Sunday, November 30, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

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Monday: Squash, Spinach, Rice and White Bean Soup

Tuesday: Cheesy Hash Brown Bake

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: Bacon Wrapped Chicken with Bleu Cheese and Pecans with Jewel Roasted Vegetables

Friday: Light-Up Durham and dinner out at ATC

Saturday: Taco-zagna and Durham Christmas parade!

Sunday: Christmas Baking Begins!

Buffalo Chicken Chili

Wow, this is really good and packs a powerful kick!  I went on the liberal side of the amount of hot sauce and am thrilled with the nice heat this chili brings!  I doubled the liquid in the recipe so I could throw in 1 1/2 cups of white beans and 1 1/2 previously roasted and chopped delicata squash.

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  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 pounds all-white meat ground chicken breast
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • plain greek yogurt or sour cream, optional
  • corn chips, optional
  • crumbled blue cheese, optional
  • Place a large pot over medium-high heat, add 1 turn of the pan of EVOO, about 1 tablespoon. Once the the pot is hot, add the ground chicken. Brown it, using the back of a wooden spoon to break it up in to small pieces, about 5-6 minutes. Add the carrot, onion, celery, garlic, paprika, bay leaf and some salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken stock and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the hot sauce and crushed tomatoes, and bring up to a bubble. Simmer for 8-10 minutes to let the flavors come together.  Top each serving of buffalo chicken chili with sour cream, blue cheese and corn chips.

    Recipe adapted from Rachel Ray Show

    Hot Cocoa Mix

    A mug of this is the best way to enjoy Durham's rainy day!

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    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 1/2 cups cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
    • 2 1/2 cups powdered milk
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

    Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. Seal in an airtight container, keeps indefinitely in the pantry. Serve 2-3 Tbsp in a mug with hot water or warm milk.

    Recipe adapted from here

    Saturday, November 29, 2008

    Let the Festivities Begin!

    We've been pleasantly busy all day putting out the Christmas decorations and making a couple dishes to take over to our friends house for the UK v UT game tonight.  Our breakfast tasted great and was a fun way to start our day off.

    Breakfast Burrito's

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    • Cooking spray
    • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
    • 1 cup drained, rinsed canned black beans, preferably low-sodium
    • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 4 eggs and 4 egg whites
    • 1/3 cup shredded pepper Jack cheese
    • 4 (10-inch) whole-wheat tortillas (burrito-size)
    • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
    • 1/4 cup salsa
    • Hot sauce

    Heat a large nonstick skillet over a medium-high heat with cooking spray. Cook the peppers until softened, about 8 minutes. Add black beans and red pepper flakes and cook until warmed through, another 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a dish.

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    Whisk together the eggs and egg whites then stir in the cheese. Spray the skillet with cooking spray, and reheat the skillet over a medium heat. Reduce heat to low and add eggs, scrambling until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Spread each tortilla with 1 tablespoon each sour cream and salsa, then layer with 1/4 of the black bean mixture and 1/4 of the scrambled eggs. Season, to taste, with hot sauce. Roll up burrito-style and serve.

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    Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger

    I saw this festive indulgence over at Fun Foods on a Budget and new i had to give it a try!  I have no idea what I'll serve this with, but I'm confident that something will come to me.  I may take it with me when we go back home in a few weeks so we can enjoy some on my grandma's dinner rolls.

    Holiday Cranberry Butter

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    3/4 cup butter, softened
    2 tbsp. brown sugar
    2 tbsp. honey
    1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
    2 tbsp. chopped walnuts, optional


    In a small mixing bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and honey until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add cranberries and walnuts if desired; beat 5 minutes longer or until butter turns nice and pink.  Transfer to a sheet of plastic wrap; roll into a log.

    Red Pepper and Pesto Torta

    • 12 ounces light cream cheese, divided 
    • 1/3 cup homemade or store-bought pesto
    • 1/3 cup red pepper relish (or mango chutney or sun dried tomato pesto, etc)

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    Line a 2-3 cup souffle dish (or similar) with plastic wrap (enough so plenty is hanging over the sides). Place 2 Tbsp red pepper relish on the bottom. 

    Layer 1: spread 4 ounces of light cream cheese at room temperature.

    Layer 2: all the pesto

    Layer 3: 4 oz cream cheese

    Layer 4: rest of the red pepper relish

    Layer 5: last 4 oz of cream cheese

    Cover the torta well with the plastic wrap hanging outside the souffle dish. Chill in refrigerator 4-5 hours or overnight.

