Friday, December 20, 2013

Saucy Asian Meatballs

At least once a week I'll cook something Asian inspired, from lo mein, stir fries and tofu to grilled meats using ingredients like soy sauce, hoisin, Sriracha, ginger, and sesame oil in the marinades and sauces. I'm always looking for new ideas so immediately pinned a recipe I found for Saucy Asian Meatballs.

I served the meatballs as a main dish alongside some vegetable lo mein, but they would be awesome appetizers too. The meat is packed with flavor - ginger, garlic, and green onions - and the sauce is sweet and sticky and immediately reminded me of a steak sauce I made several years ago, a sweet and spicy hoisin sauce. The sauce is so good that next time I will definitely make more to serve over rice or noodles.

The original recipe does not cook the sauce, however I did heat the sauce and let the meatballs simmer in it for a bit before dinner.

Sauce Asian Meatballs
Adapted from: Gimme Some Oven


For the Meatballs
  • 2 lbs. ground pork or ground beef
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 cup Panko or breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup thinly-sliced green onions
  • optional garnish: toasted sesame seeds, sliced scallions
For the Sauce 
(note - I would double the amounts next time to have more sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • Added: 1/2 cup beef broth

  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • In a large bowl, mix together meatball ingredients until well-combined. Shape into balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until meatballs are golden on the outside and no longer pink on the inside.
  • While the meatballs are baking, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan. Mix the hoisin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, beef broth and sesame oil in a bowl and set aside. Add the garlic to the pan, sauté one minute. Add the ginger and sauté quickly. Add the sauce mixture and bring to a slow simmer; the sauce will begin to thicken. If you need to thin it out, add some beef broth mixed with soy sauce.
  • When the meatballs are done add them to the sauce and let simmer for a few minutes.
  • Top with sesame seeds and green onions for serving.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tomato-Basil Soup

Bloggers' Choice is always my favorite theme in the Taste of Home Cooking Recipe Swaps. The only problem is when you get a blog that has too many recipes that you want to try!

 I was given a blog I was already familiar with, The Barbee Housewife. I went back and forth between chicken recipes, pasta recipes, and finally decided to make a Tomato-Basil Soup. I've made tomato soup a few different ways, but this one looked very simple, and I was curious to see what adding the butter at the end would do. The flavor of the soup was like some I have had at restaurants, and I think it must have been the butter! The original recipe called for an entire stick of butter, but I added it slowly, tablespoon by tablespoon, while tasting it, and only ended up using half of a stick. I also added garlic because I just love garlic.

I'm so glad I made this soup, especially since we had snow twice in three days over the time I made it - it was the perfect lunch after playing in the snow for a while with my daughter!

Tomato-Basil Soup
Source: The Barbee Housewife

  • 4 cups of Whole, Peeled, Canned Tomatoes, crushed
  • 4 cups of Tomato Juice
  • Added: 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 12-14 Basil Leaves
  • 1 cup of Heavy Cream
  • 1 stick of Butter, unsalted (I used 1/2 of a stick)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Cracked Black Pepper
  •  Combine tomatoes, garlic, and juice in a large pot over medium high heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. Let the soup cool slightly.
  • Add the basil leaves and puree the soup either in small batches in a blender/food processor or by using a handheld immersion blender.
  • Return the soup to the pot and add the cream and butter (I suggest adding a tablespoon at a time until you get the flavor you want) while stirring over low heat until the cream and butter are incorporated.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Easy, No-Knead Dutch Oven Crusty Bread

Never buy bread again! 
This amazing crusty bread is the simplest recipe you will ever find for 
homemade bread. Only 4 ingredients and NO kneading. 

I have always wanted to make bread, but have been scared of it. I'm the girl who didn't own a rolling pin until recently - I had been known to roll things out with a wine bottle... But after receiving a Kitchen Aid Mixer for my birthday, I decided it was time to tackle another item on my cooking bucket list... bread. I read through a bunch of recipes and bought bread flour and yeast at the supermarket. Baby steps. 

Then I came across a recipe for a no-knead crusty bread using a Dutch oven to bake it. Really? It seemed too good to be true. I wouldn't even need to use my mixer.

I sat on the couch for a while reading and re-reading the recipe, and finally worked up the nerve to go in the kitchen and make the dough. It was 9 PM on a Saturday night (crazy night, huh?) and I was going to make dough for my first loaf of bread.

I wouldn't lie to you - this bread is seriously the easiest thing to make. If I can make this, so can you. 

First, you mix up the dough ingredients, put it in a bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap so the magic can happen. Make sure to store it in a warm place (if it is too cold it will not rise properly). I was so protective of this dough that I took it up to our bedroom and set it on my dresser since we turn the heat down really low downstairs at night. I was not taking a chance!

