Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sausage Balls


My favorite thing about cooking around the holidays is making a lot of snacks and appetizers. Our Christmas Eve always consists of a few apps and a casual, comfort food dinner, so when I was given an appetizer for the most recent Taste of Home Cooking Recipe Swap, I was really excited. The recipe comes from the blog Sweet Beginnings and is for Sausage Cheese Balls.

My sister and I put this together on Christmas Eve. It was really easy, and I only made a few changes. I used 2 cups of cheese instead of 4 (very, very good call), I used hot Italian sausage for some extra flavor, and served them with a bowl of marinara sauce for dipping instead of sweet chili sauce. I also made them into smaller balls for a nice, one-bite appetizer. This recipe made a LOT, so we had some leftover which were good reheated for a snack the next day.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 1 pound bulk pork sausage (I bought 1 lb of hot Italian sausage and just removed the casing)
  • 4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (I used 2 - 4 would have been way too much)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (totally forgot to add this and didn't miss it!)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
Directions

  • Heat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease bottom of a baking sheet.
  • Stir together all ingredients, using hands or spoon. Shape mixture into 1-inch (or smaller) balls. Place in pan.
  • Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brown. Immediately remove from pan.
  • Serve with a sauce for dipping - I chose marinara sauce.

These were a big hit!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Italian Pot Roast


Braised, slow-cooked meats always remind me of my grandmom. The wonderful aroma from all-day cooking, the rich flavors, and the meat that just melts when you eat it. When we ate this pot roast, my mom said it was like eating her mother's food.

I was inspired to make this recipe by a recipe I saw on the blog What's Cooking Chicago. I changed it from a crockpot recipe to a stovetop and oven recipe, and also used the cooking method from my Guinness Beef Stew Recipe. The original recipe did not call for searing the beef, but I really like searing any meats before any sort of slow cooking which is the main reason I made the changes I did. Below is my adaptation.

Note: I gave this post a one-pot tag; although 2 pots are used, it ultimately cooks for hours in just one pot, so by the time you eat the first pan is already washed and put away!

Ingredients

  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • Handful of white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 large potatoes, chopped into large pieces
  • One 3-lb pot roast
  • Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning (I love McCormick's Perfect Pinch Italian Seasoning)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • One 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c dry red wine
  • 1.5 c beef broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Equipment: Dutch oven and a large stainless saute pan
Directions
  • Put Dutch oven on stovetop over medium-high heat. Add bacon, cook until crispy. Remove bacon. Add carrots, celery, potatoes, mushrooms. Saute over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  • Heat olive oil in the stainless pan. Season the beef with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Sear beef in pan until browned on all sides.
  • Transfer the beef to the Dutch oven, nestling it into the veggies. Add tomatoes and broth.
  • Back in the stainless pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add garlic and onions, saute 4-5 minutes. Add red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up all brown bits. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes, and then transfer wine/onion mixture to the Dutch oven.
  • Add bay leaf to the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer.
  • Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  • Cover beef and transfer to the oven. I cooked it for a total of 5 hours - one hour on 300, two hours on 250, and two hours on 200. It was perfectly cooked and falling apart.
  • Remove beef from the Dutch oven and let rest. Transfer the veggies to another dish. Let the sauce simmer on low until ready to serve.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Beer Braised Sausages with Warm Potato Salad


I'm having a lot of fun participating in the Taste of Home Cooking Recipe Swaps, and the main reason I like them so much is that sometimes the recipes I am given are things I wouldn't necessarily choose to make. Like the one I got for the most recent swap featuring One-Pot Cooking. I was given a recipe for Beer Braised Sausages with Warm Potato Salad.

I like sausage, but had never had it braised in beer so I was intrigued when I first read the recipe. I had also never had warm potato salad - my grandmom made the best cold potato salad that has been passed down through the family over the years. It's a simple recipe, but so good that I really don't eat any other potato salad (even Jon will now only eat my potato salad!). So for that reason alone I wouldn't choose to make another potato salad. But the swaps push me out of my comfort zone and I was excited to try this recipe.

The sausage was SO good - even more flavorful from braising in the beer, juicy, and just delicious. I loved the sauce that came out of the beer once I reduced the liquid. The potato salad was good, just not my thing - I am not the biggest fan of vinegar on hot foods (fries and vinegar, not for me!). I would definitely make this again, however, and would just let the potatoes simmer in the sauce instead of tossing them with a dressing.

The recipe below is the exact recipe with 2 changes noted in italics.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausages (I used hot Italian sausages)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 12 ounces pale ale beer
  • 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, halved
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I used dried parsley flakes)

Directions

  1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add sausages and cook until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add onion and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add beer, potatoes, and 2 cups water; season with salt and pepper 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.
  2. Transfer sausages to a serving platter and keep warm. In a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon oil, vinegar, and parsley. 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 12 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.



