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.