Thursday, December 13, 2007

Roasted Pepper & Onion Pasta Bake

We'll call this a 'cleaning out the closet' meal. I had some chicken sausage in the freezer that I wanted to use up, so I put together this dish. It was so good and flavorful.

Roasted Pepper & Onion Pasta Bake


INGREDIENTS
1/2 lb of elbow macaroni
1 green bell pepper, sliced in chunks
1/2 large red bell pepper, sliced in chunks
1 large onion, cut into chunks
4 garlic cloves
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
3 links chicken sausage w/ fennel
2 1/2 tablespoons Italian style tomato paste
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, with juice
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the peppers and onion in a 9x13 baking dish. Coat the peppers, garlic and onions with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place uncovered baking dish in the oven and roast for 30-40 mins, or until done. Once done, mash the garlic.

Cook the chicken sausage in a pan. Once cooked, slice into half moons.

Cook the macaroni, as directed.

In a large bowl, combine the roasted vegtables, chicken sausage, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Once the macaroni is cooked, drain and add to the sausage mixture.

Coat a 9x9 pan with cooking spray. Pour the pasta mixture into the pan.

In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs with 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter.

Bake until the top is golden brown. About 20-30 mins.

Garlic Roasted Red Potatoes

These made such a great side to some basic chicken we made the other night. We'll definitely make these again!


INGREDIENTS2 pounds red potatoes, quartered
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (I used 2 tablespoons)

DIRECTIONSPreheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Place potatoes in an 8x8 inch baking dish.
In a small bowl combine melted butter, garlic, salt and lemon juice; pour over potatoes and stir to coat. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese and parsley over potatoes.
Bake, covered, in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Cookie Baking Extravaganza!

Jen and I got together this past Saturday to whip up some cookies. Everything we made was delish. What's better than making cookies with your best friend? Eating them, of course!


Katie's Cookies! - Chocolate Chip



Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Beef Stroganoff

This was a super easy dinner and was packed with flavor. I haven't had this in soooo long, so it really hit the spot.

I found this recipe on Allrecipes. My version with changes is below.

Enjoy!

BEEF STROGANOFF

INGREDIENTS:
1 pound sirloin steak
1 small cooking onion
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 ounces beef broth
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon worchestershire sauce
1/2 (6 ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons white wine
2 ounces light cream cheese
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Remove any fat from the sirloin and cut into strips. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet over medium heat, coat with cooking spray and brown the beef strips quickly. Remove the beef from the pan. Add the onions and cook slowly for 3 to 5 minutes. Add beef back to pan.

Heat beef broth in a coffee mug in the microwave for 90 seconds. Stir the flour into the mug and mix. Add flour mixture and white wine to the pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Lower the heat and stir in mustard and worchestershire sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30-45 mins. Be sure to stir often.

Five minutes before serving, stir in the mushrooms, sour cream and cream cheese. Heat briefly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over egg noodles.

(Serves 2-3)

Garlic Mashed Red Skin Potatoes

What goes better with steak?? NOTHING!!!

Here's a little recipe I whipped up. The potatoes were soooo good and creamy.

INGREDIENTS:
2 pounds red potatoes
3 cloves of fresh garlic
1 tablespoons grated Romano cheese
2 tablespoons sour cream
a splash of skim milk
1/2 a stick of butter
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and garlic. Cook until tender but still firm, 35-45 minutes. Drain.

Add in the remainder of the ingredients and mash with a potato masher or electric mixer.

(Serves 4)

Beef Tenderloin With Roasted Shallots

We are such chicken and pork people. We never make steak, ever. I think it's mainly because we don't have a grill. There is nothing like grilled steak..until you have this steak!

Matt LOVED it, and so did I. I totally impressed myself and this really tasted like something you'd get at a fancy restaurant!

The original recipe is from Allrecipes. My altered recipe is below!

Enjoy!!

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 pound shallots, halved lengthwise and peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup Cabernet Sauvigon
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
4 beef tenderloin filets
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 slices bacon, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour


DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In 9 inch pie pan, toss shallots with oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until shallots are deep brown and very tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

In a large saucepan, combine chicken broth and cab. Bring to a boil. Cook over high heat until the volume is reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Whisk in tomato paste. Set aside.

