3 minutes.  Flip and sear for another 3-4 minutes for medium rare. 
7) Top each steak with the horseradish mixture and place pan under the broiler/in the oven until the crust is golden brown.

(I baked mine and broiled it at the end, but still left the original instructions)

I can't wait for the sun to be up again, so I can get better pictures of how the food turned out.  These filets turned out nicely.  Our turkey filets are wrapped in bacon, and putting them under the broiler made the bacon crispy.  I would use a little less horseradish next time and not put that in the mixture.  I'd spread the horseradish along the top of the filet and then spread the panko and butter mixture over that.   Our horseradish mixture was just uneven, and we ended up with big chunks of horseradish in one bite and none in the next.  This is a great special occasion meal though and I'd gladly make it again on Valentine's Day or anniversary.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dijon and Horseradish Crusted Tilapia

I usually think of horseradish as an ingredient to be used with beef, so I was quite surprised when I was meal planning and ran across this recipe for tilapia that uses horseradish.  We've used dijon on fish many times, so I knew that flavor would work out fine, but I was intrigued how this would taste since horseradish has such a strong flavor and tilapia is mild.  

The result: amazing.

Dijon Crusted Tilapia
slightly adapted from Taste of Home 
3 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise 
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided 
1 tablespoon lemon juice 
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
1 teaspoon horseradish 
4 tilapia fillets (5 ounces each) 
1/4 cup Panko  
2 teaspoons butter, melted

1) In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon cheese, lemon juice, mustard and horseradish. Place fillets on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Spread mayonnaise mixture evenly over fillets.
2) In a small bowl, combine the panko, butter and remaining cheese; sprinkle over fillets.
3) Bake at 425° for 13-18 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

I talked about this piece of fish the entire time that I was eating it.  The ingredients made for a mouth-watering piece of fish that made you want seconds the second you stopped eating it.  The horseradish wasn't overwhelming, as it was balanced by the creaminess of the mayonnaise.   The fish was perfectly cooked at 18 minutes and was the most flaky fish that I have made to date.  This fish was easy to make and only 214 calories per piece of fish.  Highly recommended meal.

Chicken with Cider and Bacon Sauce

We very rarely eat a whole chicken breast in a meal.  I usually cut it up in chunks, or hide it in an enchilada or something equally as good.

Last week when meal planning, I felt like making a meal with an entire chicken breast.  My fear is that they will usually turn out dry (even if I use a temperature gauge on them), but this one turned out really good, plus it got good reviews from my husband.

Chicken with Cider and Bacon Sauce
adapted from MyRecipes
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves  

1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper  
2 bacon slices, chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh onion
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

  1. Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano.
  2. Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan. Add chicken to drippings in pan; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.
  3. Add onion to pan; cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring constantly. Add cider and broth; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until broth mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes). Stir in cooked bacon; serve sauce over chicken.
My husband loved this dish.  He loved the apple cider vinegar flavors in the sauce and how that played with the spices on the chicken.  The chicken was nice and moist and went really well with the rice.  This meal was gone within a day, and my husband usually doesn't eat a lot of leftovers.   I played around with the spices, because on, a lot of complaints were that the chicken didn't have much flavor.  I also didn't read the recipe carefully enough and thought it called for apple cider vinegar instead of regular apple cider.  I think everything turned out great, but there is still a lot of room to play with the spice combinations.  I also wished that there would have been about an extra 1/4 cup of the sauce, it was good, but absorbed into the rice, so some bites you wanted more sauce on your chicken.

We served ours over Uncle Ben's Long Grain Rice.  This dish (without the rice) registers in at 269 calories per serving.


Steak Taco Salads

When menu planning for meals around Christmas, I was looking for things that were simple.  Tasty meals that would come together without much effort.

I ran across this recipe for Taco Salads that I thought sounded good, and getting the taco salad ingredients took about ten minutes to chop and dice, so dinner was on the table in no time.  This recipe resulted in one of the most flavorful taco salads that have ever crossed my table.

Steak Taco Salads
slightly adapted from For the Love of Cooking (individual links to each recipe below)
Marinade for steak
1 1/2 - 2 lbs of flank steak
1/3 cup vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
2 limes, juiced
4-5 cloves garlic minced

1) Combine all ingredients and mix really well.  Let steak marinate between 6 and 24 hours. 

Taco Salad
Flour tortilla, baked into a bowl
Flank steak, marinated for at least 6 hours 
Lettuce, chopped
Black beans, rinsed, drained and warmed
100 calorie snack packs of guacamole (my avacado didn't end up being good)
Cherry tomatoes, diced
Black olives, sliced
Red onion, diced
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Green onions, diced
cheese, grated
Sour cream

1) Drape a foil square over the top of each can.
2) Fill a pizza pan or another rimmed container with about 1/2 inch of warm water and add 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil.
3) Quickly immerse a tortilla in water and then lift out and drape over the foil on the empty food can.
4)  Bake the shell in a preheated 450 degree oven until they're light brown and firm, about 10 minutes.
5)  Carefully lift the shells off the cans and flip them over so that they brown the part that was on the can.  Bake for 1-2 more minutes.
7) Grill or broil your steak until it reaches desired temperature.
6) Layer all the taco salad ingredients in the tortilla and enjoy.

