Monday, November 30, 2009

Sweet & Tangy Pot Roast

I love setting my crock pot in the morning and returning to a house filled with the aroma of a delicious roast. The few minutes it takes to put together the ingredients before work is well worth it when dinner is ready for the table as soon as you walk in the door. This recipe is one that my mother-in-law recently tried from a friend and then passed on to me. I would say that this was the best pot roast I have ever had!! The slow cooked meat was fork tender. The gravy was one-of-a-kind with ketchup being the star ingredient. Tonight we enjoyed this roast with mashed potatoes and peas - yum!
Sweet & Tangy Pot Roast
1 boneless beef chuck roast (3 lbs)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 c. water
1 c. ketchup
1/4 c. red wine or beef broth
1 envelope brown gravy mix
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbls. diced shallots
3 Tbls. cornstarch
1/4 c. cold water
Place meat in slow cooker and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Combine in bowl: water, ketchup, wine or broth, gravy mix, mustard, worcestershire sauce, shallots and garlic powder. Pour over meat.
Cook on low setting for 9 hours or until tender. Combine cornstarch and cold water until smooth and stir into slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes or until gravy is thickened.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pilgrim Hat Cookies

My co-worker brought these cute cookies into work last year at Thanksgiving and I liked them so much that I emailed a picture of them to my family. My sister saved the email this past year and while I had forgotten about them, she had not. We made them on Wednesday night and decided they would be a fun activity to do with our nephews when they get a little older. They are quick and easy to assemble and keep your Thanksgiving table looking festive.
Pilgrim Hat Cookies
1 can cream cheese frosting
1 pkg. fudge striped cookies
1 bag mini Reece's peanut butter cups
Reece's pieces candies or mini M&M's

Place fudge striped cookie face down and add approximately 1 tsp. frosting to the center. Place peanut butter cup face down on top of frosting. Add a mini M&M for the button. Enjoy!

Green Bean Casserole

I couldn't post every item on my Thanksgiving menu since I was busy hosting my family for the weekend. (I was so happy that my husband was able to snap a picture of his plate since I was not thinking of my blog during the holiday.) Instead, I decided to feature one of my favorite new recipes for you to try, perhaps this Christmas. I have always liked the topping on green bean casserole but never liked the mushy center. I searched Food Network's website because I trusted their experts would know how to make this casserole better. By using fresh cut beans instead of canned or frozen the casserole was less mushy. I also used cream and fresh mushrooms instead of cream of mushroom soup which made the whole dish taste fresher. I still topped them with the prepared french onion crisps that we all love!
Fresh Green Bean Casserole
2 Tbls. salt
1-2 pounds fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved 2 Tbs. unsalted butter 12 oz. mushrooms, sliced 1/2 tsp. black pepper 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 cup chicken broth 1 cup half-and-half
1 1/2 c. French fried onion Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Add the beans and simmer for 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside. Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the green beans. Top with onion crisps. Place into 425 degree F oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 25 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.
Adapted from Alton Brown's Green Bean Casserole recipe

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Harvest Squash Soup

The rush of the holiday season is already in full swing and I have not been able to get in the kitchen for quite a few days. (My apologies to my diligent readers!) With this in mind, I would like the recipes for the next month to be ones that can be made ahead of time or ones that do not take a lot of time prepare. Though the holidays can be "all about the food" I know we would rather spend time with family and friends or curled up on the couch watching a Christmas movie. It only takes a bit of extra planning to achieve both. Tonight's menu is another soup recipe. This squash soup is decadent and rich. It could be served as a first course or paired nicely with a leftover turkey sandwich. This was the first time I made something with fresh ginger and it was worth the effort! I hope you find this recipe as wonderful as we did. Happy Thanksgiving!
2 butternut squash, seeded and quartered 3 Tbls. melted butter 2 tsp. salt, plus 1 teaspoon to season later 3/4 tsp. freshly ground white pepper, plus 1/2 teaspoon to season later 3 cups chicken broth 1/4 cup honey 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger 1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the quartered squash onto a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush squash with a melted butter and season with 1 tablespoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the white pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until tender. Scoop the flesh from the skin into a large pot. Add the broth, honey and ginger. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Transfer into a blender or food processor (you may have to do this in batches) and blend until smooth. Stir in the cream and return to pot and simmer on low. Season with the remaining salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Based on Squash Soup recipe from Alton Brown

