Thursday, December 27, 2012

Nutella Cheesecake, take two.

So I have done this one before but I have decided I like this new recipe better. It's smoother, and denser than the other recipe I have used before. They are both good, but this one is the better of the two, in my humble opinion.

I was asked by my mom to make dessert for our Christmas Eve dinner (we have our fancy dinner on Christmas Eve). I went through a couple of different recipes, all of which sounded really really good, but also all of them were really high in sugar.  Since 2 of our family are diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes (me being one of them), I decided I would do something a little less sweet so we could all enjoy it together. (I might still try the other two options I contemplated at a later date).

Anyhow, I went looking for a plain ol' regular NY style cheesecake recipe that I could tweak a bit by adding some Nutella swirls to the batter before baking (again, did it before, but used the Lion House cheesecake recipe).  I found a great recipe on and I want to share that one with you, as well as some tips and tricks I have found that make your cheesecake really smooth and silky and delicious.

So here we go, I hope you have as much fun with this as I did!

Nutella Cheesecake

15 graham crackers, crushed
1/4 c butter (half stick)
2 tbsp sugar

4-8 oz blocks of cream cheese
4 eggs
1 1/2 c sugar (or 3/4 each white sugar and Splenda which is what I did because of the diabetes)
3/4 c milk
1 c sour cream (I used Daisy Light, worked fine)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 c all purpose flour

1/2 to 3/4 c Nutella, or store brand chocolate hazelnut spread

First, set out your eggs and cream cheese for about half an hour to bring them to room temperature.  This part is very important (which I didn't realize til doing it this time) because it makes your batter smooth and creamy instead of wet and lumpy.  Cold cream cheese doesn't beat as smoothly as room temp cream cheese does.

While waiting for your cream cheese to warm up a bit, preheat oven to 350 degrees, and make your crust by combining graham cracker crumbs, butter, and 2 tbsp sugar together in a ziplock bag.  (I usually put the whole grahams in the bag, then roll over them with a heavy rolling pin til crumbs, and then dump in the sugar and butter and mash the bag til everything is coated and combined) Press this mixture into the bottom (not up the sides, just on the bottom) of a 9 inch spring form pan. Bake for 10 minutes.  Set aside to let cool. (this sets your crust to make sure it doesn't fall apart or crumbs don't float up into your cheesecake.)

Once all is brought to room temp, beat cream cheese and sugar (and splenda if using it) in a stand mixer.  Beat well until smooth and all combined.  Add eggs, one at a time beating until combined and smooth.  Add milk, and then vanilla and sour cream and flour til all are mixed well and you have a smooth batter about the consistency of crepe batter, and not lumpy.

In the microwave, heat Nutella for about 30 seconds to a minute to soften it and make it easier to pour.

Pour half the cheesecake batter onto crust, then add half the warmed Nutella.  Use a chopstick or something of the like to marble the Nutella (draw lines through it, and then lines going the other way).  Pour the rest of the cheesecake batter into the pan, and repeat Nutella process a second time.  This makes sure you get Nutella going through the whole thing rather than just the top part of the cheesecake.

Place two sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil on the countertop, so they are crossing each other (like a + sign).  Place cheesecake pan over top of the foil and wrap the sides of the pan with the foil.  Place wrapped cheesecake pan into a large rectangular pan (I used my roasting pan).  Place in center rack of oven, and pour enough water into the roasting pan (NOT IN THE CHEESECAKE--this seems obvious, but just re-affirming.) about halfway up the sides of the spring form pan.

Bake for 1 hour.  Leave in the oven for about 2 hours to continue cooling inside the oven (this helps prevent cracking, the slow cool down process reduces the sudden hot/cold stress on the cheesecake and therefore stops the cracking).  Place in refrigerator to cool completely, at least 2 hours, and serve chilled.

Yields about 12 servings.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Whole Wheat Bread

My husband and I decided a few weeks back that we eat bread more if it's homemade, rather than store bought.  Sometimes I find myself having to throw away half the loaf because we didn't finish it in time before it started to get moldy.  I love bread, but regular old sandwich bread is hard for me to eat all of the we figured we would try to save ourselves some money and actually use what we spend on, haha. So I found this recipe and tried it and we really enjoyed it.  It's very hearty though and filling, and pretty dense. Not really one of those soft breads you think about. While I like this, I am still going to try out another recipe for multi-grain bread instead of whole wheat. Just to add some variety to life. :) Anyway, here is the whole wheat recipe.