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sauteed Spinach with Bacon


Thanksgiving is only two weeks away! Where has this year gone? To get ready, A Taste of Home Cooking hosted a Thanksgiving Sides Recipe Swap. I'm really, really late making and posting this. I tried to get to it twice last week, but with last minute things and my daughter getting sick, and then my husband's surprise birthday weekend, it just didn't happen. I finally got to it tonight - I apologize to those waiting to see the post!!

Anyway, the recipe I was given was for
Sauteed Spinach with Bacon from the blog Life and Kitchen; it is originally a Martha Stewart Recipe. I shared my recipe for Green Beans with Bacon and Caramelized Shallots.

I love spinach, and I love bacon, so was really excited to make this. Bacon makes everything better, right? Well, I am really sorry to say that bacon didn't do it for us in this recipe. Spinach is so delicate and light that sauteing it in bacon grease was just too overwhelming (however this technique works great for heartier veggies, like Brussels sprouts or green beans). I even removed half of the grease from the pan, but it was still just too much. I did, however, love the crispy bacon mixed in with the spinach. So while I won't wilt spinach in bacon grease again, I will add crispy, crumbled bacon to spinach.

Please excuse the picture - now that I don't have natural light for taking pictures because it gets dark so darn early, my pictures suffer a bit.

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of bacon (I used low sodium bacon)
  • Bag of spinach (I used baby spinach)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar (I omitted this)
  • Added: 1 tbsp light olive oil (since I removed some of the bacon grease)
Directions
  • Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crispy; about 5-8 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Crumble and set aside.
  • Remove some of the bacon grease (about half) from the pan, add olive oil.
  • Add spinach, season with salt and pepper. saute 1-2 minutes until wilted.
  • If using it, add white wine vinegar
  • Top with crumbled bacon

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Salisbury Steaks with Mushroom Gravy

Last week I couldn't get Salisbury Steaks off my mind...and that's really strange because I have never had them! But I knew what went into them, and I guess I was craving something comforting and with those same flavors.

My friend, the author of the blog Taste of Home Cooking, recommended this recipe - YUM! I couldn't wait to make them! I followed most of the recipe for the steaks and gravy with the exception of the types of mushrooms - I just stuck to white mushrooms. I made my simple mashed potatoes and served them with roasted broccoli.

We both LOVED them. Jon ate 2 and I just had a leftover steak for lunch. They were so easy, so simple (it's really just a hamburger with gravy and no bun), but they were the ultimate comfort food and totally hit the spot. Jon even said they were the best things I have made in a while. Sometimes it pays to keep it simple.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground sirloin
  • 1 small onion, grated or minced
  • salt and pepper
  • About 1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • Handful of white mushrooms (or any kind of mushrooms you like), sliced
  • One 14.5 oz can of beef broth
Directions
  • Mix the sirloin with salt, pepper, onion, and the Worcestershire. Form into patties. At this point I covered them and put them in the fridge until I was ready to cook.
  • Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add steaks; cook for 4-5 minutes per side until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.
  • Add butter to the pan.
  • Add mushrooms and saute 2-3 minutes
  • Add flour and stir
  • Add broth, bring to a simmer. Let simmer a few minutes to thicken. Serve gravy over the steaks.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Recipe Remake - Spicy Chicken in a Garlic-Lime Broth

I created this dish a few years ago, and have made it a number of times, but haven't looked at the recipe recently. Well, when I finally went back to the recipe, I realized that I have made a lot of changes and have improved this dish. For that reason I am posting an update - new and improved Spicy Chicken in a Garlic-Lime Broth!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded out a bit (not completely thin)
  • Spices - cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp deglazing liquid: white wine or tequila, depending on what you have on hand
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lime
  • Handful of cilantro
Directions
  • Heat olive oil in a saute pan
  • Season chicken with the spices and add to the pan. Saute 4-5 min per side until cooked through. Remove from the pan.
  • Add a touch of olive oil to the pan then add the garlic. Saute 2 minutes.
  • Deglaze pan with the deglazing liquid, scraping up the brown bits
  • Add the chicken broth and lime juice, bring to a simmer.
  • Return chicken to the pan, add cilantro, spoon the sauce over the chicken, and let simmer just a few minutes.
  • Serve over rice or linguine.

Whole Grain Apple-Cinnamon Pancakes

Last year for Christmas my dad bought me the cookbook Baby Love - I was so excited to start cooking for our daughter! It's a great book in that it has purees, meals, and even a few things for mom and dad too.