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quick & Tasty Tortellini Soup

With my husband home sick today I knew there was only one option for dinner...soup! Soup is by far my favorite food. As soon as the weather starts to get cold, I look forward to the warmth and comfort that comes in a bowl of great soup. You can look forward to many easy soup recipes in the weeks to come. Tonight I had to make due with the ingredients that I had on hand so this soup is unlike any I've made before. By sauteing the vegetables in olive oil first, I was able to cut my cooking time down in half. Also, using pepperonis for the meat make this soup "quick and tasty". Top it all off with freshly grated parmesan cheese - yum!
Quick & Tasty Tortellini Soup
1 lg. carrot - thinly sliced
1/2 onion - diced
2 tomatoes - chopped
minced garlic
2 cans chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 c. pepperoni slices - quartered
1 tsp. italian seasoning
15 oz. fresh or frozen tortellini
parmesan cheese

In large pot, saute carrots, onion and garlic until tender. Add tomatoes and stock and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Add pepperonis, seasoning and tortellini and simmer for 5-10 minutes more. Top with parmesan cheese.

Sticky Caramel Rolls

Is there anything better than made-from-scratch caramel rolls? The satisfaction I get from mixing yeast and a couple of basic pantry ingredients together to get homemade bread dough is almost as great as the sweet reward of the finished product. I know making your own dough can seem a little intimidating, but I challenge you to give it a try this week. The secret to yeast success is to use a digital thermometer to test your water or milk temperature. The magic number you are looking for is between 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit. My other tip is to use "rapid rise" yeast since it does cut the time needed for the dough to rise almost in half. This recipe is from my favorite cookbook and I have been perfecting it over the past year. Enjoy them on a Sunday morning - they are perfect to serve to overnight guests!
(2) pkg. rapid rise yeast
1 c. milk (heated 105-115 F)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
3 lg. eggs
5 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 c. butter (at room temperature)

In stand mixer dissolve yeast in warm milk and let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes) - add remaining ingredients. Attach dough hook to mixer and knead on low speed. Add a little more flour as needed for the dough to come away from the sides of the bowl - knead until dough is smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Form the dough into a ball and transfer into a lightly oiled bowl - cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles in size, 1 - 1.5 hours.

5 Tbls. granulated sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Combine sugar and cinnamon

1/4 c. softened butter

Punch down dough and turn over onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough in half with a sharp knife. Roll out one-half of the dough into a 10 x 16 inch rectangle. Spread dough with butter and then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Roll the rectangle up along the long side. Slice into approx. 10 rolls. Repeat with the remaining half of dough.

Caramel Sauce
1/2 stick butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. half-n-half or cream
Combine ingredients in sauce pan until melted. Pour into 9x13 pan and place rolls on top of sauce.

Cover the rolls loosely with a kitchen towel and let them rise in a warm place until they have doubled in size, 30-40 minutes.
(Alternatively, place rolls in the refrigerator and let them rise overnight.)
Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes. Let the rolls cool slightly in the pan and then flip over.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma "Essentials of Baking"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Grand Tacos

Here is a new version of tacos for your family. My sister-in-law made these last week and said they were an excellent twist to the regular taco. We piled our "grand" tacos high with seasoned ground beef, black beans and lots of fresh taco toppings. They remind me of Uffda-Taco's which are a fair favorite in northern Minnesota, but these are not deep fried so you don't have to feel guilty while enjoying them.
Grand Tacos
1 can of Pillsbury Grand Biscuits
Traditional taco toppings
Simply flatten Grand rolls on an ungreased baking sheet and cook at 375 for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Top with taco seasoned ground beef, cheese, and all of your favorite taco toppings.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cranberry Sauce

