Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gingersnap Cookies

I definitely have quite the soft spot for gingersnaps. My mom used to buy them every fall, and I looked forward to that crispy, spiced cookie treat all year. My tastes have evolved a bit since then though, and my favorite way to eat them now is to dip them in my coffee. 

Gingersnap Cookies

2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/4 of teaspoon salt
3/4 of cup butter, softened
1 cup of white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon of water
1/4 cup of unsulphered molasses
2 Tablespoons of white sugar

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together in a small bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, and then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the flour mixture ingredients into the molasses mixture. Place dough in freezer for about 20 minutes to harden.

Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto the cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Yields about 30 cookies. Enjoy!

Adapted from, original recipe here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

Happy holidays! I hope you all had a peaceful holiday, and got to spend some quality time with family. H and I definitely had a wonderful few days off, and were lucky enough to be able to visit with both of our families, as well as enjoy some quiet time to ourselves.

Santa was extremely kind to me as well! I got a number of kitchen toys- an immersion blender, a couple mini crock-pots, another set of Pyrex containers (you can never have enough of those babies), and a mini egg pan with egg flippers from joie. I am so excited to try them all out!

I also continued the tradition ( can I call it that yet?) of our seafood dinner on Christmas Eve. I used a couple recipes from last year, and changed another up. Here is one that is oh-so-easy, and absolutely delicious! I have to admit, I am torn between keeping it a Christmas tradition, and making it way more often. As usual, I apologize for the none-too-appetizing photo, but I promise it tastes a whole lot better than this picture looks!

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce
Serves 6

2 (14.5 oz.) cans of diced tomatoes, with juice
1/4 cup of tomato paste
2-3 Tablespoons of capers

6-8 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons of white sugar
2 teaspoons of dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of dried basil
1 pinch of ground black pepper
1 pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

2 (6 oz.) cans of minced clams
1 (12 oz.) can of whole baby clams

12 oz. of linguine pasta (3/4 of a box)

Directions: Combine all ingredients, up until the clams, in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 45-60 minutes. Add the clams, and some of the juice (I use about half) and allow to simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve over linguine. Enjoy!

Adapted from, original recipe here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

In my early baking days, I loved making Christmas cookies, and my absolute favorite one to bake was Betty Crocker's Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie with chunks of candy cane mixed in. It was truly a heavenly combination. When I found this recipe for a slightly more grown-up version, I knew I had to try it.

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

8 oz of semisweet baking chocolate, roughly chopped
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup of packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract
1 package of chocolate chunks
5 peppermint candy canes, roughly crushed

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Heat butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Gradually add the chopped chocolate, stirring until melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract on a high speed until sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce speed to low and add chocolate/butter mixture. Slowly add the flour mixture, while continuing to beat on low.

Remove bowl from stand, and mix in chocolate chunks and crushed candy canes by hand. Drop onto baking sheet in heaping Tablespoons, about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, and transfer to wire racks. Yields about 20 cookies. Enjoy!

Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride, original recipe here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies

I had an amazing baking opportunity last week. One of my co-workers volunteers at his local soup kitchen, and every year they host a large holiday dinner. They prepare all of the food themselves, and last year close to 800 people showed up for it.

A couple weeks ago, he sent an email around asking for volunteers to help contribute some baked goods. I signed up immediately. I knew this would be a great chance to do something I enjoy, and help others at the same time.

I ended up making 3 types of cookies for the dinner- Gingersnaps, Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies, and Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies. I also made a Raspberry-filled Chocolate Cupcake with a Raspberry Buttercream icing. I was thrilled to get my hands "dirty" with all this baking and then hand it off, bringing some holiday cheer to those in need. We certainly didn't need all those sweets sitting around!

Here is the recipe for the Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies, and the rest of the recipes will be in subsequent posts!

Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 peanut butter- or caramel- filled chocolate candies, unwrapped
2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together peanut butter and butter on medium speed. Slowly add brown sugar, and beat until light and smooth. Add in eggs, beating after each, and then add the vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, and beat until just combined. Refrigerate the dough for about 20 minutes, until it hardens slightly and is easier to work with.

Scoop out about 1 heaping Tablespoon of dough. Flatten into somewhat of a patty-shape, and place 1 candy in the middle. Top with another heaping Tablespoon of dough in the same shape, and press lightly down on edges to enclose the candy. Place on the parchment-lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, pull out, and gently press dough down with the bottom of a drinking glass. (It may be handy to have a small dish of sugar handy, to dip the glass in between cookies, in case glass begins to stick to the dough.) Continue baking for 3 more minutes, or until they just start to turn golden brown. Allow to cool on sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Yields 12 cookies. Enjoy!

Note: If you use caramel-filled candies, and you have a penchant for eating cookies warm out of the oven, be careful! The caramel will be hotter than the cookie.

Adapted from Bake or Break, original recipe here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Moroccan Chicken and Vegetables

I really enjoy Moroccan cuisine, but it is another one of those things that I've only had in restaurants and never tried to make at home. When I came across this recipe and realized I already had most of the ingredients, I decided to give it a try. I didn't have saffron, though, and neither of the two grocery stores near us did either, so I decided to combine it with another recipe I found. The spices were slightly different, and I had them all on hand.

This was so delicious, and totally easy! Do all the chopping and prep work first, and you'll be able to just dump everything in the pot and be good to go. This was great as leftovers too, the flavors really blended together.

Moroccan Chicken and Vegetables

4 chicken thighs
salt / pepper
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, pressed

2 zucchini, sliced
5 carrots, chopped
1 onion, sliced
1 can of chickpeas

1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon of oregano
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
3/4 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes with juice

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup cilantro

: Rinse and pat dry chicken thighs. Season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil and garlic in stock pot, and put chicken thighs in. Brown on both sides, but they don't need to cook completely through at this time.

Add the remaining ingredients up until the pine nuts, including the vegetables, spices, and chicken broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Allow to cook for about 15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are soft. Serve over brown rice or couscous and garnish with the pine nuts and cilantro. Enjoy!

(We had the leftovers in pitas, which were delicious as well!)

Adapted from Apple a Day and, original recipes here and here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Spinach and Artichoke Dip Pizza

Spinach and artichoke dip is one of my favorite savory treats. I've never actually made it at home, but there are few things I enjoy more than a bubbly, cheesy, creamy spinach and artichoke dip at a restaurant with nice, thick, pita slices to scoop it up. So when I found this recipe for spinach and artichoke pizza that would let me turn one of my favorite indulgences into something that is considered an acceptable meal, I was sold. How could I not be?

I added sun-dried tomatoes and chopped onions, since I had them on hand and thought they would be an interesting addition. You may feel those additions are blasphemy to the very idea of spinach and artichoke dip, so you can feel free to leave them out. 

