Friday, December 28, 2012

Monkey Bread

Let's plan ahead here for a moment. Say it's New Year's morning. You have the best intentions of whipping up a festive breakfast for your family, but you're feeling a bit foggy. You're still wearing your party dress under your spit-up crusted robe and one of your stick-on eyelashes has come un-stuck. Perhaps you had one too many glasses of champagne at your New Year's Eve soiree the night before? (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) At that moment, you're going to want the ingredients for Monkey Bread handy.

There are many variations of Money Bread, but this is the super simple version that my roommates made in college. Besides being quick and easy, it fills your house with the scent of cinnamon as it bakes. It's gooey with a crunchy crust of sugar on top. It's the perfect way to ring in the New Year.

Monkey Bread

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tube refrigerated biscuit dough (The kind that has 8 biscuits in the tube. Use whatever brand you like.)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon. Cut each biscuit into quarters and roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat. Place biscuits in a single layer in a 9" x 13" baking dish.

Combine melted butter and brown sugar and pour over the biscuits. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Tomorrow is Christmas! I'm so excited, I can't even stand it. I'm pretty sure I like Christmas Eve even more than Christmas day. All the anticipation...Oh, geez!

What are you doing for Christmas? Are you having people over for roast goose and carols? Please tell me you are. In case you were wondering, we'll be a small but fabulous crowd at my house this year: the husband, my sister, Danny (baby's first Christmas!), and me, of course. At the husband's request, I'll be making prime rib, which I've never done before. Wish me luck.

My Christmas excitement is obviously causing a bit of blathering here. Sorry about that. What I meant to share is a super easy centerpiece in case you're like me and forgot about that kind of thing. I always have good intentions about setting the table, but then I get caught up in the food and forget about decor. Miraculously, I thought of this lovely idea for a recent holiday fete at our place:

Purdy, ain't it? So easy:
  1. Get out a white platter or plate.
  2. Put some candles on the platter.
  3. Sprinkle cranberries around the candles.
  4. Light candles.
  5. Boom goes the dynamite.
Step five was actually my Christmas excitement getting the best of me. Anyway, I used tea lights because that's what I had on hand, but this looks lovely with pillar candles as well. Just use what you've got. Make it work people. 

Go forth and be merry!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Salt River Bars

When I shared the recipe for Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies on Monday, I mentioned that I'm a bit lazy in the cookie baking department. Well this no-bake cookie bar is right up my alley. You melt stuff and layer it in a pan. Hot diggity.

Salt River Bars are also handy because they keep well in the fridge. When you're pulling a million dishes together and wrapping a trillion presents for the holidays, you need stuff that you can prepare ahead of time. And with a pan full of Salt River Bars at the ready, you'll have a salty, sweet, chocolate-y, peanut butter-y, caramel treat to nibble on while you're building that doggone Barbie dream house. Ho ho ho!

Salt River Bars
Adapted from Bakergirl

Club crackers (You'll need about a sleeve and a half.)
1 (very) heaping cup peanut butter chips
1 cup butter (That's two sticks.)
1 cup brown sugar
11.5 ounce bag chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips.)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Coarse salt

Line a 8" x 8" square baking dish with aluminum foil. Make sure the foil is long enough so it hangs over the edges of the pan. This will give you "handles" to remove the bars from the pan later. (Also, if you have a baking dish with squared-off edges as opposed to a curved bottom, now's the time to use it. If not, don't sweat it.) Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray.

Place 15 Club crackers on the bottom of the pan (three rows of five). Sprinkle a third of the peanut butter chips over the crackers.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is bubbly and smooth. This will take about 5 minutes. Evenly pour or spoon a third of the brown sugar mixture over the peanut butter chips in the pan. Top with another layer of fifteen crackers, another third of the peanut butter chips, and another third of the brown sugar mixture. And then one more time...Repeat with a third layer of fifteen crackers, the remaining peanut butter chips, and the remaining brown sugar mixture. Top with a fourth layer of fifteen crackers.