I liked all of the flavors of the taco salad.  Each individual ingredient contributed some sort of flavor profile to the taco salad.  There are a lot of ingredients, but it is definitely worth it for this Taco Salad.  The meat was juicy and flavorful.  The only thing that I didn't like about this recipe was how prominent the soy sauce was in the marinade.  I would reduce the amount of soy sauce by quite a bit.  The soy sauce flavor just confused my taste buds because it seemed like a Mexican food recipe, but I kept tasting soy sauce.  Other than that one item, everything tasted fantastic.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Orange Chicken

I have a soft spot for Americanized Chinese food.  When I was in college, they opened up a Panda Express in our student union.  I used to try to convince people to go with me to get Chinese food all the time because I loved their Panda Bowls with Orange Chicken and Fried Rice.

After college, I moved away from Panda Express to a town that didn't have one.  Recently, they started building one right outside our WalMart though, and as I watch it get built, the more I crave my favorite meal.  It still isn't meant to be opened for at least another month, and I was getting impatient, so I decided to try to make a copycat version.

Slow Cooker Orange Chicken
from Six Sisters' Stuff
3/4 lb of chicken breasts, cubed
1/3 cup flour
olive oil
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons ketchup
6 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate (thaw or throw it in the microwave for 45 seconds)
4 tablespoons brown sugar

1) In a bowl, mix the orange juice, brown sugar, vinegar, salt, and ketchup.
2) Pour the flour in a small bowl.  Cover the chicken breast chunks in flour and shake off the excess.
3) Pour a small amount of olive oil in a skillet and brown the flour-covered chicken. The chicken doesn't need to be fully cooked since it's going in the crock pot.
4) After the chicken is done cooking, pour the pieces into the crock pot. Then cover the chicken with your sauce mixture and give the pot a stir.
5) Cook on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 2-3.

This dish has a lot of sugar in it, so it is quite sweet.  The orange flavor was good, and prominent, but I think the sweetness from the orange juice made this dish overly sweet.  I only made it through half my dish and I couldn't eat anymore.  I think that I would reduce the amount of sugar and add some additional ketchup in this recipe.  It is a good recipe that just needs a few adjustments to be great.  I can't wait until I can get the real thing at our new Panda Express.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cabbage Burgers

At my office, there is a little cafe on the first floor that serves cabbage burgers probably once every two weeks.  I thought it was just hamburger meat cooked in a cabbage leaf.  However, she charges almost eight dollars for the burger, a bag of chips, and a can of soda, so I decided that I would look up the recipe and see what made them so expensive.  What I found is that these were nothing like what I thought they were, and I could make them for super cheap.

Cabbage burgers are essentially cabbage and hamburger meat cooked together and baked in a dough that makes this pillowy pocket that is super easy to eat.  If you did mini ones, they would make a great party appetizer just because all the ingredients are contained in the dough. 

Cabbage Burgers
slightly adapted from Allrecipes
yields 4 cabbage burgers
1 batch of pizza dough
1 pound ground beef (I used ground turkey)
2-3/4 teaspoons water
1/4 large head cabbage, chopped
1/4 large onion, chopped
1/2 clove garlic, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 slices Swiss cheese

1)  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2)  Divide  dough into 4 pieces, and roll into balls. Set aside. 
3)  Cook the ground beef in a large pot over medium heat. Cook and stir until evenly browned. Drain off grease. 
4)  Add the water, cabbage, onion, and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring as needed, until the cabbage is soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain off any excess liquids, and set aside. 
5)  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough balls into squares. Place about 1/4 of the cabbage burger mixture into the center, top with cheese, fold the dough over, and pinch to seal. Place on a baking sheet with the seam side down. 
6) Bake for 15 to 18 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and brush with melted butter. Serve hot.

I thought these were very good.  I think the next time I make them with turkey, I need to season them a little stronger since ground turkey needs a little more spices to make it as flavorful as ground beef.  The cheese is melted in the dough and just oozes out of the burger pocket when you bite into it.  I think this is a very good recipe, and it is much cheaper to make at home than to buy from the little cafe.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

White Chocolate Dipped Spice Cookies

For the Christmas cookie Recipe Swap, I was given Spice Cookies from Cookies on Friday.   

Spice cookies were my grandpa's favorite cookie.  He put molasses in them though, and I remember as a little kid making them with him. It has been so long since I've had one however, that I didn't remember what they were like.

White Chocolate Dipped Spice Cookies
slightly adapted from Cookies on Friday
yields 24 tiny gingerbread men shaped cookies
Spice Cookies
2 cups flour
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (I didn't have allspice in my spice cabinet)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, at room temperature, cut into slices
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

White Chocolate Dip
6 ounces white chocolate chips
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening

1) In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, ginger, pepper, baking soda, cocoa powder, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Process to blend.
2) Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.
3) In a small bowl, mix vanilla, lemon peel, and 1 tablespoon water. Add to food processor; process until dough forms a ball.
4) Divide dough in half. Roll out each portion between sheets of waxed paper to about 1/4 inch thick. Stack and chill rolled dough until firm, about 45 minutes (or longer).
5)  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut out cookies with a 2-inch round cutter. Place 1/2 inch apart on silicone mat-lined baking sheets. Bake until pale brown, about 12-15 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool completely.
6) Melt white chocolate and shortening in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
7) Dip each cookie halfway into white chocolate mixture, then place on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. If desired, drizzle undipped half of cookie with more white chocolate mixture.

I have to say that this is one busy tasting cookie.  In each bite, it is hard to discern what you are actually tasting.  I didn't mind this cookie, but it isn't my favorite cookie.  I really liked the plain spice cookie better than the cookie with the chocolate dip on it.  I think the shortening overwhelms the amount of chocolate and it just ends up muting the spices within the cookie. 

