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December 30, 2011

Food and Wine Nacho Burgers

Burgers are a popular food in my house. Not plain tasteless burgers, but burgers that are thick and juicy and full of toppings. Turkey, chicken, beef, veggie, you name it, my family will devour it with zealous. In the summer I make burgers approximately once a week, but in the fall and winter I scale back my burger making. It has been months since I've tried a new burger recipe and I figured it was about time to try a new one. The January 2012 issue of Food and Wine Magazine had a recipe for Nacho Burgers that looked full of flavor and perfect for a cold weather burger recipe.

This recipe has 6 ingredients in the salsa, 7 ingredients in the cheese sauce and 7 ingredients in the burgers. The  recipe takes 35 minutes of total time and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients with the exception of the blue corn chips which I didn't notice I needed before preparing the recipe. One thing that the recipe neglects to mention is to add the milk gradually to the flour and butter in the cheese sauce. If the milk is added all at once the cheese sauce won't thicken properly. I found that my sauce took a little longer than five minutes to fully thicken and another 5-10 minutes of cooling. I chose to grill my burgers on an indoor grill since it is winter and honestly I find it much easier. Additionally I made my burgers smaller since half of them were for my kids. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

These burgers turned out delicious. The burger recipe is your basic burger recipe, it is the sauce and salsa that make this dish so yummy. The cheese sauce is the best part of the recipe and was very popular with my three-year-old. It also re-heated well the next day with leftovers, and even worked with the veggie burgers I had in the freezer. A great fall/winter burger recipe with delicious toppings.

For the recipe go to Nacho Burgers.

December 29, 2011

Eating Well Warm-Potato Salad with Bacon-Mustard Dressing

Potatoes are one of my favorite foods. Growing up every Sunday my dad would get up early and start fried potatoes. Those fried potatoes to this day are one of the most delicious dishes I have ever had. I have tried to duplicate them in my own house and they never seem to be as good as the ones my dad made. My dad and husband have told me that I'm too impatient with the potatoes and flip them too often and too soon. They are probably right, they are both way more patient than me. Instead of obsessing over perfecting fried potatoes I have fallen in love with trying new types of potato salad. Not the store bought overly mayonnaise based varieties, but real homemade potato salad. Eating Well Magazine recently had a recipe for Warm Potato Salad with Bacon Mustard Dressing, which looked easy and low in fat and calories.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 40 minutes of total time and makes 10 servings. All the ingredients are basic and I had no problems finding any of them at my local grocery store. The fingerling potatoes cooked quicker than the recipe suggests so make sure to turn them frequently in order to prevent burning. I let my potato salad cool slightly before serving, my husband wasn't a fan of the salad being hot when served. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The dressing on this potato salad is delicious. It is the perfect combination of sweet and savory and makes a great compliment to the potatoes and apples. The best part of this salad is that it only contains 129 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving. Even my two boys enjoyed this salad, including my currently very food picky three-year-old. There are more than enough servings to take to a party or potluck or for multiple family meals.

For the recipe go to Warm Potato Salad with Bacon-Mustard Dressing.

December 28, 2011

Food and Wine Keema Beef Curry

When my oldest son was around two-years-old he became obsessed with spicy foods. One day I walked into the kitchen and discovered him eating a habanero pepper like an apple. Even I have a hard time with unseeded habaneros, but not my son. He loves spicy food. My husband shares my oldest son's love of spicy foods, especially curry. They have been known to go out to the Indian restaurant in town, just the two of them to indulge their cravings. I try to cook curry at home at least a couple of times a month and recently the January 2012 issue of Food and Wine magazine had a recipe for Keema Beef Curry, which looked delicious and easy to prepare.

This recipe has 16 ingredients. It takes 45 minutes of total time and makes 4 to 6 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I ground my own beef and used homemade chicken stock. The texture on home ground beef is better and the beef quality can be better controlled than any I can buy pre-ground at my local grocery store. I found that the potatoes took longer than the 15 minutes suggested by the recipe, closer to 20-25 minutes. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My family loved this recipe. It made more than enough for a meal for my family of four, plus enough leftovers for an additional meal. I served the curry over rice and added Greek yogurt to my youngest son's plate to cut down on the heat. This is a very easy recipe that I will definitely make again in the future.

For the recipe go to Keema Beef Curry.

December 27, 2011

Family Circle Chipotle-Mango Pulled Pork

This is my favorite time of the year. I love when the weather gets colder and my kitchen heats up with slow roasted cooking. Don't get me wrong, I hate having to wear multiple layers and still being cold and my heating bills going through the roof. However, there is something so comforting about cooking in the fall and winter. As everyone has heard me say multiple times, I love my slowcooker. I pretty much use it at least twice a week all fall and winter. I have also shared many times my family's love of all things pork, so any dish combining the two is perfect. The December issue of Family Circle magazine had a recipe for Chipotle-Mango Pulled Pork which combined my family's favorite meat and my love of all things slow cooker related.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 23 minutes of prep and 8 hours of cooking time and makes 8 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store, which the exception that I was only able to find a 8 pound bone-in pork shoulder, which I had cut in half. I actually prefer using bone-in pork shoulder, the bone adds an extra level of flavor to dishes. I served the dish over polenta, my family isn't big fans of grits. For the chicken broth I used homemade stock, I prefer the flavor to the store bought variety. I followed the remainder of the recipe as stated.

I really enjoyed the flavor from the mango and chipotles. The combination of flavors was pleasant and added a flavor dimension to the pulled pork. The recipe states that it makes 8 servings, but there was enough for at least three meals for my family of four. With only 12 grams of fat and 346 calories, this dish is a great and easy weeknight meal.

For the recipe go to Chipotle-Mango Pulled Pork.

December 26, 2011

Taste of Home Seeded Butternut Squash Bread

I have been on a bread kick lately. Approximately five years back my mother-in-law gave me her old bread machine. I used it like crazy until I broke it after about a year of use. Instead of buying another one I taught myself to make my own bread from scratch. I quickly learned that kneading and baking bread can be very therapeutic and relaxing. Now I make bread at least twice a week and will never go back to buying store bought bread again. Since I make bread so frequently I am always looking for new recipes to try. The December/January 2012 issue of Taste of Home magazine had a recipe for Seeded Butternut Squash Bread which looked delicious and different than the usual bread I make.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 45 minutes of preparation plus rising and 20 minutes of baking and makes 18 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I chose to use pepitas since they are now readily available in my area and everyone in my family loves the taste. The dough is very sticky and it is tempting to add more flour, but refrain, it ends up fine with the amount of ingredients specified. I did find that my bread took longer to bake in the oven than the suggest 18-23 minutes, I would guess approximately 30 minutes total. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I loved the butternut squash in this bread. It gives the recipe a sweet undertone without having to add a lot of sugar. My husband thought that the bread was a little too sweet for his tastes. After sitting in the fridge overnight this bread made a great breakfast with melted butter than both my boys and I enjoyed. This recipe would be a great side for a brunch with eggs or other breakfast foods. I will definitely add this to my Easter brunch menu.

For the recipe go to Seeded Butternut Squash Bread.

December 23, 2011

Better Homes and Gardens Curried Chicken Stew

I love my slowcooker. I know I have stated this many times before, but I can't express my love enough. There is nothing better than placing ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning and coming back in the evening to a fully cooked and delicious meal. With two active and growing boys I appreciate anything that saves me time and money during the hectic week. I also appreciate how inexpensive slowcooker meals tend to be, they are normally a fraction of the cost of other recipes. One meal that my family loves in or out of the crockpot is curry. My husband would probably live on curry if I let him. I have had a hard time finding curry recipes for the crockpot that have been up to my expectations and I was interested when the December issue of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine had a recipe for Curried Chicken Stew, which only cost $2.08 per serving and looked very simple to prepare.