One recipe I tried a few months ago was for Whole Grain Blueberry Pancakes with Flax. Making your own pancake mix is so easy that there is no reason to buy the boxed stuff. Plus, you can control what is going in to your pancakes. I loved that this one used both whole wheat flour and ground flaxseed - after eating them we all felt nicely full for a while, something that never happens eating regular pancakes (you may feel full at first, but soon after you get that shaky feeling, right?).

This past weekend I used the pancake mix I already made, but changed it up by adding apples and cinnamon - delicious!!

Ingredients for the Pancake Mix - makes enough for 3 full batches
Mix and store in an airtight container

  • 3 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
Pancakes
  • 2 c pancake mix (from above)
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed (flax meal)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pint buttermilk
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 apple, shredded (I cooked the apples in a tiny bit of water in the microwave for 30 seconds just to soften them a bit)
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
Directions
  • Preheat a griddle to 350 degrees
  • Pour the pancake mix and flaxseed into a large bowl
  • Whisk eggs in a separate bowl; add buttermilk and melted butter. Whisk again.
  • Add the egg/buttermilk/butter mixture to the bowl with the pancake mix and flaxseed
  • Add cinnamon and apples
  • Slowly whisk together to barely combine the wet and dry ingredients. You don't want it to be smooth!
  • Ladle mixture onto the griddle and cook until golden brown on both sides. When I ladle the mixture onto the griddle, I also flatten it out just a bit by swirling the mixture as the pancakes are very heavy and need to cook through without burning on the outside.
I just finished using up my last batch of the dry mix, but will definitely be making more to keep around. Another great thing - these pancakes freeze very well. I wrap them individually in plastic, foil, and then store in a freezer bag and then can quickly pull one out for a nice breakfast for my daughter. Enjoy!!



Monday, October 17, 2011

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

Soups and Stews - my favorite thing about fall and winter! I love all kinds of soup and have made so many different recipes over the past few years. Check out all of my soup recipe posts here, or go to my Recipe Index and then scroll down for a list of recipes with links to the actual posts.

I was really excited when I saw that the theme for the latest Taste of Home Cooking recipe swap was soups and stews. I submitted my Creamy Cabbage Soup with Gruyere recipe and was given this recipe for Sausage Tortellini Soup by The Frugal Girl.

Whenever I'm making something new, I love to read the recipe, think about the ingredients and cooking method, and figure out how it is going to taste so I know what changes I want to make. After reading this recipe, I decided to make quite a few changes.

The original recipe used sweet turkey sausage; I used hot Italian sausage. The original recipe had me cooking the sausage, and then adding the broth to the pan. I knew the sausage would let off a lot of grease and I didn't want that to be the base of my soup. So I cooked the sausage and then added it to the soup pot. Also, the recipe noted to cook the onions and garlic with the sausage; instead, I sauteed the onions, garlic, and carrots in the soup pot, then added the sausage, then the broth. I also omitted the bell pepper, added spinach, used more garlic, used a different blend of herbs, omitted the wine, and used 8 cups of chicken broth instead of 5 cups of beef broth (so glad I did - I would have had a thick stew otherwise!).

Below is my variation on the recipe -

Ingredients

  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage, casing removed for crumbling
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes, chopped (I prefer buying whole tomatoes and chopping them myself because you know you are getting a whole tomato. With cans of diced tomatoes, the quality isn't as good, in my experience)
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning blend
  • 1/2 c frozen spinach
  • Frozen tortellini, about 4-6 oz
Directions
  • Heat a large saute pan; add tbsp olive oil. Crumble sausage into the pan, cooking until browned, constantly breaking it up into smaller pieces.
  • In a separate soup pot (I used my Dutch oven), heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add onions, garlic, and carrots. Saute 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, saute 2-3 minutes.
  • Transfer the cooked sausage to the soup pot. Add the tomato sauce, broth, and herbs. Bring to a low simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  • Add the spinach and tortellini; simmer until the tortellini has warmed, about 5 minutes.
This had a really nice kick to it, so if you don't like things too spicy, use sweet sausage. I love the changes I made and would definitely make this one again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chicken with an Herbed Pan Sauce


When you need to cook something in a pinch that won't take a lot of time, that doesn't mean that it has to be instant, or unhealthy. These days all I have time for is quick cooking, but we are still eating pretty well. Homemade cooking doesn't have to mean hours spent in the kitchen.

I threw this one together as I went along, and it took 15-20 minutes, max, but didn't taste like it was a quick meal.