This cookie takes a long time to make if you're doing it in one evening.  I started mine at 6:15 in the evening and didn't finish until a little after 9 at night.  Between making the dough, letting it chill in the fridge, cooking the cookies, cooling them, and then dipping, it just makes for a long process.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mexican Stuffed Shells

I realized the other day that I am making recipes from the same people over and over again.  While I love the food from those sites and almost everything I have tried has been awesome, it definitely pays to stray from the normal.

I ran across this recipe while I was looking for something new.  I have to admit that the pasta shells with Mexican flavors sounded interesting, but also didn't sound like they would work.  However, since we eat a lot of Mexican flavors, I decided to throw it into the meal plan.

Mexican Stuffed Shells
slightly adapted from The Way to His Heart...
1 lb. ground turkey
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon cilantro
4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
14-16 jumbo pasta shells
2 cups salsa
1.5 cups taco sauce
2 cup monterey jack cheese
3 green onions

1) Preheat oven to 350°.
2) In a frying pan cook ground turkey; add taco seasoning and cook until you no longer see any pink sections in the meat. 
3) Add cream cheese, cover and simmer until all the cream cheese is melted. Blend well. Set aside and cool completely. 
4) While ground beef is cooking, cook the pasta shells according to directions; drain. Set shells out individually on cutting board/baking sheet so that they don’t stick together.
5) Pour salsa on bottom of 9×13 baking dish.  Stuff each shell with the meat mixture. Place shells in 9×13 pan open side up. Cover shells with taco sauce. 
6) Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
7) After 30 minutes, add shredded cheese and bake for 10-15 more minutes, with the foil removed. 

Top with any condiments you’d like (green onions, black olives, etc.) Serve with sour cream and/or more salsa.

The result was very good.  The flavors were interesting, but they went together very well. The taco sauce was the main player in the sauce department, and had a lot of flavor.  We used both Taco Bell salsa and Taco Bell Sauce so they complimented each other well.  The inside was creamy and provided a lot of flavor.  I loved the green onions with this dish and went back and added more.  The onion added crunch and an extra pop of flavor in each bite.  This meal was a great addition to our meal plan.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Maple Dijon Salmon

I have started spending a lot of time looking at the Secret Recipe Club swaps and found this recipe listed under the reveals the other day.  My husband and I have a recipe that is pretty similar to this that we absolutely love, but in the interest of trying new things, I put it on our menu.

Maple Dijon Salmon
recipe from Sustainable Cooking for One
2 Salmon Filets
1 tablespoon Spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
small clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried marjoram

1)  Preheat oven to 400 F.
2)  Mix the mustards, maple syrup, garlic, and marjoram in small bowl.
3)  Place the salmon skin side down on a shallow pan covered in foil. Coat the top of the salmon in the mustard sauce, and bake for 15 minutes (adjust according to the thickness of your salmon fillets).

This dish was great.  I loved the two different mustard flavors in the sauce.  I don't know what grade of syrup we used, but it gave it just a hint of that maple flavor and the sweetness to cut through the mustard.  Before I sat down to start eating, Jacob declared this dish amazing, and I agree.  It is simple, but packs a lot of flavor.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Monte Cristos

My husband rarely requests meals.  He usually just says, "I'll eat whatever you make," so I was surprised when he asked for Monte Cristos last week.

We got a fryer for our wedding that has been sitting in a box for six months and this recipe finally allowed us to get it out and hook it up.  This meal was a team meal with him running the fryer and me doing all the prep work.  It made for a fun evening in the kitchen.

Monte Cristos
slightly adapted from Food Network
8 slices center cut or smoked turkey bacon
4 large eggs, beaten
Warm 1/4 cup fat free half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
8 thick cut sliced 12 grain bread
1/2 cup spicy brown mustard
1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce (optional)
1/2 pound sliced havarti 
1 pound sliced ham
1 pound sliced turkey breast
oil for fryer
toothpicks to hold sandwiches together

1) Preheat deep fryer.
2) Cook bacon and remove to paper towels to drain, 5 minutes. Drain off fat. .
3) Beat eggs with half-and-half, nutmeg and pepper.
4) Assemble sandwiches with mustard, cheese, bacon, and lunch meats. Insert several toothpicks to hold the sandwich together.
5) Dip sandwich in egg mixture.
6) Place in fryer until sandwiches turn a nice brown color. 
7) Top with cranberry sauce. (optional)

We were a little wary of how these sandwiches would turn out since we had never fried anything before but they turned out great.  I put the cranberry sauce only on one slice to try and see how everything worked together.  I loved the spicy brown mustard with the creamy havarti cheese.  The frying created the great textural element to the dish and just tied everything together.  It was a perfect combination of sweet, creamy, and tart.  I also loved how the cranberry sauce and cheese tasted together.  The contrast between the creamy and the tartness of the cranberries was fantastic. This sandwich seems like it has a lot going on, but it all works well together.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chicken and White Bean Enchiladas

This recipe has been on my list of things to make for awhile.  I was intrigued by the beans in the enchiladas because besides refried beans, I hadn't thought of beans and enchiladas really going together.

I also had never made enchiladas without canned sauce.  The recipe that I normally use for enchiladas takes awhile to put together, so making sauce from scratch just seems even more time consuming.  I think that I may start to use this sauce on my go-to enchiladas now.  The sauce is easy and tastes lighter and fresher than the canned stuff does.  Definitely worth the few extra minutes.