Spinach and Artichoke Dip Pizza
(serves 4)

2 Tablespoons of butter
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

2 Tablespoons of flour
1 1/2 cups of milk (I used skim, and it worked fine)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese (split into two 1/4 cup portions)

1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
8 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
10 oz. of fresh spinach, washed and chopped

1 10-12oz. jar of artichoke hearts, artichokes halved
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

1 pizza dough (thawed if it was frozen)
2 Tablespoons of cornmeal

Directions: Preheat oven to temperature your pizza dough recommends. When oven is hot, insert pizza stone (or baking pan if you don't have one) to heat it up.

Melt butter in a large saucepan, add red pepper flakes and garlic, and saute over medium heat for about 1 minute. Whisk in flour, and stir until combined and smooth. Slowly whisk in milk, continuing to stir. Allow to simmer lightly and thicken for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat after 5 minutes, and stir in first 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the salt.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pan, and add onions and sun-dried tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until onions are soft. Add spinach, and cook until just wilted. When done, press as much liquid out of the spinach as possible. Add to the white sauce, and stir to combine.

Remove the pizza stone from the oven and sprinkle with the cornmeal. Roll out dough and place on the pizza stone. Spread spinach mixture all over the top. Place artichoke halves all around, and then cover it all with mozzarella cheese. Top with remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, and bake for the time your pizza dough recommends. Enjoy!

(Note: I put that this makes 4 servings, as it did for a main course. If you're using it as more of a side, it can probably serve 6. Servings also depend on your pizza crust as well.)

Adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles, original recipe here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

I have been somewhat MIA lately. It is definitely a busy time of year! But, I have a number of things on my to-make list that I am quite excited about, so hopefully that will change in the near future. But for the first order of business...

One of the things I love about having people over (other than seeing my dear friends and family, of course) is being able to cook/bake dishes that I wouldn't normally make for just the two of us. And an entire cheesecake would certainly fall into the category of one of those dishes that I wouldn't make for just us.

So this past weekend, when H and I, along with MIL, FIL, BIL, and his girlfriend gathered at our place for dinner after picking out our Christmas trees at the farm, I knew I had a chance to make one of those dishes that I had reserved for a larger group of people. I had my favorite beef stew cooking away in the crock-pot, a nice loaf of French bread to soak up the gravy, and for dessert (not to toot my own horn or anything) one of the greatest cheesecakes I've ever had. Seriously. This was just that good.

This recipe was on the cover of my December issue of Cooking Light. I wanted to make it the second I saw it, and I was so happy to finally have the perfect occasion. I probably fattened it up slightly (but not too bad), and I think I made it a bit easier as well. Please note that you will need a large roasting pan for this recipe. The original recipe has you putting a 9" spring-form pan into a 9X13" baking pan, which doesn't exactly work all that well.

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake with Chocolate Crust

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups of chocolate graham crackers crumbs (approximately 6-8 whole crackers)
5 Tablespoons of butter, melted

For the swirl:
1 1/2 cups of cranberries
1/2 cup of sugar
2 Tablespoons of raspberry jam
3 Tablespoons of water

For the filling:
2 1/2 (8 oz.) packages of 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of low-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon of salt
3 large eggs

Directions: Preheat oven to 375. Line the inside and outside of a 9" spring-form pan with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Mix melted butter and graham cracker crumbs together in a bowl. Press mixture into the bottom of the pan, to all the edges. (You can do up the sides a bit if you want, but I just did the bottom.) Bake crust for 8 minutes, and allow to cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325. 

Meanwhile, heat cranberries, sugar, water, and jam in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until cranberries begin to pop. Set aside and allow to cool, for about 20 minutes. When cooled, pulse mixture in a food processor until mostly smooth.

Place softened cream cheese into stand mixer bowl, and beat on medium-low with the sugar until smooth. Beat in Greek yogurt, vanilla, and salt. Add eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition.

Pour cheese mixture over chocolate crust. Spoon cranberry topping over the filling, swirling lightly with a butter knife. Place spring-form pan into large roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with about 2" of hot water. Place roasting pan in the oven and bake cheesecake for 50 minutes.

After 50 minutes, it will still be a little jiggly in the center- like a Jello consistency- but that is what you want. Turn oven off, and allow cheesecake to sit in inside with the door shut for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and remove cheesecake from water bath. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Cake will then firm up, and allow you to remove it from the pan with ease. Enjoy!

Adapted from Cooking Light, original recipe here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Caramelized Pear Spice Cake

Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving! We had a wonderful three (yes, you read that right- three) Thanksgiving dinners this weekend. We had one with my extended family Thursday, one with my grandparents Friday, and one with H's family Sunday. I'm excited to be moving on to the Christmas holiday now, as I have to admit, I'm beginning to feel a bit turkey-ed out!

For the main event, which was hosted by my mom on Thanksgiving Day for 25 people, she asked me to bring a dessert. The pumpkin and apple pies, however, were already taken care of. Ooh, perfect- a challenge! I wanted to keep it fall-y, and kind of wanted to stay away from pumpkin and apple all together. I decided I'd love to do something with pears, and turned to my trusted companion Google to find the perfect recipe. I found this one for a caramelized pear upside-down-cake, which sounded easy, and I loved that it could be served at room temperature. I decided to turn up the spice a bit, as I loved the idea of a spiced pear cake, and here is what I came up with.

The topping is absolutely delicious, but I was actually a bit disappointed with the cake part. It tasted kind of dry to me, so when I make this again (which I definitely will), I am going to look for a different spice cake recipe to use instead of this one. It was still a hit though!

Caramelized Pear Spice Cake
Serves 8-10

For the topping:
3 medium Bartlett pears
4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 cup of brown sugar

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit a 9" round pan, grease it with a bit of butter, and place in the bottom of pan. Peel, core, and slice pears into about 1/4" thick slices. Arrange in the bottom of the pan in a circular pattern, slightly overlapping each other.

Melt butter over medium heat in saucepan. Stir in brown sugar, and continue to gently stir until smooth and combined. Pour caramel mixture over the pears in the pan, and give the pan a little spin to even it all out.

Mix the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a small bowl. In another bowl, mix milk and vanilla extract. In a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter with medium speed until light and fluffy. Slowly add brown sugar, continuing to beat. Turn speed to low, and add in eggs, mixing until combined. Slowly add the flour and milk mixtures, alternating in 5 stages, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined.

Bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then flip cake onto a plate to allow to cool completely, peeling off parchment paper if necessary. Enjoy!