PHEW! Did you get all that layering? It goes like this:

15 crackers
One third of the peanut butter chips
One third of the brown sugar mixture

15 crackers
One third of the peanut butter chips
One third of the brown sugar mixture

15 crackers
One third of the peanut butter chips
One third of the brown sugar mixture
15 crackers

Once all of that deliciousness is layered in your pan, melt the chocolate chips together with the vegetable oil. Feel free to use a double boiler, but I used my trusty microwave. Place the chocolate chips and oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30-second increments, stirring in between, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Evenly pour chocolate over the final layer of crackers.

Allow the chocolate to cool for a few minutes and then sprinkle with sea salt. (If you put the sea salt on the chocolate while it's still super hot, the salt will melt. It will still have the salty-sweet taste, but you'll miss seeing those lovely flakes.)

Place bars in the fridge to cool. After they've cooled for 20-30 minutes, cut through the partially-set chocolate so it's easier to cut through once the bars are completely cooled. Let the bars finish cooling before you cut them for serving. (I removed the bars from the pan to cut them, but they got a little crumbly. Next time, I'll cut them in the pan, then remove them using the aluminum foil handles.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

I'm not the best cookie baker in town. I think I lack the patience required. The instant gratification of dessert bars is more up my alley. My Recipe section confirms this preference: There is only one single cookie listed. In my dessert-obsessed world, that's pretty pathetic.

It being the season of cookie platters, I dragged myself into the kitchen to make an official cookie. Not truffles. Not bars. Not Minty Mindies. A real Christmas cookie. But I'm still my impatient self, so I made a total cheat cookie using a cake mix. (At least I keep it real, people.)

If you want to bring a festive treat to your next holiday party or are looking for a suuuuper easy baking project to make with the kids, Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies are right up your alley. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies
From The Novice Chef
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup powdered sugar
18.25-ounce box red velvet cake mix
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper for easy clean-up. (If you don't have parchment paper on hand, spray cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray.) Place powdered sugar in a shallow bowl and set aside for later.

In a separate bowl, stir together cake mix, butter, and eggs until there are no more large lumps. (This will require some elbow grease...just think of it as your exercise for the day.) Roll dough into 1" balls and then roll in powdered sugar so they're coated generously. Place dough balls about 2" apart on your prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the bottoms are set and the tops looked crinkled. (The centers of the cookies will still look a bit gooey, but they set up as they cool. So be careful not to over-bake them.) Let the cookies rest for five minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Chicken

True confessions: When I was a kid, I was a picky eater. Like suuuuper picky. (Sorry, Mom.) My Happy Meals had to have plain cheeseburgers. Everyone eats peas, right? They're sweet, for crying out loud. But not me. I also didn't like french fries (Whaaaat?!), and I refused to go out to restaurants unless I was allowed to order chocolate chip pancakes no matter what time of day it was.

Tomato soup was on the list of foods I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. After I got hitched, the husband requested tomato soup with his grilled cheese. For a couple years I would dutifully make him his soup, but I wouldn't try it.

And then one day I ladled myself a bowl, too.

Good gracious, tomato soup is delicious! Why did I deny myself for all those years? When the good folks at Campbell's offered to send me some of their Sun-Ripened Yellow Tomato Soup and a recipe for a new spin on grilled cheese to try, I was all for it. I had many missed bowls of soup to make up for.

The husband, our pal Ryan, and I sat down to tomato soup and Pesto Grilled Cheese with Chicken Sandwiches this week, and we were happy campers. The husband even went back for seconds. The Sun-Ripened Yellow Tomato Soup is delicious, a bit milder than Campbell's traditional red tomato soup, I think. As a person who used to turn her nose up at just about everything, I believe it would be the perfect gateway soup for the picky eater in your family. Let me know if you give it a whirl on your next grilled cheese night.

Speaking of grilled cheese... I whipped up these sandwiches to accompany our soup. Crazy good and crazy easy. The "recipe" below is more of a guideline. Use as much of each ingredient as you like. Follow your heart. (Did I just say "follow your heart" about a recipe? Oh, geez.)

Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Chicken
Adapted from Campbell's
Serves 2

2 torta or ciabatta rolls (or 4 pieces of bread)
3 tablespoons prepared pesto (I just buy the refrigerated stuff at the grocery store. Feel free to make your own if you're ambitious.)

1 small cooked chicken breast, thinly sliced (I hacked a breast off my rotisserie chicken for this meal.)
Salt and pepper

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1.5 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat a panini press. (If you don't have a panini press, just make these in a skillet like a regular, old grilled cheese sandwhich.) Meanwhile, spread pesto on the cut sides of your rolls. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Layer 1/8 cup mozzarella cheese, half of the chicken, 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, and another 1/8 cup mozzarella cheese on the bottom half of each roll.

Top with the other half of the rolls. Brush the top and bottom of the rolls with melted butter. Toast sandwiches in the panini press for about 5 minutes, until cheese is melted and the rolls are toasty.

Full Disclosure: While Campbell's sent me the tomato soup to try, these opinions are all my own. Well, mine and the husband's. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla Bake

Over the weekend I realized that I forgot to post a recipe on Friday. Whoops. My bad. Here are some other things I've forgotten to do recently:
  1. Brush my teeth. This is embarrassing. In fact, I can't believe I'm admitting it for the entirety of the world wide web to know. But it's true: Since my kid was born, sometimes I forget to brush my teeth in the morning. Rest assured that I always remember at some point during the day. If you see me out and notice any halitosis, please offer me gum. Thankyouverymuch. 
  2. TiVo my shows. I forgot to record The Barefoot Contessa on Saturday. Doggone it.
  3. Eat lunch. Just kidding!! I never forget about lunch. Or breakfast. Or dinner...  

Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla Bake
Serves: 6
Adapted from

4 flour tortillas
3 cups cooked, cubed or shredded chicken
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salsa and sour cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a 9" square baking dish* with cooking spray. Layer the tortillas in the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping so they all fit. Press tortillas into the baking dish so it forms a crust. In a separate bowl, combine chicken, 1 cup cheese, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Top tortillas with chicken mixture.

In the same, now-empty bowl (there's no need to wash it out), whisk together eggs, milk, flour, and baking powder until smooth. It will be a pretty thick mixture. Slowly pour over the chicken mixture in the baking dish, spreading it out with a spoon if necessary to make sure the chicken is evenly covered. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until the surface is golden brown. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

The original recipe calls for a 9" deep dish pie plate. I used the baking dish because I don't have a deep dish pie plate. If you do, feel free to use one. You'll only need three flour tortillas for a pie plate.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sesame Green Beans

Am I the only one who gets stuck in a veggie rut? It's shameful, seriously shameful how many times a week we eat frozen peas. Someone please tell me I'm not alone here.

When I made teriyaki chicken recently, I decided that I couldn't stomach yet another boring vegetable. So I used the same technique and flavor profile from Sesame Asparagus to add pizzazz to my green beans. (By the way, does saying "flavor profile" make me sound like I'm on Top Chef? I love that show.)

The Sesame Green Beans that resulted were anything but bland. In fact, I snuck the leftovers from the fridge and ate them cold the next day. In my book, that's the barometer of a good vegetable.

Sesame Green Beans
Serves: 4
Adapted from An Occasion to Gather

1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Drain green beans.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high. Add beans and saute for 2 minutes or so, until they are crisp tender. Stir in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Remove green beans to a serving platter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Slow Cooker Pot Roast II

During the insanity that we like to call "the holiday season," make-ahead meals are a lifesaver. And I'm a big fan of using my crock pot to make this happen. When 6:00 rolls around and dinner is ready and waiting for you...that's livin'.

Wait. Did I just say that a make-ahead meal was the definition of living? Let me clarify. It is not the definition of living the high life. Or the really, really hip life. Or the fashionable life. But it is livin' the I-eat-dinner-in-my-sweats-while-watching-Sister-Wives life. In other life.