Chicken and White Bean Enchiladas
slightly adapted from Skinnytaste
Chicken and White Bean Filling 
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup minced white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chiles
15.5 oz can Navy beans
2 cooked shredded chicken breasts
1/2 can water
1 chicken bullion
1 tsp cumin
1 teas

Green Chile Enchilada Sauce:
1 tsp butter
1/2 cup chopped white onion
2 tbsp flour
1 cup fat free chicken broth
7 oz can chopped green chile
2 jalapeños, chopped
1/2 cup light sour cream 
8 medium low carb tortillas
chopped fresh cilantro and scallions

1) Preheat oven to 375°.
2) For the Filling: In a medium pan, heat olive oil on low. Add onions, garlic and saute until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add green chiles, beans, water, bullion, and cumin. Mix well and cover. Simmer on low 15 minutes. Remove cover, add chicken and cook an additional 5 minutes, or until it thickens and liquid boils down. Set aside.
3) Green Chile Enchilada Sauce: In a large nonstick pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and starts to turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add flour and stir well. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth. Whisk until the sauce becomes smooth. Cook over medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens, about 4-5 minutes. Add green chiles, jalepeños, and salt to tatse. Cook another minute then remove from the heat. Stir in the sour cream.
4) Assembly: Spread about 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish. Fill each tortilla with 1/3 cup of the chicken/white bean filling. Roll the tortillas and place seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Continue filling remainder of the tortillas.
5) Pour the enchilada sauce over the top of the enchiladas. Top with cheese. Cover with aluminum and bake 20-30 minutes, until the enchiladas are hot and the cheese is melted. Remove from oven and top with fresh cilantro or scallions. 

It's a bad picture, but these were fantastic enchiladas.  The beans provide a more substantial filling for these enchiladas.  We usually eat two enchiladas apiece for dinner, and we each only had one of these and were full.  I thought the sauce was great because it didn't drown out the taste of the filling in the enchilada.  These make for a great meal!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mushroom Garlic Sauce

We recently found Turkey Filet Mignon on our Schwan's catalog and decided that they would be a great addition to our menu when we're stressed for meal ideas or time.

I've been trying to find sauces other than A1 or barbeque sauce to put on top of them.  We usually always have mushrooms in the house, so I thought this could become an easy, go-to sauce in our house.

Mushroom Garlic Sauce
adapted from Easy-Wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup dry white wine

1) Heat olive oil in the pan and add garlic . Sauté until the garlic is lightly browned.
2) Add mushrooms and saute for about five minutes until the mushrooms are cooked through and turn a dark brown.
3) Add wine, and cook about ten minutes, stirring frequently until wine reduces a little bit. 

I thought this sauce is a good start for steaks.  I think that it would be better with some freshly chopped rosemary or another kind of herb.  I loved the mushrooms though.  They were wine soaked and exploded with the liquid when you bit into them.  I think that this is a great sauce for steaks with one or two tweaks.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Butterscotch Pumpkin Cupcakes

It was a Thanksgiving Dessert Recipe Swap in honor of Thanksgiving, and I got Pumpkin Cupcakes from Sarah at A Taste of Homecooking.

I love pumpkin.  Love it.  So I was excited that these came my way.  Lately, I've been obsessed with the pumpkin and butterscotch combination.  I also thought about putting regular chocolate chips in there as well because the pumpkin, buttercotch, and chocolate chips seem to be a match made in heaven, but I thought it might overwhelm the cupcake, so left it with just two out of the three awesome ingredients.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
slightly adapted from A Taste of Homecooking
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 can (15 oz.) solid-packed pumpkin (about 1 ¾ cups)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
4 eggs
Cinnamon for dusting the tops of the cupcakes

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with decorative cupcake papers.

1) In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Set aside.
2) In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil.
3) Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition.
4) Add the flour mixture in three additions, stirring with a large wooden spoon until just combined. 5) Add the butterscotch chips and stir until the chips are distributed through the batter. 
6) Fill the muffin tins about three-fourths full. Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
7)Transfer the tins to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the tins and let cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
slightly adapted from A Taste of Homecooking originally from Sherri
4 oz. unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla
5 cups confectioner's sugar (I used 4 cups and still had enough frosting, with desired sweetness for all of the cupcakes)

1) Cream butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add vanilla and beat. Add sugar one cup at a time and continue to beat an additional 5 minutes.
2) Once cupcakes are frosted, sprinkle with a little bit of cinnamon.                            

By the time these cupcakes came out of the oven, everyone in the house was waiting to snatch one from the cooling rack.  The pumpkin smell was just too great to keep our hands off the cupcakes.  The cinnamon on top of the frosting was amazing and added just a little extra spice punch to the cupcake.  The cupcake had amazing pumpkin flavor and every once in awhile you got a surprise butterscotch chip that was like an extra flavor burst.  They were moist and delicious.  I cannot wait for Thanksgiving dessert time to roll around again.

Warning: These cupcakes were so good that I had to take them up to work in order to keep from devouring them all.  They are great "take to the office" treats.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Corn Casserole

I love recipes where you can just throw all the ingredients together and put them in a pan to bake.  Especially for side dishes because it gives you more attention to focus on other the main dish, or cleaning up. 

I love corn and try to incorporate it into at least one meal a week.  This was a great addition to our side dish arsenal. 

Corn Casserole
from Skinnytaste
8.5 oz corn muffin mix
15.25 oz can sweet yellow corn, drained
14.75 oz can sweet corn cream style
16 oz fat free Greek yogurt
1/4 cup melted light butter 
1/2 cup egg whites
cooking spray

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Spread mixture into a greased 9 by 13 pan.
3) Cook 55-60 minutes.