Adapted from Fine Cooking, original recipe here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Maple Dijon Chicken

The MO for dinners this week of Thanksgiving has been easy, fast, and light. One night I had some butternut squash to roast up, and decided to have chicken thighs with it. As far as how I was going to cook them, I couldn't quite decide, but I was drawn to some maple Dijon flavoring. I turned to my good friend Google, searched for "maple Dijon chicken," and came across this recipe. Sounded good to me, so on to the menu it went.

This was so good and so easy! The flavor was amazing, and although it went very well with the butternut squash, it would have been great to have some rice or pasta to soak up all those nice juices. I will definitely be making this one again. I know this picture doesn't make it look all that appetizing, but it's so good, I promise!

Maple Dijon Chicken
Serves 4

4 chicken breast pieces (I used thighs, which worked as well)
2 Tablespoon of olive oil

2 shallots, chopped
2 Tablespoons of minced garlic

1 cup of chicken broth
2 Tablespoons of honey Dijon mustard
1/3 cup of maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper

Directions: Rinse and pat dry chicken. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat and place chicken in pan. Cover, and brown for about 6 minutes on each side.

When chicken is browned on both sides, remove from pan and set aside. Add more olive oil as necessary, and place shallots and garlic in pan. Sauté for a few minutes, until nearly soft.

Meanwhile, mix chicken broth, mustard, maple syrup, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl. When shallots and garlic have sautéed a few minutes, add liquid, scraping up browned bits. Bring to a simmer, add chicken back in, cover, and allow to simmer for about five minutes. Enjoy!

Adapted from Kitchen Daily, original recipe here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cinnamon, Pumpkin, and Squash Pot Pies

When I first saw this recipe, I just knew I had to try it! It absolutely spoke to me, but for a reason I could not put my finger on. It did have pumpkin of course, which I am definitely a fan of, but as far as the ingredient list as a whole, I was skeptical, quite honestly. Maybe I was just feeling curious and adventurous, but I finally bit the bullet and made it. I really had no idea what to expect, but I was blown away! This one is a winner!

It was a bit time consuming, but well worth the effort. It can be prepared in advance and refrigerated until you're ready to bake it, so it would be a great way to wow your guests at a dinner party!

This recipe made enough to fill 8 6-ounce ramekins. I definitely think it would be better in slightly larger ones, maybe 4 10-ounce ones instead. Also, I'll say it served 4 to be safe- I was OK with one of these (in addition to a salad and roasted squash) for dinner, but H needed two to feel full.

Cinnamon, Pumpkin, and Squash Pot Pies
(serves 4)

3 medium sweet potatoes

2 cups of pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon of chopped, fresh rosemary
1/2  teaspoon of salt
black pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 leek, chopped

1/2 cup of heavy cream (I used half and half)
1 Tablespoon of cinnamon

2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 of a butternut squash, peeled and diced

1/2 cup of heavy cream (I used half and half)
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

2 scallions, chopped
6 basil leaves, chopped

3 oz. of herbed Brie, sliced thin
3 oz. of mozzarella, shredded
3 oz. of Cheddar, shredded

1 pie crust (I used this recipe), cut out into circles just slightly larger than your ramekins
1 egg white

Directions: Heat oven to 425. Wash and wrap sweet potatoes in foil, and cook for about 45-60 minutes, depending on size.

When potatoes have about 20 minutes left, mix pumpkin puree, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a bowl to combine. Spread mixture on an aluminum-covered baking sheet. Roast for about 15 minutes (still at 425, so you can do this while the potatoes are still in there).

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a saucepan, and add leek and garlic. Saute until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add in heavy cream and cinnamon, and cook over medium for 5 minutes. Add pumpkin mixture, and stir to combine.

Spray the bottoms of your ramekins, and divide pumpkin mixture evenly between them. Set aside. (When sweet potatoes are done in the oven, probably around this stage, remove, unwrap, peel, chop them, and set aside. Turn oven down to 350.)

Heat olive oil in a saucepan, and add onions and butternut squash. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add heavy cream and raisins, and let cook over medium heat until squash is cooked through- about 10 minutes. Add in scallions, basil, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes, and mix lightly to combine.

Remove from heat, and stir in mozzarella, Cheddar, and Brie until fully melted. Divide squash mixture evenly between ramekins, on top of the pumpkin.

Top each ramekin with a pie crust circle. (If you are preparing these ahead of time, now is the time to cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.) Brush each top with an egg wash, and bake for about 25-30 minutes at 350, or until top is golden brown. Enjoy!

Adapted from The Novice Chef, original recipe here, originally from RecipeLink.

Meal Plan... Tuesday

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! Ours was too short, as usual. Here is what is on the menu for this week.

And if you think my meal plan last week was somewhat lacking, just wait until you see this week's! And a day late to boot. I really need to get back on track next week.

Monday: Mexican Shredded Pork Burritos with Refried Beans (hey wait, wasn't that on the menu last week, you ask?? Yes, it was. And it never got made. I told you I need to step up my game.)

Tuesday: leftover Cinnamon, Pumpkin, and Cheese Pot-pies (blog post on these to come shortly!)

Wednesday: Lasagna with Ground Turkey and Spinach

Thursday: out to dinner

Friday: out to dinner

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Happy Monday everyone. I hope it was a good weekend! This week is a bit lacking in the cooking department, but what can I say, it's a busy week!

Monday: Chicken Marsala over Pasta and Broccoli

Tuesday: Out to dinner

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: Shredded Pork Burritos with Refried Beans

Friday: Dinner with family

Saturday: Squash and Pumpkin Pot Pies

Friday, November 5, 2010

Turkey Stuffing Burgers / Cranberry Relish

I'm not a huge fan of most Thanksgiving food, believe it or not. The turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and even the pumpkin pie are all good, but I could take them or leave them, honestly. The stuffing, however, is a different story. I love stuffing, I could eat boatloads of it. Seriously, I am drooling just thinking about it.

I already had turkey burgers and sweet potato fries on the menu for this week when I came across this recipe for Stuffing Turkey Burgers with Cranberry Relish. The ones I had on the menu were boring, uninspired turkey burgers though. Just your standard lettuce, tomato, cheese, and ketchup on a bun. So it was an absolute no-brainer to nix those plain-Jane-I'll-just-throw these-on-the-menu-because-I-can't-think-of-anything-else in favor of these Stuffing Turkey Burgers. And man, best decision ever.

I was seriously so excited to make these all freaking week! I often switch around the menu around depending on what we're in the mood for that night, or if there's anything that needs to used up first. What kept pushing these back though, was the fact that the recipe calls for day-old corn bread. And what do you know, you have to bake cornbread the day before in order to have that! Apparently planning in advance is not my forte. Finally, I decided eff it, I can't wait any longer. I'll just make the corn bread the same night.