Get crockin', folks!

Slow Cooker Pot Roast II
Serves: 6

2.5 pounds sirloin top roast
1-2 tablespoons Montreal steak seasoning (or salt and pepper)
2 tablespoons olive oil
14.5 ounce can beef broth
2 large sweet onions, peeled and cut into thick slices
8 large carrots, peeled and cut into big chunks
1 bay leaf
8 ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Sprinkle steak seasoning (or lots of salt and pepper) all over the roast and rub it in with your hands. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high. Add roast to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until the roast is browned on all sides. Remove roast from the skillet and set aside.

Add the beef broth to the skillet to deglaze it, scraping the bottom of the pan to get all the bits of flavor into the broth. Bring broth to a boil and allow it to bubble and reduce for 3-4 minutes.

Place onions in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the browned roast on top of the onions, then add the carrots and bay leaf around the roast. Pour reduced beef broth, tomato sauce, and Worcestershire sauce on top of everything. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours.

Monday, November 26, 2012


As I'm writing this post, I'm thinking to myself, "What should I do with all of those Thanksgiving leftovers?" Hmm...

I could use mashed potatoes to top a delicious Shepherd's Pie.

Cranberry sauce is the perfect condiment for a Turkey Sandwich with Cream Cheese and Cranberry Sauce.

Since I have a pile of poultry in my fridge, I could use some to make Baked Chicken Chimichangas. Chicken, turkey...same difference when it's layered with delicious cheese and baked in a crispy tortilla.

Now I'm inspired. I think I'm going to go make dinner. Or maybe I'll just eat another slice of Apple Pie and call it a night.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Oatmeal Bread

I am a carb-o-holic. I can't get enough bread, muffins, cookies, cereal, bagels, cake... If it is a carb, I want it. And I want it now.

Since I've been on maternity leave, I've been carbo-loading big time. As I've mentioned many times, PB&J and peanut butter & Fluffernutter sandwiches are a couple of my guiltiest pleasures. My favorite bread for said sammies costs a pretty penny at the bakery, so I decided to make my own on the cheap.

I busted out my bread machine and set to work. By "work" I mean layering ingredients and pushing the start button. It was actually quite easy. Three hours later, the sweet smell of freshly baked bread wafted from my kitchen. I sliced thick slabs and made myself a particularly glorious peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich. It was all I hoped and more.

Oatmeal Bread
From West Bend
Makes one 1.5 pound loaf

9 ounces warm milk (80 degrees) (This is 1 cup + 2 tablespoons.)
2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups bread flour
3/4 cup oats (Use quick cooking or old fashioned oats. Do NOT use instant oatmeal.)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Layer all of the ingredients in your bread maker in the order listed. Use the "basic" function to make one 1.5 loaf.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012...Are you ready?

Did you hear that Thanksgiving is this Thursday? Yeah. This Thursday. As in three days from now. Good gosh.

There is a chance that my menu isn't finalized yet. I'm still debating how to prepare my turkey. I'm not going to comment on whether or not I purchased pre-made pie crust from the grocery store. And should I make traditional mashed potatoes or add in some cream cheese? At least my sister is in charge of the wine. We can count on good drinks!

If (like me) you're still looking for Thanksgiving inspiration, I hope this list of tried-and-true HDHH favorites helps.

Happy Cooking!

Drinks (By all means...first things first!)
Spiked Cider
Wine Recommendations 

Spiced Nuts
Goat Cheese Spread with Cranberries and Pecans
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (This is more of a first course than an appetizer, but, whatevs.)

The Main Event
Brined and Roasted Turkey Breast
Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes
Stuffing with Sausage, Cranberries, and Pecans
Fall Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
Cranberry Sauce

Apple Pie
Pumpkin Streusel Cake

BONUS! Here's a handy list of Thanksgiving Tips & Tricks to ensure a stress-free Turkey Day.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Autumn Minestrone

Kale has been calling to me from the produce bin at the grocery store for some time now. I don't know what's taken me so long to give in to its siren song, but I finally did. And I'm glad I listened.