This dish was so moist and flavorful.  I took it to a get together and everyone was surprised at how good it was.  I thought it had a great corn flavor that wasn't diluted by any of the other ingredients. Next time, I think I'll half the recipe since it makes an entire 9 by 13 pan, but it was a great side dish for our get together with friends.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Garlic Rosemary Biscuits

Bread is amazing.  It can soak up the rest of an amazing soup, or be the perfect accompaniment to a piece of meat.  It can be plain, buttered, or topped with garlic.  You name it, bread probably goes with it. 

When I saw these Garlic Rosemary Biscuits, I knew that I had to try them.  I love rosemary and how fragrent of an herb it is.  I figured these biscuits would be a great additon to any meal. 

Plus, they are made using Bisquick, which is good for me since I don't have any biscuit/roll experience.

Garlic Rosemary Biscuits
slightly adapted from Skinnytaste
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon rosemary, plus additional for topping the biscuits
2 cups Heart Smart Bisquick
3 oz shredded parmesan cheese, plus additional for topping the biscuits
2/3 cup milk

1)  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2)  Melt butter in a small pan, add oil and half the garlic; sauté on low heat about 1 minute.
3)  Remove from heat and add chopped rosemary.
4)  In a large bowl, combine biscuit mix, parmesan cheese, and remaining garlic.
5)  Stir in milk and mix (do not over mix).
6)  Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet.

7)  Bake for 10 minutes. Brush or drizzle biscuits with melted butter. Bake for 5 more minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom.
8)  Top with additional rosemary and parmesan cheese.

I love rosemary and garlic together, so of course these were fantastic flavorwise.  However, they were a tad on the dry side for me.  I don't know if that had to do with altitude or if it is just the biscuits themselves.   I think the next time I make them for a meal, I'll try to make adjustments for the altitude and see if that makes a difference. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake

I love cranberries but have never had fresh ones at all.  During the week of Thanksgiving, fresh ones were on sale at our grocery store. I grabbed a bag and planned on using it in something, although I had no idea what.

I was looking for a breakfast idea one morning and ran across Cranberry Coffee Cake.  I found this one on the Smitten Kitchen website and was very happy because I had all of the ingredients.  

So I dove into the recipe and have decided that I'm going to find more recipes to use fresh cranberries in.

Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk

1) Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan. (I used a square one since all our circular ones were being used and it turned out fine).
2) Put sugar into food processor, add vanilla, and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl.
3) Pulse cranberries with 1/2 cup of the vanilla sugar in processor until finely chopped (do not purée).
4) Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.
5) Beat together 1 stick butter and 1 cup vanilla sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down side and bottom of bowl.
6) Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined.
7) Spread half of batter in pan, then spoon cranberries over it, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Spoon small bits of the remaining batter over the top of the cranberries and smooth them with as gentle of a hand as possible.
8) Blend remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar with remaining tablespoon each of butter and flour using your fingertips. Crumble over top of cake.
9) Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake (not into cranberry filling) comes out clean and side begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes.
10) Cool in pan 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, crumb side up

Jacob suggested that next time we use brown sugar as the topping, and I think I'll try that instead.  Flavorwise the topping didn't really do much, but I think the brown sugar might change things up a little bit.  I think that I'd also add even more cranberries than I did.  I think three cups would be great (but then again I love cranberries).  This was a great breakfast, it was a perfect balance of tart and sweet.

Ground Turkey Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes remind me of being a kid again.  When you ate them and the sauce dripped all over you, but you didn't care because it was just that good. 

This recipe for sloppy joes took me right back to my childhood.  They were very saucy and delicious.

Ground Turkey Sloppy Joes
slightly adapted from Allrecipes
1 pound ground turkey breast
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup no-salt-added ketchup
4 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 whole wheat hamburger buns, split

1) In a nonstick skillet, cook the turkey and onion for 5 minutes or until turkey is no longer pink.
2) Add the next seven ingredients; simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3) Serve on toasted buns.               

In this recipe, the flavors developed really quickly.  I didn't think that simmering the wet ingredients together for ten minutes would produce such a finger-licking sauce.  This recipe was amazing and I was really surprised that it is listed as being under 300 calories.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Corn Chowder

Lately it has been chilly in Wyoming.  If it isn't low temperatures, it is the wind is blowing so hard that my ears hurt when I walk the dogs.  I decided that it was time to make soup for lunches at work.  That way I'd have something filling and warm without too much effort.

I don't remember ever having corn chowder, but for some reason making corn chowder sounded really good, so I found this recipe on one of my frequently visited blogs: A Taste of Home Cooking

Corn Chowder
slightly adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking
3 tablespoons butter
1 lb. bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large package frozen corn, thawed
4-1/2 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoon parsley, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup sour cream

1) Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy and brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. 
2) To the remaining bacon fat, add butter, onion and garlic; sauté onion until it is clear. 
3) Whisk in flour, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth. 
4) While stirring, gradually add milk and chicken broth. 
5) Add in potatoes, bacon and corn. Continue to heat over medium to low heat, stirring frequently until chowder has thickened and potatoes are cooked through about 40 minutes. 
5) Remove from heat. Whisk in grated cheese, sour cream, parsley and scallions. Stir until cheese has melted.  

This makes a TON of soup.  I think I'll have about six or seven meals left after I eat it this week for lunches.  I'll have to freeze some of it.  I do love the amount of corn that I get in each bite, and the potatoes make for a filling bowl of soup.  It is perfect for those chilly days.  I do think that next time I'll probably add more onions.  They kind of get lost behind the main players in the soup, and I think that having more might add a little more flavor.  This is an easy soup that is very tasty!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Garlic Lime Marinated Pork Chops

We eat a lot of Mexican food.  It is easy and really satisfying, but sometimes I feel like we eat the same things over and over again: enchiladas, tacos, taco salad.  It was nice to find the lime and garlic flavor on something else for a change.