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    When ready to serve, unwrap the top of the torta, then invert torta onto a serving platter. Peel off plastic completely. Serve with veggies and crackers.

    UK Wildcat Paw Print Sugar Cookies

    Andy's just finished baking and decorating his special game day dessert!  Both of our teams have big games today, besides the UK game our mutual alma mater EKU is currently playing in the NCAA playoffs vs the Richmond Spiders!  GO EKU!! GO UK!!

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    Andy used this no fail sugar cookie recipe.

    Here's a plethora of photos showing our holiday work!

    The stockings are hung...

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    The nativity scene is arranged...(I just couldn't part with the little gourds that were still happily existing)

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    The elegant dining room centerpiece has been created...

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    The buffet has been festively decorated...

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    The advent wreath...well...the attic heat melted our candles, next thing I knew Andy had plopped them in...I think it's very Seussical which is fitting if you saw all our Dr. Seuss ornaments, I'm a huge fan!!

    Holiday Decorating 2008 (2)

    The Grinch is overseeing all kitchen duties this month...

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    Lastly, the wreaths and bows are adorning the house!

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    Thursday, November 27, 2008

    My Favorite Thanksgiving Sides

    Andy and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal for two with lots of leftovers (and we stayed in our pj's all day)! Last week we sat down and named our "must-haves" and today we were very pleased with the turn out as it all pulled together. Besides my frozen and reheated ham and turkey slices foodblog 022

    and premade Roasted Cranberry-Ginger Sauce foodblog 027

    - we had the following...

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    Cranberry, Apple and Sausage Stuffing

    • 1 lb ground pork sausage
    • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
    • 1-1/2 cups onion, diced
    • 1-1/2 cups celery, diced
    • 1 small granny smith apple, diced
    • 1 tsp. poultry seasoning
    • 1 tsp. dried sage
    • 1 cup fresh cranberries
    • 6 cups dry sourdough and corn bread cubes
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or water, plus extra if needed

    Heat a heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook sausage 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, breaking meat into small pieces, until cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a large bowl with dry bread cubes.

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    Melt butter in skillet with drippings. Add onion and celery and cook 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently until tender. Stir in next 5 ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer onion mixture to bowl with sausage.

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    Mix thoroughly, adding more stock if too dry and place in a 9x13 casserole. Preheat oven to temperature 375°F. Bake covered for 25 minutes, uncover and bake an additional 15-20 minutes.

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    Banana Whipped Sweet Potato Casserole

    Recently, I've seen the idea of adding a banana to mashed sweet potatoes and have wanted to try it. So this year I added one to our sweet potato casserole. It added some excitement in the kitchen and a nice accent to the dish, but we didn't find it over powering in any means. Try it!

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    • 2 small bananas (or 1 large), smashed (secret ingredient!)
    • 4 1/2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
    • 1/2 cup butter, melted
    • 1/3 cup milk
    • 1 cup white sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 1 cup light brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup butter
    • 1 cup chopped pecans
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
    2. In a large bowl, mix together smashed bananas, mashed sweet potatoes, 1/2 cup butter, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and eggs. Spread sweet potato mixture into the prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and flour. Cut in 1/3 cup butter until mixture is crumbly, then stir in pecans. Sprinkle pecan mixture over the sweet potatoes.
    3. Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

    Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

    • 2 boxes frozen chopped broccoli
    • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
    • 2 cups Velveeta cheese, cubed
    • 1 stick butter, melted
    • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
    • s&p
    1. Grease medium sized casserole dish and crumble 1/2 package of Ritz crackers in the bottom. foodblog 010
    2. Cook broccoli in a medium sauce pan and drain well. Add Velveeta cheese, s&p to broccoli and stir until melted. Pour into casserole dish.
    3. Crumble remaining 1/2 package of crackers over the top. Combine melted butter with lemon juice and pour over the top of the crackers. foodblog 013
    4. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

    The last of my favorite things would be a growler full of Triangle Brewing Co's Extra Pale Ale!

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    My plate, all piled together: ham and turkey slice, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, broccoli casserole, and stuffing!

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    And a bite of a cranberry date bar - that held together perfectly using the whole wheat flour and reduced fat ideas I shared in my earlier post this morning.

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    Plus two mini dishes of leftovers turned into Five-Layer Turkey "Shepherd's" Pie. We're having the smaller of the two tomorrow night and freezing one for later in the year!