With Thanksgiving around the corner I am hurrying to perfect my side dishes since this is the first time I'll be hosting my family for the holiday. Last year I decided to forgo my usual canned cranberry sauce, and I tried making my own - we loved it!! It is tart and refreshing and packed with antioxidants - it is also much prettier on your table than the gelatin molds you get from a can! It really should be enjoyed more than on just Thanksgiving day. Try serving it warm over pancakes with maple syrup; baked on brie and then spread on crackers or a crusty bread; or try topping your vanilla ice cream for a sweet treat. (The best part is, this is a side dish you can make this ahead of time since it keeps really well in the fridge.)
Cranberry Sauce
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. water
4 c. fresh cranberries
zest of an orange
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
In a sauce pan bring to boil water and sugar, stirring to dissolve. Add cranberries and return to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer approx. 10 minutes or until cranberries burst. Stir in orange peel, cinnamon & nutmeg. Remove from heat. Cool at room temperature and then store in refrigerator. (Sauce will thicken as it cools.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Everyday Meatballs

These meatballs are wonderful because they can be the base of so many different meals. I cook a double batch at a time, refrigerate them to cool, and then freeze them in freezer bags so I can pull them out for a quick meal. Re-heat them in bbq sauce, cream of mushroom soup gravy, marinara sauce for spaghetti, sweet and sour sauce or serve them plain with ketchup. When making homemade pizza I grab a couple of meatballs out of the freezer and chop them up for a quick and delicious pizza topping. Tonight we enjoyed them with marinara sauce over spaghetti.
Everyday Meatballs
2 lbs of lean ground beef
1/2 - 3/4 lb. of ground pork sausage or Italian sausage
1/2 onion diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 c. unseasoned breadcrumbs
1-2 eggs
2 Tbls Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
Combine all ingredients in large bowl (Do not over mix) Roll into 2" balls. Heat large fry pan to med heat and add a small amount of olive oil. When cooking meatballs be sure to let them cook for approx. 5-6 minutes a side before turning them. If you try to turn them before a thick crust is established your meatballs will fall apart. Serve hot or cool thoroughly before freezing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Loaded Baked Potatoes

My sister requested baked potatoes for dinner and although they were meant to be a side dish, they really stole the show. We loaded our potatoes with broccoli, cheese, sour cream, bacon and topped them off with chives. I am featuring them tonight knowing that everyone reading this will already know how to make baked potatoes but maybe this will inspire you to have a little fun with them. Consider having a potato bar with your family for dinner or for the next football game. Bake the potatoes wrapped individually in tin foil (this will keep them moist while baking and help them retain their heat when you take them out of the oven). Get creative with your toppings because the possibilities really are endless!
Sour Cream
Refried Beans
Green Onion

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Eggs in a Nest

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but let's face it, not many of us make time for more than a quick bowl of cereal in the morning. With all of the wonderful breakfast dishes out there, I love an occasional "breakfast for dinner". When I was younger I loved when my mom made eggs in a nest - it always seemed like a special occasion when she did. This is another meal that can be made in a time crunch. Crispy hash browns make the "nest" and eggs are cooked on top of them. Top it off with shredded cheese (and ketchup in Ryan's case) and you have breakfast or dinner that will make any kid smile.
Eggs in a Nest
1 Tbls. olive oil
2 Tbls. butter
3 c. hash browns
1/8 tsp. onion salt
4 eggs
1/4 shredded marble jack cheese

Heat a frying pan to medium heat with olive oil. Add hash browns and top with cut butter. Season with onion salt and pepper. Cook for about 7-8 minutes or until golden brown. Flip hash browns and make a 2-3 inch indent for each egg. Place eggs on hash browns and cover to cook eggs approximately 5 minutes. During the last minute add shredded cheese to melt.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pepperoni Ravioli

There are days when I don't have a lot of time to get dinner on the table and so I have a handful of semi-homemade recipes that I make in 20 minutes or less. This recipe is something I made up in college because it was quick and the ingredients are all staples that last for quite a while in the fridge. Tonight I used ravioli but I also like bowtie or penne pasta with this sauce. Add garlic bread and your vegetable of choice and you have a healthy and filling dinner in a snap.
Pepperoni Ravioli
9 oz. fresh or frozen cheese ravioli or tortellini

3/4 jar spaghetti sauce - my favorite is Barilla
3/4 c. quartered pepperoni slices
1/2. sm. onion diced
1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 c. sliced mushrooms (optional)

1/2 tsp. basil

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
Parmesan cheese

Coat saute pan with olive oil and cook onions, mushrooms and garlic until tender. Add pepperoni, sauce and seasoning and simmer 10 minutes. Add cooked noodles and toss with parmesan cheese before serving.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ultimate Chili