I don't have much experience with "greens," but kale is robust and flavorful. It retains it's texture and presence when you cook it, unlike spinach which wilts down to almost nothing. Also, can you say that a vegetable has "presence?" Anyway...

This hearty Autumn Minestrone is a great way to experiment with kale and other vegetables because it begs to be personalized. Not a fan of sweet potatoes? Switch 'em out for Yukon Golds. Prefer pasta to beans in your soup? Go ahead and use it. Make this soup yours.

Autumn Minestrone
Adapted from
Serves: 6-8

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2.5 cups peeled and cubed (1/2") butternut squash
1 cup peeled and diced carrots
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2" cubes
6-8 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water*
4 cups chopped kale
15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Salt and pepper

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oregano for about 30 seconds until it's fragrant. Add squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Then add the vegetable stock, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are almost tender. Add the kale and cannellini beans and simmer for another 5-7 minutes, until the kale is tender.

*I used a combination of 4 cups vegetable stock and 4 cups water. If you like your soup less broth-y, you might only need 6 cups of liquid.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Snickers Brownies with Salted Chocolate Ganache

The husband and I didn't hand out quite as much Halloween candy as we anticipated this year. Instead of eating mini Snickers for lunch everyday, I was inspired by the ROLO-ver and Die Good Brownies that Maureen made last Halloween. I would bake my Snickers into brownies! And then I would eat those brownies for lunch instead of candy bars. You see, brownies have eggs in them (protein), so they're a perfectly acceptable meal.

A few notes about this recipe:

1.) THESE BROWNIES ARE CRAZY GOOD. And ridiculously decadent. You might want to cut them into small pieces. This will make you feel less guilty when you eat two.

2.) Don't be afraid to add the salt to the ganache. When I first read the recipe, I was dubious about this particular ingredient. So I tested it out: I made the ganache without the salt, then I tasted it. It was good, but I thought it was missing a little pizzazz. Then I stirred in the salt and tried it again. My taste buds went bonkers. The salt made the chocolate taste more chocolate-y! Try it yourself if you don't believe me.

3.) To make slicing these brownies easier, run a knife under hot water and wipe it off with a towel before making each cut. The warm knife will slice through the chocolate better.

Snickers Brownies with Salted Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from The Chew

For the brownies:
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 fun-sized Snickers bars, chopped finely (This is 1 cup of chopped Snickers.)*

For the ganache:
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9" x 9" baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Melt together butter and semisweet chocolate. You can melt this together in the microwave (microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring each time, until the chocolate is melted) or over a double boiler. (I used the microwave because I'm lazy, and it was easy.) Allow the chocolate to cool slightly.

In a large bowl stir together eggs, vanilla, granulated sugar, and dark brown sugar. Very slowly stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature.

In another bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Stir into the cooled chocolate mixture. Pour half of the batter into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with chopped Snickers. Pour remaining batter on top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the brownies just begin to pull away from the sides of the baking dish. Do not overbake.

Meanwhile, make the ganache. Melt the chocolate (again, you can use the microwave or a double boiler) and stir in the heavy cream. Stir in the salt.

Pour the ganache over the baked brownies. Allow to cool thoroughly before cutting.

*I'm sure this recipe would be equally delicious with your favorite candy bar. Milky Way? Heath Bar? Mmm...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fall Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Although I miss the farm stands of summer, I am reveling in the fall. My favorite fruit (apples) and vegetables (any and all winter squash and sweet potatoes) are in season, and I'm packing them into every meal.

This salad is a fresh way to highlight the flavors of fall. Crisp, tangy apples and sweet, crunchy pecans pair perfectly with maple vinaigrette. Sometimes I'm lazy about making dressings--I'm a big fan of just drizzling olive oil and balsamic vinegar over my greens--but it was worth the few extra steps to make this delicious dressing. Not too tangy, not too sweet, just a perfect complement to the rest of the salad.