The next morning I got up to see that the dough had risen. About an hour and a half before I was ready to eat dinner (and enjoy the bread), I turned it out onto a floured surface, and it looked like this.

I floured my hands to form it into a large ball and was a little nervous at the sticky texture, but the recipe assured me that it was just right. After rolling and forming (note - not kneading), it looked like this -

At this point, you cover it with plastic wrap while your Dutch oven preheats. Then you put it in the oven and let it bake. That's IT.

Knowing of my past baking mishaps and how I don't like to measure, my husband had low expectations. But then we sliced into the bread and it was perfectly - PERFECTLY - crusty on the outside and airy and soft on the inside. I don't even remember what dish I served this with. Honestly, I could have eaten the bread alone and been happy.

Although I still want to try some "harder" bread recipes, this was the perfect recipe for my first time, and I can't wait to make it again. It's so easy that I don't think I'll ever need to write the words "crusty bread" on my shopping list again.

If you want to change the look or shape of your bread, grab some food-safe string or twine and a sharp knife or scoring tool. To make the "pumpkin" shape below, I placed 4 pieces of twine out on a floured board, intersecting in the center, so it almost looks like 8 slices of pizza. Flour the top of the bread, and then tie each string up into the center. If you want to do more decorating, score each of the 8 sections of the bread with 3 lines using a very sharp paring knife or a scoring tool. 

No-Knead Crusty Bread
Source: The Comfort of Cooking

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-3 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast (active dry or highly active dry work best)
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • Special cookware needed: Dutch oven or any large oven-safe dish/bowl and lid* Parchment paper. 
  • In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast.
  • Add the water and stir using a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a shaggy but cohesive dough.
  • Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours. Dough will bubble up and rise.
  • An hour and a half before you want to eat the bread, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Place your Dutch oven, uncovered, into the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  • While your Dutch oven preheats, turn dough onto a well-floured surface and, with floured hands, form the dough into a ball. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rest.
  • After the 30 minutes are up, carefully remove the Dutch oven. With floured hands, place the bread on a sheet of parchment paper and then transfer to the Dutch oven. 
  • Bake for 30 minutes covered. Remove cover and bake for 7-15 minutes more, uncovered (just keep an eye on it as cooking times will vary).
  • Remove the bread and place on a cutting board. Slice and serve!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Perfect Bite - Endive with Pears, Gorgonzola, and Crushed Pecans

Thanksgiving was a hit this year. It was a Thanksgiving of many firsts - the first one celebrated in our new home, the first one shared with my godparents and cousins, and the first one where my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and their 2 awesome boys were living on the same coast and could be with us on this day.

It was a loud and busy day, but in the best possible way. So much talking and laughing, crafting and cooking, and of course three crazy kids having so much fun running, playing, and just being kids. Loud kids :)

When we have people over to our home, I love to feed them. Jon's always complaining that I go overboard or make too much food, but that's how I like it. I love the preparation and planning that goes into it, and even loved making my timeline (and adjusting it three times until it was perfect). And perfect it was.... I wrote everything out with the goal of having our feast on the table by 3:00 PM. Once the food was ready and in serving bowls, I called everyone for dinner and happened to look at the clock. Yup, 3:00 on the dot. I'll be saving that timeline for next year!

But before the big feast, I put out some appetizers - a nice cheese and meat plate, nuts, crackers, fruit, and one fancier app that to me was the perfect bite. This app was sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy, and surprisingly was even enjoyed by a few people I thought would never even try it. Besides all of that, it was super easy to put together, making it the perfect appetizer for a busy day.

Endive with Pears, Gorgonzola, and Crushed Pecans
Adapted from: Not Enough Cinnamon

  • 1 head endive
  • 1/2 of a ripe pear, peeled and cubed (small cubes, but not diced)
  • 3 Tbsp Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 Tbsp pecans, crushed
  • Cut off the bottom of the endive. Gently pull apart the leaves being careful not the break them. Wash and dry, again being very gentle.
  • Mix the pear and Gorgonzola in a bowl. Spoon mixture into the yellow end of the endive leaves.
  • Sprinkle with the crushed pecans.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bacon and Asparagus Pasta

If you are like me, you see the word "bacon" in a recipe title and you have to read more. Add pasta and I'm even more excited.

I was browsing through recipes pinned to Pinterest when I first came across this one for Bacon and Asparagus Pasta. Turns out it comes from a blog of someone I "know" from a cooking board I belong to, and that blog is one you should definitely check out - Tide and Thyme. Her recipes are fabulous and her pictures are always mouth watering.