Whole Wheat Bread

1 c milk
1/4 c molasses
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 c lukewarm water
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp yeast
1 c all purpose flour
4 c whole wheat flour
1 egg white, or milk to brush on the top, optional.

In a small sauce pan, scald the milk (over medium heat, heat til you see tiny bubbles around the edges of the pan).  Remove from heat, and whisk in vegetable oil, molasses, and salt.  Set aside and let cool to lukewarm.  Meanwhile, mix the honey into the water, and then sprinkle the yeast over the top of the water.  Let stand 3 minutes, or until the milk is cooled. Mix together liquid ingredients (easiest to do in a stand mixer), and then add flour slowly, using your bread hook attachment.   Once flour is completely combined, remove dough from bowl, and spray with cooking spray or wipe inside with oil. Replace dough and cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 45 minutes, or double in size.  Punch down and knead again (dough will be slightly sticky, you'll need a generously floured surface).  Divide into two loaves, place in loaf pans and let rise again for another 45 minutes, again til doubled in size.  Brush top of loaves with milk or egg white. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and continue baking for 45 minutes.

Allow to cool completely and enjoy!  Store in airtight ziplock bag, will keep for about a week.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Peaches Peaches everywhere....

I love peaches, and right now is the end of peach season in Utah. My husband comes from a town in northern Utah where they are famous for their peaches, and celebrate it with a big town festival/fair type thing each September.  As such, we have sort of a tradition in our family to have peaches in several different ways in early September, and sometimes, if we are lucky, we can make it last a bit longer...  I realized I have not posted all of the recipes associated with this tradition, and so I am going to post the last two recipes here.

The first of those traditions is to have peach pie every year.  We love peach pie.  Hubby grew up with fresh peach pie, which is basically fresh peaches and a bit of sugar put in a baked pie shell.  I like that version okay, but my favorite way to make peach pie is to bake a double crust pie like I usually do for apple pie each Fall.   Here is my favorite recipe for that.

Peach Pie

1 recipe basic pie crust, recipe below, tutorial here
about 5-6 cups peeled, pitted, and sliced peaches (6 whole peaches usually)
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 tsp almond flavoring
4-6 tbsp quick tapioca
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp butter

Crust recipe (see tutorial for detailed instructions for this part)

2 1/4 c all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 c cold shortening
3 tbsp cold butter
6-8 tbsp cold water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix together peaches, sugar, almond flavoring, tapioca and lemon juice.  Set aside.  Roll out pie crust to 1/4 inch thick, then lay into a 9" pie plate.   Fill bottom crust with peaches, dot with butter, and then roll out top crust and lay it over the top.  Slit the top crust with a paring knife and then fold the top crust edges under the bottom crust edges and pinch closed. Crimp together with your thumb and forefinger.  Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, then drop the heat and bake another half hour at 350 degrees.  Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes, and serve.  I like it best with some vanilla ice cream on top.  YUM!

The second tradition Hubby likes to keep to is peach cobbler. I actually prefer peach crisp or crumble rather than cobbler, just because I like the texture of the topping better. I made a peach crumble/crisp tonight, and the recipe is rather simple.  Here we go...

Peach Crisp or Crumble (or in general, fruit crisp)

1/3 to 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/3 c rolled oats
1/4 c packed brown sugar
1 stick of butter, cut in pieces
5-6 peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp almond flavoring
1/2 tsp vanilla
Mix together peaches, vanilla, almond flavoring, and lemon juice.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour, sugar, and oats.  It will kind of start to look like loose cookie dough.  You want it to kind of be in clumps.

Pour peaches into a medium baking dish, and then top with the crisp topping.  Bake at 350 for approximately 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm with ice cream.

Thirdly, and lastly, Hubby likes to make peach ice cream.  You can find the recipe for that, here.

Enjoy your peaches!!!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Schnitzel and Spaetzle, and Braised Red Cabbage

(The stuff that looks like scrambled eggs is really the spaetzle, it just looks yellow in the camera for some reason. They are just German dumpling noodles. We found them at the grocery store.)

It's my husband's birthday today, and I decided to try to make it a German night since he loves German food.  Hubby took German as his foreign language in high school and spent 2 weeks in Germany during his Junior year of high school.  He is always reminiscing about the tasty food in Germany and how he loves schnitzel and noodles (spaetzle) most of all.