This recipe has 10 ingredients (if using all optional ingredients). It takes 8 hours on low to cook in the crockpot and 20 minutes of prep and makes 4 servings. All the ingredients were easy to find at my local grocery store and I made no modifications to the ingredients. For the curry paste I used a jar of yellow Thai curry paste that I already had in my fridge. As I always do I cooked this recipe on low in my crockpot, I prefer to cook low and slow in my slowcooker. For the carrots I used baby carrots since they were on sale and saved me a little bit of prep time. I chose to serve the stew over rice and sprinkled it with raisins and pistachios. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My husband was very impressed with this stew. He was surprised that it was able to come out as well as it did in the slowcooker and he ate his serving and all the leftovers the next day. The recipe states that it makes 4 servings, but it served my family of  four, plus enough for leftover in my husband's lunch the next day. I loved how easy this was to make and how well the flavors came together. Overall, a great new recipe for the crockpot.

 For the recipe go to Curried Chicken Stew.


December 21, 2011

Eating Well North Country Braised Chicken

I have always been an active person. Growing up I was active in swimming, dancing, gymnastics, basically you name the physical activity and I was ready to try it. My eating habits have been mostly healthy as well, with periods of my life being vegetarian and vegan. When I got married I quickly realized that my husband and I were polar opposites in the healthy lifestyle boat. To him healthy was only eating 4 pieces of bacon instead of 6. Now don't get me wrong, I love bacon also, but I'm more of a one or two piece person and nothing more. When my husband and I were married around two years and I was pregnant with my first child my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I was 2500 hundred miles away and my son was nine days old when my mom passed away. This was the second woman in my family to pass away from cancer, my grandmother died before I was born. I quickly decided that I needed to change the way that I was creating food for my family and I started cooking as many things as I could from scratch. It has been a gradual process with my husband. I have gotten him to the point that meat is normally an ingredient rather than a centerpiece to a meal and he even asked for me to start making tofu once a week (score!). The one ingredient I have had a harder time convincing him to eat more frequently is chicken breast. My family prefers chicken thighs and I am always struggling to find a recipe using breasts that will be enjoyed. Last month I started receiving a new magazine, Eating Well, and I was excited to find a recipe for North Country Braised Chicken, that used chicken breast, and was low in fat and looked delicious.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. The total time is 45 minutes, with 30 minutes being active, and makes 8 servings. I had to go to multiple stores to find all the ingredients for this recipe. I was unable to find rutabaga at any of my local grocery stores, but was surprised to find that my local super store had them readily available. For the thyme I chose to use fresh instead of dry, I prefer the flavor when it is easily available. I had just bought a new dutch oven, so I was excited to try it out in this recipe. The one change that I made to this recipe was the cooking time. I found that my rutabaga took a lot longer to cook than the suggest 20 minutes, probably closer to 30-35 minutes to get to be fully tender. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

With only 5 grams of fat and 268 calories per serving, this recipe is very healthy. My two boys had never had rutabaga before and I was unsure if they would even eat any of it. It turns out I had nothing to worry about, they loved it. The rutabaga and pears had a sweet flavor and their tastes blended together perfectly. With 26 grams of protein, this recipe is healthy and delicious and might just convert my family to eating more chicken breasts.

For the recipe go to North Country Braised Chicken.

December 19, 2011

Food Network Magazine Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts

I am not one of those people that can limit themselves on nuts. The whole idea of eating 10 almonds for a serving doesn't fit with my snacking personality. I'm lucky that I am constantly moving and burning calories, so I look for high protein snacks that will tide me over until my next meal. As I've stated before I tend to eat 6 smaller meals throughout the day, instead of three large ones. I am drawn towards sugar, so I try to find protein snacks that will satisfy my sweet tooth while providing energy. As I was looking through the December issue of the Food Network Magazine I came across a recipe for Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts, which looked like a great sweet and savory protein snack.

This recipe 11 ingredients. It takes a total of 35 minutes, 10 minutes of which is active, and makes 8 to 10 servings. I thought that I had chipotle powder in my cupboard, but when I got ready to make the recipe I discovered that I did not. Instead I substituted Ancho chili powder, which I do relatively frequently in recipes. I chose to combine all my ingredients in a bowl and then pour onto a baking sheet. This way all the nuts were evenly coated. Make sure to watch the nuts while they are in the oven. I probably turned the nuts about every 8 minutes in order to prevent burning. I would not suggest turning down the heat though, the temp needs to be high enough to caramelize the brown sugar. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The sweet flavor from the brown sugar combines nicely with the savory flavors from the rosemary and chili powder. This recipe makes a lot of nuts, so it would be great as a party snack. If you are making it for your family I would suggest cutting the recipe in half unless you have two growing boys like I do. I served this as an after school snack to my oldest and he loved it. Overall, an easy sweet and savory snack.

For the recipe go to Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts.

December 18, 2011

Womans Day Sweet and Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I have a definite soft spot in my heart for sweet potatoes. Regular potatoes are okay, I like cooking with them, but sweet potatoes are delicious. Growing up we only had sweet potatoes once a year and they were usually covered with marshmallows. It wasn't until I was an adult that I started experimenting with using sweet potatoes in stews and recipes. Now I normally eat them about twice a month. My two boys have fallen in love with sweet potatoes fries, but every recipe I have tried has been soggy and lacking in flavor. The November issue of Woman's Day Magazine had a recipe for Sweet and Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes that combined the flavors of cinnamon, cayenne, brown sugar and Parmesan cheese and looked delicious.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It takes a total time of 1 hour and 15 minutes, 15 minutes of which is active, and makes 8 servings. All the ingredients are basic and I already had in my pantry cupboard or were readily available at my local grocery store. Tossing the sweet potatoes in a bowl with the ingredients made for nicely coated and even potatoes. I ended up only using one very large baking sheet since my disco era oven can only barely fit one pan. Make sure to stir the sweet potatoes to prevent burning, I stirred mine multiple times during the 60 minute cooking time. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I loved how this recipe turned out crispy and delicious. Many sweet potato recipes I have tried in the past have ended up soggy or lacking a distinguishable flavor. I was impressed with how nicely coated and crisp these sweet potatoes were. My two boys loved this recipe and ate over half the dish by themselves. The recipe states that it makes 8 servings, but I found that this was a very large recipe. It could easily be cut in half for a family of four. Overall, a great sweet potato recipe that is full of flavor.

For the recipe go to Sweet and Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

December 17, 2011

Martha Stewart Living Edamame Hummus

I'm a snacker. I've never been one to eat three large meals, instead I eat 6-7 small meals every couple of hours throughout the day. This has been the way I have eaten as far back as I can remember. Growing up I was heavily involved in dance and swimming so I got used to eating small meals to keep my blood sugar steady and my stomach from feeling heavy. I'm lucky that I have a high metabolism, but it also has the effect of making me want to snack all the time. It seems that my two sons have inherited my love of snacking and by the time my oldest comes home from school he is more than ready for a snack. I am always looking for snacking options high in protein and I was interested when I ran across a recipe for Edamame Hummus in a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine.

This recipe has 6 ingredients. It takes one hour and fifteen minutes, 15 minutes of which is active and makes 6 to 8 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and made no ingredient modifications. I did add more than the suggested amount of Tahini, probably twice as much since I love the taste. Make sure to taste the hummus after it has been salted before adding more lemon juice. The salt makes a significant difference in the taste so wait to taste for additions until after the hummus has been salted. I allowed the hummus to sit in the fridge overnight to allow for the full flavor to come out. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The nutty flavor from the edamame is delicious in this recipe. My husband was particularly found of this recipe and ate more than half by himself. It was a great after-school snack for my oldest and held his energy and hunger until dinner. I liked that this recipe offered a different spin on traditional hummus and a great source of protein. This will definitely be a recipe I will be making again in the future.