Pat beef dry; sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper. In a large roasting pan, set over medium heat on the stove top, saute bacon until golden. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels. Add beef to pan (I removed some of the bacon grease); brown on all sides over medium high heat, about 7 minutes.

Transfer pan to oven. Roast beef until meat thermometer inserted into center registers 125 degrees F (50 degrees C) for medium rare, about 25 minutes. Transfer beef to platter. Tent loosely with foil.

Bring broth mixture to a simmer. Mix 1 tablespoon melted butter and flour in small bowl to form smooth paste; whisk into broth mixture, and simmer until sauce thickens. Whisk in remaining butter. Stir in roasted shallots and reserved bacon. Season with salt and pepper.

Return beef to the sauce and simmer for 5-10 mins, then serve!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I got this recipe from Elly. It was such a great soup. The only change I made was that I garnished it with cilantro. Other than that, I followed her recipe exactly!


Be sure to check out Elly's blog for other great recipes!


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mac & Cheese

This is my favorite Macaroni & Cheese recipe, and I think it's because it's so classic and simple. This is a recipe that my friend, Jenny, gave to me a while back. I believe she may have found it in her Betty Crocker cookbook, but I'm not 100% sure.

The Mac & Cheese was so creamy and smooth and paired well with the Parm Pork Chops.

Enjoy!

MAC & CHEESE

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (7 ounces)
1 stick of butter cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (8 ounces) (we used extra sharp)

DIRECTIONS:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook macaroni as directed.While macaroni is cooking, melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in cheese until melted.

Drain macaroni. Gently stir into cheese sauce. Pour into ungreased 2-quart casserole. Bake uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly.

Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops

Tonight I decided to use up the pork chops that were in the freezer. I've seen many raves about this particular recipe, so I thought it was time to give it a try!

This recipes is a Giada recipe and, as always, was great! The only change I'll make for next time is to cut the pork chops in half lengthwise, so that they are thinner. Matt and I are not huge fans of thick pork chops.

Enjoy!

PARMESAN-CRUSTED PORK CHOPS (Giada)

INGREDIENTS:
2 large eggs
1 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
4 (1/2 to 3/4-inch thick) center-cut pork loin chops (each about 10 to 12 ounces)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
Whisk the eggs in a pie plate to blend. Place the bread crumbs in another pie plate. Place the cheese in a third pie plate. Sprinkle the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Coat the chops completely with the cheese, patting to adhere. Dip the chops into the eggs, then coat completely with the bread crumbs, patting to adhere.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add pork chops, in batches if necessary, and cook until golden brown and the center reaches 150 degrees, about 6 minutes per side.

**After browning the chops, I transferred them to a baking dish and cooked them in the oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. This helped to crisp the crust and to ensure they were cooked through.**

Chicken with Lemon & Garlic

Thanks to Ashley for her great pan sauce recommendation. This recipe is so versatile. My recipe it noted below.

This chicken was wonderful and easy to make. Matt really liked it, so we'll definitely be making it again!

My version didn't have much of a sauce because I dredged the chicken in flour. If you like it more saucy, just omit the dredging in this receipe.

Be sure to check out Ashley's blog for her version, which I'm sure is just as tasty!

CHICKEN WITH LEMON & GARLIC SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1lb chicken tenderloins
1/2-3/4 cup flour for dredging
1 small cooking onion, thinly sliced
3 large cloves of garlic, pressed
1 1/2 tablespoons parsley
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 tablespoon butter
Salt
Pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Dip chicken tenderloins in flour mixture to coat and shake off excess.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook about 4 minutes per side, or until done. Remove the chicken from pan and keep warm.

Add the onions to the pan and saute until tender (you may need to add an extra teaspoon of olive oil at this point). Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the white wine and cook until it's reduced by half. Add the chicken broth, doing the same. Add the lemon juice, butter, parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Return the chicken to the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes, flipping the chicken half way through.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chicken Cacciatore

I have been wanting to make Chicken Cacc for a while, but couldn't seem to find the right recipe. So, I decided to combine what I like from a bunch of different recipes to come up with something spectacular.