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    Layer in the following order starting from the bottom:

    • leftover stuffing
    • leftover cranberry sauce
    • leftover shredded turkey
    • leftover gravy
    • leftover potatoes (any kind works)

    The next day to reheat, bake covered at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

    Thanksgiving Breakfast and Dessert!

    I couldn't think of a better way to kick the Thanksgiving holiday off than for a filling breakfast of Kath's Classic Banana Oatmeal. My logic was that this should be filling enough to get me to our Thanksgiving meal which I'm thinking we'll eat at around 1 PM...that was until our "best neighbors" brought us warm, sugary, freshly made donuts!! They paired up nicely with the oatmeal and my coffee with silk eggnog!

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    The plate full of donuts!

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    My Mom shared this recipe for Cranberry Date Bars that we all love! So for dessert snacking this week we'll be having these!

    This time I used all whole wheat flour instead of white flour and instead of 1 cup butter I used 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/2 cup canola oil. It worked out just the same!!

    foodblog 004 These are great, little bar cookies!

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    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    CEiMB: Macaroni & Four Cheese

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    Andy and I have enjoyed this dish many times before so I was excited to see it as this weeks CEiMB recipe pick. The secret to this mac and cheese is frozen butternut squash puree and a combination of cheddar, Monterrey jack, ricotta, and parmesan cheeses!!

    • Cooking spray
    • 1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
    • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen pureed winter squash
    • 2 cups 1 percent lowfat milk (I used 2% evaporated milk)
    • 4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
    • 2 ounces Monterrey jack cheese, grated (about 2/3 cup)
    • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon powdered mustard
    • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 2 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs
    • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until tender but firm, about 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

    Meanwhile, place the frozen squash and milk into a large saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up the squash with a spoon until it is defrosted. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the Cheddar, jack cheese, ricotta cheese, salt, mustard and cayenne pepper.

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    Pour cheese mixture over the macaroni and stir to combine. Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the baking dish.

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    Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned.

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    Though I couldn't decide what was my favorite dish of the night Andy declared this was his top pick!

    Unbelievably Good Dinner and Easy Creamed Spinach

    I really don't know if I'll be able to top this on Thanksgiving Day, but I'll sure try. Tonight's meal was divine - it was comforting, colorful, healthy, and very satisfying.

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    It started with a small cup of leftover ham and three bean soup that my sweet co-worker brought me for lunch. She used the leftover ham hock from our Thanksgiving celebration last Friday and cooked it up with butter beans, red beans, and navy beans. There was also stewed tomatoes worked in there! The ham flavored the whole dish and made it amazing!!

    I also had some leftover cranberry-apple chutney in the fridge that I never get tired of.

    Along side I served up some crazy good Easy Creamed Spinach and Ellie's Macaroni and Four Cheese (which I'll be posting next as this weeks entry to the new group I've joined over at CEiMB)! It was ALL delicious and I can't seem to pick a favorite of the night.

    We also had leftover wine from last night dinner. I really enjoyed the Californian 2006 Huntington Cabernet Sauvignon - it had a mild spice and deep cranberry flavoring that perfectly paired the complex flavors of dinner.

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    And to top the night off, YES a slice of Italian Cream Cake brought in buy another one of my great co-workers!! Boy, I'm a lucky girl tonight!

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    And I hear my sweetheart downstairs cleaning the dishes for me!!

    Easy Creamed Spinach

    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1/2 medium onion, minced
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • coarse salt and ground pepper
    • 4 ounces red fat bar cream cheese, cut into pieces
    • 1/2 - 3/4 cup milk (I used fat free evaporated milk)
    • 2 boxes frozen spinach, thawed and drained
    • pinch ground nutmeg
    1. In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, 3 to 5 minutes.
    2. Add cream cheese and milk; cook, stirring, until cream cheese is melted and smooth. Stir in spinach. Simmer over medium heat until mixture thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. Add nutmeg; season with salt and pepper.

    Slow Cooker Beef with Cranberries

    Since we entertained on a Monday night, I chose to make the main dish in the slow cooker and then planned to pair it with pre-made Pumpkin Dinner Rolls and a quick side dish of roasted asparagus.  We also had TJ's candy cane joe joe's and ice cream for dessert!

    The meat dish was good, but not something that I'd rave about or likely make again.  The pumpkin dinner rolls were the highlight of the meal for me.