For the recipe go to Edamame Hummus.

December 14, 2011

Taste of Home Apple, Blue Cheese, and Bibb Salad

My family isn't a salad family. For whatever reason I rarely remember to buy or make salad. Growing up my mom made salad with almost every dinner and I always ran to the salad bar at restaurants. Somewhere between moving out of the house and having kids I stopped eating salads. I will still occasionally order a cobb salad at restaurants, but for the most part my love of salad has diminished. The main culprit seems to be the lack of taste of most homemade salads. I find salads to be either overly sweet or just ho-hum. Recently, the October issue of Taste of Home magazine had a recipe for Apple, Blue Cheese, and Bibb Salad, which looked delicious and different from ordinary salad recipes.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 20 minutes of prep and makes 9 servings. I had to make a few modifications to the ingredients due to their lack of availability at my local grocery store. I was unable to find bibb or Boston lettuce, so I substituted baby greens. I had no problems finding any of the remaining ingredients. For the vinegar I used white whine vinegar and golden delicious for the apples. I toasted the mustard seeds on a pan on the stove, watch out they burn easily. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The taste of this recipe was delicious. My husband really loved this salad, he even ate the leftovers for lunch the next day. I served the salad alongside a chicken dish and the combination worked well. The salad would also work well with beef. The combination of apples and blue cheese was perfect and very popular with everyone in my household. The one change I would make to the recipe is to cut down on the amount of olive oil, maybe to 1/3 cup instead of a 1/2. Overall, a great salad recipe, that even this normally non-salad eating blogger enjoyed.

For the recipe go to Apple, Blue Cheese, and Bibb Salad.

December 12, 2011

Family Circle Root Vegetable Gratin

I have a slight obsession with root vegetables, I absolutely love them. The fall/winter season is one of my favorite times of the year since root vegetables are so easy to find and there are numerous new recipes to try. My two boys are just beginning to appreciate and eat parsnips and turnips, so I have been looking for more ways to incorporate them into my family's diet. Hence, the McDonald's plate in the photo. As I was looking through the November issue of Family Circle magazine I ran across a recipe for Root Vegetable Gratin, which looked delicious and a great way to use root vegetables.

This recipe has 16 ingredients. It takes two hours of prep and cooking time and makes six servings. The prep on this recipe took me slightly longer than the 25 minutes suggested, I find that it takes me a while to prep butternut squash. I was easily able to find all the ingredients at my local grocery store and didn't have to make any modifications to ingredients. I found that even after sitting for 10 minutes the gratin was still not completely thickened. After sitting overnight in the fridge the thickness was much better than when I first served the recipe. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys were big fans of this recipe. Root vegetables are always a hit in my household and this recipe was no exception. The recipe states that it makes 6 servings, but I found that it made more like 8-10 when served as a side dish. I would suggest allowing the gratin to sit longer than 10 minutes in order for it to fully set. Overall, a great fall dish.

For the recipe go to Root Vegetable Gratin.

December 10, 2011

Family Circle Apple-Sausage Stuffing

I'm lucky that my husband will normally eat my food without complaints. However, the one complaint that he frequently voices about my culinary skills is my lack of ability to make a dish more than once. My husband claims that if he likes a dish and tells me how much he enjoys it, he will never see it again. I think he has now gotten to the point that he never tells me if he loves something for fear that it will never make an appearance at the dinner table again in the foreseeable future. The one exception to this rule is the holidays. I am pretty stuck in my ways about what I like to fix at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Every once in a while I will try a new variety of mashed potatoes or biscuit, but the main food categories still remain. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving this year I decided to experiment with new side dish recipes and came across a recipe for Apple-Sausage Stuffing in the November issue of Family Circle magazine, which looked easy to prepare and a great new way to make a traditional holiday side dish.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes approximately at hour to prep and cook, and makes 8 servings. All the ingredients I was easily able to find at my local grocery store. I used homemade chicken stock and whole-wheat bread which I made the day before to save time during dinner prep. Since I don't salt my chicken stock I had to add a larger amount of salt than if I had bought store bought stock. I found the stuffing to be too dry with the amount of chicken broth stated in the recipe, I would suggest adding additional stock until the stuffing looks sufficiently moist. As written the stuffing was too dry for my family's liking. I would also suggest making sure that your cubes of bread are small enough for them to get toasted adequately. Normally I would always use homemade bread, but this recipe I think might actually work better with store bought. I found that the consistency of the homemade bread didn't work as well as I would have liked. Part of that could have been due to the fact that 10 slices of homemade bread can be vastly different than 10 pieces of store bought. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I liked the combination of the granny smith apple and the sweet sausage in this stuffing. It lent a nice sweet/tart taste to the overall flavor of the stuffing. I think I would have preferred white bread for the bread cubes. The whole-wheat was a little over powering to the rest of the flavor. White bread would allow the flavor of the granny smith and sausage to shine through more effectively. Overall, this recipe would work well as a side dish for poultry or pork and takes very little prep. 

For the recipe go to Apple-Sausage Stuffing.

December 9, 2011

Everyday Food Basic Bread Stuffing

I love to cook large holiday meals. With a very large family on my mom's side of the family I grew up thinking that holidays were about making huge amounts of food. I learned to cook at a very young age and I remembering helping my mom in the kitchen as far back as I can remember, especially during the holidays. I have never been a big fan of turkey or ham, no matter how hard I have tried. I find them both bland and boring. However, I love holiday sides. One of my favorite side dishes during Thanksgiving and Christmas is stuffing and I was interested when the November issue of Everyday Food magazine had a recipe for Basic Bread Stuffing, which looked simple and perfect for entertaining.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes a total of one hour, 35 minutes being active and makes 8 servings. All the ingredients were simple and easy to find at my local grocery store. I make my own chicken stock, which added time to my prep, but was worth the effort. Since I don't salt my stock I had to add more salt to the stuffing than if I had bought the store bought variety. The original magazine recipe had add-ins for walnut-herb and chorizo-almond stuffing. The online recipe leaves these out, but any number of add-ins would work. I used smoked oysters for my add-in, since my husband requested it specifically for Thanksgiving. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I like how simple this recipe is and how little effort it takes to prepare. Siince the basic recipe has so few ingredients, it makes a great base to add whatever other ingredients you wish. I love making homemade stuffing and adding personal touches like smoked oysters, fresh herbs or an unusual meat. Overall, a great versitile recipe that can easily be modified to add desired additional ingredients.

For the recipe go to Basic Bread Stuffing.

December 8, 2011

Bon Appetit Crispy Cauliflower with Capers, Raisins, and Breadcrumbs

I figured when my oldest son started kindergarten this fall I would have a lot more time during the day to bake, clean and prep dinner. It turned out I was wrong. As soon as my son gets on the bus for school my youngest turns into a one child force of destruction, that mommy spends the rest of the day cleaning up after. By the time my oldest gets home from kindergarten, I am worn out and still have dinner to try to prep while my two sons tear through the cupboard looking for snacks. I have become adept at getting a main dish on the table by the time my husband gets home at 4, but a side dish has proved more problematic. To alleviate the dinner time stress I have been looking for side dishes which are quick and easy, and I was pleased when I saw a recipe for Crispy Cauliflower with Capers, Raisins, and Breadcrumbs in the November issue of Bon Appetit magazine.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes approximately an hour of prep and cooking, with 15 minutes being active, and makes 8-10 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I chose to leave out the anchovy paste since I was cooking for my two children and they can be finicky. The recipe states to use one head of cauliflower, but I found that was not enough and two would be more effective. I used homemade chicken stock, which I make without salt so I had to add more salt than if I had bought the store bought variety. I prepped most of the recipe in the morning saving me a significant amount of time at dinner. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The breadcrumb mixture is this recipe has a great taste and I have used it again as a pasta topping. The cauliflower came out crisp and delicious, with the capers adding a nice slightly salty touch. The fact that most of this recipe can be prepped in the morning is great for a weekday meal, saving a great deal of time in the evening during dinner prep. Overall, a great way to get a vegetable side dish on the table without a lot of work.