I put this recipe on our meal plan for a weeknight. When I started to prep I realized that it called for making a separate alfredo sauce, something I wasn't prepared for as I usually make my sauce right in the pan where I cook my bacon, veggies, etc. I still went ahead with the recipe though as I had been craving it all day. Making the separate sauce really only added 10 minutes to my time spent at the stove, and what's one more pot to wash for a fabulous meal? Alternatively, you could make the sauce ahead of time and heat it when you are ready to cook (heat slowly and constantly stir, and you may need to thin it out a bit with a touch of cream).

I made very minor changes, including only adding in half of the bacon and using the other half to top our pasta - I love that crunch of the bacon. I also added some thinly sliced onions and used light cream instead of heavy cream for the sauce. This pasta was so creamy and rich, and the smoke from the bacon was the perfect addition to the creamy and comforting alfredo sauce. You could add any other veggies you like - broccoli and red peppers would be a great combination.

Bacon and Asparagus Pasta
Slightly adapted from Tide and Thyme

  • 8 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb pasta (I used gemelli)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper

Sauce Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 2 cups light cream
  • 3 tsp flour or cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • Kosher salt, if needed
  • The sauce: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in the light cream. Cook, over medium heat until simmering. Combine the flour/cornstarch and cold water, whisk into the cream mixture. Cook, whisking constantly, until sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Parmesan cheese (doing this off the heat will keep the sauce from getting chalky). Season to taste with salt, if needed. Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining. Return the pasta to the pan that you cooked it in, and set aside.
  • Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook the bacon until browned and crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove and place on paper towel lined plate to drain. Remove all but 2 Tbsp of grease from the pan, and return to the stove. Add the chopped asparagus to the pan, stirring occasionally. Cook until tender, about 7 minutes. About halfway through cooking the asparagus, add the onions. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more.
  • In the meantime, cook your pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Drain and set aside, keeping 1 cup of the pasta water.
  • Add the pasta to the pan with the asparagus, and add in half of the bacon and slowly add the sauce. Toss to combine. If sauce is too thick, add a bit of the pasta water to thin it out. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving and top with more bacon.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Last week my husband and I were watching House Hunters and the wife was talking about how she wanted a bigger kitchen. She said she wanted to learn how to cook, and that she knew how to bake already because "baking is easy, you just follow the directions on the back of the box." Jon and I just looked at each other and laughed.

Now don't get me wrong, I have no problem with using boxed mixes for cakes and brownies. It's pretty hard to mess up a boxed cake and while it technically IS baking, it's not exactly baking from scratch. Baking from scratch, in my opinion, is hard, but I am determined to figure it out. My dad is an amazing baker so I am hoping it's in my genes and it won't be too difficult for me!

To get some more practice baking and to put my new mixer to work, I asked my husband what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday. His only request was for a bundt cake, and since I know he loves chocolate and coffee, I went in search of something that would incorporate both.

I came across this recipe for a Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake on the blog Handle the Heat. I loved the use of espresso along with both cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate with a sweet chocolate glaze. There's no such thing as too much chocolate, right?

This cake was easy to put together, and I even think I got the glaze right. My only problem was that the recipe said the cake would be done when the toothpick came out with moist crumbs. I didn't get my timing right so it was just a touch overdone, but like I said, I'm learning. We still loved this cake and I'd definitely make it again.

For the cake:
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 6 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso (I couldn't find instant espresso in my store, so I used instant coffee)
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
For the glaze:
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons corn syrup
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Combine the cocoa, chocolate, and espresso in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water into the bowl and cover. Let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk the chocolate mixture until it is smooth. Let cool to room temperature. When it has cooled, whisk in the sour cream.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla for about 4 minutes, or until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until combined.
  • On low speed add the flour mixture and the melted chocolate mixture alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour, until the batter is smooth.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out and let cool completely.
  • The glaze - In a small saucepan heat the cream and corn syrup over medium heat until hot. Remove from heat and add the chocolate, whisking until smooth. Let cool slightly until thickened. Drizzle over the cake. Let the glaze set at room temperature, about 10 minutes, before serving.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sausage, Spinach, and Mushroom Lasagna

A few weeks ago I invited my parents over for dinner on a weeknight, but I needed something that I could fix ahead of time and then let it cook in the oven - lasagna is perfect for that.

I had a package of sausage I wanted to use in the lasagna - both sweet and hot Italian sausage. How cool that they packaged them like that? It was 2 links of hot and 4 links of sweet. Using sausage as my inspiration, I went in search of a new recipe.

I found a recipe for Sausage, Spinach, and Mushroom Lasagna on the Eating Well web site. After reading through the ingredients and directions, I couldn't wait to make and eat it. This lasagna seemed like the perfect compromise when one person wants a meat lasagna and someone else wants a veggie lasagna, and it really was the best of both worlds.