How has this combination of stuffing flavors in a turkey burger (with cranberry relish no less!) never been brought to my attention before? I suppose I'll just have to be "thankful" that I found this recipe at all! 
Do I even need to tell you that I enjoyed these? I think H loved them just as much as I did.

Turkey and Stuffing Burgers with Cranberry Relish
Makes 6-8 burgers

for the relish:
1 cup of whole berry cranberry sauce
2 Tablespoons of apple cider
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves

for the burgers:
1 Tablespoon of butter
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced onion
1 Tablespoon of dried sage
1/2 Tablespoon of dried thyme

1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
1 1/2 cups of day old cornbread, crumbled
1 egg

1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
1 teapsoon of salt
pinch of black pepper

Directions: Mix all of the ingredients for the cranberry relish, and refrigerate while you prepare the burgers. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, and saute celery and onions with sage and thyme until soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Meanwhile, mix turkey, egg, bread, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning together in a bowl. When onions and celery are cool, mix in with the turkey and knead to combine all ingredients. (Feel free to add a bit more of the spices, especially thyme and sage, if you really want that stuffing flavor to kick.) Form into 6-8 burgers. Heat a non-stick grill pan to medium-high. Cook burgers about 6 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned and cooked through.

Serve with cranberry relish, on toasted buns, and enjoy!

Adapted from Pink Parsley, original recipe here.

The Farm Life

The other weekend H and I went camping with a couple friends. This trip wasn't your standard pitch a tent in the woods and roast marshmallows on the fire type camping though. We were actually camping on a farm. Our friend found it through Time Out New York magazine, and we all thought it sounded like a great idea.

Basically, you rent a cross between a cabin and a tent and stay on a farm. Our "tent" had wood floors and the frame of a cabin, but the walls were canvas. It also had (cold) running water, a flushing toilet, and a wood-burning stove. Here are a few pictures of our home sweet home for the weekend.

 (our cabin during the day)

 (and when it was getting dark. I won't even try to post a picture of how it looked at night. They're all dark, blurry messes!)

The farm we stayed on was Stony Creek Farm, in Walton, NY through the Featherdown Farms program. The farm owners were wonderful hosts- they were so friendly and absolutely full of information. We learned so much from them, and had so much fun.

The food there was incredible! The fresh vegetables were amazing. The meat was delicious. And I can't even express how wonderful milk and eggs taste when they are only a few hours old. Seriously. I wish I could eat like this all the time. We did all of our cooking over a wood stove, which definitely took a bit of practice, but is oh so worth it.

(we were able to gather fresh eggs from the chickens in the morning)

One of the things we all got a kick out of was milking the cows. It's a lot harder than it looks, and it's kind of scary to be so close to such a large, powerful animal! And it is not easy to fill up a whole bucket!

 (this is one of the dairy cows, Sierra, and the bull Zeus. They were so cute and love-y)

(I never thought I would have a picture of myself milking a cow. But here we are!)

We loved the pigs! We ended up visiting them 4 times throughout the weekend. They were so cute and friendly, they fought for attention and loved being petted. Any time we walked up to their pen, they ran towards us squealing. Adorable.

 (with my piggie friends!)

 (aw, so cute!!)

And although it was a lot more "winter-y" than it is here, there were still some amazing views. These are a couple that I took out the window of our cabin.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beef Barley and Vegetable Soup

I have been on a serious soup kick as of late. I think I've made a large pot of some type of soup every week for the past month. There are so many things I love about soup- how easy it is, how perfect it is for this weather, the sheer number of possibilities, and most of all, the amount of leftovers it makes! Because of that last reason, I tend to choose Mondays to make the weekly large pot of soup so we can enjoy for lunches throughout the week.

This week I was craving a beef barley soup, so when I found this recipe, I knew I had to make it. It was definitely easy, and oh so delicious!

Beef Barley and Vegetable Soup

1 lb. of chuck roast, cut into cubes (you could also use stew beef, which would be super easy)

1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes, with juice
1 onion, sliced thin
4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
1 package (6-8 oz) mushroom mix

1 cup of pearl barley

8 cups of beef broth
1 cup of red wine

2 teaspoons of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of thyme
3 bay leaves

Directions: Brown beef cubes in a saute pan with a bit of olive oil. Place in a large stock pot. Add can of diced tomatoes, onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms, and barley. Add beef broth, red wine, and spices and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Enjoy!

Adapted from, original recipe here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Roasted Balsamic Vegetables

This side dish is one that is very healthy and extremely versatile. I often serve it with light, Italian dishes. You can pretty much use any veggies (or herbs!) that you wish, or whatever you have on hand. I've used parsnips, red onion, other types of peppers and squash, even green beans in it, and it's always turned out well. Just make sure to put any harder, takes-longer-to-cook vegetable in with the first batch and others with the second (you'll see what I mean when you read the recipe!). The sweet potatoes seem like a strange addition, but I really like the flavor they give it. There's always something about that sweet/salty combo...

Roasted Balsamic Vegetables
Serves 4

1 Tablespoon of olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 or 3 handfuls of baby carrots
2 red peppers, chopped
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
1 large zucchini, sliced
2 portobello mushroom heads, sliced

1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of dried basil
black pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 400. Grease bottom of 9X13 glass pan with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Put sweet potatoes and carrots in the pan, and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and put peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, and zucchini in the pan and drizzle with olive oil. Return pan to the oven, and roast for 30 minutes more.

When vegetables are done, remove from oven and use a spatula to mix. Let cool slightly. In a large ziploc bag, mix balsamic vinegar, basil, garlic, and pepper. Place vegetables in, and shake to coat. Remove from bag, and place in serving bowl. They can be served warm, or room temperature. Enjoy!

I have been using this recipe for quite a long time, and am not sure where it originally came from. I tried to Google it, to see if I could find the source, but with no avail. Please let me know if it is yours, or you know where it came from!

Meal Plan Monday

Happy Monday everyone! Here is what is on the menu for this week:

Monday: Beef Vegetable and Barley Soup

Tuesday: Baked Breaded Chicken Breasts with Zucchini and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto

Wednesday: Thanksgiving Turkey Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries

Thursday: Poached Eggs over Fall Vegetable Quinoa Hash

Friday: dinner at my parents'

Saturday: leftovers from the week

Friday, October 29, 2010

S'mores Brownie Bars

Last weekend when we went camping again, I was looking for another s'mores inspired treat to bring with us. I made the cookies, for our last adventure, so of course I wanted to do something different. I decided on a s'mores bar, and after browsing around a bit, I chose to combine two different recipes.

These turned out delicious, and exactly what I was hoping for. But let me just say, these were RICH! I certainly can't say I wasn't forewarned- the recipe I used for the brownies was called "Chewy Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies" after all. I'm not complaining (really!), but had I known exactly how sinful these were, I probably would have cut them a bit smaller!