For the recipe go to Crispy Cauliflower with Capers, Raisins, and Breadcrumbs.

December 7, 2011

Woman's Day Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin and Thyme-Roasted Apples

I live in a pork family. My boys and husband could do without any type of meat with the exception of pork. Growing up my mother really only made pork chops and I always liked sausage more than bacon, so it was a big change when I got married and realized how much my husband was in love with bacon. Over the years since we got married I have learned to make a variety of pork dishes and have come around to sharing my family's obsession with all things pork. The November issue of Woman's Day magazine had a recipe for Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin and Thyme-Roasted Apples, which looked delicious and combined multiple varieties of my family's favorite food.

This recipe has 7 ingredients. It takes a total of 35 minutes, 15 minutes of which is active and makes 4 servings. All the ingredients were easy to find at my local grocery store and I didn't have to make any substitutions. I did find that the apples got overdone when they were in the full 18 minutes. We ended up only eating the part of the apples that were not burnt. I would recommend putting the apples in for only part of the cooking time or turning them halfway through. Make sure to let the pork rest for the full five minutes, it makes it come to temp and does make the pork more flavorful. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The pork in this recipe turned out absolutely delicious. It was moist and perfectly cooked thanks to the prosciutto wrap. The apples got overdone, I would suggest either tossing half way through the cooking time or putting them in for only part of the time. Overall, a great and easy pork recipe that was a definite hit in my household.

For the recipe go to Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin.

December 5, 2011

Woman's Day Beef Soft Tacos with Pineapple Salsa


Since my oldest started kindergarten this year, I seem to have less and less time to spend on meal preps. I always thought that as soon as one of my sons was in school, my days would get much easier. Boy was I wrong! My oldest gets home from school at 3 and my house turns into utter chaos as I try to get dinner on the table by the time my husband comes home from work at around 4. Since my husband starts work at 7 we eat a lot earlier than most households. I have tried switching out dinner time later, which just led to both my boys and husband eating way too many snacks and skipping dinner. One of the best solutions I have found is making a slow cooker meal at least once a week. This way I have one day where I don't have to run around trying to finish things up and have time to spend on homework etc. The November issue of Woman's Day magazine had a recipe for Beef Soft Tacos with Pineapple Salsa, which looked like a great combination of citrus and beef and a great way to save time on dinner prep. 

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 8-10 hours of cook and prep, 10 minutes of which is active and makes 4 servings. I did have to make a major modification to the ingredients due to lack of availability at my local grocery store. I have never seen flank steak, so I chose to substitute flat iron steak instead. Honestly, that is one of my husband's favorite cuts of beef, so he was very happy with the change. Additionally, I always braise my meat before I place it in the crockpot. The flavor and juices are locked in and it really does make a difference in the resulting taste. I always use my crockpot on low. There is nothing wrong with using your crockpot on high, I just find that I like the flavor of meat more when it has been on a lower temp for a longer amount of time. I chose to add the ancho chili powder, since it is now readily available in my area and I love the flavor. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written. 

As with most taco recipes, this dish was well received by my family. I loved the pineapple salsa, it gave the beef a great flavor. The flat iron steak was a delicious substitution and turned out tender and moist. I chose to seed the jalapeno since I was cooking for kids, but the recipe would well with the seeds left in as well. Overall, a very easy crockpot recipe, perfect for a busy weeknight meal. 

For the recipe go to Beef Soft Tacos with Pineapple Salsa.




December 4, 2011

Mustard Greens

I learned to cook from my mother who came from a very large family of twelve kids, so I learned to cook in bulk from a very young age. I thought it was perfectly normal to have 20 people over for a 'small' Christmas Eve gathering, which my mom would go all out preparing food for. As I got older I feel in love with cookbooks and prepared menus for my parents, complete with appetizers, a main course, and a dessert. Soon after that my mother decided to stop cooking and let me take over. I somewhat walked into that one. After moving 2500 hundred miles away and meeting my husband, I quickly learned that food is cultural. The foods that we all grow up on are greatly influenced by the area in which we live. While I thought salmon, apples, and cherries were common ingredients, I had no idea how to prepare biscuits and gravy or pinto beans. After living in West Virginia almost nine years now I make all the typical comfort foods and am raising two very definite West Virginians (just ask the youngest to say milk). One of my husband's favorite foods that I have taught myself to make are Mustard Greens, here's my easy recipe.

The main thing to remember with mustard greens is to wash them thoroughly. There are large amounts of dirt and sand on greens and if you don't soak them well enough the greens will have bits of grit, which are less than pleasant to eat. I normally make about 2 bunches of mustard greens for a typical meal. While this might sound like a lot, they break down significantly and shrink a great deal.
  • 2 bunches Mustard Greens
  • Tony Chachere’s seasoning or any Seasoning Salt to taste, normally 1-1 1/2 tsp.
  • Ham Hock, Smoked Turkey Leg, or Slab Bacon. I have even used sliced ham when I had nothing else.
  • Enough water to cover about 1/4 of a stock pot
Cut the stems out of the mustard greens. The greens can either be kept as is without the stems or chopped depending on your preference. Add the greens, water, meat, and seasoning salt. Let cook on low for approximately 4-6 hours, adding water as needed. Don't throw away the cooking liquid! The potlikker is delicious to dip biscuits or bread into and is my husband's favorite part. If you don't want to use the stove most of the day I have also made greens on low in my crockpot for 8-10 hours and they have turned out just as well.

Mustard greens have become a stable in my house and are very easy to prepare. A great way to get vegetables into your family's diet and are yummy with cheddar biscuits or homemade bread to dip the potlikker. A great homemade, comfort food!

December 3, 2011

Better Homes and Gardens Double-Cheddar Holiday Biscuits

As I've stated before I absolutely love cheese. I have been caught many times eating almost a whole block of cheese from the fridge. The rest of my family holds the same feelings towards biscuits that I have for cheese. West Virginians take their biscuits very seriously, there is even a whole chain of biscuit fast food restaurants that have lines around the corner most mornings. It has taken me the whole eight years that my husband and I have been married for my biscuits to be considered better than just adequate. Biscuits are serious business around here. Recently, Better Homes and Gardens magazine had a recipe for Double-Cheddar Holiday Biscuits, which combined two household favorites, cheese and biscuits, and looked like the perfect accompaniment to my Thanksgiving meal.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 20 minutes of prep and 16 minutes of baking time and makes 24 biscuits. All the ingredients are basic and I had no problems finding at my local grocery store. I always use whole fat buttermilk and this recipe was no exception. I rarely use low-fat buttermilk even if a recipe calls for it, the taste seems unauthentic to me. Instead of rolling the dough out to cut the biscuits I followed the way that my mother-in-law taught me a long time back and hand patted out the dough and used the top of a plastic cup to cut. I have also used the top of measuring cups to cut out biscuits before and that works well also. I did not pierce the dough, I forgot to do the step and have never done it to my biscuits before, so I don't think the step is necessary, my biscuits rose nicely without. I followed the remainder of this recipe as written.

I must say this was one of the highlights of my Thanksgiving spread. Everyone absolutely loved these biscuits and they were the perfect accompaniment to the collard greens that I served. The two cheddar cheeses blended perfectly together and made for a rich and delicious biscuit. Most importantly these biscuits are very versatile and would work well as either a side dish or a breakfast food.