We generally enjoy bratwurst and have that around here pretty often, but for tonight I wanted to try and make schnitzel because he has talked so much about it.  I found a package of the noodles at our local grocery store, so those were nothing fancy.  I had tried to find a homemade recipe for them, but the only one I found made enough for 15 servings, which is a bit much for the 2 of us to eat.  I figured this way I could also focus more on the schnitzel and do a better job with it, and the cabbage.  So here are the recipes for the schnitzel and cabbage, both of which were much more simple than I expected.

You'll want to do the cabbage first, and then about half an hour before you want to eat boil the water for the noodles, and start cooking the schnitzel. I prepped the schnitzel about an hour before needed and just put them in the fridge for when I was ready to cook them.


5-6 boneless pork cutlets, pounded to about 1/4 inch thin
3/4 c all purpose flour
2 eggs
4 tbsp parmesan cheese
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
pinch of nutmeg
4 tbsp milk
1 1/2 c plain breadcrumbs
1 stick of butter
sliced lemon, optional

I was able to get my pork pounded thin by our local grocery store meat guy.  But if you can't get it already done that way, just take a meat mallet and pound it out thin so its about 1/4 inch thick. Once they are pounded thin, dredge them in the flour, and make sure to dust off any excess flour.

Beat together eggs, cheese, milk, parsley, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Dip the flour dredged pork into the egg mixture first, then coat with the breadcrumbs.  Repeat for each piece of pork, and place on a plate or cookie sheet, and then place in the fridge.

About 20-30 minutes before you are ready to eat, boil water for noodles, and melt the butter in a skillet.  Fry each schnitzel cutlet in the butter, about 3 minutes per side, or til golden on both sides.   Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook about 20-25 minutes (if using spaetzle--you can also use plain egg noodles, but they only take about 5 minutes to cook)

Make a pan gravy by whisking flour into the pan drippings and then adding about 1/2 c milk and some water.  I added a bit of nutmeg as well as a splash of apple cider vinegar too, but that's just a personal taste.

German Braised Red Cabbage

1 head red cabbage, finely sliced/shredded
2 tbsp butter
2 green apples, thinly sliced
1/4 c sugar
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Mix together shredded cabbage and apples.  Add butter, sugar, apple cider vinegar, water, salt, pepper, and cloves.  Bring to a boil on the stove, then reduce heat and simmer about an hour and a half.  (this is why you need to start this one first, even though it is simple, it takes the longest.)

This one was pretty good, and I am not much of a cabbage fan.  Try it out, but be prepared, it makes a whole lot, so you might want to half the recipe if you aren't feeding a big family.


Put spaetzle on the plate, and the schnitzel on top of the noodles, then put a big helping of cabbage next to the schnitzel and spaetzle.   Pour gravy all over the schnitzel and noodles and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Okay, I have a confession to make. Last night I was trying to make dinner for my husband and his parents and sister because they were all here to help us lay sprinklers for our front yard.  So I had a bunch of tomatoes we got from some neighbors and my parents, right from the garden!  I had to use them because they were getting soft and they were too delicious to let go rotten, so I decided to turn them into soup!  

At first my plan was to make tomato soup like the previous recipe listed.  But then I realized I had these nice Hatch chiles I got in my Bountiful Basket on Saturday and wouldn't that be tasty with some black beans and some of the corn I also got in said basket.  So I diced up the chiles, drained and rinsed some beans and cut the corn off the cob and defrosted some chicken to throw in and here we are, a variation on the famous Chicken Tortilla Soup.  It ended up being a hit with my husband, even though his family happened to have already eaten before they showed up.  And now I have leftovers for the rest of the week. Win Win, right?  An experiment turned success is always a good thing!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced 
8-10 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 can chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
2 Hatch chiles, seeded, ribs removed, and diced finely
1 can drained and rinsed black beans
1 c corn (canned, frozen or fresh)
1 chicken breast, chopped up small
dash of habanero hot sauce, optional

Suggested toppings: sour cream, mashed avocados/guacamole, grated cheese, tortilla chips, chopped cilantro

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil til onions are translucent and tender.  Add tomatoes and cook til they soften and release their juices.  Add a dash of salt and the can of chicken broth and chiles and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

Saute chicken in a bit of olive oil til fully cooked through. Set aside.

Pull out immersion blender and blend the soup as it cooks til it is smooth.  Add beans, corn, hot sauce, and chicken, and simmer for another 10 or so minutes.  Serve hot with your desired toppings. Makes enough for about 6 people, or enough for 1-2 people for a week.   