Ingredients
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Dried Italian seasoning (I like Perfect Pinch by McCormick), salt, pepper, dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 c dry white wine
  • 1/2 c low sodium chicken broth
  • Touch of light cream or even half and half - I probably used a few tablespoons

Directions

  • Heat olive oil in a large pan
  • Season chicken with the salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and thyme. Add to the pan and cook 4-6 minutes per side, until cooked through (it helps if you pound your chicken out a bit to make it thinner = will cook faster). Transfer to a plate. If it's not cooked through, you can throw it in the oven on 400 while you make the sauce.
  • Deglaze pan with the white wine, bring to a simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add the broth, bring to a simmer. Add the cream, stir.
  • Return chicken to the pan, spooning some of the sauce on top of the chicken.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Creamy Sundried Tomato Pesto Dip


Are you ready for some football??? The latest Taste of Home Cooking Recipe Swap celebrated the beginning of football season with a tailgating/appetizer theme. I was given a recipe for Mediterranean Dip from the blog Mrs. Regueiro's Plate.

After reading the recipe, I decided to both simplify it and change things up a bit, turning it into a creamier spread for crostini instead of a dip for pita chips (although I did also try it on pita chips). Instead of having a layer of feta at the bottom of the dip, I decided to blend my basil pesto with cream cheese and mayo as I thought too much feta would make the dip too salty. Additionally, feta doesn't fully melt, so I wanted something creamy as the base. I also didn't use full sundried tomatoes, but only the sundried tomato pesto. Finally, I didn't have much time so I used *gasp* store bought sundried tomato pesto... it worked just fine.


The result? A perfectly savory, flavorful, creamy, crostini topping/spread/dip..whatever you'd like to call it!

Here is my variation on the recipe.

Ingredients

  • Approximately 1/2 cup basil pesto (I made a pesto using one bunch of basil, 3 cloves of garlic, a touch of Kosher salt, and some olive oil - no pine nuts)
  • 1 block of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp sundried tomato pesto
  • 1/2 can artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 6 oz crumbled feta
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Mix basil pesto with the cream cheese and mayonnaise. Spread it in the bottom of a deep dish pie plate, or small baking dish
  • Next, spread a layer of sundried tomato pesto
  • Top with the chopped artichokes, then the feta cheese.
  • Bake for 15-20 min until hot and bubbly.

I will definitely be making this creation again!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

One Pot Cooking - Spicy Asian Chicken with Broccoli and Rice



I was about to make a chicken stir-fry tonight with broccoli and jalapenos, but last minute (meaning everything was prepped and my pans were on the stove and I was reaching to turn on the burner), I decided to pull out my Dutch oven and turn my stir-fry idea into a simple one-pot chicken dish.

I'm glad I did - I loved this. Jon thought it could benefit from maybe some cilantro or lime juice; I can see adding cilantro, but was also happy with it just how it was.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I had 3 small breasts and cut them each in half)
  • Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
  • 1 sm onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1 c uncooked rice
  • 1 3/4 c low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 c low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp hoisin
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
Directions
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a heavy pan or Dutch oven
  • Season chicken with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes; add to pan and cook 3 min per side then transfer to a plate
  • Add onions, garlic, ginger, and jalapenos to pan; saute 3 minutes
  • Add rice, stir 1 min
  • Mix the broth, soy sauce, and hoisin; add to pan
  • Bring to a simmer, then lower heat, return chicken to pan (nestled into the rice), put broccoli florets on top of everything, cover and cook over low heat (make sure it's still lightly simmering) approximately 15 minutes or until rice is cooked and the liquid has absorbed.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Baked Ham and Cheese Pinwheels


These little pinwheels look impressive, are delicious, yet are so simple to make. I have made them before using different ingredients for the filling - click here to see both Bacon-Cheese and Alouette Pinwheels. I have also made them using pizza sauce, cheese, and chopped pepperoni...yummy!!


Over Labor Day weekend, my parents had a barbecue and I decided to make an app. I wanted to do something hot since all of our sides and other apps were going to be cold. I mentioned baked pinwheels to Jon, and have to give him credit for coming up with the idea for the ham and cheese filling.

Making the Pinwheels

  • Open a can of crescent roll dough - you will most likely have 2 rolls once you open them (mine always split down the center, but this is perfect). Roll out each roll - each one will be a rectangle; keep the long side near you and pinch the seams closed.
  • Sprinkle them with a touch of dried thyme (I decided on the thyme because I use it when I make my Chicken Cordon Blue and love the flavor of the thyme with the Swiss and ham).
  • Layer Swiss cheese, sliced deli ham, then another slice of Swiss cheese. Roll towards you (you want the roll to be long and skinny, not short and fat) and pinch closed gently.
  • At this point you can wrap each long roll in plastic until you are ready to bake and serve them - that's one of the things I love about these.
  • When you are ready to bake them, preheat your oven to 350 degrees (I liked baking them at 350 instead of the 375 I did last time). Slice each roll into 1 inch pieces and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet with one of the cut sides facing up. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.