S'mores Brownie Bars

Graham Crust:
3 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1 1/4 sticks of butter, melted
2 Tablespoons of sugar

Brownie Layer:
8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
8 Tablespoons of butter
3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder

3 eggs
1 1/4 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of all-purpose flour

1 handful of mini marshmallows
3 graham crackers, crumbled
2 chocolate bars, roughly chopped

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9X13 pan with foil. Combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar and mix until combined. Press the crust into the pan, and push out to all the corners until the bottom is covered. Bake for about 7 minutes, and set on a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, melt butter for the brownies in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in chopped chocolate and cocoa powder, and stir until combined. Immediately remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl (doesn't need to be a stand mixer bowl, since these are all mixed by hand) combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until combined. Add chocolate mixture and stir to incorporate. Stir in flour until just combined. Pour the mixture into the pan over the graham cracker crust and spread to the edges. (This will be one thick batter!)

Bake for about 18 minutes, and then remove pan to sprinkle toppings on the brownies. Try to "glue" down the graham cracker pieces with marshmallow to make them stick. Return to oven, and bake for about 6-8 minutes more, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely, and cut into 24-30 pieces. Enjoy!

Brownies adapted from Annie's Eats, original recipe here, and graham cracker crust from My Baking Addiction, original recipe here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Butternut Squash Vegetable Soup

New Jersey has always gotten somewhat of a bad rap. TV shows like Jersey Shore and the Real Housewives of New Jersey certainly didn't help this, yet I can't blame it all on them. However, I love where I live. New Jersey has both beaches and ski resorts, forests, farms, and cities. We experience all four seasons, yet nothing too extreme. We're within a few hours drive from most major cities in the Northeast. And most importantly, New Jersey is the Garden State.

Laugh all you will, but until the other weekend I really had no idea how much produce came out of the Garden State. Obviously, I'm a huge fan of Jersey tomatoes in the summer, and I know there are a large number of blueberry and cranberry fields nearby too. But the farmers market H and I went to made me realize that those few things are far from all the area has to offer.

Now I've been to farmers markets before too, of course, but they've usually been small, mom-and-pop, side-of-the-road ones with just a few things to pick from. This one, however, was huge! Huge. I was surprised to see eggplants, pumpkins, pears, more types of squash, peppers, greens, and apples than I knew existed, all grown on the neighboring farms. And when I saw the you-pick schedule that included grapes, peaches, cherries, raspberries, and plums throughout the summer, I was blown away. Who knew? Clearly, not me.

I was definitely inspired, to say the least. All those fresh, cheap ingredients was like heaven for me. H had to stop me from going a bit crazy.

Two of the vegetables that I bought were kale and butternut squash. I've never cooked with either of these before, so needless to say I was excited. I did want to find a recipe that included both of them, and at times like that, I turn to's ingredient search. There was only one recipe that included both of those ingredients (which made my decision easier) and it sounded good, so onto the menu it went.

It turned out really well! It was hearty, filling, and healthy, and the butternut squash gave it a great flavor. I got some crusty French bread to serve with it and absorb all that delicious broth.

Butternut Squash Vegetable Soup
(serves 8-10)

1/4 cup of olive oil

1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 red potatoes, peeled and chopped

4 cups of chopped kale
12 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
1/2 teaspoon of salt
black pepper

: In a large stockpot, saute onion and garlic until onion is soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Add carrots, butternut squash, and potatoes, and continue to cook for about 20 minutes. Add vegetable stock, kale, thyme, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Let simmer for at least 45 minutes.

Take about 3 cups of the soup, and set aside. When slightly cooled, place into a blender. Puree until it reaches a thick liquid, return it to the stock pot, and stir. Serve with a crusty French bread, and enjoy!

Adapted from, original recipe here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Here is what is on the menu for this week:

Monday: Leftover Spinach Pesto Lasagna

Tuesday: Almond Crusted Tilapia with green beans and mashed potatoes

Wednesday: Filets with Mushroom and Herb Mac and Cheese and Broccoli

Thursday: Grilled Chicken Parmesan with Roasted Balsamic Vegetables

Friday: Spinach and Artichoke Pizza 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

French Apple Tart

One of my farm market finds last weekend was large basket of red delicious apples. They ended up being more than we could eat, so I went on a mission to find something to bake them into. Pies still intimidate me something fierce, so I decided to look for a tart. H loves fruity desserts, and probably would have been (secretly) disappointed had I baked them into muffins or cupcakes. I found a recipe for a French Apple Tart from Ina Garten, and since I've heard nothing but praise for her recipes, I decided it would work. To be honest though, it did still intimidate me, but I decided to bite the bullet.

And yes, I'm glad I did! Of course it didn't turn out as beautiful as the one in the picture, it was still delicious and not as difficult as I expected. And H loooved it, which of course, made me happy as well :) 

French Apple Tart
(serves 6-8)

For the dough:
2 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon of sugar
12 Tablespoons of cold butter, diced
1/2 cup of ice cold water

For the apples:
 4-6 Granny Smith apples (I used red delicious, which worked as well)

1/2 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, diced
2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Directions: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse to mix. Add diced butter, and pulse 10-12 times for 4 second intervals, or until butter is no larger than the size of peas. With the motor running, slowly pour ice cold water down the feed tube until dough starts to form. Dump onto a floured work surface, and knead into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out dough onto a floured work surface and trim to about a 10x14" rectangle. Place on baking sheet, and place in refrigerator while you prep the apples. Wash and peel apples, and slice them vertically into 1/4" slices (removing the cores). Arrange them in overlapping slices over the dough. Sprinkle the whole cup of sugar all over the apples, then cinnamon, and then arrange the diced butter on top of that.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until apples start to brown slightly. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly. Loosen tart from parchment paper with a metal spatula. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Adapted from Food Network, original recipe here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ham and Potato Soup

It's finally started to get a bit chilly in these parts, and my fall comfort food cravings have officially begun. Finally! Thick, hearty soups are one type of food I've been excited to make.

When I came across this recipe for ham and potato soup, I thought, "this looks delicious, but where's the cheese?" (which I may think more often than I'd actually like to admit). I made a mental note to add a bunch of cheddar cheese to the recipe when I got around to making it.

Well, wouldn't you know, when I was making my grocery list for the week, I totally forgot the fact that I was planning to add cheese and ended up not having any on hand. And the last thing I wanted to do on the cold, rainy, perfect for a thick, filling soup type of night was drive out in the rain to pick up some cheese. Even I have my limits. So no cheese. We'll have to see how this goes.

