Thursday, December 22, 2011

Baked Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos

I had some sweet potatoes that were given to me that I wanted to try some new recipes with.  I've never really used sweet potatoes for anything other than baked sweet potatoes with butter and cinnamon or in a casserole, so I was excited to explore.  The first recipe I came across and was added to our menu was for Baked Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos.  These were really good but next time I make them, I'll omit the rice and add some grilled or baked diced chicken to the black bean mixture.  I prefer meat and I don't think anything would be lost with removing a carb.

Baked Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos
slightly adapted from Tasty Kitchen


⅓ cups Brown Rice, Uncooked
Chicken Broth (Amount Specified By Package Directions, To Boil Rice)

1 whole Large Sweet Potato, Peeled And Cut Into 1" Pieces
2 Tablespoons Butter Or Margarine, Or More To Taste
1 pinch Salt And Pepper, to taste

1 can Black Beans, Drained And Rinsed (15 Ounce Can)
3 teaspoons Lemon Juice, Fresh Or Bottled
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
3 dashes Cayenne Pepper
1 pinch Salt And Pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1 whole Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
2 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 whole Green Chili, Deseeded And Minced (I used a Jalapeno pepper)

4 whole Large Burrito Sized Flour Tortillas
1 cup Grated White Cheese (Monterey Jack)
Sour Cream (optional Topping)


Cook the rice according to package directions until tender (using the required amount of liquid – either broth or water). Drain, then fluff with a fork and let it rest with the lid closed while you make the rest of the fillings.


Boil the sweet potatoes until very tender, then mash or whip with the butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


In a bowl, mix the beans with the lemon juice and seasonings. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the onions, garlic and green chili pepper about 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the bean mixture and warm through.


Layer the warm ingredients down the center of each tortilla in this order: cheese, rice, beans, sweet potatoes. Fold the tortilla at the top and bottom of the filling in, rotate and roll the burrito up so that all the ends are closed. I served with sour cream.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Broccoli Cheese Orzo Casserole

I had a bag of orzo that had been sitting in the pantry for some time so I sought out a recipe to use it.  When I came across this recipe for Broccoli Cheese Orzo Casserole, it was like a homerun as I had everything I needed either in the fridge or in the pantry.  Score!!!  This was very good and Serena really enjoyed it.  For her, it was a perfect meal (I served it with homemade chicken nuggets).  And making my baby happy always makes me happy.

Broccoli Cheese Orzo Casserole
slightly adapted from Working Girl Cooks

1 package orzo pasta
1 can cream of mushroom soup
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups frozen broccoli, boiled until tender

Boil pasta according to package, drain.  Mix pasta with cream of mushroom soup, shredded cheese, and broccoli.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Brown Rice and Black Bean Casserole

When I saw this recipe on a fellow blogger's website, I knew I had to add it to our menu.  I did make several changes and it turned out absolutely delicious.  Serena even loved it and ate all the vegetables hidden in it!  The leftovers were equally as good.  I'll definitely make this again.

Brown Rice and Black Bean Casserole
adapted from On My Menu

1 cup brown rice
2-1/4 cup chicken broth
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/3 cup onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, chopped or thinly sliced
3 Tyson Grilled and Ready frozen chicken breasts, cooked and diced 
3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 tsp. cumin
Salt, to taste
Cayenne Pepper, to taste
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (4 oz.) can green chilies
1/3 cup carrots, chopped small
2-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Mix the rice and chicken broth in pot on stovetop, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 30 minutes, or until rice is tender. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat the chicken according to the directions on the bag and then dice up into bite size pieces.  Lightly grease a medium-sized casserole dish. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the carrot, zucchini, carrot, and mushrooms. Season with cumin, salt and cayenne pepper. Cook and stir until zucchini is lightly browned and all vegetables are tender. In a large bowl, mix the rice, onion, zucchini, chicken, mushrooms, beans, chilies, carrots, and 2 cups of the cheddar cheese. Transfer to the baking dish and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Spinach Artichoke Dip-Stuffed Mushrooms

I love stuffed mushrooms.  I love spinach artichoke dip.  What a great combination of the two!!!  Not only did I enjoy these, Serena loved them too!  I had enough stuff leftover that I made a separate dish of just the dip to use later in the week with crackers for a quick snack.