Fall Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Adapted from The Food Network
Serves: 4-6

Caramelized Pecans*
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/4 cups pecans

Heat butter and brown sugar in a large, non-stick skillet over medium until it melts. Add pecans and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Pour pecans onto wax paper and separate them with a fork. Allow pecans to cool completely.

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons maple syrup (NOT pancake syrup)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place mustard, vinegar, maple syrup, and oil in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

1 head red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 apple, thinly sliced

Place lettuce, apple, and cooled caramelized pecans in a large bowl. Top with vinaigrette to taste. (If you have leftover vinaigrette, save it in the fridge to use another day.)

*This is a generous amount of pecans for this salad, but we realllly like caramelized pecans at our house. If you don't use them all in the salad, they're great to munch straight!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pumpkin Streusel Cake

I love pumpkin. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie...I'll take a helping of each, please. And then seconds.

Since it's autumn, this glorious gourd is popping up everywhere, and not just a jack-o-lantern on your front porch. It seems like every grocery store circular I see features canned pumpkin for a hefty discount. I decided to stock up and start trying pumpkin recipes.

I found the recipe below on Pinterest, and I had to give it a whirl. Even the husband, who does not share my food crush on pumpkin, thought it was fabulous. A streusel topping takes pumpkin cake to the next level, and the buttery glaze makes it downright heavenly. You begin with a box of cake mix, so the recipe is pretty foolproof. And don't be deterred by the multiple steps in the recipe; it comes together very quickly.

And be ready to have a second piece. Or a third. I won't judge.

Pumpkin Streusel Cake
Adapted from Pretty.Good.Food.

1/3 cup water
15 ounce can pumpkin
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon*
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger*
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg*
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves*
18 ounce box yellow cake mix
1 teaspoon baking soda

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
4 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9" x 13" pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together water, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Stir in cake mix and baking soda. Pour into greased pan.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, stir together the streusel ingredients (brown sugar, flour, and butter). Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the cake batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cream in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla.

As soon as the cake is finished baking, poke holes evenly over the cake with a toothpick. Very carefully and slowly pour the warm glaze over the hot cake, making sure to cover the surface evenly. (I found it easier to pour the glaze into  a measuring cup with a spout before putting it on the cake.) Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

*You can substitute 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice for all the other spices.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Carrots with Herbes de Provence

Last time I went to Costco, I bought a gigantic bag of carrots. Not baby carrots, big carrots. It's a pain in the patootie to peel and cut them up compared to the ease of baby carrots, but I think they taste better. And, if I have to be honest about the reason I really bought them, they were cheaper.

Needless to say, the husband and I have been eating a lot of this delicious orange vegetable. Glazed carrots, carrot sticks, roasted carrots... You get the picture. I was pawing through my spice cupboard looking for a way to add pizzazz to our now standard side dish, when I came upon Herbes de Provence. It was a delightful pairing.

Carrots with Herbes de Provence
Serves: 3

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4" thick circles
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper

Place carrots and chicken broth in a skillet over medium high heat. Once it reaches a boil, cover, reduce heat, and allow to simmer for about 6 minutes. Remove the lid, increase heat to medium, and allow to continue bubbling for 5-7 more minutes, until the liquid is reduced and carrots are tender. Stir in butter, Herbes de Provence, and salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Apples

There are many nights when we need to get dinner into our bellies in a hurry. There are also nights when I just don't feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. And then there are nights when I want to eat something cozy and delicious.

All of these occasions are perfect for a grilled cheese sandwich. The husband makes a mean grilled cheese. He figured out a way to get a cheesy crust on the outside of the bread as well as the melty, gooey inside. It's genius, really.