Well, fear not! This recipe turned out pretty darn good, even without the cheese! The flavors were awesome, and it was stick-to-your-bones comforting. 

Ham and Potato Soup
(serves 6)

4-5 large potatoes, chopped
1 small bunch of celery, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cups of cooked ham, finely diced
4 cups of water
1 packet of (sodium-free) instant beef broth
1 teaspoon of salt
black pepper

5 Tablespoons of butter
5 Tablespoons of flour
1 cup of skim milk
1 cup of half and half

Directions: Place potatoes, onion, celery, and ham in a large stock pot. Cover with water, and add salt, pepper, and instant beef broth. Bring water to a boil, and keep at a rolling boil until potatoes are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

When potatoes are tender, heat butter in small saucepan and when it's melted, create a roux with the flour, whisking often. When fully mixed, add to boiling potatoes and veggies. Stir to combine, and mash the potatoes with a fork a bit to smooth them out. Add the milk and half and half, stir to combine, and let boil for a few minutes more. Enjoy!

Adapted from allrecipes, original recipe here.

I apologize for the slightly less than appetizing photo, but I swear it was delicious! I've learned that creamy soups are a bit difficult to photograph...

Monday, October 18, 2010

One Year Ago Yesterday...


I married my best friend. I absolutely cannot believe it's already been a year!

We enjoyed a low-key weekend together at home. No trips or anything fancy, just some quality time together. We slept in, went to the farmers' market, had a picnic, watched baseball, went hiking, had some wine, and enjoyed a candlelit dinner at home- perfect. I look forward to many more years together!

Meal Plan Monday

Happy Monday everyone! Here is what is on the menu for this week:

Monday: leftovers from this weekend

Tuesday: Turkey Meatball Sandwiches and Caesar salads

Wednesday: Pesto Lasagna with Spinach and Mushrooms

Thursday: Butternut Squash Vegetable soup with French bread

Friday: TBD from farmers' market finds

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Spicy Shredded Pork

This recipe for spicy shredded pork was on our menu for last week, and boy, did it make a lot. I froze the rest in 2-person size portions, and we've been enjoying it for lunches ever since.

I never posted about it, but I really loved it so much that I can't not share! The flavors are incredible and the meat is as moist and tender as it gets. And of course, being a crockpot meal, it's as easy as pie!

This is absolutely perfect served in a flour tortilla, with a little bit of salsa and sour cream, and some fresh cilantro.

Spicy Shredded Pork

4-7 lb. pork shoulder (bone-in)
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 Tablespoon of salt
black pepper to taste

4 garlic cloves
1 onion, quartered
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 Tablespoons of white wine vinegar
2 cups water

Rinse and pat dry the pork shoulder.

Combine the spices, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture all over pork shoulder, in the crevices and folds. Place pork shoulder in the crockpot. Add the onion, garlic cloves, olive oil, vinegar, and water. Set crockpot to low and let cook for about 10 hours.

When done cooking, remove pork from crockpot, and shred with a fork discarding the bone and fatty pieces. Serves about 8-12, depending on the size of the pork shoulder. Enjoy!

Adapted from Annie's Eats, original recipe here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pumpkin Butterscotch Bars

Remember my pumpkin rules?

Well, I don't know what's gotten into me, but I have not been following them too closely as of late. First I go all crazy and make something as daring as pumpkin lasagna, and now I've gone off and baked a batch of pumpkin bars to (gasp) share!

We were tailgating last weekend with friends, and I wanted to bring a fall-y dessert, to off-set all the savory snacks we'd be having. I didn't want anything fussy or frilly- this is a tailgate now, not a tea-party! So when I found these on my "to-bake" list, I decided they would be perfect for the occasion.

They were a big hit! These turned out to be like a combination of cake and a brownie in texture, and the white chocolate and butterscotch chips were a perfect touch!

Pumpkin Butterscotch Bars

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 cup of pumpkin puree
1 cup of white chocolate chips
1 cup of butterscotch chips

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9 X 13 baking pan with foil.

Mix the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl, and set aside.

In an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, and pumpkin puree until well combined. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients, and beat until just combined. Fold in the white chocolate and butterscotch chips.

Spread batter on foil-covered baking sheet, bringing it to all the edges. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until edges start to pull away and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely, and cut into 24 pieces. Enjoy!

Adapted from Annie's Eats, original recipe here.

Meal Plan Tuesday

I am not doing very well with my Monday meal plans. I have no excuses for yesterday, I just forgot! But here it is on Tuesday...

Monday: Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches with Grilled Zucchini and Tomatoes

Tuesday: Parmesan Tilapia with Cheesy Brown Rice

Wednesday: Ham and Potato Soup with Roasted Broccoli

Thursday: Feta and Sun-dried Tomato Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Mediterranean Quinoa

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: date night with H

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Perfect Strawberry Maple Syrup

I love flavored syrups on pancakes. It's a great way to spice up otherwise boring, plain pancakes. It's also a great way to create interesting flavor combinations by adding them to pancakes that are already special on their own.

I had been on the search for a perfect strawberry (or any fruit, really) maple syrup recipe for a while though. All of the recipes I found had extras like orange juice, apple cider, corn syrup, vanilla extract, water, flour... the list goes on. But none of them were exactly what I was looking for. I decided to give it a try and make my own. Plain old strawberries and maple syrup. No frills. And wow! I do believe I've found it! We had this over chocolate chip pancakes, and it was amazing!

Perfect Strawberry Maple Syrup

6-8 large strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Directions: Simmer strawberries and syrup over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, while smashing strawberries with a fork. Pour over your favorite pancakes and enjoy! Makes 2 servings. Enjoy!

(Haven't tried this yet, but I bet this recipe would be good with any type of fruit- blueberries, blackberries, apples... 

Also, this makes for a fairly thick syrup, so you may want to top with a bit of extra maple syrup after the fruit.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pumpkin Spiced Cream Cheese

I had a tiny bit of pumpkin puree left from the pumpkin lasagna I made last week, and wasn't sure what I could make with such a small amount without having to open another can. I was really craving some type of pumpkin cheesecake, but didn't want to go through all the effort or ingredients needed. And then I stumbled upon this recipe for Pumpkin Spiced Cream Cheese. It sounded perfect! I figured this could really hit the spot as far as that cheesecake craving, without all the effort (or calories)! And it doesn't really get much easier than this...

Pumpkin Spiced Cream Cheese

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons of maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

Directions: Mix all ingredients except cream cheese in a small bowl until well combined. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Enjoy!

Adapted from Pinch My Salt, original recipe here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Meal Plan... Tuesday

I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday (and the dreary, chilly, rainy weather we were having certainly didn't help) so I slacked off on Monday's meal plan post. I also slacked off on the actual meal plan, as we cracked open cans of chicken noodle soup last night instead of what I had planned...