This was such a great, healthy, easy dinner. I served the Chicken Cacciatore over rice pilaf with a side salad. It was very flavorful and filled us up! We even managed to have some leftovers for tomorrow, which is a plus! This recipe will be one of our regular weekday meals, for sure!

Enjoy!

CHICKEN CACCIATORE

INGREDIENTS:
1 pound boneless skinless chicken tenderloins or breasts
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1/2 pound fresh white mushrooms, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
3/4 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more, to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Brown the chicken on both sides. Once browned, transfer the chicken to a plate cover with foil and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and red pepper, cover and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms and cook, uncovered until the mushrooms begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the white wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes and juice, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and simmer for 10 minutes, covered.

Return the chicken tenderloins to the pan and cover. Simmer about 20 minutes longer or until the chicken is done.

Serve over rice pilaf or pasta.

Easy Rice Pilaf

Here's my yummy recipe from Aunt Gail. Enjoy! Makes a great side for so many dishes!

EASY RICE PILAF

INGREDIENTS:
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups Minute Rice (white)
2-3 ounces Vermicelli pasta (or thin spaghetti)
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon allspice


DIRECTIONS:
Add butter to medium sauce pan and melt over medium/medium high heat. Once the butter is melted, break the Vermicelli (in small batches over the sauce pan) into 1/2 inch pieces and add to sauce pan. Cook the Vermicelli until golden brown, stirring often.

Once the Vermicelli is browned, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook until the Vermicelli is tender (4-6 mins). Once Vermicelli is tender, remove from heat.Add the Minute Rice, stir and cover for 10 mins. Once the liquid is absorbed, add the salt, pepper, cumin and allspice. Stir to combine.

Fluff with a fork and serve.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake

All I can say is YUM! This was sooooo good! I made 3 pans of this cake over the weekend. One for my brunch, one for my mom and dad and one for Matt & I. Matt is taking the rest of our pan to work tomorrow. It's time for it to go. I've had plenty!

This is another fabulous recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

CHOCOLATE CHIP SOUR CREAM CAKE

INGREDIENTS:
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
3 eggs, separated
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
16 ounces sour cream
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda

12 ounces chocolate chips
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream butter and 1½ cups sugar, then mix in the egg yolks and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder together into a separate bowl. Alternately add sour cream and then dry ingredients into butter mixture. Beat eggs whites until stiff, then fold into batter. Mix last ½ cup sugar and cinnamon together in a separate, small dish.

In a greased 9″x13″ pan, pour in half of the cake batter. Sprinkle the top with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and half of the chocolate chips. Pour remaining batter on top, sprinkling the top with the remaining cinnamon-sugar and chocolate chips.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

So, I was bouncing around on blogs looking for something to whip up and came across Smitten Kitchen. Let me just say . . . this blog is amazing! Not only did I stumble across this blog, taraandkyle06 recommended it when I was searching for something to bake for a brunch this weekend.

This was my first pastry-from-scratch attempt and it came out great! I couldn't resist and ended up eating some of this and gave the rest to my dad. So, needless to say, this didn't end up making it to the brunch today!!

This is such a fancy looking dish and would make a great appetizer for a party of some sort!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CARAMELIZED ONION GALETTE

For the pastry:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup ice water

For the filling:
1 small butternut squash (about one pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
¾ cup grated fontina cheese
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves

Make pastry: In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Prepare squash: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel squash, then halve and scoop out seeds. Cut into a ½-inch dice. Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast on foil lined (for neatness sake) sheet for 30 minutes or until pieces are tender, turning it midway if your oven bakes unevenly. Set aside to cool slightly.

Caramelize onions: While squash is roasting, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook onion over low heat with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in cayenne.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese and herbs together in a bowl.

Assemble galette: On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread squash, onions, cheese and herb mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the squash, onion and cheese mixture, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.

Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Turkeyballs!