Recently I decided to take a stab at his specialty, but I added a twist with smoked cheddar, salty bacon, and sweet apples. I don't like to toot my own horn, but it was crazy good. Next time you're in a hurry/not in the mood to cook/hankering after comfort food, give this sandwich a try.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Apples
Serves: 2

4 slices bread
1 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese (We're generous with the cheese at my house.)
6 slices bacon, cooked
1/2 apple, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter, softened

To make each sandwich layer 1/4 cup cheese, 3 slices bacon, half of the apple slices, and then another 1/4 cup cheese. Spread the butter evenly on the outsides of each piece of bread. Cook in a skillet over medium heat until the cheese is melted.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall Salad with Pork Tenderloin and Smoked Cheddar

There was a bit of pork tenderloin left over after we made Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprout Hash. I decided to throw it together with some other items languishing in the fridge. It turned out to be a delicious and easy main dish salad; the perfect way to re-purpose leftovers. I snapped a photo with my phone so I could share it with all of you.

The recipe below is more of a guideline than an actual recipe. Feel free to substitute leftover chicken or even leave out the meat altogether. And if you don't have smoked cheddar, you can use the regular stuff. But it could be a good excuse to try smoked cheddar cheese. It's crazy good.

Fall Salad with Pork Tenderloin and Smoked Cheddar Cheese
Serves: 2

4 cups mixed greens
1/4 pound cooked pork tenderloin, sliced
1 apple, diced
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar (My favorite is 18-year aged balsamic vinegar. It tastes like candy.)
Extra virgin olive oil

Combine greens, pork, apple, almonds, cranberries, and cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Or, if you're my husband, slather it in Ranch dressing. Because there's noting wrong with Ranch dressing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pork Medallions with Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprout Hash

As you've probably noticed by my lack of posts over the last month, I haven't been cooking too much lately. I've been busy changing diapers and snuggling my sweet baby boy. That and trying to sneak in a nap to avoid becoming the most cranky lady in the history of the world. Seriously, I missed my mommy nap a few days in a row, and I almost had a melt-down. Naps are, apparently, essential for survival.

Thankfully, I have incredibly generous family and friends who have brought meals and treats to keep the husband and me from certain starvation. You all know who you are, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Enough with the mushy stuff. It was time for this girl to get back in the kitchen, and who better to help me out than my gal-pals, Kelly and Jill. We drank some wine and whipped up this fabulous meal. Ok, if I'm perfectly honest, Kelly and Jill did most of the cooking because I had to feed Danny boy and put him to bed, but I did help a little. A very little.

Pork Medallions with Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprout Hash combines some of the best flavors of fall. And if Brussels sprouts make you nervous, this is a good gateway recipe. The sweetness of the sweet potatoes off-sets the slight bitterness of the sprouts. I've used this combination before in my Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Brussels Sprouts recipe, and, trust me, it's a good one.

Without further ado, here's today's recipe. Enjoy!

Pork Medallions with Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprout Hash
Serves: 6
Adapted from The Chew

1/2 pound bacon, diced
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and very thinly sliced
1 red apple, cut into very small (1/4") cubes
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into very small (1/4") cubes
1 large shallot, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper
2 pounds pork tenderloin, sliced into 1" thick medallions
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter

In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Drain most of the bacon grease, reserving about 1 tablespoon in the skillet. Add the Brussels sprouts, apple, sweet potatoes, and shallot to the skillet. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Stir the cooked bacon into the hash.

Meanwhile, season both sides of the pork tenderloin medallions with salt, pepper, and thyme. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a second skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the medallions to the pan and cook for about 5-7 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the pork is golden brown and cooked through. Remove the pork to a plate and tent with foil to keep it warm. Add the remaining tablespoon olive oil the skillet and repeat with the rest of the pork. (Note: You don't want to crowd the pan or the pork with steam, and it won't get the golden-brown crust you're looking for. If your skillet isn't very big, cook the pork in three batches to avoid crowding the pan.) Remove second batch of pork from the skillet and set on the plate with the first batch. Tent with foil to keep it warm.

Add wine to the skillet you cooked the pork in. Allow the wine to cook for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate the browned bits into the sauce. Stir in mustard, butter, and any juices that accumulated on the bottom of the plate where the pork was resting.