But oh well, here is the rest of the week, ready to go!

Tuesday: Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce and Broccoli

Wednesday: Chicken and Vegetable Quesadillas

Thursday: Pasta and Vegetable Primavera

Friday: Mexican Shredded Pork Tacos with Roasted Red Pepper Corn

Saturday: Dinner party at friends' apartment

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pumpkin Lasagna

I have a confession to make.

I have somewhat of a hoarding problem. No, I'm not like the people you see on TV, who are buried in mountains upon mountains of stuff, their addiction alienating friends and family. My hoarding problem involves pumpkin puree. Lots and lots of pumpkin puree. Really. The proof is in the cupboard.

Come every fall, I get wind of some type of pumpkin shortage. Whether this shortage is real, simply a rumor, or caused by crazies such as myself (which I imagine must be the case at least sometimes), I buy a few cans to "stock up" every single time I go to the grocery store.

And no matter how many cans of pumpkin I accumulate, I am still extremely particular about the recipes in which I choose to use my precious stock. I actually have a couple rules regarding it. Rule number one: whatever I make, I don't share it. I usually love sharing the fruits of my baking labor with friends, family, and co-workers. It's better for my waist-line, gives me those "warm fuzzies," and let's face it, all the compliments and "mmmmm's" don't exactly hurt my ego. However, that's not the case with any pumpkin goodies. In the rare occasion that we have some left over after a day or two, they go in the freezer to be enjoyed by H and I at a later date. Selfish, selfish, I know.

Rule number two: I'm very unadventurous in my pumpkin recipes. I usually love trying new recipes and ingredients, but pumpkin recipes have to be for something that I'm absolutely certain that I'll enjoy. God forbid I use up a can of pumpkin puree in something that doesn't turn out well.

So there you have it. Call me crazy, blame me for the pumpkin shortage at your local grocery store, or what have you. But all this does have a point... Last week, I was gazing at all the drool-worthy food porn on, and I stumbled upon this recipe for pumpkin lasagna. It looked... delicious. But I hesitated in saving it, as it didn't follow the rules. I've only had savory pumpkin dishes a handful of times, and only in restaurants. I've never actually attempted one. But something about it... just drew me in. I decided to bite the bullet and add it to this week's menu.

(Edited: With all the waxing poetic about my love of pumpkin, I completely forgot to mention how this turned out! It was good, and I was really glad to be able to step out of my comfort zone a bit! A piece of advice- don't skimp on the salt. I did, because I am trying to cut back on sodium and I don't really like things too salty, but the salt definitely brought out a good flavor.)

Pumpkin Lasagna

9 lasagna noodles, either the no-boil kind, or the regular ones prepared according to package directions and left submerged in cold water

16 oz. sliced mushrooms, chopped
1 large white onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon of olive oil

2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup of half and half
1 1/2 teaspoons of dried sage
salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups of ricotta cheese
1 egg

4 oz. of mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375.

Saute mushrooms and onion in olive oil, with a dash of salt and pepper. Allow them to simmer until soft, and then drain of excess liquid. Meanwhile, combine pumpkin puree, half and half, sage, and another dash of salt and pepper into a large bowl. Into a third bowl, mix ricotta cheese and egg and beat until combined.

Lightly spray cooking spray on the bottom of a 9X13 baking pan. Start with the pumpkin mixture and spread about 1/2 cups worth on the bottom of the pan, enough to lightly cover. Layer pasta next, then ricotta cheese mixture, then a couple scoops of the mushrooms and onions. Top again with pumpkin, and continue to layer until you run out of ingredients. Sprinkle mozzarella and Parmesan cheese all over the top.

Cover with foil, then place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes. Remove cover, and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until the cheese is starting to get golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Adapted from Prevention RD, original recipe here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches

One of our favorite vegetarian meals is this grilled vegetable sandwich. It's a fairly standard sandwich, but this particular version was inspired by a dish on the menu at a little Italian restaurant where I used to work. I enjoyed working the lunch shift solely because I got to eat one of these sandwiches. So one day, I decided to try to recreate this dish at home!

These are delicious and filling and oh-so-easy-to prepare. And vegetarian to boot!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches

6 hoagie rolls
1 Tablespoon of olive oil    
1 eggplant, chopped or sliced
2 red peppers, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped or sliced
1 10 oz. bag of baby spinach
3 portobello mushroom caps, chopped or sliced
6 slices of provolone cheese
1 cup marinara sauce

Directions: Preheat oven to 400. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Sauté vegetables in skillet until mostly soft. (I usually do them one type at a time, and then set them aside- it's a lot!) Pile veggies into the rolls, and cover each with a slice of provolone cheese. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and place in the oven until lightly toasted and cheese is melted. Use the marinara sauce for dipping. Enjoy!

Note- I have made these both by slicing up the veggies and layering them on the sandwich, and by  chopping them up small, and doing it almost sloppy joe style. Both ways are delicious!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes

 I'm toying around with creating a new tag for my blog- budget meals. H and I would like to have a bit of extra spending money in some other areas, and I decided there was enough room in the grocery budget to do a bit of trimming. Who doesn't want to save a few dollars if they can? I'll be doing the cost breakdown at the bottom of the budget meal posts, below the recipe.

I consider budget meals a bit of a creative challenge. Eating healthy, delicious food is important to me, and not something I want to sacrifice. However, I strongly believe that it's not necessary to give up taste or nutrition to cook frugally. There are absolutely healthy, delicious options out there that don't cost and arm and a leg.

One easy way to make dinner on a budget is to pick a recipe that has few ingredients. Obviously, fewer ingredients means a lower cost per serving, but the flavor of those few ingredients is really able to shine through as well. Simple and delicious. And that is what drew me to this recipe for Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes from Cooking Light.

Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes

1 pint of grape tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion
1 Tablespoon of honey
2 Tablespoon of olive oil

4 chicken breasts
salt and pepper to season

2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette

8 oz. orzo pasta        

Directions: Preheat oven to 450. Cover a baking pan with aluminum foil, and spread grape tomatoes and sliced onion on it. Drizzle honey and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil on top, and roast in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove the pan, stir veggies, and place back in oven for 7 minutes, or until tomato skins begin to burst. When finished, set aside in a small bowl.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil for pasta, and when ready, cook according to package directions. Then, pound chicken breasts to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Rinse, pat dry, and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat remaining Tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium high. Sauté chicken in saucepan until lightly browned on both sides and juices run clear (about 8 minutes per side).

When chicken is done, serve over orzo pasta, and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette. Divide roasted tomatoes and onions on top. Enjoy!

Adapted from Cooking Light, original recipe here.