Probably freezes nicely, I don't know I haven't tried.  haha

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Homemade Tomato Soup

It's here!! Tomato season has arrived!  Are you excited?  I love home grown tomatoes right out of the garden, thrown in a salad, or just sliced up and eaten plain, whatever way you do it, they are wonderful things.  Tonight we had a bunch that were starting to spoil and needed to be used quickly.  Since we still have some dried ones  we did a few months back, I decided to do something different this time.  I made tomato soup.

There's a restaurant in our area (some of you Utahns will recognize it) called Zupa's.  My husband and I frequent it a lot, because we love their fresh salads, soups, and sandwiches.  One of their soups that I particularly like is called Tomato Basil Bisque.  This is of course not their official recipe, but it was inspired by that soup.  I hope you like it the way Hubby and I did.

Homemade Tomato Soup

4-6 tomatoes, roughly cut (about 4 cups or so)
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 tbsp olive oil
1 can chicken or vegetable broth, low sodium if possible
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 c milk/half and half/heavy cream (any of the 3 will work, if you use milk you may want to serve it with a dollop of sour cream on top)

In a large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil til onions are tender.  Add tomatoes and let them render their juices and break down a bit, stir to combine with the onion and garlic and let all of the flavors come together.  Let simmer on low for about 3-5 minutes--tomatoes should become soft and break down a bit and it should be a bit liquidy.  At this point you will add your broth and salt and pepper.  Let that simmer for awhile (about 15-20 minutes) til the tomatoes break down even more and start to really fall apart.

Pull out your immersion blender at this point, or if you don't have one, pull out your regular blender.  Pour the tomato mixture into the blender (or put your immersion blender into the large pot) and blend til smooth.  Be careful to pulse it slowly so your engine doesn't overheat too quickly if you are using a standard blender. Once everything is smooth, replace it back into your pot on the stove and return to heat.  Stir in your milk, basil and balsamic vinegar, then simmer over medium low heat til it thickens a bit (about 10 more minutes).

Serve hot with your favorite crusty bread, and maybe a dollop of sour cream.  I made sourdough toast with basil goat cheese spread on it, made a nice tangy side to the soup and was a good creamy compliment to the tomato flavor.

Here's what I did for the toast, in case you want to do the same:

1/2 loaf french sourdough bread, warmed in the oven and then sliced
1/2 log soft goat cheese
1/4 to 1/2 c chopped fresh basil

In a mixer, combine goat cheese and chopped basil til smooth and combined well.  Spread this mixture on slices of the bread, and then put in your oven or toaster oven to warm and melt the goat cheese a bit.  Serve warm along side tomato soup.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Salads: Green Side Salad

So tonight we used up leftover spaghetti sauce with some pasta and I made a green salad to go with it.  Nothing too fancy since the sauce had ground beef in it, not really a major need for protein, just some light veggies to round out the meal.  Here's what I came up with.

Green Side Salad

1 head romaine lettuce (I should clarify, I used the skinny romaine hearts I bought at Costco in the 5 pack)
1 beefsteak tomato, diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, quartered, and diced
3 tbsp soft goat cheese, crumbled


1 pkt Italian dressing mix
1/8 c water
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1/2 c olive oil

In a salad dressing mixer (or in a bowl with a whisk) shake up the ingredients for the dressing. Set aside.

Chop the lettuce into 1/4 to 1/2 inch strips. Place in bowl with tomato, cucumber, croutons, and goat cheese.  Toss dressing with salad and serve along side your dinner entree.

Summer Salads: Pasta Salad

Everyone seems to have a different recipe for pasta salad and this one is just another variation of the idea.  As mentioned before the beauty of salads is you can tailor them to your likes and dislikes.  I am kind of playing around with this one still because while I like pasta salad, it's not always been my favorite.  So I am messing with the ingredients and trying different combinations to see what I like best.  Here's last week's variation.