Serve the pork drizzled with the white wine mustard sauce over a bed of sweet potato and Brussels sprout hash.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

Years ago, I picked up a bag of Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips. The next time I needed to make chocolate chip cookies, I used the recipe on the back of the bag. The husband couldn't get enough of them. So this has been my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe ever since.

Although I'm typically more of a dark chocolate gal, I always use the Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips for these cookies. It gives them a simple sweetness that I just love. But feel free to use your favorite chips...or even a combo. Hmmm, I might have to try that out next time. Milk and dark chocolate chips in one cookie? Yes, please!

Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Ghirardelli

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1 (11.5 ounce) bag milk chocolate chips (about 2 cups) - I use Ghirardelli brand.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and light-colored. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, mixing at low speed until combined. Gradually add dry ingredients to the wet and mix at low speed until everything is incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper (for easy clean-up!) or mist with non-stick cooking spray. I usually make pretty big cookies, so I drop golf ball-sized dollops of dough onto my cookie sheet, making sure to leave plenty of room for the cookies to spread out.

Bake about 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown. (If you use about a tablespoon of dough per cookie, they'll need to bake about 9-11 minutes.) If you're baking two trays of cookies at once, rotate the baking sheets halfway through so they cook evenly.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Make-Ahead Marvels

As a new mom, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for make-ahead meals. Something I can make the night before or earlier in the day while Danny is snoozing. If dinner is waiting in the wings, it's much less stressful when hunger pangs strike at 6:00 p.m., and Danny, the husband, and I all want to eat at the same time.

Here are some of my favorite make-ahead meals from the Hot Dinner Happy Home archives:

Overnight Oats II: Everyone says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And one can only eat so many bowls of Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs cereal.

Ham and Cheese Toasties: Put these simple and delicious sandwiches together when you have a chance and pop them in the fridge. When you're ready to eat, just heat them in the oven until the cheese is melted.

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup: This soup is filling enough for even the heartiest appetites.

Chicken Packets: These reheat beautifully so you have dinner and lunch for the next day. Double bonus.

Pot Roast with Mushroom Gravy: Another slow cooker recipe. This is feel-good food.

Tuna Noodle Casserole: This is a fresh take on your mom's classic recipe that doesn't use cream-of-anything soup.

Turkey Meatloaf Florentine: Healthy. Easy. Delicious.

Friday, September 28, 2012


Since Danny was born, I haven't been cooking much. Feeding Danny has suddenly taken precedence over feeding the husband and myself. But I do need to eat something, so I've been making one of my all-time favorite sandwiches for lunch nearly every day: Fluffernutter.

Do you know what a Fluffernutter is? It's a sandwich of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. Preferably on white bread. I know I should be ashamed that I eat a "Candy Sandwich," as the husband calls it, almost daily, but I'm not. It's fast, easy, and it's got protein. There you have it.

Make yourself a Fluffernutter today. Let me know what you think about it. And then you can thank me for such a delicious sugar high.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Summer Harvest Bread

I recognize that it's officially fall, but don't let that stop you from making Summer Harvest Bread. It's the perfect way to use up the last of the zucchini in your garden or from the farmer's market.

And it's delicious. If you don't take my word for it, you can certainly trust the husband. I sent a slice of this bread with him to eat for breakfast when he was at work. That night he came home and let me know how tasty it was without any prompting from me. (I'm not above asking for compliments. "Wasn't that a yummy dinner I made, honey? Wasn't it?")

Summer Harvest Bread
Adapted from The Costco Connection

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
4 egg whites
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup shredded zucchini (unpeeled)
1/2 cup golden raisins (Plump them by soaking them in boiling water for a few minutes.)
1 cup diced peeled apples
1 cup pecans, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8" x 4" loaf pans or one Bundt pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, applesauce, egg, egg whites, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients along with the shredded carrots, zucchini, raisins, apples, and 1/2 cup pecans.

Pour batter into prepared pans and sprinkle evenly with remaining pecans. Bake for about 1 hour (mine took 1 hour and 10 minutes), until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. (If the pecans are starting to get too brown on top, tent the bread with foil while it finishes baking.)