That's it!

Along with the ham and cheese, I also made 2 others -
- Crescent dough with Yancey's Fancy Jalapeno and Cayenne Cheese
- Crescent dough with a mixture of Laughing Cow Cheese, Italian seasonings, and a touch of garlic powder


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spicy Tofu with Asparagus and Chile

A few months ago I made Spicy Chicken with Asparagus and Chile, and loved it because of the combination of the asparagus and jalapenos in an Asian dish. I thought it would work really well with tofu, and it did. Below is my variation on this recipe using tofu.

Ingredients

  • 1 block of extra firm tofu, pressed and then cut into small cubes
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce, divided
  • 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 12 oz thin to medium Asparagus spears, cut on a diagonal to 1/2-3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (ribs and seeds included)
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 c chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp hoisin
  • 2 green onions, sliced
Directions
  • In a bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp of the soy sauce, the rice wine, and cornstarch. Add the the tofu and toss to coat.
  • Heat the oil in a large saute pan or wok over high heat. Add the asparagus, jalapeno, and ginger and saute 2 minutes.
  • Add tofu, saute about 4 minutes.
  • Add the remaining soy sauce, hoisin, and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, but for no longer than 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in the green onions, or serve them on top.
This worked really well as a tofu dish, and was great leftover for lunch the next day. I'll definitely make it again!


Monday, August 29, 2011

Toddler Friendly: Crispy Tofu Bites


What??? I want you to feed your child tofu? Yes, I do. But you don't eat it? That's ok...just don't complain about it in front of them. But maybe you should try it... you just might like it. I cook it often - here are all of my tofu recipes.

As I have mentioned before, Jon and I really want our daughter to eat everything. Jon doesn't like tofu or tomatoes, but he will never say that in front of her, and so far she likes both. And I don't eat fish, but she has tried it and likes it. I'll just never complain about it in front of her, because as soon as you do, they will want to be like you and will claim not to like things. So introduce things at a young age and they will never know otherwise!

These little tofu bites are the perfect size for little fingers, are crispy yet soft (just a little softer than a chicken nugget), and can be dipped in anything you want - I chose pizza sauce for tonight. You could also use marinara, honey mustard, ranch, or even ketchup.

I spent 5-6 minutes making these, and she ate them up! She had the most fun "dip-dip-dipping" them in the sauce before taking a bite.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 block of extra firm tofu, pressed (you want to get the water out), then cut into cubes
  • Bread crumbs, about 1/2 c
  • Spices - I added a bit of onion powder, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (just enough to get them crispy - you don't need to deep fry them; alternatively, you could bake them)
Directions
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat
  • Mix bread crumbs with the spices
  • Dip tofu in egg, then coat with bread crumb mixture
  • Cook approximately 1 min per side, until golden brown. Once done, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
  • Let cool slightly before serving.
Hope your little ones enjoy these! And take a bite of one, you just may like them too!



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Toddler Friendly: Risotto


When it comes right down to it, risotto is simply creamy rice. And no matter how many times you have heard Gordon Ramsey scream "Oh on, the rih-zot-o!!!" to the contestants on his show, it really is not that hard at all (I never understood why it causes so many issues on his show!). Some say it is time consuming - I don't think that's true either as it takes 30 minutes. But it is 30 minutes of constant attention, so it is not something you can walk away from - you have to commit to 30 minutes standing over the stove.

But the payoff is wonderful, and risotto is so versatile with an endless number of flavors and ingredients that can be used. And I promise that your kids will like it! They may even like the risotto balls (arancini) you can make with day-old leftover risotto!

The other day I made Chicken Cacciatore Risotto which is what our daughter is enjoying (devouring) here.



So give yourself 30 minutes and try out a recipe. I have a lot of ideas here - feel free to browse to find one that interests you. Happy stirring!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Toddler Friendly: Turkey Meatloaf


Jon makes a kick ass meatloaf, and I can't wait until he makes it this fall. But last week I had some ground turkey that I bought to make some freezer meals for our daughter, so I decided to make a turkey meatloaf.

I read a few recipes, and then decided to just wing it. The one thing I did see a lot of was the use of quick cooking oats as a binding agent instead of breadcrumbs, so I incorporated that into my recipe. And of course I topped it with ketchup - kids seem to love things covered in ketchup.