This is the second time I've made this, but the first time I've blogged it. I haven't made any repeater dishes lately. I've been on a kick of cooking as many different meals as I can. Nonetheless, I made an exception with this dish. It's so easy and flavorful.

To be quite honest, I've never been a huge meatball/meatloaf fan. This recipe, however, has changed my perspective on all things balls (you know what I mean!!). This is definitely a recipe to try. You'll be blown away with how incredibly good it is!

I served over pasta and used a store bought jar of spaghetti sauce.

My adaptation to Giada's recipe is below.

TURKEY MEATBALLS (Giada)

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
2 tablespoons skim milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Romano
1 pound ground turkey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, add bread crumbs and milk. Mix until well combined. Mix in eggs and 1/2 cup Romano cheese. Mix well. Add turkey and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into golf-size balls.

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium/medium high heat. When almost smoking, add the meatballs and, without moving or turning the meat, allow it to brown for about 4-8 minutes, covered. Turn meatballs and brown the other side. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown.

Remove meatballs from pan and place on a paper towel covered plate, to help remove excess oil.

Add the spaghetti sauce to pan and add meatballs to the sauce, bring to a boil. Lower heat and allow meatballs to simmer for 5-10 minutes. Turn off heat and keep warm on stove. Be careful not to over-handle the meatballs since they are soft and fragile.

TIPS:
Be sure to make the meatballs as close to golf-ball sized as you can. The first time I made this, I made the meatballs larger and they were harder to work with.

When turning the meatballs to brown/cook, be very gentle. I recommend using a spoon, scraping under and lifting, to avoid breaking the meatballs. The larger the pan the better. A little extra room really helps when flipping the balls.

I covered the pan the entire time the meatballs were cooking.

Also, I found it easier to add the meatballs to the sauce vs. adding the sauce to the meatballs.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

An apple a day...

I've been on the hunt lately for a yummy apple cobbler receipe that didn't call for oats. Then, along came Katye's Blog. I followed the recipe closely and it came out great!! The topping is crunchy and sweet. It's literally to die for.

Th
is would've been perfect with a big, fat scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. However, I opted for Cool Whip Lite. It worked, but ice cream would've been that much better.

APPLE CRISP (Kayte's Recipe)

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
8 tablespoons butter, melted
4 apples - peeled, cored and sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 375. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Gradually add in egg until mixture is crumbly. Layer apples in a lightly greased 8x8 cake pan. Cover the apples with the flour mixture and drizzle with melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

Thanks Kayte!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Lentil Soup with Beef

This is such a hearty soup. Matt loves it because it's loaded with protein and fiber. The flavors are so wonderful and it's the perfect soup for those cold winter nights.

This is a Giada recipe. My adaptation of the recipe is below! The recipe makes a ton. If you're only serving a couple, I'd halve the recipe (unless you want to freeze some).

Enjoy!!!

LENTIL SOUP WITH BEEF

INGREDIENTS:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
3 large celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 (14-ounce) cans beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
2 cups (about 11 ounces) lentils, rinsed
2/3 cup elbow macaroni

DIRECTIONS:
Heat the oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper. Add half of the beef and cook until brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining beef. Add the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, rosemary, crushed red pepper and oregano to the pot. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Return the beef and any accumulated juices from the bowl to the pot. Add the broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium. Cover and simmer until the meat is just tender, stirring occasionally, about 30-45 mins. Add the lentils. Cover and continue simmering until the lentils are tender, about 45 minutes. Add the elbow macaroni during the last 15 mins of cooking. Season the soup, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. Top with fresh Parmesan cheese!

Stuffed Grape Leaves with Lamb

So, I took on the task of stuffed grape leaves this weekend. It was such a fun project. The actual task of stuffing the grape leaves was time consuming, but the end result was so worth the wait!

I used a combination of recipes and followed Katie's directions closely. This recipe made about 60 grape leaves. I thought we might have to freeze some, but they seem to be going quick! They make such a great healthy snack/meal!

The grape leaves passed the test. Matt loves them! I was worried since Matt was used to his family's grape leaves that mine might not be the same. However, they were perfect.