Pasta Salad

1 lb of your favorite shape of pasta (the short cut kind of course) I used whole wheat rotini
1 c halved grape tomatoes
1/2 c chopped basil
1/2 c feta cheese
1/4 c black olives, halved or quartered
1/4 c quartered artichoke heart quarters (in water, not marinated)
1/4 c roasted red pepper strips


1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1/4 c olive oil
fresh ground black pepper

Whisk together dressing ingredients.  Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with dressing.  Refrigerate overnight, or at least 2 hours.  Best the next day so the flavors can come together better.  Serve cold or room temp.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Salads: Mexican Chicken Salad

So this morning I decided we needed a bit of Mexican flavor. Once again, I forgot photos.  Sorry about that.   This is sort of like the Cafe Rio style chicken salad, but different.  I wanted to lighten it up a bit and add some more vegetable content and less carbohydrate content.  I also wanted to lighten up the fat level of the Cafe Rio salad, as that one can get kind of high in calories for sure.  I hope you like what I did, and maybe you can try it for your family too!

Mexican Chicken Salad

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 c taco seasoning
1 can low sodium chicken broth

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 c grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 bag crispy tortilla strips (sold near the croutons)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 c grated pepper jack or monterey jack cheese (could also use Mexican cotija cheese instead)
a tortilla for each person you are serving (salad makes enough for about 4 people)
1 lime, quartered


1 avocado, halved and pitted
1/2 c Newman's Own Light Lime Vinegarette (this was just the best mexican salad dressing I could find without it being a creamy ranch base that's loaded with calories)

In the morning of the day you make this, place thawed chicken, chicken broth, and taco seasoning in your crock pot.  Set for 4-6 hours on low.  Occasionally check on the chicken and flip pieces over to keep from drying out.

Just before dinner time, chop your lettuce, add tomatoes, tortilla strips, cheese, and beans.  Shred the chicken and stir to coat with the broth and taco seasoning (which should have formed a sort of sauce while cooking all day).

Mash the avocado well and then add the salad dressing and mix well til you get a smooth consistency.  This becomes a new "avocado lime dressing."

If you so choose, you can place the tortillas in a tin pie plate for each person and bake each one to make kind of a tortilla bowl.  I chose not to do this in order to keep my kitchen cooler.  If you don't bake them, just serve them on the side of the salad.

Add chicken to salad, and dressing and toss well.  Do not add chicken until you are just about ready to serve, as hot chicken will wilt the lettuce and other ingredients.  Serve in your tortilla bowls immediately after tossing with dressing and chicken.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Green Salad with Asian Flare

Tonight I was in the mood for some Asian flavor. Sometimes when I make a salad of this nature I will cook some potstickers and toss them in with it, but this time I decided to serve it with some Hake fish on the side. I panko breaded and pan-fried the fish, and then served it along side the salad.  It was light and fresh and very tasty.  I did make the dressing myself this time and I think it turned out well.

Green Salad with Asian Flare

1 head romaine lettuce
1 cup loosely packed spinach
1 avocado diced fine
1/2 c grape tomatoes
1 tbsp lemon juice (to keep avocado from browning)

1/4 c rice vinegar
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
pinch ground ginger
pinch granulated garlic
dash cayenne pepper

Whisk together dressing ingredients, then pour it over salad ingredients.  Serve with your favorite protein or toss in some pan fried potstickers with it.  Because there isn't protein in the salad, you might want to add some grilled chicken or something.

Summer Salads: Mixed Greens with Fresh Veggies

So this one is very similar to some others I have made, but not completely the same.  The thing about salads is you can play around with them and change ingredients to make it completely different or just different enough to make it not boring.  So I played with ingredients and added a few I liked and changed a few for a different flavor. Just enough to break up the monotony.  Feel free to play around with it as you like.

Mixed Greens with Fresh Veggies

1 head romaine lettuce
1 c baby spinach, loosely packed
1 cucumber, peeled, quartered, and sliced
1 c grape tomatoes
1/2 feta cheese
1 avocado, diced fine
balsamic vinegarette

Toss all ingredients together, serve with your favorite protein, or on its own.  Feel free to add chicken or turkey or steak to your liking.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Salads: Tortellini Pasta Salad

So here is a way to enjoy some great pasta without making the kitchen super hot.  Not really on the low carb side, but pretty delicious and pretty light considering its name.  You can kind of play with the ingredients and use veggies that you and your family like, but here are some of the flavors I used for my husband and I tonight.

Tortellini Pasta Salad

1 pkg veggie "rainbow" tortellini (about 1 pound.  I got mine at Costco.)
3 tbsp each olive oil and balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 c feta cheese
1/4 c julienne cut sundried tomatoes
1/2 c black olives, sliced or quartered
1/2 c quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/4 c diced roasted red peppers, optional
2 c peeled, deveined, and tail off shrimp (optional), or you can use chicken or turkey or ham

Cook tortellini according to pkg.  Takes about 4 minutes if frozen, 2 if fresh.  Drain and rinse immediately with cold water.