I made a loaf, but you could also make this in muffin tins. You could even add mashed potato "frosting" for a fun meal.
You could also add some grated veggies to the loaf if your child needs to get more veggies in their diet.

This is another meal that can be made, sliced, and frozen into individual portions. When I was ready to serve it, I defrosted a slice in the fridge for a few hours, and then put it in the microwave on defrost for 30-60 seconds. Perfect.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb ground turkey
  • 1/4 c quick cooking oats mixed with 1 tbsp milk
  • 1-2 tbsp marinara sauce
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 sm onion, finely diced
  • Ketchup
  • 1/2 egg
Directions
  • Mix everything together and form into a loaf (add the marinara slowly, depending on how wet or dry your mixture is).
  • Top with ketchup
  • Put in a baking dish, fill the dish with about 1/2 inch of water.
  • Bake on 400 degrees approximately 45-50 minutes until fully cooked (use a meat thermometer to be sure - poultry should be cooked to at least 165 degrees.

She had this tonight and devoured almost everything on her plate - success!

Delicious One Pot Chicken and Rice


I know, that isn't a very creative title. I was, however, pretty creative when I was cooking - I made this one up as I went along. But after cooking, feeding the baby, tag-teaming with Jon to keep her occupied (these days that is doing laps with her around the house, over and over and over, as she learns to walk - back-breaking!!!), cleaning up, and getting her to bed, I'm not feeling all that creative. I just want to get my recipe down on "paper" so I don't forget what I did, because this one was really good!

We had planned on grilling, but Jon was still busy with work and I was busy with the baby, so one pot cooking worked tonight. She sits in her high chair eating some snacks after her dinner while I cook. And I'm hoping that she's learning something too because I do tell her everything I'm doing. Ok, sometimes I have to sing it, but still, she has to be learning, right?

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Seasoned with: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder (just eyeball it)
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Handful of mushrooms, whatever you have on hand, chopped
  • Approximately 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 c rice
  • 2 c chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp mirin (I think you could probably leave this out if you didn't have it)
  • A few shakes of red pepper flakes
Directions
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a heavy skillet or dutch oven
  • Cook chicken 4 min per side; transfer to a plate
  • Add shallots, ginger, and garlic to pan; saute 2 min. Add mushrooms, saute 2 min. Add rice, stir 1-2 min. Add broth, soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, and bring to a boil.
  • Return chicken to the pan, nestling it into the rice. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook about 15 minutes or until the liquid has absorbed.
That's it for this delicious one pot chicken!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Toddler Friendly: Mac-n-Cheese


Most kids love mac n cheese. And with how easy this recipe is, there is no reason to ever give them the orange stuff out of a box! Even better, it freezes and reheats very well, so make a big batch when you have time, and you'll have something to pull out of the freezer in a pinch when you don't have any time.

Here is the recipe: Easiest, Creamiest Mac n Cheese. (Note, I used whole milk instead of light cream when I made it last night)

I usually double the recipe - making an entire pound of pasta - so I have a lot of leftovers. I freeze the leftovers in single serving packets, and it is easy to take one out to defrost for lunch or dinner. If it is a little dry when you reheat it, add a touch of milk when heating and voila, just like freshly baked mac! And since it is such a simple recipe, you can add anything you'd like - throw in some diced veggies if you want your kids to eat more veggies, or diced ham for some meat.

My daughter loves this dish -



Grilled Jalapeno-Hoisin Pork Tenderloin


I love a grilled pork tenderloin. It is easy, fast (even for a weeknight!), and there are an endless number of marinades and rubs you can do to add flavor. I had ginger and jalapenos to use up, so I decided on this recipe for Jalapeno-Honey Grilled Pork Tenderloin.

I made a few small changes - I added a bit of oil to the marinade, used hoisin sauce instead of honey, and added a bit of coriander. It was delicious! After marinating for just 6 hours, it took on so much flavor. And it wasn't that spicy at all, so our daughter was able to try some. My variation is below.


Ingredients

  • 1 pork tenderloin (Wegman's sells one pork tenderloin instead of the 2 that usually come in one packet. I love this - just enough for the two of us with a little bit left over)
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce (I always use low sodium)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Mix all ingredients; pour over the pork in a ziploc bag. Marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours; the longer the better.

Grilling the pork
Jon has figured out the best way to grill a pork tenderloin without drying it out, and without charring it too much. His trick is to sear it on all sides, and then place foil on the grill and put the pork on top of the foil and wraps it up loosely to finish (6-8 minutes in foil). He uses a digital meat thermometer and takes it off when it hits 160 degrees. We then let it rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing it.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore Risotto


This recipe came to me through another recipe swap hosted by the blog Taste of Home Cooking. The theme was Italian recipes, and I was given this one for Chicken Cacciatore Risotto by the author of the blog Taste and See.