Enjoy!

STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES WITH LAMB

INGREDIENTS:
16 ounce jar of grape leaves
2 cups long grain white rice
1 lb. ground lamb or beef
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
5 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/4 cup lemon juice, for in pot
6 Tablespoons butter
8- 12 cups of water
4 Tbsp olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
Rinse grape leaves under water and separate. Lay grape leaves out to dry.

While grape leaves are drying, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small pan and saute onions until they are cooked through.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together lamb, rice, allspice, cinnamon, 5 tablespoons melted butter, lemon juice and cooked onion. Use your hands and mix until combined.

Begin stuffing grape leaves. Place 1/2 tablespoon of the rice mixture close to the bottom of the grape leave (where the stem was). Proceed to fold/roll like a burrito. Make sure to roll the grape leaves pretty tight so that they stay secure.

When you have finished stuffing and rolling the grape leaves, line the bottom of a stock pot with torn or broken grape leaves. Layer the grape leaves tightly in rows in the pot. When all of the stuffed grape leaves are layered, top with more torn or broken grape leaves. Place a flat plate on top of the grape leaves. Place a pitcher of water on top of the plate to hold it down.

Fill the pot with 8-12 cups of water, olive oil, salt and 1 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Make sure the liquid is just above the height of the grape leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 mins - 60 mins, or until done. (eat a stuffed grape leave to make sure they're done!) Use tongs to remove grape leaves from pot.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Peanut Butter Cookies

Yep, it's Halloween. My husband's not home. No candy in the house. No trick-or-treaters.

Soooooo...I whipped up a batch of PB cookies. I found the recipe on Peabody's blog and halved it.

My halved recipe is below. It made approximately 2 dozen cookies.

Preheat oven to 350F.

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugars in a mixer on high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Beat for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs and vanilla, then add the peanut butter and mix well. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix on low speed until all the ingredients are incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and mix just until the dough is smooth.

Using a small ice cream scoop(or a tablespoon) form the dough into ½ inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Flatten cookies with a fork. Bake just until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cookies cool about 5 minutes and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Chicken with Wild Mushroom and Balsamic Cream Sauce

This is a recipe my friend Kristin found and made. After her rave reviews, I decided to give it a try. Kristin is such a great cook and always gives me great recommendations and tips.

This is a Rachael Ray recipe. For whatever reason, I don't usually make too many RR recipes. This recipe, however, is a keeper. It's so easy and has such great flavor. It's one of those recipe that tastes like it has been simmering on the stove all day!

CHICKEN WITH WILD MUSHROOM AND BALSAMIC CREAM SAUCE
Below is my adaptation of the recipe.

INGREDIENTS:
Salt
1/2 pound orzo pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
1 pound boneless skinless chicken tenderloins
Pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 package of white mushrooms, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, a couple of sprigs, chopped
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, eyeball it
3 tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half, a couple turns of the pan


DIRECTIONS:
Heat a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add orzo pasta. Cook to al dente.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper and add to the hot skillet. Cook the chicken for 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm.

Return the skillet to the heat, turn heat back a bit, and add the butter. Once the butter melts add the mushrooms and brown stirring occasionally for about 4 to 5 minutes. Once the mushrooms are brown season with salt and pepper then add the garlic, thyme and shallots. Cook stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes or until the shallots are wilted. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook 2 minutes more. Whisk in the stock, balsamic vinegar and the cream. Turn the heat up to high and simmer for about 2 minutes or until thickened. Slice the chicken on an angle. Add the chicken back to the skillet to heat up, about 1 minute.

To serve, pile orzo on dinner plates and top with the sliced chicken and sauce.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pumpkin Seeds

Darn you people!!! I made a mad dash to the fruit market and picked up a pumpkin this evening.

For whatever reason, Matt didn't think that his batch needed anything but salt. So, for my batch, I tossed the seeds in olive oil, kosher salt, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

As soon as they came out of the oven, Matt realized that mine were better than his, so we mixed them all together! Men!!!