For the recipe go to Double-Cheddar Holiday Biscuits.

December 2, 2011

Food and Wine Meat Loaf with Creamy Onion Gravy

My husband absolutely loves meatloaf. When we first got married I only knew how to make the oatmeal, ketchup and ground beef variety of meatloaf that I grew up with. My dad was the same way as my husband and frequently requested my mom make his favorite dish, meatloaf. Over the years I have expanded my collection of meatloaf recipes, but have always come back to the dutch meatloaf recipe that I found about five years back. I'm lucky that my husband is easy to please and enjoys meatloaf slathered in ketchup. As I've stated to many times to count now we are a big pork family. My family loves pork! I have tried a few meatloaf recipes utilizing ground pork in the past and have been less than pleased with the experience. As I was glancing in a recent issue of Food and Wine magazine I came across a recipe for Meat Loaf with Creamy Onion Gravy, which combined pork and beef and looked like a great new recipe for meatloaf.

This recipe has 16 ingredients in the meatloaf and eight in the gravy. The meatloaf takes an hour and a half of cooking and prep time, 45 minutes of which is active and makes 12 servings. The creamy onion gravy takes approximately 45 minutes and makes 5 cups. All the ingredients were basic and easy to find at my local grocery store. I made my chicken stock from scratch, which took me about 6 hours the day before I prepared this dish. Additionally, I ground my own beef and pork, which added approximately 45 minutes to my overall time. I found that the gravy took longer than the 5 minutes suggested by the recipe to fully reduce, I would say it took me about another 10 minutes. The one major criticism I had with this recipe is that the recipe calls for a tablespoon and a half of salt. To me that is way more than needs to be added, especially since the cheese is already salty. The meatloaf ended up way too salty for my tastes. I would recommend cutting the salt significantly. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys loved this entire recipe and my husband ate it happy, as he would with any type of meatloaf. The creamy onion gravy turned out delicious and would work well over egg noodles. The meatloaf had a nice taste from the cheese, but needs the salt reduced for my family's needs. Other people might not have as much of a problem, I am very salt sensitive. I will definitely use the gravy recipe again and try it with egg noodles or steak.

For the recipe go to Meat Loaf with Creamy Onion Gravy.

November 30, 2011

Saveur Kartoffelrahmsuppe (Spiced Potato Soup)

Cold weather doesn't agree with me. I freeze once the temp hits approximately 50 degrees. Everyone else in my house seems content to sit around in t-shirts, while I have a sweatshirt and huge blanket wrapped around me. To me the fall and winter are worse weather wise than the summer. Even when I am burning up I can shed clothes or turn on the air conditioner, in the winter I just plain freeze. One thing I love to keep me somewhat warm during the cooler months is soup. There is nothing more warming than a big bowl of soup and a slice of homemade bread. Recently, Saveur magazine had a recipe for Kartoffelrahmsuppe (Spiced Potato Soup), which looked creamy, warm, and delicious.

This recipe has 18 ingredients. The prep and cooking time is approximately an hour and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients. Recently, my local grocery store has started carrying leeks in the organic section, which is so much better than having to drive 30 minutes to the suburban grocery store. Instead of store bought stock, I used the homemade chicken stock that I already had in my freezer. I chose to leave out the caramelized onions since my two boys were eating the recipe, and would shy away from them. Instead of cooking the soup for 30 minutes, I allowed my soup to cook for closer to 45 minutes in order for the potatoes to be completely soft and cooked through. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I was very impressed with this recipe. The horseradish gives the soup a spicy undertone which blends perfectly with the potatoes and leeks. The recipe states that it makes 4 servings, but it made enough for a meal for my family of four plus leftovers for lunch the next day. This soup would make a great addition to a steak dinner or a roast beef sandwich. A delicious soup that would compliment a variety of beef dishes.

For the recipe go to Spiced Potato Soup.

November 29, 2011

Woman's Day Easy Scones

As I've stated before I am horrible about eating breakfast. Most mornings I grab a cup of coffee and nothing else until lunch. The one exception is if I have baked scones. I love scones and they are one of the few breakfast foods that I will always eat. Since I make scones approximately once a month, I am always looking for new recipe ingredients. The November issue of Woman's Day magazine had a recipe for Easy Scones using lemon-lime soda, which looked unusual and perfect for a weekday breakfast.

This recipe has 3 ingredients. It takes a total of 30 minutes, 10 of which is active and makes 8 servings. I made a few modifications to this recipe. First, I used sierra mist soda, since it was what was on sale the week that I made these scones. For flavor I added dried cranberries, approximately 1/2 cup. I love fruit scones and the cranberries give a nice sweet/tart element. Finally, instead of spooning the dough, I hand patted the dough into a circle and cut into eight triangles. Before putting the scones in the oven I brushed the tops with heavy whipping cream and sprinkled with granulated sugar. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys got a kick out of this recipe. I had never used lemon-lime soda in a scone recipe, so I was intrigued by the concept. The scones turned out moist and delicious and the dried cranberries made a delicious addition. The best part of the recipe is that it only has 3 ingredients (4 if using dried cranberries). A very quick and easy scone recipe, that turns out light and perfect for breakfast.

For the recipe go to Easy Scones.

November 28, 2011

Martha Stewart Living Sweet-and-Salty Pecans

I'm a huge snack person. When I was younger I was always active in swimming, dancing, running; you name the physical activity and I probably had tried it. In the evenings after school I would run in and eat half the fridge before dashing off for hours of swimming lessons or dance classes. I was lucky that I had inherited my dad's very tall and lean bone structure and a very high metabolism. When my parents first got married my dad apparently ate 5 bologna sandwiches for lunch and was still a six foot three inch bean pole. As I've gotten older and had two c-sections I now try to watch the snacks that I put into my body and find a balance between protein and taste. Don't get me wrong, I am still the most likely person in my house to eat cake for breakfast, but I am also the one snacking on almonds and soy nuts. Recently, Martha Stewart Living had a recipe for Sweet and Salty Pecans, which looked simple, delicious and perfect for snacking.

This recipe has 4 ingredients. It takes 30 minutes of prep and cooking time, 5 minutes of which is active, and makes 4 cups of nuts. Since this recipe has so few ingredients, I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I chose to use pecans, but cashew or walnuts would work just as well. Make sure to stir your nuts every 5 minutes and keep the nuts flat in order for them to be crisp, not soggy. Salt the nuts while still warm for the best flavor. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

With four ingredients, this is a very easy recipe. These nuts were great to grab as a snack during the rush of Thanksgiving cooking and my two kids thought they tasted like candy. I used these nuts as a snack, but they would make a perfect gift. With a great package and a bow these nuts would make a great homemade Christmas gift. Overall, a very easy and delicious snack or gift idea.

For the recipe go to Sweet and Salty Pecans.

November 27, 2011

Taste of Home Spinach Mushroom Enchiladas

My oldest son is on a serious mushroom kick. I have made more mushroom recipes in the last couple of months than I have in years. I'm lucky that my five-year-old is a great helper and has become my kitchen side kick during dinner prep. I love spending time with my two sons in the kitchen and it provides a great way to teach them fractions, math and general science lessons. My five-year-old now is able to dump in ingredients and is beginning to understand how to read recipes. In order to help him appreciate the food that he eats, I have been preparing recipes involving ingredients that he loves, such as mushrooms. The November issue of Taste of Home magazine had a recipe for Spinach Mushroom Enchiladas using lime juice and mushrooms, which looked delicious and a great recipe to have my son help to prepare.