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    • 2 pounds beef stew meat
    • Coarse salt and ground pepper
    • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
    • 1 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 2 tablespoons molasses
    • 2 tablespoons minute tapioca, optional
    • 1 bag (12 ounces) cranberries
    • 1 bag (1 pound) frozen pearl onions
    1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; season beef with s&p, brown, and add to the slow cooker. foodblog 005
    2. Add flour to pot and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add broth, wine, bay leaf, molasses, tapioca, cranberries, onions and 2 cups water; bring to a boil.  Add to the slow cooker.
    3. Cover and cook, on either low or high, until the beef is tender, 6 to 7 hours on low or 4 to 5 hours on high. Discard bay leaf before serving.
    Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart

    I also set the table last night so that it would be all ready to go for me after work. 

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    Sunday, November 23, 2008

    Menu Plan Monday

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    Monday: Slow Cooker Beef with Cranberries, Pumpkin Dinner Rolls, and Roasted Asparagus

    Tuesday: Macaroni & Four Cheese with Easy Creamed Spinach

    Wednesday: leftovers

    Thanksgiving Day: Cranberry, Apple, Sausage Stuffing; The Best Broccoli Cheese Casserole (see below); Sweet Potato Casserole, Roasted Cranberry-Ginger Sauce; and leftover Turkey and Gravy and Cranberry Date Bars

    Friday: Five-Layer Turkey "Shepherd's" Pie

    Saturday: leftovers and Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Torta

    Sunday: Buffalo Chicken Chili

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    I searched and searched for this Broccoli and Cheese Casserole online, but couldn't find it anywhere, so I had no other choice but to type it up. My search did lead me to many broccoli cheese casseroles that included condensed soups, onions, chicken bouillon cubes, lima beans, cheese quiz - egh! My Aunt Deanna started making this recipe years ago and it is the BEST! Yes, it uses Velveeta but once a year isn't so bad :o)

    Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

    • 2 boxes frozen chopped broccoli
    • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
    • 2 cups Velveeta cheese, cubed
    • 1 stick butter, melted
    • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
    1. Grease medium sized casserole dish and crumble 1/2 package of Ritz crackers in the bottom.
    2. Cook broccoli in a medium sauce pan and drain well. Add Velveeta cheese to broccoli and stir until melted. Pour into casserole dish.
    3. Crumble remaining 1/2 package of crackers over the top. Combine melted butter with lemon juice and pour over the top of the crackers.
    4. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

    BBQ Black Bean Pizza

    I was inspired by Jennifer's pizza a few weeks ago when I saw her using black beans on a pizza. The black beans were really good and "meaty". Baking them drew out some of their moisture and made them nice and chewy!

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    • 1 TJ's whole wheat dough ball
    • 1/2 cup TJ's BBQ sauce
    • 1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 cup broccoli
    • 3/4 cup shredded red fat cheddar cheese

    Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

    Press out dough onto a greased baking sheet. Top with sauce, cheese, black beans and broccoli or toppings of your choice. Bake at 500 degrees for 8 minutes, reduce temp to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 8 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

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    The pumpkin cheesecake from last night was phenomenal. It cut beautifully and also had the perfect amount of holiday spice. I'm thankful there was one small piece left for today :o)

    Christmas 2008 (4)

    I'm also so happy that we rearranged the family room a bit to fit the tree in. Last year we placed the tree in the dining room and it just didn't seem as warm and inviting. Andy was super sweet to rethink our family room layout and did a great job at decorating the tree!!

    Saturday, November 22, 2008

    Pumpkin Cheesecake

    This baked up perfectly and looks very creamy and moist. I can't wait to dive in at Supper Group tonight!

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    • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I love Mi-Del's Whole Wheat Grahams)
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/2 cup light butter, melted
    • 1 (8-ounce) red fat package cream cheese
    • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
    • 1/2 cup skim evaporated milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

    To make crust, mix graham crackers, sugar and butter until combined. Press into a 9 to 10-inch springform pan or cake pan making sure to press mixture up the sides and bottom as well, set aside.

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    For filling, in the same bowl of the food processor mix in order cream cheese, brown sugar, eggs 1 by 1 and pumpkin puree. In a small cup stir vanilla, allspice and salt into evaporated milk. Pour milk mixture into pumpkin mixture and blend until combined. Pour into crust and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the center sets. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

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    Recipe adapted from here

    And somehow this happened while I was baking...

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    We decided since we head home to KY mid-December it'd be nice to enjoy the tree for a few weeks before we leave. We're waiting to set out the rest of the Christmas decorations until next weekend.