When I was cooking the sausage, mushrooms, and spinach I started to taste it. I liked it so much that I could see this part of the recipe being a meal on its own, maybe served over polenta.

I made a few small changes to the recipe. It called for whole wheat lasagna noodles, but instead I used the no bake lasagna noodles - I just like how easy they are. I added onions and garlic, used spicy and sweet sausage instead of only spicy, and also added a few layers.

Sausage, Spinach, and Mushroom Lasagna
Source: Adapted from Eating Well

  • 15 no bake lasagna noodles
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian sausage (both spicy and sweet), casings removed 
  • 10 oz white mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 sm onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 pound frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to get all of the water out
  • 1 28-ounce can chunky crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook until browned, about 6 minutes. 
  • Add the onions and garlic and sauté 1 minute
  • Add mushrooms and water; cook, stirring occasionally until the water has evaporated and the mushrooms are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Stir the spinach into the pan; remove from the heat. 
  • Mix tomatoes with basil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
  • To assemble lasagna: Spread a thin layer of the tomatoes into the baking dish. Place three noodles in the dish - they shouldn't be touching each other, leave just a bit of room between them as they expand when cooking. Top with ricotta and lightly spread. Top with some of the sausage mixture followed by some tomatoes and mozzarella. Start again with noodles, ricotta, sausage, tomatoes, mozzarella. End with your 5th layer of noodles, some tomatoes, and mozzarella.
  • Cover with foil and bake until bubbling and heated through, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Vegetarian was the theme of this Taste of Home Cooking Recipe Swap. Even though I am no longer a vegetarian, I still enjoy eating vegetarian and in some cases I even prefer vegetarian meals, especially when talking about soups. If I'm going to reheat something for lunches for 4-5 days, I'd much prefer it be vegetables, and not meat.
The blog I received in the swap was Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks. I knew immediately that I'd have a hard time deciding what to make - her blog has a lot of great vegetarian recipes. I browsed for a while, torn between pasta, tofu, or soup. The day I decided to cook for this swap it was pretty cold and blustery, so soup it was! 
I chose this Broccoli Cheddar Soup. I read through the post taking note of Heather Lynne's suggestion on how to add the cheese without it curdling or turning chalky. I usually do remove my pan from the heat before adding cheddar, but now I know that you should probably wait a while before adding the cheese - cheddar melts at 120 degrees F and curdles at 160 degrees F. I pulled out my meat thermometer (how ironic, right?) and waited until my soup cooled to about 130 - this took more than 10 minutes. I then slowly added the cheese and stirred it until it melted. My soup was creamy, smooth, and didn't have any of that chalky consistency you can sometimes get with cheese sauces or soups.
I've had broccoli cheddar soups before, but what made this one different for me was the use of the herbs. I loved the flavor the rosemary added and really think the soup would not be the same without it.

Thanks for sharing your blog in this swap, Heather Lynne!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp oregano (I used dried oregano)
  • 1/2 tsp thyme (I used dried thyme)
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary (I used dried rosemary)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups water (I used 2 cups vegetable broth)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3-4 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. 
  • Add the onion and saute for 4 minutes. Add in the garlic and saute for an additional minute.
  • Stir in the flour and herbs and heat for 30 seconds. 
  • Add in the milk and cream and whisk until smooth.
  • Bring the soup to a simmer and add in the potatoes and carrots. Cook for 10 minutes.
  • Increase the heat and add in the water (broth), salt, pepper, and butter. Once the soup is boiling add in the broccoli and reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Cook for 20 minutes. 
  • Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes (I allowed it to cool for 10).  Slowly stir in the cheddar cheese until the soup is smooth. Serve hot.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chocolate Covered Cake with OREO Cream Filling

My dad is the baker of the family and is always making fantastic pies or cakes for birthdays and other holidays. So for his birthday last month I wanted to make something yummy for him, and his only request was chocolate.

Now you'll have to cut me a break on this - I followed the recipe and used a boxed cake mix for the 2 cake layers. BUT you could easily make this cake with your favorite chocolate cake recipe. For me, the best part of this cake was the creamy OREO filling. I may or may not have kept some aside to just eat instead of putting it in the cake...

This recipe comes from the Kraft web site. I made two changes to the ingredients - first, I used homemade whipped cream instead of Cool Whip. I made the whipped cream by mixing 1 cup heavy cream, 2 Tbsp confectioner's sugar, and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract - a recipe my friend over at A Taste of Home Cooking shared with me when she came for dinner over the summer.  Second, I used store bought chocolate frosting instead of making the glaze.

 This cake was so, so good. It was extremely rich, had the perfect amount of sweetness, and everyone loved it.