Spinach Artichoke Dip-Stuffed Mushrooms
Eating Well Living Thin

20-25 white mushrooms
4 ounces (1/2 pkg) reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup light Hellman’s mayo
14-ounce can artichoke hearts, sqeezed to remove excess liquid and finely diced
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Splenda/sugar
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (not shredded – the powdery fresh from the deli-cheese case)
Pinch cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wipe mushrooms clean; remove stems and gently scoop out the gills to make room for the filling.

In a large bowl combine the cream cheese, mayo, diced artichoke hearts, spinach, garlic, Splenda, Parmesan, and cayenne. Fill each mushroom cap with 1 tablespoon of dip mixture. Place on a baking sheet (with sides, as the mushrooms will release liquid) and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft and the filling is golden. Serve warm. Makes approx 10 servings of 2 pieces each.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rotini with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

This is a recipe that I adapted from one found on Food TV by Giada De Laurentiis.  My store didn't have the pasta that her recipe used, I used some things that I had on hand rather than fresh ingredients that she used, and I made mine into a casserole type bake.  I think my changes worked perfectly and this dish turned out great!

Rotini with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
adapted from a recipe on Food TV

3/4 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced, 2 tablespoons of oil reserved
1 pound hot sausages
1 can artichoke hearts, diced up
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1-3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
16 ounces rotini pasta
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
2 Tablespoons dried basil leaves
2 Tablespoons dried parsley leaves
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil reserved from the tomatoes in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, breaking up the meat as it cooks, about 8 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a big casserole dish. Add the artichokes and garlic to the same skillet, and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, wine, and sun-dried tomatoes. Boil over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the rotini in boiling water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta (do not rinse). Add the pasta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, basil, and parsley, and artichoke mixture to the sausage in the casserole dish. Stir until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta. Stir in the mozzarella. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Bake in an oven at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.  Serve, passing additional Parmesan cheese alongside.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Roman-Style Chicken

I knew we would love this dish when I came across it and it did not let me down.  I used skinless chicken breast halves with ribs as the recipe called for but don't think any flavor would have been lost if I had used boneless, skinless chicken breast, which is what I will do next time.  I didn't use thighs because the breast halves was enough for us, even allowing for some leftovers. 

I served this with roasted potatoes.

Roman-Style Chicken
slightly adapted from Food TV

4 skinless chicken breast halves, with ribs (I used 3)

2 skinless chicken thighs, with bones (I didn't use)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons capers
2 Tablespoons dried parsley leaves

Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In a heavy, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the peppers and prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.

If serving immediately, add the capers and the parsley. Stir to combine and serve. If making ahead of time, transfer the chicken and sauce to a storage container, cool, and refrigerate. The next day, reheat the chicken to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the capers and the parsley and serve.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

I said earlier this week that I don't have alot of Thanksgiving recipes because we do a simple dinner fare (turkey, ham, trimmings) and while that's the truth, like most other households, we have leftovers and after several sandwiches, we're left looking for something else to do with them.  I came across this recipe for Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Soup and immediately added it to our menu. 

Wow, this was delicious!!  It was a favorite in the soup category.  It was flavorful, creamy, hearty, yummy...

Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Soup
slightly adapted from Tasty Kitchen

1 package Uncle Ben's Wild Rice
1/2 cups Butter
1 whole Medium Onion, Chopped
2 whole Carrots, Sliced Into 1/4" Thick Coins
8 ounces, weight Button Mushrooms (sliced)
2 cloves Garlic, Minced
1/4 cups All-purpose Flour
6 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup 2% milk
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
½ teaspoons Salt
¼ teaspoons Black Pepper
1 whole Bay Leaf
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
2 Teaspoon Dried Parsley
4 cups Cooked And Coarsely Shredded Turkey

First thing, cook the wild rice according to the package.

The remainder of the recipe can be made in one stock pot. Start by melting the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic. Stir well and saute until the onion is transparent and softened. Blend in flour, cooking until it bubbles a bit. Gradually add the broth, stirring constantly.

Turn up the heat a bit and bring the soup to a low boil. Boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat slightly and add the cooked wild rice, heavy cream, milk, soy sauce, salt, pepper, bay leaf, thyme, parsley, and turkey. Simmer for 20 minutes or until thoroughly warmed. Taste test to see if it needs more salt and pepper.