After getting the guts off of the seeds, it was very easy. After I coated the seeds with our toppings, I baked them at 300 degrees for 45 mins. The house smelled great and now I feel like a baby pumpkin is growing in my stomach! Wah-Lah!

Here's a Halloween joke for ya:

Why did Mrs. Jack-o-Lantern leave Mr. Jack-o-Lantern?

Because he had a HALLOWEENIE (hollow weenie) :-)

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

This was such an easy meal to whip up. I found this recipe on Food Network. The flavors came together so nicely. My recipe below is halved and was just enough for Matt and I. So, if you make the original recipe, it will likely serve 3-4. Enjoy!

SPAGHETTI alla CARBONARA (Food Network)

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 pound spaghetti
1 cup cubed pancetta rind removed
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 eggs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg

DIRECTIONS:
Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta.

In another large pan that will fit the pasta later, cook the pancetta cubes in the oil until crispy but not crunchy. Pour over the white wine or vermouth and let it bubble away so that, after a few minutes, you have a small amount of salty winey syrup left. Take the pan off the heat.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream, and pepper. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, but since you want it kept al dente start checking it 2 minutes before end of the recommended cooking time.

When the pasta is done, remove approximately 1/4 cup of the pasta water before draining. Put the pan with the bacon cubes back on the heat and add the drained pasta, tossing well to coat with the syrupy pancetta. Take the pan off the heat again and add the eggs and cheese mixture, swiftly tossing everything to mix. Thin with pasta water, if needed. Grind over some more pepper and grate over the nutmeg to serve.

Lemon Cake

Well, lemon is not something I typically crave. However, 2 large lemons were staring at me in the fridge, so I decided to search for a recipe to use them up. I love lemon chicken, but I wanted something sweet instead.

This cake-like loaf came out great! The texture is great and the flavor from the lemon-sugar glaze is so satisfying. Can't wait until Matt gets home to try this one!

I found a variety of recipes online, and took a little something from each one.
Enjoy, because I know I did!

LEMON CAKE

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces sour cream
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 1 1/2 - 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately 2 large lemons)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup of sugar, sour cream, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla.

Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it is mixed together well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 - 60 minutes, or until a toothpick placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.


While the cake is cooking in the oven, cook 1/3 cup lemon juice and the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Cover a baking rack with wax paper and carefully place the loaf on the rack. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow for it to soak in.

Cool and serve.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rice Pilaf

This is soooo much better than any rice pilaf you can buy in a box. It's so flavorful and goes with so many dishes. I used the allspice and cumin in this recipe, because I served it with Lubia. You can omit these spices to have more of a traditional rice pilaf!

Rice Pilaf

INGREDIENTS:
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups Minute Rice (white)
2-3 ounces Vermicelli pasta (or thin spaghetti)
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon allspice

DIRECTIONS:
Add butter to medium sauce pan and melt over medium/medium high heat. Once the butter is melted, break the Vermicelli (in small batches over the sauce pan) into 1/2 inch pieces and add to sauce pan. Cook the Vermicelli until golden brown, stirring often.

Once the Vermicelli is browned, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook until the Vermicelli is tender (4-6 mins). Once Vermicelli is tender, remove from heat.

Add the Minute Rice, stir and cover for 10 mins. Once the liquid is absorbed, add the salt, pepper, cumin and allspice. Stir to combine.

Fluff with a fork and serve.

Lubia (green beans with meat - beef or lamb)

Katie gave me the idea to whip up some of this good stuff. Forgive me if my spelling is wrong! Google shows so many versions!

This turned out FABULOUS! I used Beef Stew Chunks, as I didn't have any Lamb handy. I also used canned green beans, which makes this recipe super easy. Matt's dad (100% Lebanese) gave me the thumbs up on my recipe. So if it's good enough for him, then it's good enough to share with all of you.

The recipe below is my twist on Matt's family recipe! Enjoy!

Lubia (Lebanese - green beans with meat - beef stew or lamb)
Erin's Recipe!