As far as timing, I made the cakes in the evening and let them cool. I also made the whipped cream in the evening. The next morning I made the filling and put it between the layers of cake, and then frosted the top and stored the cake in the fridge for several hours before going to my dad's house. The cake really set and was beautiful when we sliced into it.  

Chocolate Covered Cake with OREO Cream Filling
Source: Adapted from Kraft

  • 1 package (2-layer size) devil's food cake mix 
  • 8 oz. PHILADELPHIA cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups homemade whipped cream (1 cup heavy cream, 2 Tbsp confectioner's sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 12 OREO cookies, coarsely crushed
  • Make the cakes according to package directions; cool completely
  • Beat the cream cheese and sugar until blended. Gently mix in the whipped cream and cookies.
  • Place one layer cake on a plate. Spread the OREO cream mixture on top, and place the second layer cake on top. Top with the chocolate frosting.
  • My tip: refrigerate for a few hours to "set" the cake before serving.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chicken Corn Chowder

Whenever my husband asks what I want for my birthday or Christmas, I usually say nothing. I'd much rather go do something, go out to a good dinner, or spend some family time together. However, this year when he asked me I quickly said "a Kitchen Aid Mixer - the Pro 600 with a 6qt bowl."

He wasn't expecting anything from me, yet alone that! See, I don't bake and I've always said that I don't have a need for a fancy mixer. But over the past year or two I have started to think more about it. Last year I made several kinds of cookies for Christmas and my little $10 hand mixer just didn't cut it. I'd also like to try my hand at bread, dough, and think that I would enjoy baking more if I had a mixer that did a lot of the hard work for me.

So the morning of my birthday I opened the box and there it was. Well, I was actually home when the FedEx guy delivered it 2 days prior so I knew what would be in the box, but I was still so excited to finally open it. What a beautiful piece of machinery it is! I hate clutter, but this baby will definitely have a spot to sit on my counter. Plus, who the heck wants to lug 29 lbs around every time you want to use it?

I've had the mixer for 2 weeks now and have used it 4 times, including making a great cake for my husband's birthday (see, the gift that keeps on giving!). But how fitting that the very first time I used it, just about 5 hours after opening the box, was to shred chicken?? I had heard that you could shred chicken in this mixer but after looking at the attachments I thought "yea, right." I put the cooked chicken breasts into the mixer and turned it on low and holy crap, it started to shred!! I kept watching in awe as it perfectly shredded my chicken - I think this is my favorite use so far! Goodbye are the days of spending 10-15 minutes with two forks and tired arms!

I used the shredded chicken in a deliciously hearty Chicken Corn Chowder that I first saw on Buns in My Oven - to be honest, her picture is what first got me! I changed a few things up, added a few things, and was so happy with how it turned out. Now if I only had some homemade bread to go with it... next time!!

Chicken Corn Chowder
Adapted from Buns in My Oven

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Russet potatoes, diced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 c frozen corn
  • 15 oz can of creamed corn
  • 2 c low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 c light cream
  • 1 tsp Old bay
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • Shredded chicken (I poached and shredded 2 chicken breasts)
  • Optional: cheddar cheese
  • Heat a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot over medium high heat. Add the bacon, and cook until crispy. Transfer to a plate covered with paper towels. Crumble.
  • To the pot with bacon grease add the potatoes, white parts of green onion, carrots, celery, jalapeno, butter; stir.
  • Add creamed corn and frozen corn; stir.
  • Add broth and cream as well as the Old Bay, thyme, parsley, cayenne, and salt and pepper; bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes
  • Add in chicken and adjust salt and pepper if needed
  • Garnish with green parts of the green onion and bacon, and optional cheddar cheese

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Sadly, the local tomato season is officially over. I still need my tomato fix though so in the fall and winter months I will buy Campari or vine-ripened tomatoes when I can find them on sale. Both are on the smaller side, but perfectly red and juicy. My store had Campari tomatoes BOGO a few weeks ago, so I picked up 2 packages.

I thought about making stewed tomatoes, but then came across David Lebovitz's recipe for Oven Roasted Tomatoes. His pictures were enough to convince me that I needed to make these!
These tomatoes roast for a while in the oven - 2 hours, low and slow. After roasting for so long, the garlic is soft and sweet, and the skins slide right off the tomatoes which was perfect for my little one. I used dried herbs instead of fresh because it's what I had on hand.
We enjoyed these as a side, but I'd also love to do what David did and put them over a toasted baguette topped with some sort of crumbled cheese. That alone would be the perfect dinner for me. Just add wine.  

Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Source: David Lebovitz

  • 1 lb tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced (I used 3 cloves)
  • 8-10 branches of fresh thyme (I used 1 tsp dried thyme)
  • a few spring of fresh rosemary (I used 1 tsp dried rosemary)
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • Preheat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC.)
  • Pour the olive oil into a shallow baking dish or pan and add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, and salt and pepper.
  • Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally, then use a sharp knife to remove the stems, if you wish. Toss the tomatoes with the oil and seasonings, then lay them cut side down in the dish.
  • Bake for two hours, or until the tomatoes are completely softened and wilted, and start to wrinkle. Depending on the tomatoes, they may take longer to cook.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Asian Noodle Soup

Open fridge, start grabbing things. That's how this soup came to be.

Earlier in the week I bought some Napa cabbage and bok choy with the intention of making a stir fry but I never got around to it. So when I opened my fridge on Sunday morning and saw them in the veggie bin, I used them as my inspiration for this soup.

I have built up a pretty good amount of Asian cooking ingredients - I now have a full door shelf in my fridge dedicated to various things like soy sauce, sesame oil, hoisin, sriracha, rice vinegar, mirin, and minced ginger. Because I always associate Asian flavors with bok choy, I grabbed almost every bottle from that shelf when making this soup.
The final product reminded me a lot of the soups my dad and sister talked about after their trip to Vietnam, and I think it was because I used both lime juice and cilantro at the end giving it a bright and fresh flavor.
I kept this vegetarian (except for the broth), but you could definitely add some shredded chicken to it for some protein.

Asian Noodle Soup

(note - amounts are approximate)
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 head Napa cabbage, sliced
  • 2-3 stalks of bok choy, sliced (don't use the very top greens or very bottom white parts)
  • 6 c low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegetarian version) 
  • Soy sauce - approximately 2 tbsp
  • 2-3 quick shakes of rice vinegar
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • Large handful cilantro, chopped
  • 3 green onions
  • 6 oz Asian noodles of your choice
  • Heat the olive oil and sesame oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat
  • Add the garlic and ginger; sauté 1 min
  • Add the carrots and sauté another minute
  • Add the cabbage and bok choy and stir gently until it is starting to wilt
  • Add the broth, soy sauce, and rice vinegar; bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 15 minutes.
  • In the meantime, cook your noodles (I like to cook them separately so they don't soak up too much of the soup's liquid; that way you can add as many or as few noodles to your soup as you'd like, or you can just put them in the pot when they are done cooking)
  • Before serving, add lime juice and cilantro to the soup. Add noodles and top with the green onions.
  • Note: when I ate mine, I added just a squirt of Sriracha sauce for some heat.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad

 Every night I spend about twenty minutes making my lunch to take to work, and my daughter's lunch to take to preschool. Sometimes I feel like I get stuck in a serious rut, sending her with the same things day after day. She always eats it but I feel like I need to give her some variety. I feel the same way about my lunch sometimes - it always consists of a sandwich on some form of whole wheat bread/pita/thin, and in the fall I add a bowl of soup. It gets a little boring day after day...
From talking to other women on a cooking board I belong to, this seems to be a common problem for everyone - what to take for lunch?? So this month's Taste of Home Cooking Recipe Swap was all about lunch.
I shared by White Bean and Spinach Soup with Brown Rice and was given a recipe for Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad from the blog Kate's Recipe Box. I was excited about it for a few reasons. I've been making a lot of Buffalo Chicken Recipes over the past few months, and loved all of them. Something about that spicy buffalo sauce with the blue cheese - yum! And I love quinoa too, but just haven't made it too much recently. Finally, this looked like an easy recipe that would be nice and filling, yet healthy - the perfect lunch!

One note about cooking quinoa - you want to rinse it thoroughly before cooking it to remove any of the bitter taste.

I ended up having some issues with this recipe, and I really hate giving recipes bad reviews during these swaps! But it's just my opinion, and everyone has different tastes. First, the dish seemed a bit confused. Was it supposed to be eaten hot, cold, or at room temp? Also, even though I started cooking my chicken before I added the hot sauce, the hot sauce completely reduced, burning my pan three times. I kept having to add chicken broth. And although I love the buffalo flavor on chicken, I thought that it overpowered the quinoa, and didn't go well with the broccoli.

 I love the idea of a chicken/veggie/quinoa salad though, so maybe if you love those things too and you make this, skip cooking the chicken in the buffalo sauce and just slowly add the buffalo dressing to taste.

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad
Makes 2-3 servings

For the salad -
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 3/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot)
  • Added: approximately 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles, plus more for garnish

For the dressing -
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt (I used Kosher salt)
  • For the dressing, whisk all ingredients together and set aside.
  • For the salad, rinse the quinoa well and add to a saucepan with two cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, until all water is absorbed.
  • In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the broccoli and cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Remove the broccoli and set aside.
  • Add the chicken and sauté 2 min per side, until golden brown but not cooked through. Add 1/4 cup hot sauce and broth to the pan. Cook until the chicken is cooked through and the hot sauce is absorbed.
  • In a large bowl, toss together the cooked quinoa, cooked chicken, cooked broccoli, carrots and blue cheese.  Add as much dressing as desired and toss to coat. Top with additional blue cheese before serving.