Whisk together balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add basil to this mixture.  Pour over pasta and toss well to coat all of the tortellini.  Add feta, sundried tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, and peppers and toss well.  Chill in the refrigerator.

Saute shrimp in skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil, til pink.  I sprinkled it with a bit of cajun seasoning but that's just optional.  Chill in the fridge til fully cooled, then just before serving toss into the salad.

Serve room temp or cold.  Great for picnics too!

Pasta with Ham and Peas

So this is not a salad.  But I made dinner for some friends of ours tonight because they just had their baby on Friday last week and not having to cook after having a baby makes life a lot easier.  I know this first hand because several people brought my husband and I dinner when we had our son about 4 months ago.

Anyway, my mom used to make something similar to this when I was a kid, and I always loved it.  The great thing about this recipe is you can kind of play with it a little and change the vegetables in it if you like.  And, it's fairly easy.

Remember how I told you we had baked a spiral ham last week for that lunch?  Well here is a good way to use said leftover ham.   It's also a pretty family friendly recipe--most of my siblings liked it too when we were growing up.  So here goes!

Pasta with Ham and Peas

1 lb pasta of your choice (I used whole wheat shells, but it doesnt really matter.)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced fine
1 c diced ham
3/4 c frozen peas
1 container garlic flavored Philadelphia cooking creme OR
1 container herbed spreadable cheese (like Rondele, Boursin, or something similar)
1/2 c milk, approximately
dash cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta to pkg directions.

While waiting for water to boil and pasta to cook, saute onions in olive oil til translucent, then add ham to the pan and cook til its browned around the edges and starts to render some of its natural fat.  Stir in the cooking creme or spreadable cheese and add milk slowly til it thins out to a creamy sauce consistency.  Reduce heat or turn completely off til the pasta is fully cooked.

Once pasta is cooked, drain and set aside briefly.  Return the sauce to the heat, and add cayenne, salt and pepper,and peas, and then toss it all with the pasta.  Add some parmesan cheese if you wish and then serve hot with whatever side you.  Usually a nice big green salad works great since this dish is a bit on the rich side.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Salads: Mixed Greens and Turkey

OOPS! I forgot to take a picture before we devoured this one... haha.

This salad is kind of a mix of different things we like and using some of the leftovers we have from last week. Last Sunday, we blessed our sweet baby boy at church and then we had a big lunch party at our house for our family and friends that came to witness the special occasion.  For the lunch party, I roasted an 18 lb turkey and we baked an 8 lb ham.  We still have some of these leftovers, and we're working on using them up as quickly as we can.  Tonight's salad served that purpose as well as helping us keep to our salad eating. It turned out pretty well and maybe you'll like it too!

Mixed Greens Salad with Turkey

1 small head romaine lettuce, chopped into 1/2 to 1/4 inch slices
about 2 c loosely packed baby spinach leaves, washed.
2-3 tbsp chopped roasted red bell peppers (I buy them in the jar, and then just do a rough dice)
3 tbsp julienned sun dried tomatoes (again, already jarred, packed in olive oil and usually garlic)
1/2 c feta cheese crumbles
1 c shredded roasted turkey (recipe found here if you need a fantastic one)
croutons to your taste
balsamic vinaigrette (we bought the Newman's Own brand this time, but you can make your own with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and parmesan cheese.  Some people like to add garlic powder or other herbs)

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Serve with french bread on the side if you wish.  Eat immediately, as once dressed the greens will begin to wilt and the croutons will begin to go soggy.

Summer Salad Series

Okay my fellow bloggers, friends, and readers.  I have decided to take on a new project here on Recipes to Live By.  This time I plan to keep it going at least for the rest of the summer (the next 7-8 weeks).  Here's what I plan to do:

Last week after cooking for 30 people and having all of them come over for lunch after our son's blessing at church, we decided it is too dang hot to cook every night of this summer.  We have also decided that the two of us (the hubby and I--baby actually is on the small side and still needs to gain but all he eats is formula these days...) could stand to lose a few pounds.  Pregnancy, premature delivery, eating out during the NICU days, etc has kind of gotten us off the bandwagon of eating very healthily and we think it's time to pick ourselves back up and get going again.  Hopefully this will also help me get my blood sugar back into gear, too.  Low carb, high vegetable and fiber, and protein is the goal here. (not Atkins, mind you, just carb conscious, and using "smart carbs")

Thus was born the idea of eating salad for dinner about 4 times a week.  We're going to be trying all kinds of salads and dressings and combinations of ingredients.  I am going to try hard to stay away from the potato salads and those summer picnic salads (if you know what I mean) just because they aren't my fave and they don't really meet the goal of this project.  I will be trying to do different flavors and definitely be using fresh ingredients.  We'll probably be "visiting" all different places on this adventure: Greece, Italy, Mexico, Asia, etc.