Budget Breakdown:
My definition of a budget meal will be $2.50 or less per serving. Obviously, the total cost of ingredients will be more, but these are things you'll most likely already have in the pantry, and if not, easily use again. I'll do my best to total the meals up with the actual prices we paid, but if it's an item we already had on hand, I'll be using the current price from our local supermarket.

Final rule- I'm not counting salt and pepper (or spices), because I am not even going to attempt the math involved in measuring that out, and it will most likely add up to fractions of a cent.

For 4 servings

(Ingredient @ cost)                                                  cost per serving
1 pint of grape tomatoes @ $1.99                                      50¢
1 medium yellow onion @ $6.50 for 20                             
1 Tablespoon of honey @ $3.50/12 oz.                              
2 Tablespoon of olive oil @ $22.00/101 fl. oz.                    5¢
4 chicken breasts (5 oz. portions) @ $2.99/lb                    93¢
2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette @ $1.24/16 fl.oz    
8 oz. orzo pasta @ $1.05/16 oz.                                         13¢
                                                                                       $1.76 per serving

Monday, September 27, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Here is what is on the menu for this week...

Monday: Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes and Butter Parmesan Orzo

Tuesday: Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Garlic Spinach

Wednesday: Salmon Pesto Pasta

Thursday: Pumpkin Lasagna

Friday: leftovers from the week

Saturday: Out to dinner

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Flounder with Tomato Caper Sauce

Even though I'm doing my best to stick to our weekly meal plan, I do switch around the days once in a while. No harm, no foul, right? On the menu for tonight was pizza. But strangely, I wasn't feeling it. OK, it wasn't so much that I wasn't feeling it, really, just that I was feeling it more for Friday night (with some Oktoberfest beer, perhaps?). So move the pizza to Friday, and move... Flounder with Tomato and Caper Sauce over brown rice to tonight.

This dish was nice and easy and turned out really well! I heavily adapted this original recipe, as to kind of cross it with another dish that we already make frequently. It really took our original dish to the next level.

Flounder with Tomato Caper Sauce

1 cup white wine
2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
2 Tablespoons of capers
1 Tablespoon of minced garlic

1 white onion, chopped
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped into about 1" pieces

4 filets of white fish, such as flounder or tilapia
salt and pepper to season

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
4 Tablespoons butter, softened well

Directions: Preheat oven to 425. Simmer white wine and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium high for a few minutes. Add garlic, capers, and onion, and simmer a few minutes more, until onion is slightly softened. Add asparagus and tomato, simmer a couple minutes more, and then remove from heat. Pour sauce into a 9x13" glass baking dish or large gratin dish.

Season fish with salt and pepper and place over the sauce in the baking dish. Mix butter with bread crumbs in a small bowl, until combined. Spread bread crumb mixture over fish. Place in oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until topping is slightly crispy. Serve over brown rice. Enjoy!

Adapted from epicurious, original recipe here

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Granola Bars

Another baking project on my list to tackle this past weekend was homemade granola bars. We are always looking for healthy snacks that are also tasty and filling, and these definitely sounded like they would fit the bill.

Granola Bars

2 cups oats (old fashioned, not instant)
1 cup unsalted peanuts, crushed
3/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup sunflower seeds

4 Tablespoons of butter
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of honey
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt

Mix-ins of your choice, such as: raisins, dried cranberries, dried apples, coconut, chocolate chips, peanut butter, etc.

Directions: Preheat oven to 400. Mix oats, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, and crushed peanuts in a large mixing bowl, and stir to combine.

Spread the grains and nuts out on a baking sheet with sides, and place them in the oven. Bake until slightly toasted, but remove them about every 2 minutes or so to stir them around so the edges don't burn.

Meanwhile, mix butter, brown sugar, honey, vanilla, and salt in a saucepan over medium low, stirring frequently. (If you are using any liquid add-ins, such as peanut butter, add them at this point. You'll want to slightly decrease the other liquid ingredients to compensate, though.)

When dry ingredients are done in the oven, remove and pour back into the mixing bowl. Pour brown sugar/butter mixture over them and stir. Now is the time you'll want to add any dry ingredients such as chocolate chips or dried fruit. Stir well to completely coat everything with the "glue."

Cover a 9x13" glass pan with wax paper, and lightly coat with cooking spray. Pour granola out into the pan. Using a second sheet of wax paper, folded over, press down to push granola to sides of pan. Press down all over to get it nice and packed in. Leave wax paper on top to cover.

Let granola cool completely, about 3 hours. When cool, remove from baking pan and plop it onto a cutting board. Remove wax paper, cut into pieces, wrap tightly in saran wrap to keep fresh. Enjoy!

Adapted from Joyful Abode, original recipe here

I made two kinds- apple peanut butter, and cranberry with white chocolate chips. They are both absolutely delicious, and I think these will last us for quite a while!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

I decided I'm going to stick with my Meal Plan Monday post, so here is what's on the menu for this week!

Monday: Salmon Florentine with Orzo Pasta

Tuesday: Out to dinner with friends

Wednesday: Pizza with spinach, roasted red peppers, portobello, and goat cheese

Thursday: French Beef Dip Sandwiches with Streamed Broccoli

Friday: Flounder with Tomato and Caper Sauce over Brown Rice

Cajun Cornmeal Crusted Fish

One of the new recipes that was on the menu last week was Cajun Cornmeal Crusted Fish with Peach Salsa. It turned out really good! The salsa was absolutely amazing, we were lucky to still find some summer peaches that were perfectly sweet. The recipe was actually originally Chipotle Crusted, but I decided to switch that up a bit. I really like Cajun seasoning, and I've never actually cooked with chipotles before, so I decided to stick with what I knew for this one.

Cajun Cornmeal Crusted Fish

4 firm fish fillets (5-6 ounces each- I used flounder, it would be good with many white fishes though)

1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cornmeal, or cornbread crumbs
2 Tablespoons of butter, cut into small pieces

2 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and chopped
1 ripe tomato, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2  bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch salt
freshly ground black pepper


Mix all ingredients together for the salsa. Season to taste, and set aside in the refrigerator. This works best made a few hours in advance, if possible, to really let the flavors soak together.

Preheat oven to 375. For the fish, mix Cajun seasoning, thyme, salt, oil, lime juice, and garlic together in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, spread out the cornmeal. Dip each fillet in the oil mixture, coat well, and dredge in cornmeal, flipping a few times to fully cover them. Place each fillet on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet. When all 4 are finished, spread the small pieces of butter out on the fish, and place in oven. Cook time can vary from 10 minutes up to 25, depending on size and thickness of the fillets. Cook until topping is slightly golden brown and fish flakes easily with a fork. Enjoy!

Adapted from Pink Parsley, original recipe here