I found these Garlic Lime Marinated Pork Chops on Skinnytaste.  I have started using this site a lot because it has healthier recipes that are husband approved.  He told me the other day that he's lost weight and hasn't felt cheated on food...which is always a good thing!  Plus he loves pork, so this was a fantastic recipe for us.

Garlic Lime Marinated Pork Chops
slightly adapted from Skinnytaste
4 (6oz each) lean boneless pork chops
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cilantro
1/2 lime, juice of
lime zest
salt and fresh pepper
1) In a large bowl season pork with garlic, cumin, cilantro, salt and pepper. Squeeze lime juice and some zest from the lime and let it marinade at least an hour.
2) Bake about 15 minutes a side on 350 degrees.  Put some of the marinade on the top when baking.

I let our pork marinade for an afternoon while we were busy doing other stuff.  The marinade saturated the pork and made for a delicious piece of meat.  I think that adding the lime zest gave the meat a little extra kick.  This meal is a great way to get the lime and garlic flavor without having to make Mexican food.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

BLT Pizzas

Weekdays are chaotic, and I just have dogs, not kids.  I have the best of intentions to get something fabulous on the table, but some nights it is all I can do to get sandwiches on the table.

I found this recipe and thought it would be super easy to throw together (almost as easy as sandwiches).  I made my own ranch dressing and got the dough for the crusts ready before running to the gym, so everything was super easy to get back together when I got back into the house.

BLT pizzas
adapted from JenniO
12 Turkey Bacon slices
1/3 cup ranch dressing
2 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup lettuce, shredded
1 cup cheese
individual pizza crusts


1) Preheat oven to 450°F.  Bake the crusts alone (if using homemade crusts for about 7 minutes).
2) Cook bacon according to package directions.
3) Spread ranch on each pizza shell. Top with cheese, tomatoes, and cooked bacon slices. Place on baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle with lettuce.

I have to say that the dough, toppings ratio in this pizza were kind of off.  While we were eating, I ripped the crust off the pizza and just ate the topping part.  I thought it was a classic marriage of flavors on a pizza crust.  Definitely an easy meal for a chaotic weeknight.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jalapeno Popper Chicken Rollatini

I saw this recipe initially on Prevention RD.  I thought it sounded interesting, but making pockets in chicken breasts and stuffing them has never been a strong suit of mine, everything always ends in disaster.

I found Chicken Rollatini with Prosciutto and Cheese on the Skinnytaste blog and thought that making a rollatini out of the chicken would be easier than trying to make pockets in the chicken breasts.

I have never used Panko either, so I thought this would be a fun recipe to try, especially since Prevention RD mentioned that Panko gives things the feeling of being fried without actually having to fry the food. 

Jalapeno Popper Chicken
adapted from Prevention RD and A Taste of Homecooking
2 chicken breasts
4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup part-skim shredded Cheddar or Colby cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 jalapenos, chopped (ribs and seeds removed)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup Panko
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
1 egg
1) Pound chicken breasts until about a 1/4 inch thick.  Then cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise, so you have four chicken strips.
2) Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
3) Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add jalapenos and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
4) Mix together cream cheese, shredded cheese, and jalapeno peppers.
5) Mix together bread crumbs, Panko and seasonings on a plate. Whisk egg in a separate bowl.
6) Dip chicken into egg and then into bread crumbs. Repeat with all chicken breasts and place on a baking sheet.
7) Spoon jalapeno mixture onto chicken strips and then roll each piece of chicken into a rollatini.
Bake for 30 minutes. Serve.

I wanted to try out a raspberry sauce, because I love the jalapeno poppers from Arby's.  The more I researched sauces though, the more I thought they sounded too complicated, so I tried something simple. 

For raspberry sauce, put two tablespoons of raspberry jam into a sauce pan on medium heat, and keep it on the heat until the sauce is the desired consistency (about 5 minutes).  If you leave the sauce alone too long, it solidifies into jam again.

My husband didn't want to try the raspberry jam, so he put ranch on his. 

This recipe turned out incredible.  The rollatinis are crunchy from the Panko and have a great outside texture.  The jalapenos are soft from letting them saute in the pan for a few minutes, but they work great inside the cream cheese to add a slight crunch and a bit of heat.  It is seriously everything you love about the bite sized appetizers rolled up in a chicken strip.  I loved the raspberry jam too.  I think it gave it a slight sweetness and the raspberry flavor went great with the filling inside the chicken.  The ranch version was good too, but as you can see from the picture above, my husband kind of drowned his rollatini in ranch, so with the ranch version, you lost a lot of the good base "popper" flavor.  Definitely a keeper!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

I love homemade mashed potatoes.  The chunkier they are, the better because then you know they came from real potatoes.  I watched a Pioneer Woman episode where she made mashed potatoes though, and I almost had a heart attack at how many horrible things she put in hers: tons of butter, cream cheese, and half and half.

I started thinking about sweet potatoes and was wondering if they could have the same comforting quality without two sticks of butter and a package of cream cheese.  I found a great base recipe on Allrecipes and decided to play with them from there.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
adapted from Allrecipes
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar

1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender, 20 to 30 minutes.               
2) With a potato masher, mash potatoes, slowly adding milk. Add butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, and brown sugar to taste.  Mash until smooth. Serve warm.               