I LOVE risotto, have made it with so many different ingredients and flavors, so I was excited to get this one. Now even though I have made risotto many times, I have never made it with meat.. well, except bacon. I usually have risotto as a side, but this one was a nice entree risotto. And I love Chicken Cacciatore so I had a feeling this would be good.

My parents came over for dinner and really enjoyed it. And no surprise, our daughter loved it too! She ate every last bite and was looking for more.

I made one major change to the recipe - it called for red wine, but I have made risotto with red wine before and didn't like it (too rich and heavy). Also, I make my chicken cacciatore with white wine, so I decided to keep it light and use white instead of red. I also used an Italian Seasoning blend that I had instead of the Herbs de Provence - I compared the ingredients in both and the Italian Seasoning was only missing the fennel, something I don't like anyway. I also added a touch more thyme. My variation on the recipe is below.

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning blend and 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 4 c chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with the juices
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 6 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips (I chopped the peppers to keep them bite sized and so my daughter could easily eat them)
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • fresh parsley, minced (I didn't have any so I used about 2 tbsp dried parsley)
Directions
  • Season the chicken with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and thyme.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add the chicken and cook 5-7 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Remove chicken and set aside. Shred the chicken, and reserve for the risotto.
  • Add 1 Tablespoon of the butter and 1 tbsp oil to a clean skillet. When melted, add the shallot, and cook until softened, 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock and diced tomatoes to a simmer. Cover and allow to simmer continuously.
  • Add the rice to the skillet, and cook, stirring continuously, until the edges are translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low. Add the wine, and stir continuously, until it is mostly absorbed.
  • Working 1-2 ladles at a time, add the chicken broth/tomato mixture to the rice, stirring constantly, until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. After about 10 minutes, add the peppers and mushrooms to the rice mixture.
  • Continue adding liquid until the rice is cooked to al dente, about 20 minutes total. Taste to check the rice. When cooked to al dente, add 1 more ladle of chicken broth, and remove from heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, and parsley.
  • Top risotto with the chicken and serve.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Toddler Friendly: Crispy Chicken Nuggets


I have been loving cooking for our daughter and having her try new things, so I have decided to start a new section for my blog - Toddler Friendly. Now by that I don't mean bland and boring foods, but rather transforming those easy to eat first foods into flavorful meals. These are things that I would also eat! Kids are more likely to want to try new things and won't be picky when you introduce them to different foods, spices, herbs, textures, and flavors at a young age.

When we had our daughter, my husband and I talked about how we wanted her to eat everything, try everything, and not be picky. So far she has been pretty adventurous and will try anything we give her (even seaweed salad at the sushi restaurant!). Our main goal is to be able to have her eat whatever we eat for dinner. However, there are some nights when we cook too late, or are making something too spicy, so it's nice to have a backup plan.

I love having homemade chicken nuggets in the freezer - just take one out to send to daycare for lunch, or use it as a quick and easy dinner. But I'm not going to give her just plain old breaded chicken nuggets! Our daughter loves lots of flavor - I gave her garlic soup at 8 months old and she couldn't get enough of it - so I really season the breading on these nuggets. And to add another texture, I mix crushed cereal in with my breadcrumbs.


Ingredients (for 9-12 nuggets)

  • 3 boneless, skinless, organic chicken breasts, trimmed and sliced into whatever size/shape nugget you want to make
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 1 c crushed crunchy cereal, like Cornflakes or Special K
  • 1 c plain bread crumbs
  • Spices: Italian seasoning, basil, garlic powder, onion powder (maybe 1 tsp each - I don't measure, but added until the breading looked and smelled just right)
  • Cooking spray
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees; spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray
  • Soak chicken in buttermilk for 15 minutes
  • Mix the breadcrumbs, crushed cereal, and spices
  • Remove chicken from buttermilk and toss with the breadcrumb mixture; transfer to cookie sheet
  • Lightly spray tops of chicken with the cooking spray
  • Bake 15-18 minutes, flipping once, and turning on broiler at the end, until chicken is cooked through and the coating is crispy.
She loved them!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Spiced Chicken Stir Fry with Ginger, Cilantro, and Lime



Last week I made a great stir fry, Spiced Beef Stir Fry with Scallions and Cilantro. I love cilantro, and really love Asian dishes that feature spicy flavors with cilantro and lime. That beef dish inspired last night's dinner - Spiced Chicken Stir Fry with Ginger, Cilantro, and Lime.