This recipe has 16 ingredients. It takes approximately 35 minutes of prep and 14 minutes of baking, and makes 6 total servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I do wish that my store had baby portobello mushrooms by the pound, they are a great deal more expensive when sold pre-packaged. I did make one modification, I only had beef bouillon granules, so I substituted it for the chicken bouillon granules called for in the recipe. Finally, I chose to add the red pepper flakes, my family likes a little kick in our food. Make sure to adequately cook the spinach in order for all the water to be cooked out. I let my spinach cook a good 15-20 minutes. Letting the water cook off is essential to avoid soggy enchiladas. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The lime in this recipe gives the enchiladas a great citrus taste. Everyone in my family enjoyed this dish and the leftovers re-heated great for lunch the next day. The serving size is large and I was able to make two meals, making it very economical at only 4 dollars a serving. Overall, a great inexpensive enchilada recipe.

For the recipe go to Spinach Mushroom Enchiladas.

November 24, 2011

Womans Day Open-Faced Orange and Cumin-Spiced Pork Sandwiches

With two growing and rambunctious boys, I oftentimes find myself short on time around dinner. I will start something to serve and within a couple of minutes my two boys will have total pre-dinner meltdowns. Thus, dinner turns into disarray as I scramble to find something that we can possibly eat. To the rescue comes my slowcooker. I love how easy it is to start something in the crockpot in the morning and by dinner everything is done. This way even if my two boys start melting down it doesn't matter since the food is already ready to serve. The October issue of Woman's Day magazine had a recipe for Open-Faced Orange and Cumin-Pork Sandwiches, which looked delicious and full of great spices.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes a total of 8 hours and 15 minutes, 15 minutes of which is active, and makes 4 servings. All the ingredients were easy to find at my local grocery store. I did make some major modifications to the original recipe. First, I prefer for pulled pork to keep my pork butt whole during the crockpot time. I salt and pepper the butt, pan sear on all sides, and then add fat side up to the crockpot. The flavor from the bone makes for a rich, delicious flavor. I chose to add the whole cloves, just make sure to take them out before serving. Finally, I forgot to make fresh country bread, so I served the sandwiches on Naan, since I already had it on hand. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

This recipe is very easy to prepare and has a great flavor from all the spices. The modification to the bread, made a delicious compliment to the flavors. My two boys loved this recipe and ate their whole servings, plus leftovers the next day. During the fall and winter months, crockpot recipes can be a great way to prepare dinner without much effort, and this recipe is no exception. Overall a great blend of spices in a quick, pork recipe.

For the recipe got to Open-Faced Orange and Cumin-Spiced Pork Sandwiches.

November 23, 2011

Rosemary Roasted Nuts

I have a horrible snacking habit. Growing up I would drive my mom crazy when I would come home from school and eat half the fridge. I would then go on to eat dinner and snack again before bed. I was lucky to have inherited my dad's genetics, which pre-disposed me to being tall and thin, the opposite of my mother's family. My mother was always determined that my snacking would make me overweight, but eventually gave in to the fact that I snack instead of eating big meals. As an adult I have become even worse with my snacking. My two kids are constantly on the go, so I have become adept at snacking throughout the day since I end up missing meals. One of my favorite snack foods is nuts. They taste great and have enough protein to keep my energy levels up. Recently I found a recipe for Rosemary Roasted Nuts on recipe.com, which loved very simple and a great way to get more nutrition into my snacks.

This recipe has 5 ingredients. It takes 10 minutes of prep and 20 minutes of baking, and makes a total of 12 servings. All the ingredients are basic, with the exception of the nut varieties. I would love to be able to purchase hazelnuts, however, they only come once a year at my local grocery store during the fall. Additionally they are always in the shell, so I passed and instead I used all whole almonds. I chose to use fresh rosemary, I prefer the taste of fresh herbs to their dried counterparts. Make sure to watch the nuts during the baking time or they could burn. My nuts had to be pulled out at exactly 15 minutes or they would have been overdone. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

These nuts have a great subtle flavor, which is delicious. The recipe is very easy to prepare and takes little total time. My whole family enjoyed snacking on these and they were able to tide me over until my next meal. The best part of this recipe is that they are great as an everyday snack, but would work equally as well as a snack food for a party.

For the recipe go to Rosemary Roasted Nuts.

November 21, 2011

Family Circle Wild Mushroom Soup



The cold weather and I have a love-hate relationship. I love all the flavors of the fall and winter seasons, but I absolutely hate being cold. Growing up we had an old fashioned furnace that had vents that I would stand right in front of in an attempt to stay warm. I have always gotten cold easier than anyone else that I know and I stay pretty miserable once the temps drop below about 20 degrees. I have learned that hot drinks and meals warm me up effectively and are a great way to boost my mood in the colder months. Recently, the November issue of Family Circle magazine had a recipe for Wild Mushroom Soup, which looked easy, warm and full of one of family's favorite foods. 

This recipe has 11 ingredients. It makes 8 servings and takes approximately 15 minutes of prep and 28 minutes of cooking time. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and I was pleased to find that I could purchase shiitake mushrooms in bulk, which was much cheaper than buying them pre-packaged. I make all my stock from scratch, so the day before I made this recipe, I roasted a chicken and used the bones for chicken stock. I found that it took a significant amount of salt in order to flavor this recipe, don't be shy with the salt. Finally, the soup didn't thicken up as much as the photo implied, mine was a thinner consistency of cream soup than the photo. The difference in consistency didn't effect the taste, so it was more a texture issue. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written. 

My oldest son absolutely loves mushrooms. If I tell him that a recipe has mushrooms in it, he will gobble it up happily. This recipe was no exception, he ate his whole serving. The flavor on this soup is nice and it takes very little effort to prepare. The consistency is thinner than the photo implies, but doesn't effect the taste. A warm, creamy mushroom soup, that would work great to warm up in the cold months ahead. 

For the recipe go to Wild Mushroom Soup.

November 20, 2011

Better Homes and Gardens Roasted Vegetables and Chickpeas

As I've stated numerous times before I love fall. The spices, the tastes, the smells, everything about fall cooking appeals to me immensely. Growing up fall was full of family functions and tons of baking and cooking by my mother. Coming from a very large family, she was used to making enough food to feed an army, so family functions involved a large amount of prepping and cooking. Fall vegetables were one of the highlights of the fall season in my household, a tradition which has translated to my own much smaller family. One of my favorite vegetables in the fall are sweet potatoes. The November issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine had a recipe for Roasted Vegetables and Chickpeas, which looked simple, full of fall flavor, and delicious.

This recipe has 11 ingredients. It takes approximately 30 minutes of prep and 45 minutes of roasting time, and serves 8 people. All the ingredients are basic and I had no problems finding any of them at my local grocery store. Be sure to watch the vegetables carefully and stir approximately every fifteen minutes. The tops of the vegetables will otherwise burn, especially the red onions. Instead of dried rosemary, I used fresh snipped rosemary. I prefer the taste of fresh herbs when available to their dried equivalents. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

There are few things better than fresh, roasted vegetables. This recipe is simple, and full of flavor. I appreciated how the recipe lets the vegetables speak for themselves, without adding unnecessarily spices. My two boys particularly appreciated this recipe, especially the carrots. The flavors are simple and delicious and overall, a great fall recipe.

For the recipe go to Roasted Vegetables and Chickpeas.

November 19, 2011

Bon Appetit Wild Rice, Fruit, and Pecan Stuffing

Growing up Thanksgiving was always a major event. My mother was one of twelve kids, so large family functions were always the norm. Thanksgiving was always exciting. My mother would make lists weeks ahead of everything that needed to be cleaned, cooked, etc. and eventually her bigger lists would span smaller lists and so on and so forth. The menu would normally stay pretty consistent with turkey, stuffing, and lots of sides. For me everything centered around the stuffing. I absolutely love stuffing and every variation that can be made. A couple of years back I made a rice stuffing, which was delicious and different than traditional stuffing recipes. As I was looking through the November issue of Bon Appetit magazine I noticed a recipe for Wild Rice, Fruit, and Pecan Stuffing, which looked low in fat and full of flavor.