    Thursday, October 17, 2013

    Spicy Ginger Garlic Grilled Shrimp over a Crunchy Romaine Salad

    I think last week may have been our final week of warm, summer-like temperatures. We have had an amazing fall, and have been enjoying spending evenings outdoors cooking and playing without needing jackets - I love it!

    Even though it's getting cooler we will still grill. Heck, Jon will even shovel a path to the grill if we have snow on the ground. But luckily last week he didn't have to do that, and was able to stand outside in the warm sunshine while grilling up some shrimp.

    I picked up some shrimp for Jon not knowing what I'd do with it until I realized I was craving this Grilled Chicken Salad with Sesame Dressing that I first made last year. I used it as my inspiration for this Spicy Garlic Ginger Grilled Shrimp over a Crunchy Salad. I created a spicy marinade, used the dressing recipe from the original salad, added some rice noodles, and changed up the salad ingredients a bit.

    Jon liked this one - great flavor, a bit of heat, quick and easy, and healthy. I'd say that's a successful meal. I made the same dinner for myself but used a chicken breast instead of shrimp.

    Spicy Ginger Garlic Grilled Shrimp over a Crunchy Romaine Salad
    Inspired by: Grilled Chicken Salad with Sesame Dressing

    The Shrimp
    • 1/2 lb raw shrimp, peeled (I used 21-25 count shrimp)
    • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/4 tsp ginger, minced
    • 2 quick dashes rice vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
    • 1-2 tsp chili garlic sauce, depending on how much heat you want
    • Before cooking: juice from 1/2 of a lime
    • Skewers
    • Mix the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and chili garlic sauce. Pour over the shrimp and marinate in the fridge for 4+ hours.
    • When you are ready to cook, skewer the shrimp and squeeze lime juice over them. (note - I used metal skewers. If you are using wooden skewers make sure you soak them in water for 20-30 minutes so they do not burn.)
    • Heat a grill to 400 degrees. Place skewers on the grill and cook approximately 4 minutes per side, until cooked through.
    • Remove shrimp from the skewers and place atop the salad.

    The Salad
    • 4 c chopped Romaine lettuce (makes 2 salads)
    • 2 green onions, chopped
    • 1 carrot, julienned
    • 1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced into rounds
    • A few slices of red onion
    • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
    • Cooked rice noodles
    • Other items you could add: fresh bean sprouts, cooked pasta noodles, baby corn, cilantro, cucumbers, radishes.
    Mix all of the veggies and toss with the dressing. Plate the rice noodles and put the salad on top. Top with the shrimp (or chicken)/

    The Dressing
    Mix these ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use:
    • 1 1/2 Tbsp light olive oil
    • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
    • 1 tsp sesame oil
    • Pinch or 2 of sugar
    • 2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
    • 1/4 tsp Sriracha sauce
    • Few dashes each of salt and freshly ground black pepper


    Wednesday, October 9, 2013

    Sausage Casserole with Herbed Potatoes and Carrots

    When I first saw this recipe, I was drawn to it because the author named it "Lazy Sunday Casserole."
    I read through it and while it was not really a fix it and forget it recipe, it still looked like something you'd only have to pay attention to a few times over the hour and a half that it cooks, so I put it on our menu.

    I made a few two small changes to the recipe. I used hot Italian sausage, omitted the fennel (just don't like it), and used more garlic. While Jon wasn't a huge fan of this - the man doesn't like potatoes or carrots (I know, right???) - I absolutely loved it. The sauce that the broth, herbs, and balsamic created was heavenly. The veggies were perfectly tender, and this dish made awesome leftovers.

    Sausage Casserole with Herbed Potatoes and Carrots
    Adapted from: Kayotic Kitchen

    • 1 lb hot Italian sausage (5 links)
    • 1 lb potatoes; I used a mix of Russets and Yukon Golds
    • 1 onion
    • 1/2 lb carrots; I used baby carrots
    • 1/2 red bell pepper
    • 2 cloves garlic; I used about 6
    • Black pepper
    • Salt
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1.5 tsp dried Italian herbs
    • 1/2 c low sodium chicken broth
    • 4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees
    • Prep your veggies: peel and chop the potatoes into large cubes, chop the pepper into chunks, and slice the garlic. Place everything into a large roasting pan and season with salt and pepper.
    • Mix the oil, herbs, and broth. Pour over the veggies and stir to coat.
    • Cover the pan and place in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the veggies are just about fork tender.
    • Lightly brown your sausages and cut then in half. Add them to the roasting pan after the veggies have roasted for 45 minutes. Pour the balsamic vinegar over everything, cover and let roast for 25-30 minutes. Halfway through, flip the sausages and spoon some of the cooking juices over everything.