Serve with crackers or warm bread.

Fried Turkey

10-14 lb turkey
2 Tablespoons Lawry's seasoned salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup melted butter

Melt butter and mix with all other ingredients and using an injector, inject the turkey in multiple areas, using most of the liquid.  Use the remainder of the liquid to baste the turkey.  Let set over night.  In a turkey fryer, heated to 325 degrees, cook turkey until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees, about 4 minutes per pound.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chicken Fried Steak with Diced Potato Gravy

I thought this main dish was great but served next to the creamed spinach, it was quite mild in flavor.  It was super easy to make which is always a plus in my book.

Chicken Fried Steak with Diced Potato Gravy
Food Network

2 eggs

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds cube steak, cut into individual steaks
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
Vegetable oil, for frying
Diced Potato Gravy, recipe follows

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper, to taste. Add the steaks, stir to coat, and let sit 10 minutes. In a paper bag, combine the flour, cornstarch, a few pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove the steaks from egg mixture and put into a large ziploc bag. Close the bag and shake until the steaks are evenly coated. This may be done in batches. Let the coated steak rest on a sheet tray lined with a rack for 10 minutes.

In a deep, heavy-bottomed skillet add enough oil to reach 1/2-inch up the sides. Heat the oil over medium heat to 370 degrees F. (When a wooden spoon inserted into the oil creates tiny bubbles, the oil is ready.) Fry the steaks, in batches if necessary, flipping only once when color is golden and a poke releases no red juices, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a serving platter and serve with Diced Potato Gravy.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1/2 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 cups beef broth
1 large russet potato, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dried parsley, for garnish

In a large straight-sided skillet heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the flour, stirring to combine with the butter. Add the bay leaf and broth and bring to a simmer. Cook until slightly thickened, then add the potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are tender and the gravy has thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and the parsley.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Creamed Spinach

I knew instantly when I saw this recipe that I had to try it.  I was so excited that this could possibly be one of my favorite side dishes.  I mean what's not to love about it... spinach, heavy cream, and cheese, all spruced up.  Yummy!

It was great!! However, I think the recipe called for too much red pepper flakes and next time I make it, I will half the amount it calls for.  There's no way Serena could have eaten it as it was prepared this time.  I will also add more red onion because they really helped make this dish.  Overall, this dish will definitely be a keeper with a few tweaks.

I served this with Chicken Fried Steak with Diced Potato Gravy (recipe to follow tomorrow).

Creamed Spinach
Food Network

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1/2 red onion, chopped (recommend using a whole onion)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons red chili flakes (recommend no more than 1 teaspoon)
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup shredded Parmesan
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sour cream
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup packaged fried onions (recommended: French's)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking dish. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Saute for 3 minutes, then add the garlic and red chili flakes and saute for 2 more minutes. Add the heavy cream, Parmesan, and nutmeg. Heat until the cream is just beginning to bubble, stirring often. Turn the burner off and stir in sour cream and spinach. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the top evenly with fried onions. Bake until golden and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!  Sorry I haven't featured a bunch of Thanksgiving recipes.  I just don't have many.  We keep our dinner fairly simple with fried turkey, spiral ham, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans or green bean casserole, mac and cheese, rolls, pumpkin pie... 

The week before the big day though, I tried several new recipes.  One of them was Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon.  This was absolutely delicious!!!  It was juicy, flavorful, and moist.  It was easy to prepare and it was just as good the day after.  I served this with green beans and oven roasted potatoes.

Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon
Food Network

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard (recommended: Maille)
2 tablespoons honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 (3 1/2-pound) center-cut, boneless, pork loin roast
12 slices bacon (about 1 pound)

Special equipment: kitchen twine

Put an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, add the Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, honey, garlic, and rosemary and mix together until smooth. Arrange the pork in a 9 by 13-inch baking pan and spread the mustard mixture evenly over the pork. Starting on 1 side, lay a piece of bacon, lengthwise, on the pork. Lay another slice of bacon on the pork making sure to slightly overlap the first piece. Continue with the remaining bacon, until the pork is fully covered in bacon. Using 3 pieces of kitchen twine, secure the bacon in place. Roast for 1 hour. Cover the pan, loosely, with foil and roast for another 10 to 20 minutes until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork registers 160 degrees F. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the roast to a cutting board. Cover the pan with foil and allow the pork to rest for 20 minutes. Remove the kitchen twine and slice the pork into 1/2-inch thick slices.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bacon, Onion and Cheese Stuffed Burger