This recipe has 16 ingredients. It makes 8 to 10 servings and takes approximately an hour and a half to prepare and cook. The ingredients in this recipe caused me a few problems. I was only able to find 4 ounce packages of wild rice after looking at multiple stores. Apparently wild rice isn't a common ingredient in my area. Luckily they had the small packages of generic wild rice, which is what I bought. I prepared my own chicken broth. The taste of homemade is much better, and it allows me to make it without all the added salt of the store bought variety. I found that the wild rice took even longer than the forty minutes suggested by the recipe. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The wild rice in this recipe had a great slightly nutty flavor, which worked well with the dried fruit and pecans. This recipe is a great alternative to traditional high fat stuffing. Additionally, the minimal amount of fat comes from olive oil, not butter. My two boys particularly enjoyed this dish. Granted they picked out the dried fruit and nuts, but for them that's progress. Overall, a great non-traditional stuffing recipe, that would work well with a variety of main courses.

For the recipe go to Wild Rice, Fruit, and Pecan Stuffing.

November 18, 2011

Woman's Day Candy Corn Fudge

Sweets are my downfall. If there is something sweet in the house, I will find it and eat it. I'm lucky that I was given my dad's metabolism and have two very active kids that I am always chasing after to keep my weight down. It seems that my two sons have inherited my love of all things sweet and will literally dig around looking until they find the last cookie or piece of candy. This time of year is especially bad, I bake at least twice a week and every last bite is devoured by my family. We absolutely love baked goods. I make fudge frequently during the holiday months and I was interested when the October issue of Woman's Day magazine had a recipe for Candy Corn Fudge, which looked easy and a great way to use leftover candy corn from Halloween.

This recipe has 7 ingredients. It makes 64 servings and takes a total of 2 hours and 25 minutes, 25 minutes of which is active. The ingredients are all basic and I already had or was easily able to find at my local grocery store. I made a few modifications to the recipe. Most importantly I chose to use a 13 x 9 inch pan instead of the 8 inch suggested by the recipe. Using the 8 inch pan the fudge would have been way too thick, instead of making 64 very small thick pieces of fudge I made 60 pieces of larger, thinner fudge. A word of caution, after the fudge had sat in the fridge for a day the pretzels became too soft. I would recommend eating this fudge soon after it is made. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The week after Halloween I was able to buy a bunch of bags of candy corn for less than a quarter. I had this recipe torn out for a while before Halloween and had never got around to making it. When I bought the clearance candy corn, I figured it was a perfect fit. Since this fudge is best soon after it's made in order for the pretzels to stay crisp, this fudge would be great for a fall or Halloween party. My two boys loved the candy corn idea, I actually thought the fudge was better without the candy corn topping. I found the addition of the candy a little too sweet. However, the fudge itself was delicious, I loved the combination of dried cranberries and white chocolate chips. Overall, a great basic fudge recipe with a twist.

For the recipe go to Candy Corn Fudge.
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November 17, 2011

Everyday Food Turkey and White-Bean Chili

I'm not a fan of the cold. My husband can never understand why I need four blankets and three pairs of socks to sleep at night when the temp dips below 32. I grew up in Seattle where the idea of cold is about 30 during the coldest part of the winter. The first winter I spent in West Virginia and there was a week of 5-8 degree weather, I was ready to move back to Washington as quickly as possible. Luckily, since that time I have gotten a little more used to the cold and much better at finding ways to keep myself warm. One of the best ways that I have found to keep away the cold, is by making warm soups and chili. I absolutely love a bowl of warm soup and homemade bread when the temperature gets cold. I mostly make beef and pork chili, so I was intrigued when a recent issue of Everyday Food had a recipe for Turkey and White-Bean Chili, which looked like a great way to broaden my chili making.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It makes 6 servings and takes a total of 1 hour and 20 minutes, with 45 minutes being active. As expected the one ingredient that I had to go to multiple stores to find was Serrano chilies. They always seem to be out of Serranos whenever I need them at my local grocery store. I had no problems finding any of the remaining ingredients. I did decide to substitute chicken for the turkey. Chicken breasts are a lot cheaper than turkey, and I try to keep down my family budget as much as possible. I ground my own chicken breast, the taste of fresh ground chicken breast is much better than anything you can get at the grocery store. Grinding my own meat added an additional 15 minutes to my overall time. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I served this chili with homemade Irish soda bread, which made a great combination. The recipe states that it makes 6 servings, but I had more than enough for my family of 4, plus enough for leftovers. Oftentimes chicken chili can taste slightly off and be a poor substitute for pork or beef. This recipe was the exception, it was delicious and the ground chicken worked perfectly, Overall, a great dish that takes far less time than most chili recipes and great for the cold weather months ahead.

For the recipe go to Turkey and White-Bean Chili.

November 16, 2011

Torani's Authentic Coffehouse Flavor: So Many Great Options


I absolutely love coffee. Growing up in Seattle coffee was literally everywhere, and I remember having my first true coffee drink in a giant coffee mug (really more of a bowl with a handle) when I was about 12. When I was in college there were at least three coffee shops on every corner around University of Washington and the campus had coffee stands everywhere. Needless to say between the coffee and the turbo truffles I was able to work, dance, and pull off a double major in four years. When I moved to West Virginia I made sure that my beloved espresso maker made the trip nicely padded in my suitcase. I have had many care packages of coffee sent to me with my favorite Seattle coffee (nothing against Starbucks, but they have nothing on Vivace, so yummy!). I love very strong, rich coffee and have at least two cups a day. Therefore I was excited when SheSpeaks gave me the chance to try Torani Flavored Syrups, which I thought would add a nice touch to my morning coffee.

A bit of background on Torani: 

Since 1925, family-owned Torani has been crafting great tasting flavored syrups that coffeehouses use to make their flavored drinks taste so delicious. With over 120 flavors in regular and sugar free varieties, Torani flavored syrups are perfect for flavored lattes, mochas, coffees, cocoas, Italian sodas, teas, lemonades, cocktails and smoothies. Coffeehouse professionals choose Torani flavors because they are expertly crafted and made with the highest quality ingredients, like natural flavors and pure cane sugar. The sugar free flavors have no calories and are sweetened with Splenda. Now, Torani Flavored Syrups are widely available at retail so you can easily create authentic coffeehouse quality drinks at home.


I received Hazelnut and Gingerbread Torani Flavored Syrups to review. As soon as the package arrived I brewed a pot of coffee and tried the syrups in my morning coffee (seperately of course). Of the two flavors, hazelnut was my favorite. It added a nice flavor, without being overly sweet or syrupy. I should add as you can see in the photo I add whole milk to my morning coffee. The second flavor, gingerbread was way too gingery for my tastes. It made the milk taste off, and the whole coffee was overly strong. It might have been better with a weaker strength of coffee or black, but with strong coffee and milk it just didn't work. Since I love gingerbread flavor in baking, I figured I would give the flavors another try in a different type of drink, so I purchased seltzer water and half and half to make Italian and French sodas.

The first drink that I prepared was a Ginger-Vanilla Italian Soda. Here's the recipe I followed:
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Torani Gingerbread Syrup
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Sugar-Free Torani Vanilla Syrup
  • 1 cup of Sparkling Seltzer Water
  • Ice
Add desired amount of ice, pour syrup over and add seltzer water, stir.

This recipe turned out delicious. My two boys were very impressed with this drink and my husband thought it resembled one of his favorite soft drinks, Ale 8. Of all the recipes I tried, this was my favorite.