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 lb Beef Stew Chunks (or you can use Lamb Meat)
2 28oz cans of Cut Green Beans (drained)
2 29oz cans Tomato Sauce
1 14.5oz can Diced Tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoon of butter
2 large onions
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Melt butter in large pot. Add beef to pot and turn to cook all sides. Once the beef is cooked on all sides, add the onion and cook until the onions are soft and golden.

Add water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, allspice, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium/medium low. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours until meat is tender and the sauce has thickened/reduced. Be sure to stir the mixure every 30 mins or so.

Add the green beans during the last 20 mins of cooking.

Serve over rice pilaf (recipe above).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Katie's Apple Bran Muffins





These were sooooo easy and good. I didn't have rasin bran on hand, so I used bran flakes. Nice healthy treat!




Oh, so good . . Pasta e Fagioli

OMG! What a FABULOUS dish. It was so easy and had such wonderful flavor. I followed the receipe closely, but my changes are in bold...

Pasta e Fagioli (Giada De Laurentiis)

INGREDIENTS:
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped onion
3 ounces pancetta, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic (I used 3 big garlic cloves and pressed them)
5 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (14.5-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (I used 1 can of kidney beans and 1 can of garbanzo beans)
3/4 cup elbow macaroni
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional (I used 1TB for extra heat)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Wrap the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth and secure closed with kitchen twine (I didn't have cheesecloth, so I used a coffee filter). Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, pancetta, and garlic and saute until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, beans, and sachet of herbs. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the sachet. Puree 1 cup of the bean mixture in a blender until smooth* (I pureed 2 cups). Before putting the puree back into the soup, add the macaroni and boil with the lid on until it is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Return the puree to the remaining soup in the saucepan and stir well. Season the soup with ground black pepper and red pepper flakes.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with some Parmesan and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil just before serving.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cheesy au Gratin Potatoes

These potatoes were so yummy! I've never made scalloped potatoes, outside of the kind in a box. They were a big hit and didn't leave much in the way over leftovers. I will definitely make these again!

CHEESY AU GRATIN POTATOES (Betty Crocker)


INGREDIENTS:
6 medium boiling or baking potatoes (2 lb)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded natural sharp Cheddar cheese (8 oz)
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs (any flavor)
Paprika



DIRECTIONS:
Heat oven to 375ºF.

Scrub potatoes but do not peel. Cut into 1/8-inch slices to measure about 4 cups.



Melt butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion in butter about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly; remove from heat.

Stir in milk and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.

Spread potatoes in ungreased 1 1/2-quart casserole. Pour cheese sauce over potatoes.



Bake uncovered 1 hour. Mix remaining cheese and the bread crumbs; sprinkle over potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake uncovered 15 to 20 minutes longer or until top is brown and bubbly.

Parmesan-Dijon Chicken

This was the best chicken I've made so far. It was so flavorful and juicy. Matt loves mustard, so I knew this would be a hit with him. I was a little leery about it at first, but I'm hooked! This will be a chicken dish we make often!

PARMESAN-DIJON CHICKEN (Betty Crocker)

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs (any flavor)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 3/4 pounds)

DIRECTIONS:
Heat oven to 375ºF. Mix butter and mustard in shallow dish until well mixed. Mix bread crumbs and cheese in large plastic bag.

Dip one piece of chicken at a time into butter mixture, coating all sides. Then place in bag of bread crumbs, seal bag and shake to coat with crumb mixture. Place chicken in single layer in ungreased rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches.

Bake uncovered 20 to 30 minutes, turning once, until juice of chicken is no longer pink when centers of thickest pieces are cut.

Smothered Pork Chops

I've seen raves about this receipe on WC. I would definitely have to agree. It was very simple, yet flavorful. The only change I made, was that I added sour cream to the sauce. It made it more creamy.

I think, next time, I may bake them for 45 mins to an hour to tenderize the chops a little bit. Other than that, it's a great dish!


SMOTHERED PORK CHOPS (Tyler Florence)

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 pork chops, 3/4-inch thick, bone-in
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

DIRECTIONS:
Put the flour in a shallow platter and add the onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly. Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels to remove any moisture and then dredge them in the seasoned flour; shaking off the excess.