The other week as I was working from home on the laptop, comfortable on the sofa, I had the television on, primarily for background noise.  I wasn't really paying any attention to it as I was deep in my work but at some point, I got up to stretch my legs and take a potty break and I noticed an individual I had never seen or heard of.  On a slip of paper, I jotted down her name (Sunny Anderson) and went back to the work on hand.  Later that night, I pulled up Food Network, pulled up this chef and searched her top 100 recipes.  Over the course of a few minutes, I wrote down five recipes I wanted to try. 

Included in this list was a recipe for Bacon, Onion and Cheese Stuffed Burgers.  I love a good burger and like trying new variations so this was first on my "To Try" list.  I thought this was very good.  I did have trouble keeping my burger together (even though it was beautifully put together and formed, it seemed to separate during the cooking process).  That in turned, smoked up my house terribly but on the bright side, I got to smell these delicious burgers for a day and a half.  :-)

Bacon, Onion and Cheese Stuffed Burger
Food Network

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Frank's Red Hot)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 strips bacon, diced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar
4 burger buns
Lettuce and tomato for garnish

Preheat grill to medium.

In a bowl combine beef, garlic, hot sauce, salt and pepper, to taste, being careful not to over mix. Warm a skillet over medium heat and fry bacon until crispy. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Keep heat on skillet and fry a pinch of the beef in the bacon fat to test seasoning. Adjust seasoning, if needed, then form 8 even thin patties, about 1/2-inch thick and set aside. Saute onions in bacon fat in skillet until tender, 5 minutes. Place onions and bacon in a bowl with cheese. Form a spoonful of bacon-cheese mixture into a ball, then place in the center of 4 patties. Top each with another patty and seal the edges. Grill burgers over medium-high heat, flipping once until desired doneness is reached, approximately 4 minutes each side for medium. Serve in buns with garnishes. Alternative: In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, sear the burgers 4 minutes on each side.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Asian Beef with Noodles

I found this recipe some time back and printed it off but didn't reference the source.  I came across it this past week when I was weeding through my recipe drawer looking for an easy week night meal. 

This was very good.  It was easy to prepare and Serena liked the noodles with the sauce (though she picked around the sugar snap peas).  It wasn't PF Chang's, nor authentic, but it was a fulfilling meal with an Asian twist.

Asian Beef with Noodles

8 ounces uncooked spaghetti, broken in half
3 cups fresh sugar snap peas
1 cup thinly sliced sweet red pepper
1/2 cup Catalina salad dressing
1-1/2 pound top sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts

In a large saucepan, cook spaghetti according to package directions, adding the snap peas and pepper during the last few minutes of cooking; drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat salad dressing over medium-high heat.  Add beef, cook for 8-10 minutes or until meat reaches desired doneness.  Add peanut butter and soy sauce; cook for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Stir in spaghetti mixture and onions; sprinkle with peanuts.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lasagna Soup

When I saw this recipe online, I knew I had to add it to our menu.  This soup looked so good and as much as I love lasagna, it's a pain to make so it is restricted only to weekends.  I just knew I would enjoy the flavors, with an easier preparation, on a week night.

This soup was great!  Leftovers were equally as good. 

Lasagna Soup
slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

2 pounds sausage

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
2 bay leaves
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound fusilli noodles, cooked and drained

Cheese topping:
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, for sprinkling

In a large 4-quart pot, add the sausage and cook over medium heat, breaking the pieces up with a wooden spoon or spatula while it cooks. After about 3-4 minutes, add the onion. Cook the sausage and onion together, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is cooked through and the onions are soft, about 5-7 minutes. Drain any excess grease, if desired. Stir in the garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes and tomato paste. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, bay leaves and chicken broth. Add the basil.

Bring the soup to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.

For the cheese mixture, in a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and basil. Set aside.

To serve the soup, add a scoop of cooked pasta noodles to a bowl. Top with a ladle or two of soup and dollop with a generous spoonful of the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pumpkin Chili

I am all about easy dinners these days.  This is the busiest time of year for me at work and in addition to that, I am wrapping up my Fall semester at the university, getting ready to take a marathon Winter semester class, and trying to get started (and hopefully finish soon) my Christmas shopping.  At home, I'm moving my daughter to the bigger of the two guest bedrooms which has proved to be a much bigger project than I had anticipated.  I've had to essentially clean out every closet to facilitate this move.  It's just been never-ending lately.