For the second drink I made Caramel-Hazelnut French Sodas. Here's the recipe:
  • 2 Tablespoons Torani Hazelnut Syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons Torani Sugar-Free Caramel Syrup
  • 1 cup of Sparkling Seltzer Water
  • Ice
  • Splash of Half and Half (full fat)
Add desired amount of ice, pour syrup over, add seltzer water. Add a splash of half and half. Don't stir!

My two-year-old loved this recipe. He has had this drink multiple times since the first time I made this drink and it was definitely his favorite. I thought it was a little overly sweet for an adult's taste, but it was very popular with my two sons.

The final drink that I made was a Ginger-Vanilla French Soda. Here's the recipe:
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Torani Gingerbread Syrup
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Torani Vanilla Syrup
  • 1 cup of Sparkling Seltzer Water
  • Ice
  • Splash of Half and Half
Add desired amount of ice, pour syrups over and add seltzer water. Add splash of half and half.

This soda has a very rich taste and is a great drink to have for a treat. My whole family enjoyed this soda and it would be great for entertaining.

Overall, I thought the syrups worked well for a variety of drinks and I will be using the Sugar-Free Vanilla and Sugar-Free Caramel in my coffee in the future. I thought the Torani Gingerbread, Hazelnut and Sugar-Free Vanilla worked well in Italian and French sodas and I will be using them in the future in this manner.

Here's a link to my review of the Torani Gingerbread Syrup on the SheSpeaks site. Torani flavored syrups are available in over 122 flavors, which include regular and sugar free varieties. Please go to www.Torani.com to see all flavors.

I would love to hear what Torani syrups everyone has tried and which ones are your favorites!


SheSpeaksbutton

Disclaimer: In the spirit of full disclosure, I received products to review for this blog post. No payment was given and as always, all opinions given here are fully my own.

November 14, 2011

Better Homes and Gardens Pecan-Crusted Pork with Orange-Maple Glaze

My household loves pork. Not just a little bit, but I think both of my boys and my husband could live without meat, with one exception, pork. They could probably eat pork three times a day and be completely happy. When my husband and I first met I only knew how to cook a couple of pork dishes and never really ate a lot of pork. I quickly learned that that was not going to work in my marriage and since that time I have learned to cook pork about once a week. My husband has spread his pork obsession to my oldest son, who can point out multiple cuts of pork at the grocery store. He has even gone so far to tell me how I should be making bacon properly. The September issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine had a recipe for Pecan-Crusted Pork with Orange-Maple Glaze, with looked like a great combination of sweet and savory, and utilized my family's favorite meat.

This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes approximately 30 minutes of prep and cooking time and makes 4 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and I already had most of them in my pantry. I did run into one problem with the recipe. I found that the pecan pieces did not stick to the pork well after being flipped. Most of the nuts ended up in the pan, which I then used as a topping. The nuts did not stay encrusted on any of the tenderloin slices, save one. Therefore, I saved the nuts from the pan and poured them over with the sauce on the plate. Finally, I found that the sauce was not enough for all four servings, I suggested doubling the sauce ingredients, especially if you like a decent amount of sauce on your pork. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The sauce on this pork is delicious. My husband and I both agreed that there needed to be more sauce, since it was the best part of the dish. The pork turned out tender, and perfectly cooked. I wish that the pecans had stuck better to the pork slices, but I actually liked using the nuts as a topping with the sauce, so it worked out. Overall, a very simple pork recipe that only takes 30 minutes to prepare, making it a great weeknight meal option.

For the recipe go to Pecan-Crusted Pork with Orange-Maple Glaze.

November 13, 2011

Food and Wine Rigatoni with Sea Bass and Tomatoes

I love pasta. Growing up we had very little money, but the food my mother made was always delicious. One of the main stables on the dinner table was pasta. Any of the various ways that my mom prepared pasta I absolutely loved, from the simple red sauces, to a delicious Asian noodle dish that she invented (still have the hand written recipe and it is one of my favorite foods). I think during my years as a poor undergraduate and graduate student I ate more pasta that any other food and became quite adept at making pasta dishes from whatever ingredients I had in my pantry and fridge. Now that I am married and have kids I try to prepare a pasta dish at least once a week. I love how versatile pasta can be and my two boys will eat anything on their plate as long as it is surrounded by pasta. The November issue of Food and Wine magazine had a recipe for Rigatoni with Sea Bass and Tomatoes, which looked easy and a great way to incorporate more seafood into my family's diet.

This recipe has 10 ingredients and makes 4 servings. The total cooking and prep time is 30 minutes. I had to make some modifications to the recipe due to availability of ingredients. As far as I know I have never seen sea bass in my area. I was going to substitute halibut, but for whatever reason all the halibut was sold out or not stocked at every supermarket I went to (and I went to four). So in the end I substituted cod, since the types of seafood I am able to purchase are relatively limited. I left out the chopped flat-leaf parsley completely. My husband is not a fan of parsley and won't eat dishes in which it is used as a topping, therefore I left it out. Finally, since I was unexpectedly feeding 6 people instead of 4, I used 16 ounces of pasta to extend the recipe, I kept the same amount of all other ingredients. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I made this dish when my in-laws were in town. My father-in-law recently had heart surgery and has been trying to get more fish and lean meats in his diet. I wasn't sure how well this dish would go over since I decided to make it last minute and my father in-law isn't a fan of crushed red pepper. Luckily, this dish turned out very well and my entire family enjoyed it, including my two boys. I found that the longest part of the recipe was prepping the fish, the actual total time took less than suggested by the recipe. Using 16 ounces of pasta I was able to feed 6 people and still have more than enough leftovers for lunch the next day. Overall, a great combination of fish and pasta and very easy to prepare.

For the recipe go to Rigatoni with Sea Bass and Tomatoes.

November 12, 2011

Better Homes and Gardens Milk Chocolate Marble Loaf Cake with Citrus Compote

I have a major weakness for chocolate. If there is chocolate in the house I will find it and more than likely eat it. Luckily for me I was given my dad's high metabolism and I am constantly running around after my very rambunctious two and five-year-old. Thanks to a combination of these factors and the fact that 99 percent of the time I eat very healthy, I routinely indulge my chocolate cravings. I hate to admit it, but I have even been known to eat leftover chocolate cake for breakfast. Not the healthiest breakfast, but yummy none-the-less. Given my love of all thing chocolate the recipe for Milk Chocolate Marble Loaf Cake with Citrus Compote in the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine caught my eye and looked like something perfect for my menu plan.

This recipe has 9 ingredients in the cake and 5 in the citrus compote. The prep time is approximately 30 minutes and the bake time 65 minutes, and it makes 12 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store with the exception of the kumquats, which I left out. My disco era oven even with a oven thermometer never seems to bake consistently and my cake took 20 minutes longer than the stated recipe. I tented the cake after to the first 30 minutes to prevent burning and rotated the loaf pan halfway through the cooking time. The only oranges available at my local grocery store were seeded, which made the prep for the fruit compote slightly more time consuming than the time the recipe suggested. I also took off the skins from both the oranges and grapefruit. I find the texture of the skins unpleasant in many recipes. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The loaf cake part of this recipe turned out well. It was light and had a subtle chocolate flavor. I wasn't as impressed with the combination of the loaf cake and fruit compote. Separately the fruit compote was delicious and my two sons loved eating it for breakfast by itself. When it was paired with the loaf cake it just seemed off. Both components were great on their own, but the combination didn't work. The loaf cake spread with warm butter was popular in my household and eaten quickly. My two boys loved the fruit compote as a fruit salad for breakfast, and ate all the leftovers. Overall, both components work well separately and therefore I would recommend eating them as two different recipes.

For the recipe go to Milk Chocolate Marble Loaf Cake.
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