Deer hunting in my family sometimes feels like a holiday before the holidays. While the men bond in the woods, the women usually bond in the kitchen. In past years we have tackled lefse, caramel rolls and donuts from scratch. Our main goal is to relax and enjoy each others company. By the time our hungry hunters come inside we have quite the spread ready for them. Saturday night I was in charge of the soups. I made chicken wild rice soup and my Ultimate Chili. The chili was the crowd favorite so I am featuring that recipe tonight. (Zach even said this made his top 3 of the best chili he's ever had.) This chili has a couple of special ingredients that give it an edge over you basic recipe. The warm and spicy layers of flavor are cooled off by the cheese and sour cream toppings. I always make a big batch and freeze it in individual servings for easy lunches on the go. Ultimate Chili (Note: I never measure ingredients when making soups, so use this as a guide. Your seasoning amounts will vary on how spicy you like your chili) 1 lb. ground beef 1 sm. onion diced 3-4 stalks of celery diced 1 qt. whole tomatoes 1 qt. tomato juice 1 can chili beans in medium sauce 1 can black beans drained 1 sm. can green chilies diced salt/pepper 1/2 tsp. garlic powder 1/2 tsp. cumin 1/2 tps. oregano 3-4 Tbls. chili seasoning Toppings: sour cream, cheese, avocados - Brown ground beef, onions and celery in soup pot. Drain excess fat. Add remaining ingredients and simmer at least 20 minutes.

M&M Cookies

We spent the weekend Up North at my parents' house where the kitchen is packed with home-cooked foods and happy people. Staying there with family and friends is the perfect balance of relaxation and pure chaos. While we're there my mom makes most of the food and my dad makes sure no one goes hungry. : ) This weekend I was able to make a couple of family favorites that I know you will like too. There is nothing better than warm cookies to fill a room with the smell of home. These M&M cookies are the perfect treat. They differ from chocolate chip cookies in that they have crisco instead of butter. The crisco makes a very different cookie texture. The end result is a soft and chewy cookie. Paired best with a glass of milk!
M&M Cookies
1 c. crisco
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. water - not sure why this is necessary but I always do it : )
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 c. + 4 Tbls. flour
2 c. M&M's
Beat crisco and sugars until creamy. Add remaining ingredients in the order given. Bake at 375 on an ungreased cookie sheet 10 minutes.
(I always take my cookies out before they look done and let them sit for a minute on the cookiesheet before moving them on wax paper or a cooling rack to cool. )

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tangy Pork Chops & Candied Squash

If you haven't cooked pork chops for your family lately I suggest bringing it back on the menu. I always seem to forget how good and easy they are. I like to use bone-in chops because I think they deliver a more tender meat, but feel free to use boneless if you like. My vegetable for tonight is perfect for every fall meal: Buttercup Squash. I've only had squash prepared one way (the way my mom makes it) and that is baked and then mashed like potatoes. I love them like this but every time I make them my husband claims he is "not a squash kind of guy." This is his polite way of saying that he doesn't like something I make. Tonight I was bound and determined to get him to change his mind. I tried oven roasting the squash with brown sugar to make it taste more like candied carrots and less like was a success - he liked it!! The sweet apple cider in the pork chops made a delicious gravy that was actually great with the squash. All in all this meal was delicious and satisfying - a great spin on an old classic.
Denise's Quick Tangy Pork Chops
4 Pork Chops
1/2 C. Flour
1 pkg Onion Soup Mix
1/2 C. Dry white wine
1/2 C. Apple cider
Season flour in a shallow dish with salt and pepper. Dredge meat in flour mixture and brown in olive oil in a heated frying pan at med-high heat. Brown each side about 3 minutes. Transfer meat into a casserole dish and sprinkle dry onion soup mix over the meat. Pour wine and cider over the dish. Bake covered at 375 for 30-35 minutes.
Oven Roasted Squash
Buttercup squash - peeled and cut into 2" cubes
Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
3-4 Tbls. Brown sugar
Line baking sheet with parchment paper (for easy cleanup). Place squash on baking sheet and drizzle olive oil to coat. Season with remaining ingredients. Bake at 375 for approx. 35 minutes, stirring a couple of times.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Golden Mushroom Chicken