    Friday, October 4, 2013

    Soy-Sesame Grilled Chicken over Vegetable Lo Mein

    Last week I picked up a bag of broccoli slaw in the market as well as some Napa cabbage. Originally I planned on tossing it with the Sweet and Spicy Lime Vinaigrette from this Napa Cabbage and Cucumber Slaw. But then I decided that I felt like having some carbs with dinner so I picked up a package of Chinese style noodles.

    I threw together a quick stir fry using the broccoli slaw and some peppers, and topped it with grilled marinated chicken. The sauce I used for the stir fry is one that has become my go-to sauce. I originally used it in this Veggie Lo Mein, a recipe I made as part of a blog swap from the blog Oishii Food. I think the ratio of rice vinegar to soy sauce, as well as the addition of Sriracha, is what makes this sauce so good. The first time I had it I felt like I was eating my favorite dishes from the awesome restaurants in Philadelphia's Chinatown.

    The little one loved this dinner and we didn't have any leftovers! I usually cook way too much food so it's rare that we don't have leftovers.

    The Marinade
    For 2 chicken breasts; amounts are approximate
    • 1/4 c low sodium soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
    • 1/4 tsp rice vinegar
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1/2 tsp minced ginger
    • 1 hour before cooking add juice from 1/2 of a lime
    Mix all ingredients and pour over chicken breasts. Let marinate at least 8 hours.

    The Stir-Fry
    Source: original recipe using the sauce from Oishii Food's Vegetable Lo Mein Recipe
    • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
    • 1/2 sm onion, sliced
    • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
    • 1/2 jalapeno, chopped
    • 1/2 bag broccoli slaw
    • 1/2 sm head of Napa cabbage, chopped into long pieces (explain how to chop)
    • Handful chopped cilantro
    • 3 green onions, chopped
    • 8 oz noodles
    • 3 to 4 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp. hot chili sauce, such as Sriracha
    • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
    • 2 tsp mirin
    • 2 tsp brown sugar
    • Salt and pepper to taste (omitted this time)

    • Grill chicken until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees
    • Cook the noodles according to the package directions (I try to time this so the noodles are done as soon as the veggies are done cooking, so I drop my noodles when I turn on my wok/pan)
    • Heat veg oil in a large wok or sauté pan
    • Add onions and garlic, sauté 2 min
    • Add jalapeno and red pepper, sauté 2 min
    • Add broccoli slaw and Napa cabbage and stir to combine
    • Add sauce and bring to a simmer. Tilt your pan to the side, moving all of the veggies out of the way, and allow the sauce to simmer on it's own so it thickens a bit.
    • Add your cooked noodles, green onions and cilantro.
    • Top with grilled chicken and more green onions and cilantro

    Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    Creamy Dairy Free Black Bean Soup

    Creamy, but without any cream. Completely dairy free. The beans puree so beautifully that they become silky and creamy, giving this soup the appearance and taste of being a cream soup, but with all the health benefits of beans and veggies!

    I kept this recipe simple, starting with sautéing onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and peppers. I then added the black beans, spices, and broth. Once it cooked for a bit, I pureed everything into a smooth soup. Adjust a few of the spices and you are done. 20-25 minutes from start to finish.

    As I always do, once the soup cooled I ladled it into 4 containers for lunches for the week. When I warmed it up the next day and sat at my desk to eat it, I was in heaven - this soup was SO good. Smooth, hearty, and with it a bit of a kick. And while it was a completely vegetarian soup, it had a slight flavor of smokiness from the cumin - you could totally be tricked into thinking this soup started with bacon.

    This is my go-to soup whenever I need something healthy, filling, and quick.

    Dairy Free Black Bean Soup
    Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations
    4 servings

    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 sm onion, chopped
    • 1 carrot, diced
    • 1 stalk of celery, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/4 red bell pepper, diced
    • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
    • 1 26.5 can black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • Pinch of cayenne pepper (more for heat)
    • Pinch of salt (adjust as needed)
    • 3.5 c vegetable broth
    • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat
    • Add the onion and sauté 2 minutes
    • Add the carrots, celery, garlic, red pepper, and jalapeno. Saute 3-4 minutes, until veggies are slightly tender.
    • Add the black beans, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and salt; stir.
    • Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.
    • Remove from the heat and puree. I use my handheld immersion blender, but you could also puree it in batches in a blender.

    Serve topped with cilantro and crushed tortilla chips. If you do not need to be dairy free, add a dollop of sour cream.