I loved these potatoes.  You could still taste the sweet potatoes, but they were enhanced mostly by the maple syrup.  I think these would be a great substitution for mashed potatoes at Thankgiving.  They still have the hearty flavor, but taste like their ingredients, not like butter and cream cheese.  We served this with turkey filet mignions wrapped in turkey bacon to make an every night dinner and it was a fantastic meal.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

BBQ Chicken Burgers

Last week, I was one meal shy of having a complete meal plan when I was reading other people's meal plans online.  Someone said they were going to have chicken burgers, and I thought they sounded good, but there was no link to a specific burger, so I just googled chicken burger.

The first one that popped up was for a BBQ Chicken Burger, so I went and read through a few of the recipes before finally settling on this one.  It was a fast meal that combined an ingredient that I had never used before (Gorgonzola cheese) with two ingredients that I had never had together (grape jelly and BBQ sauce).

BBQ Chicken Burgers
slightly adapted from Shine
1/3 cup bottled barbecue sauce
1/3 cup grape jelly or seedless raspberry jam
 2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
 1 tablespoon bottled barbecue sauce
1 teaspoon minced white onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon parsley
8 ounces uncooked ground chicken (makes eight burgers)
1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese
dinner rolls or cocktail-sized hamburger buns, split
Sliced tomato, red onion, lettuce

1) Preheat oven to 425 degree F. Combine the 1/3 cup barbecue sauce and the jelly or jam. Mix with a wire whisk until smooth. Set aside.

2) Meanwhile, in a bowl combine bread crumbs, the 1 tablespoon barbecue sauce, white onion, garlic powder, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper.
3) Add ground chicken; mix well.
4) Shape into 8 balls; place 2 inches apart on greased shallow baking pan. Moisten the bottom of a glass and press each ball to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
5)  Construct burger using desired ingredients.

I loved the flavors of this burger.  We ground our own chicken meat to make the ground chicken, and everything was just moist and flavorful.  We used a half cup of gorgonzola, and I would have to say that I would probably use half that amount the next time.  While I love the flavor of gorgonzola, it overwhelmed some of the other flavors in the meat mixture.  The BBQ sauce and grape jelly worked really well in the flavor combinations too.  You could slightly taste the grape flavor in the BBQ sauce and both ingredients went well with such a pungent cheese. 

We made our patties huge, bigger is better, right?  In all honesty, they were hard to maneuver.  I'd say one chicken breast would make two chicken patties, especially for the buns we had.  Our ratios were just a little off.

This is something that I cannot wait to try this summer when the weather is good, and we can grill again.

Stuffed Peppers

Growing up, I hated stuffed peppers.  There actually wasn't a vegetable that I hated more.  I read in college that taste buds change every five to seven years, so I decided to give the things I disliked when I was young another chance. 

I now love green peppers.  I use them in a lot of my cooking now just because I love the moist crunch of them in dishes.  I have been keeping my eye out for a good stuffed pepper recipe, but they all use tomato sauce in them, which I'm allergic to, so I haven't had a chance to try any of them.  For this recipe swap, I received a stuffed pepper recipe from Cooking with Christen.  I was super excited to find that it didn't call for tomato sauce at all, so quickly put it on my meal plan.

Stuffed Peppers
slightly adapted from Cooking with Christen
1 tablespoon olive oil                            
1 onion, chopped
1`rib of celery, chopped                     
1/2 small bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped                   
1.5 lbs ground turkey
1 can French Onion soup                  
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
½ soup can of water           
1 ½ cups raw rice
2 tablespoons basil
salt, red, and black pepper to taste
4 large bell peppers

1) In a large dutch oven, sauté in a small amount of cooking oil, the onion, celery, chopped bell pepper, and garlic until slightly cooked through. 
2) Add the raw ground beef and brown well.
3) Add soups, water, rice (raw), salt, black and red pepper.  Mix well.  Cook until just heated through (the rice will not be fully cooked at this point, just warmed).
4) Cut the stem ends off of the whole bell peppers.  Scoop out seeds and clean well.
5) Spray a (9×13) baking dish with Pam.
6) Stuff each bell pepper about ¾ full of the rice mixture.  Quickly invert each bell pepper, rice side down, into the baking dish.
7) Put the remaining rice mixture around the bell peppers.  Cover the dish tightly and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes.  Do not open the cover until the cooking is complete.

I have to admit that I didn't make these as directed.  I thought I knew what I was doing and so I didn't read the directions very well.  I cut open the side and stuffed them, which made everything so much more difficult.  The mixture came out the top when I was stuffing them, which resulted in some burned fingers.

I thought this recipe was great though.  This is my third recipe swap in a row using French Onions of some sort, so this time I used canned soup from the store.  I do have to say that I'd prefer using homemade soup both for the cream of mushroom and the french onion soup, but that would take a lot of extra work. 

The peppers were soft, but still had a little crunch, and the stuffing for them was amazing.  It made plenty of extra stuffing so for a meal I ate the stuffing as a side.  The rice came out perfect and took on the flavors of the soups.  I would definitely make this again, I'd just read the instructions better so that I don't hurt myself as bad. 

For a list of all the recipes made during this swap, visit A Taste of Homecooking: Recipe Swap Roundup.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cream of Mushroom Soup

I don't like using a lot of canned soups in cooking.  It isn't that I don't like the creamy taste, it is just the fact that it plops out of the can in such a weird manner that I am kind of grossed out by it and can't stand to use it very often.   Homemade cream of mushroom soup doesn't 'plop' like the canned soup, it doesn't taste like the canned soup, and it doesn't have as many weird/unhealthy sounding ingredients like the canned soup does.