I used the basic recipe from the beef, but added fresh garlic, grated ginger, freshly squeezed lime juice, and a bit of chicken broth to make more of a sauce. It was really good - fresh yet spicy. Loved it!

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced into 2-bite pieces
  • Spices: 1 tbsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp dried red pepper flakes, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger (I used the microplane)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
Directions
  • Toss chicken with the spices and half of the lime juice
  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan or wok over high heat
  • Add the chicken and stir fry until almost cooked through
  • Lower the heat to medium high and add the garlic and ginger; saute 1 minute
  • Add soy sauce, mirin, chicken broth, and the rest of the lime juice; bring to a low simmer
  • Remove from heat and stir in the scallions and cilantro


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Baked Penne with Sausage and Broccoli


Crumbling sausage is a great way to enjoy it with pasta or in casseroles. I made this one up as I went along using 1 pound of hot Italian sausage. Also, I threw it together in the afternoon and kept it in the fridge until I was ready to bake it. It was delicious, and made great leftovers!

I often freeze leftovers from casseroles in single-serving packets. I wrap a single-serving in plastic wrap (no container), then foil, and store the packets in a freezer bag. Perfect for those nights when I'm on my own for dinner.

Ingredients
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 large head of broccoli, washed and chopped into florets
  • 3/4 lb penne pasta, cooked to al dente
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Optional: a few shakes of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 c light cream
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch or flour
  • Approximate amounts: 1/2 c shredded mozzarella; 1/4 c shredded Pecorino romano
Directions
  • If baking immediately, preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Heat olive oil in a large pan
  • Crumble the sausage into the pan, using a spoon/spatula to break it up. Saute until browned, about 10 minutes
  • Halfway through cooking the sausage, add shallots and garlic, and red pepper flakes if you are using them.
  • Transfer sausage mixture to a casserole dish, mix with the pasta
  • In the meantime, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour/cornstarch and whisk to make a roux. Add the cream. Bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese until fully melted and creamy.
  • Pour the creamy cheese sauce over the pasta/sausage mixture. Mix until fully coated.
  • Either store covered in the fridge until you are ready to bake it, or bake for 30-40 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Enjoy!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer Squash and White Bean Saute

Summer Vegetables - the theme of last week's recipe swap sponsored by A Taste of Home Cooking. I was given a recipe for Summer Squash and White Bean Saute shared by the author of A journey through trying new things.

What a great recipe to bring out the best in these summer vegetables - I really liked it! I'm not a big fan of beans, but they added nice texture to this dish while giving it some protein.

Ingredients (I cut the below ingredients in half and still had 4 servings)

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (of course I still used 2!)
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 15 oz can cannellini or great northern beans, rinsed (I used small white beans)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar (I completely forgot to add this and didn't miss it)
  • 1/3 c finely shredded Parmesan cheese
Directions
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  • Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
  • Add zucchini, summer squash, oregano, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring once, until the vegetables are tender-crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Stir in beans, tomatoes and vinegar; increase heat to medium and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in Parmesan.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Spiced Beef Stir Fry with Scallions and Cilantro

The other day I bought a few sirloin steaks and planned on slicing them into thin strips for stir fry, but didn't want to do my usual Beef with Broccoli or something similar to that. I had cilantro to use up, and kept thinking about the amazing dinner we recently enjoyed at Buddakan, so I started to look for ideas using spices, cilantro, and the beef.

I found this one for Spiced Beef Stir Fry with Scallions and Cilantro. It fit all my requirements and looked great, and ended up being the quickest dinner I have made in months - maybe 5-6 minutes of cooking time! And since the rice takes 20-25 minutes to cook, you can easily do all of your prep during that time.

We both loved this one so much that I will be making it often. One change - next time I plan on squeezing a bit of lime juice over the top once it finished cooking.

Ingredients

  • 14 oz filet of beef (I used 1lb sirloin steak)
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 tsp rice wine or dry sherry (I used mirin)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 oz cilantro, roughly chopped (I just pulled off a large handful)
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • For the spicy coating: 2 tbsp ground cumin, 2 tbsp dried chili pepper flakes, 1 tbsp ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp sea salt; I added approximately 1 tsp chili powder and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Directions (In my own words)
  • Slice the beef wafer thin
  • Mix the ingredients for the spicy coating; mix the beef into this mixture.
  • Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat; add the oil.
  • Add the beef and stir-fry for less than a minute until browned and tender. Add the rice wine and soy sauce.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro and scallions. Serve immediately.


The meat was so amazingly tender and flavorful - we both had 2 plates of this! Delicious!