One cannot consider themselves a true Minnesotan wife unless they own a plethora of recipes that call for cream of something in a can. If you don't believe me, keep an eye out at the next potluck you go to and notice that Cream of Mushroom Soup could very well be the official state food.
Tonight's meal is no exception. Denise's "Fancy Chicken Breasts" calls for Golden Mushroom Soup which I really liked using. I made only a few changes to her recipe - I added fresh rosemary and baby spinach since I had them on hand and since they compliment chicken so well. There are endless possibilities for what you could add to the chicken before rolling it up. The bacon wrap holds the chicken together and keeps it very moist. Ryan gave this meal two forks way up. I think it would be perfect for serving to guests since it can all be prepped before hand and then kept in the refrigerator before baking.
Golden Mushroom Chicken
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 slices of bacon
1 can of golden mushroom soup
1 c. sour cream
sliced fresh mushrooms (opt.)

Pound chicken breasts down to about 1/4" thickness. (Tip: Place chicken in ziploc bag to pound out for easy clean-up) Season chicken and roll up breasts. Wrap a slice of bacon on each. Set in a casserole dish. Mix soup and sour cream. Add in mushrooms. Spread over chicken.

Bake at 375 for 60-75 minutes.
Excellent over mashed potatoes (Tip: Freshly grated nutmeg in the mashed potatoes adds a warm, earthy undertone)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I feel like I should back track and explain what is going on here. This past weekend I received a hand-made cookbook from Ryan's aunt Denise. She hand wrote all of her favorite recipes she has saved from family, friends and magazines over her lifetime and gifted them to me. (Thanks Denise!!) I decided to dedicate our dinners for this week to her cookbook. This blog is what resulted.
Sunday I made her apple crisp. Monday I thought I would jump right in and try her world-famous macaroni and cheese. This is Denise's favorite food - she even requests that everyone raises a fork of it in her honor at her funeral luncheon. I started making it knowing that it would be hard to convince Ryan and I that this would be as good Kraft. As funny as that sounds, Ryan and I both grew up on Kraft and it is a shared comfort food. I followed the recipe exactly since I didn't want to stand in the way of perfection. What I did love about this recipe is that it calls for thin spaghetti instead of elbow macaroni. I also liked that it bakes in the oven and forms a cheesy crust on the outside and is very gooey in the center. We gave it two thumbs up but Ryan requests more cheese for next time. (This is no surprise since Ryan thinks all food tastes better with extra cheese or ketchup!)
Denise's Macaroni & Cheese
2 C. + sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
7 oz. thin spaghetti noodles, cooked al dente
Medium white sauce (below)

Butter casserole, put in cooked noodles pour white sauce over followed by cheese cubes. Mix to make sure sauce spreads through noodles.
Bake at 350, uncovered for 1 hour.

White Sauce
4 Tbls butter
4 Tbls flour - melt butter and add flour. Add:
2 C. milk
salt & pepper
celery salt - small amount
oregano - small amount
"Spike" - small amount
dry onions (minced) about 1/4 cup

Apple Crisp

On Halloween Ryan and I went to pick apples at Emma Krumbee’s Apple Orchard. We were so happy because we actually got to pick them from the trees! Half of a bushel later, I realized that Ryan and I will be getting more than our apple-a-day. I turned to your cookbook, not sure if you even had a recipe for apple crisp – and you did! I chose that particular one because it called for oatmeal and I like my apple crisp with oatmeal in it. Of course I had to add a couple of things: craisins which I re-hydrated, orange zest and pecans for the topping. The recipe was easy and delicious!! I highly recommend the craisins for a cran-apple crisp. They were nice and tart! Our dessert was as sweet as our victory over the Packers – go Favre!!
Apple Crisp
6-8 Tart apples peeled, cut in 1" chunks
1 1/2 C. Brown Sugar
3/4 C. Flour
3/4 C. Rolled Oats
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
6 Tbls. Butter
Zest of an orange
1/2 C. Craisins re hydrated in orange or apple juice

Heat oven to 350. Toss apples with cranberries and orange zest and fill buttered pan. Blend remaining ingredients and crumble over top. Bake 35 minutes.