The ingredients listed on a can of Healthy Cream of Mushroom soup are:

Cream of Mushroom Soup
slightly adapted from Simply Recipes  (and made for 2, not 4)
8 ounces pound regular white mushrooms, cleaned, quartered or sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 teaspoon dried Italian Herb Blend (oregano, thyme, rosemary)
1/2 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 cups fat free half and half
3 tablespoons white cooking wine
3/4 cups chicken stock
3 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
Minced parsley for garnish

1) In a food processor, coarsely chop mushrooms and lemon juice.
2) Melt butter in (4-5 quart) sauce pan and lightly sauté red onion on medium heat. Add mushrooms, Italian Herb blend, and bay leaf, sauté over moderate heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the liquid that is released from the mushrooms disappears.
3) Add salt, pepper, half and half, white wine, and chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
4) Add cornstarch and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Correct seasoning and add more lemon juice to taste.

Serve sprinkled with a little parsley.

This soup came together quickly and was much easier than I was expecting it to be.  Even though it took more cornstarch than the original recipe called for, it still thickened up very nicely.  I was expecting it to taste heavy and thick, but it didn't taste either.  The mushroom flavor was great, and I could taste the addition of the white wine.  I thought it tasted like cream of mushroom soup should taste, minus all the preservatives that go into a can.  I think that this will definitely get made at our house again, especially when I run across a recipe that calls for canned cream of mushroom soup. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Beer Braised Sausages with Warm Potato Salad

I just recently received a Dutch Oven that has allowed me to conquer more one-pot meals.  Before getting the Dutch Oven, I just didn't have any equipment that was big enough to handle all of the ingredients the one-pot recipes called for.  I'm finding that the Dutch Oven is just about as handy as a crock pot.  The ingredients all meld in the pot to create amazing flavors.
I recently stumbled across Martha Stewart's recipe site and she also has a lot of one-pot meals that I'm interested in making.  Most of them are fantastic comfort foods that are great for cold nights.  This recipe turned out great, so I'll definitely be heading back to find some other recipes to make.
Beer Braised Sausages with Warm Potato Salad
slightly adapted from Martha Stewart
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausages
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
24 ounces beer (we used Easy Street, a nice wheat beer)
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, halved (I ended up quartering mine by the end so they'd cook faster)
2 cups of water
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon chives
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1) In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add garlic and sausages, cook until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add onion and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add beer, potatoes, and water; season with salt, pepper, oregano and chives and press to submerge potatoes in cooking liquid. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes (took about 40 at high altitude).
2) Transfer sausages to a serving platter and keep warm. In a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon oil, vinegar, and parsley, and a dash of chives. With a slotted spoon, transfer potato mixture to dressing (reserve cooking liquid) and toss to combine.
3) Return pot to high heat; boil cooking liquid until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Return sausages to pot and cook until heated through, 2 minutes. Place sausages and dressed potatoes on serving platter; drizzle half the sauce over top. Serve sausages and potatoes with remaining sauce alongside.
I really wanted to use turkey sausages in this recipe, but it turned out that my grocery store had run out.  Jacob kept commenting on how great the house smelled with the combination of the beer, sausages, and garlic.  I doubled the amount of beer in the recipe to get more of the flavor, but also to fully cover the potatoes in the Dutch Oven.  Without two bottles of beer and two cups of water, the potatoes would not have been covered.
I thought that the red wine vinegar taste of the potatoes went great with the beer flavored onions and sausages.  The herbs were subtle, but still contributed to the flavor profile of the dish.  Everything worked well to provide this great comforting dish.

Friday, November 4, 2011

French Onion Stuffed Baked Potatoes

The theme of this round's recipe swap was Thanksgiving side dishes.  The only side for Thanksgiving that I have ever made was a green bean casserole in college for a get together for students who couldn't go home.  This year will be my first Thanksgiving cooking, so I was excited to participate in this swap to get new ideas.

I received French Onion Stuffed Baked Potatoes from the Redhead Baker, who writes the Does Not Cook Well With Others blog.  I had to chuckle because the last recipe that I received was for French Onion Soup, so I seemed destined to make many French Onion recipes this month.

French Onion Stuffed Baked Potatoes
adapted from FoodNetwork
4 russet potatoes
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 button mushrooms thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon red cooking wine
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup shredded gruyere, plus more for topping

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stab the potatoes with a fork a few times and then wrap in foil and put in the oven for an hour.
2) About half-way through the potatoes' cooking time, heat the olive oil, salt, and garlic in a skillet, and cook the onions and mushrooms until caramelized, about 20 minutes.
3) Add the wine,the beef broth, bay leaf and reduce the liquid into the onions and mushrooms, should take about ten minutes.
4) When the potatoes are done, split them open and scoop out the flesh.
5) Mash the potato flesh, caramelized mushroom and onions, and 1/2 cup of shredded gruyere.
6) Stuff into the potato skins, top with more gruyere, and put back into the oven just until cheese melts.

Mine turned out more like potato skins because when I cut them in half to stuff them, they came all the way apart.   If you love French Onion soup, these baked potatoes are great.  They have the same flavors as the soup, just in a different vessel.  I added mushrooms because I had extra mushrooms from another dish this week, and I think it added to the taste and texture, but could also be left out.  We ate ours with steak, but I think that they'd be the perfect addition to the Thanksgiving table.  The only thing that I did notice was that they didn't retain their heat for a long time, so they can't sit out for awhile before you serve them to guests.  They basically need to go from the oven to the table.