Heat a large saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat and coat with the oil. When the oil is nice and hot, lay the pork chops in the pan in a single layer and fry for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove the pork chops from the pan and add a little sprinkle of seasoned flour to the pan drippings. Mix the flour into the fat to dissolve and then pour in the chicken broth in. Let the liquid cook down for 5 minutes to reduce and thicken slightly. Stir in the buttermilk and sour cream to make a creamy gravy and return the pork chops to the pan, covering them with the sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes until the pork is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Red Wine Risotto with Peas

Can you tell I like risotto...and wine? I had cracked a bottle last night while my sister was over, so there was a tiny bit left to throw in the pot!!

This is portioned more for a side, but we ate it as a meal and it worked perfectly. Another great Giada recipe. The flavors melded together so nicely and it was so creamy. Matt loves peas, so this was great. Next time, I'll leave the peas out of my serving. Peas really aren't my thing!

RED WINE RISOTTO WITH PEAS (Giada De Laurentiis)

INGREDIENTS:
3 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup arborio rice, or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup frozen peas, defrosted, optional
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
I added a thin slice of pancetta in with the onions

DIRECTIONS:
Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the broth and keep it warm over very low heat.

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook for about 2 minutes until the rice is toasted. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Repeat, adding 3/4 cup of hot broth 2 more times, stirring often, about 12 minutes longer. At this point, the risotto can be made 4 hours ahead. Refrigerate the risotto (the rice will still be firm) and remaining broth, uncovered, until cool, then cover and keep them refrigerated until ready to proceed.

Bring the remaining broth to a simmer, then cover and keep it warm over very low heat. Stir 3/4 cup of hot broth into the partially cooked risotto over medium heat until the broth is absorbed and the risotto is hot, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining broth and simmer until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in the peas and parsley. Add the 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into bowls. Sprinkle additional cheese over and serve.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Saucy!

So, I had some leftover pancetta from my Dirty Risotto, so I searched for a receipe to use it up! I came across this receipe on the Food Network, of course created by Giada. After all of the Giada raves, I knew this would probably be a great dish....and it was! The sauce was oh-so flavorful! It was such a hit with my sister and husband. They both had seconds. This is the first meal with no leftovers!!

The only things I did different with the recipe was that I added the Pecorino Romano to the sauce vs. tossing it in and I didn't toss the noodles with the sauce. I'm more of a saucy girl, so I like to add extra to my noodles!

PASTA WITH PANCETTA AND TOMATO SAUCE (Giada De Laurentiis)

INGREDIENTS:
6 ounces pancetta, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
Sea salt (did not use)
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Pinch dried crushed red pepper flakes (used a couple pinches)
1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree
1 pound linguine
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano

DIRECTIONS:
Add the pancetta to a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and saute until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato puree. Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors blend, about 15 minutes. Season the sauce with salt, to taste.

Meanwhile, boil the linguine in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Toss the linguine with the sauce in the skillet, adding some of the reserved cooking liquid until the pasta is moist but being careful not to dilute the sauce. Toss with the cheese. Season with salt, to taste

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Whoopie!!

I continue on my pumpkin spree! These whoopie pies were *okay*, but not my favorite of my pumpkin creations. They were up against some tough competition though (roll, bread and cheesecake brownies). They were easy enough to make and tasted good.

**UPDATE** These were so much better once they were refrigerated! So, they are most definitely better than *okay*!! I will definitly make these again!


PUMPKIN WHOOPIE PIES (Rachael Ray)

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, 1 stick melted, 1/2 stick softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup canned pure pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon plus 2 pinches salt
1 2/3 cups flour
4 ounces cream cheese, chilled
1 cup confectioners' sugar

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon vanilla, the baking powder, the baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour.

Using an ice cream scoop or tablespoon, drop 12 generous mounds of batter, spaced evenly, onto each baking sheet. Bake until springy to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter with the cream cheese. Add the confectioners' sugar and the remaining 2 pinches salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; mix on low speed until blended, then beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Spread the flat side of 12 cakes with the cream cheese frosting. Top each with another cake.