I love trying new chili recipes.  This one, done in the crockpot, was a no brainer because dinner would be ready and waiting when I got home from work.  I wasn't sure what to expect by adding pumpkin and not using your typical chili beans (pinto beans) but this recipe really worked.  I didn't add any hot sauce except to my bowl, keeping Serena's bowl mild.  I doubled the recipe so we'd have leftovers for the week.  I added 1/2 of a pound of sausage to the original recipe because I had some that I had no other purpose for.  The chili was good.  The smell when you walked in the door had your mouth watering.  You could taste the pumpkin but it was subtle.  It was definitely an interesting twist on chili, a version I would recommend my friends to try.

Pumpkin Chili
slightly adopted from Taste and Tell

1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 15.25-ounce can black beans
1 can pumpkin puree
2 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
few drops hot sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium saute pan, brown the ground beef. Add the onions and bell pepper and cook until the onions are translucent.

In a medium slow cooker, combine the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, pumpkin, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and hot sauce. Stir to combine. Add in the cooked beef and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Serve with your favorite chili toppings, such as cheese, sour cream, or tortilla strips.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Creamy Caprese Pasta

I was looking for something easy to fix one night last week since I have been overwhelmed lately with school, work, and my home life.  I saw this recipe and thought it would fit the bill.  I was correct that it was easy to prepare but I had no clue it would be a house favorite.  We loved it!  The sauce was delicious and I think in the future, I will double the sauce.  This will definitely be a repeat~

Creamy Caprese Pasta
Tasty Kitchen

1 pound penne pasta
1 cup of your favorite pasta/tomato sauce
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese + more for garnish
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
1 pint of grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 bunch of fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Boil water and cook pasta according to directions.  While pasta is cooking, heat tomato sauce over low heat in a large saucepan.  Once warm, stir in heavy cream and grated Parmesan.  Once pasta is done cooking, drain and dump into the sauce, mixing to coat and turn off heat.  Fold in mozzarella cubes and tomatoes, then chop 3-4 fresh basil leaves and add them in too.  Once combined, spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and pour the entire pasta mixture into the dish.  Top with fresh mozzarella rounds.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Creamy Feta Potatoes

I found this recipe in the local newspaper's insert called Relish.  I knew instantly when I saw it that I had to add it to our menu.  I love taters!  All types of taters - scalloped taters, au gratin taters, mashed taters, baked taters, fried taters...  I mean, I'm not sure I have ever had a tater I didn't like.  Now, combine that with my love of cheese, and it's sure to be a dish I will enjoy.

This dish was delicious!!!  I seriously can't recommend this dish enough.  I served it alongside pork tenderloin but I think it would be great next to a thick cut steak as well. 

Creamy Feta Potatoes
slightly adapted from Relish

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups finely diced yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and covered with water
Ground black pepper

Melt butter in a large skillet.  Add onions and saute until they start to caramelize, about 15 minutes.  Add minced garlic for the last 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Stir in cheese.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 13 x 9 -inch baking dish.  Combine cream, milk and salt in a saucepan.  Heat to just under a boil.  Remove from heat.  Slice potatoes into 1/8 -inch slices.  Place a layer in the bottom of pan.  Season with black pepper.  Cover with 1 cup of onion mixture.  Repeat two more layers, leaving enough potatoes for a top layer.  Pour hot cream over top.  The cream should reach the top of the potatoes but not cover them.  Season with pepper.

Bake 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and use a baster to baste the top of the potatoes with cream from the corners.  Return to oven and back 45-60 more minutes until potatoes are tender and cream is nearly absorbed.  Let stand up to 20 minutes before serving.  Serves 10.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes

Serena loves Oreo cookies; I often pack them in her lunch bag or she'll ask to have some for an afternoon snack.  When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make these since they incorporate her favorite cookie and my favorite desert (cheesecake). 

These were awesome!  Serena said it was the best cheesecake she'd ever had.  I'm not sure it tops the Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake I had from the Cheesecake Factory several months back but it might be the best cheesecake I've ever personally made.  These were easy to make, always an added bonus.  I like that they are done in cupcake size because it's easy to grab what you want/need.

Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes
The Girl Who Ate Everything

42 Oreos, 30 left whole and 12 coarsely chopped
2 pounds (32 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 275°. Line standard muffin pans with liners. Place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each liner.

Beat cream cheese at medium speed using an electric mixer. Gradually add the sugar, beating until combined. Beat in vanilla.  Drizzle in eggs, a bit at a time. Beat in sour cream and salt. Place 12 cookies in a zip lock bag and beat until roughly crumbled.  Stir in crumbled cookies by hand.

Divide batter evenly among cookie-lined cups, filling each almost to the top. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until filling is set, about 22 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or up to overnight). Remove from tins just before serving. Best served really cold! You can garnish with fresh whipped cream and crumbled Oreos if desired.

Makes 30 cheesecakes.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sausage, Mushroom, Spinach Quiche

This was by far the best quiche I have ever had!  One of the things that I love about quiche is you can do so many different variations by switching up the cheeses and adding different veggies.  I just loved this combination and was thrilled that Serena had two helpings

Sausage, Mushroom, Spinach Quiche

2 deep dish pie crust
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
1 pound hot sausage
1 package mushrooms, diced up
1 box chopped spinach, defrosted and water squeezed out
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
4 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
black pepper

In a skillet, over medium-high heat, saute onion in olive oil for about 3-4 minutes.  Add the sausage, crumbling as it cooks.  After approximately 7-8 minutes of cooking the sausage, add the diced mushrooms to the skillet.  Once sausage is completely cooked, reduce heat to low until the mushrooms are tender, just a couple more minutes.  Remove from heat and add in the chopped spinach and shredded cheese, mixing all the ingredients together.  Beat the eggs with the heavy cream, seasoning with black pepper, and add to the meat mixture.  Mix everything and pour into the two pie crust.  Wet the rim of each crust lightly with water and bake on 350 degrees for about 30-40 until top of quiche is golden.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Peet's Coffee and Easy Apple Dumplings

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I was sent two bags of Peet's new medium roast coffees - Cafe Domingo and Cafe Solano - to sample.  I was thrilled when the package came.  I love coffee and I love trying new kinds. 

I wanted to pair my new coffee with a desert I've been wanting to try, something that I thought would appropriately welcome Fall.  I decided to try the Cafe Domingo with these Apple Dumplings~ 

As far as the coffee, I thought it was delicious!  The description says that Cafe Domingo is a blend of Central and South American coffees that is smooth, balanced and medium-bodied with more pure coffee taste that has hints of toffee sweetness and a clean crisp finish.  I thought it was a great tasting blend that was very drinkable. You can find more out about these new blends here

The apple dumplings were amazing!  They had a crispy topping and a soft dumpling-y bottom.  They were so sweet and the aroma that filled the house was delightful.  I thought it tasted exactly like apple pie but best of all, they were super easy to make.  I'm positive I'll be making these over and over.

Easy Apple Dumplings
Tasty Kitchen

2 whole Granny Smith Apples, Cored And Peeled
2 cans Refrigerator Crescent Rolls
2 sticks Butter
1-½ cup White Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
½ cans Mountain Dew
Ground Cinnamon

Cut apples into 8 slices each.  Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll. Place in a 9 x 13 buttered pan.  Melt butter, then add sugar and barely stir.  Add vanilla, stir, and pour over apples.  Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Spoon some of the sweet sauces from the pan over the top and serve warm.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cheeseburger Soup

I made this soup this week and it was quite tasty!  Serena declared that it did taste like a cheeseburger and she really liked it. 

Cheeseburger Soup
slightly adjusted from a recipe at A Zesty Bite

1-1/2 lb extra lean ground beef
1 cup diced white onion
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup light sour cream
4 oz. 2% milk Velveeta cheese
20-24 oz. fat free beef broth
1 cup fresh mushrooms, diced up
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp mustard
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup diced tomatoes
5 slices of cooked bacon, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a stock pot, add a little olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add meat and cook until browned.  Add flour, tomato paste, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and sour cream; stir until everything is coated.  Stir in broth and cheese.  Mix until cheese has melted.  Add soup to bowl and top with tomatoes and crumbled bacon for each bowl.