I hope you'll follow me on this journey, and even give suggestions or comments on the way. More than that, I hope you feel inspired to try some of them too!   Here we go!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sushi Time: California Roll

Okay my friends and readers out there (I know I have a few dedicated readers out there somewhere.  Thanks for all of your comments by the way, it's nice to know my posts actually get checked out!) who of you out there enjoys a good plate of sushi?  Any of you out there brave enough to eat sashimi?  Well, my husband was nice enough to cater to my desires for our 5th anniversary this last weekend, and we went out for sushi at an actual sushi restaurant and tried a few different rolls. Since then the two of us have gone a little sushi crazy.  We wanted to learn how to make it after having some and paying a sushi chef to make it for us (it's delicious, but spendy!)

We decided to start small and simple and learn to make California Roll first.  We figured since that is using the imitation crab sticks and avocado and cucumber, it would be an easy one to try out, and if we were successful with that we could move on to more complicated recipes.  So that is why I named this post as a sort of a beginning of a category, because I honestly would love to try making a spicy tuna roll or some other kind after the success we have had with this California Roll.   I wish I had thought to take tutorial type pictures because this recipe is very simple as far as ingredients, but a bit trickier with the process/technique.  Instead of my own tutorial pics, I will link you all to a very helpful YouTube video we found and used last night.  The above picture is an actual picture of my finished product from last night.

Go here for the tutorial video of how to put everything together if you can't understand what I will be giving as directions.  And now for the recipe...

California Roll Sushi--makes 6 rolls, or 48 pieces

Sushi Rice (recipe below)
1 avocado, sliced (I also recommend sprinkling a bit of lemon juice on it to prevent discoloration)
1 cucumber, quartered, seeded, and sliced into thin strips length wise
9 imitation crab sticks
1 pkg Nori seaweed (it's the dehydrated seaweed sheets, found in the Asian section of your grocery store)
optional: toasted sesame seeds, tobiko (fish roe)

for serving: pickled ginger, wasabi paste, and soy sauce.  All of these should be in your Asian section of your local grocery store.

Tools needed: sushi mat, plastic wrap, and you may want some cooking spray so the rice doesn't stick to your hands, and a good sharp knife.

Sushi Rice recipe

4 c rice
4 c water
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp rice vinegar (unseasoned, and it's in the Asian section.)
2 tbsp salt (yes, I said TBSP--that's a TABLESPOON, not a teaspoon. It's the right amount.)

Rinse your rice in a strainer til the water runs clear.  You'll want to swirl the rice around in the sieve or strainer in cold water, and just keep running the water over it til it runs clear and you cant see any white starchy stuff in it.  Then put it in your rice cooker and add the 4 cups of water and set to cook til its done.  When it's done cooking, immediately transfer it to a large glass bowl.   Mix your vinegar, sugar and salt together in a small bowl, and microwave the mixture for 45 seconds.  Stir to make sure its all dissolved together, then pour that over your rice, and stir the rice to make sure every grain is coated in the vinegar mixture.  Let stand to cool to room temp, takes roughly half an hour.  This is a good time to prep your veggies and set up your sushi station.

Wrap your sushi mat in plastic wrap so it is covered on both sides.  Place a sheet of the Nori seaweed on the mat.  When your rice is cooled to room temp, then spread it onto the seaweed sheet and press down so it sticks.   Cover the whole sheet with the rice in a thin layer.  Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds if you like, if not, then just flip your seaweed over so the rice is facing down.

Cut 3 of the crab sticks in half, and leave the other 6 sticks in tact.

Place your avocado slices in the bottom center of the seaweed,  then cucumber above it, and then lastly the crab sticks (take 1 1/2 of the sticks) above the line of cucumber.  (see video for a clearer image of this description)  Using the mat, roll the sushi up and as the mat is rolled around the sushi roll, move the mat so it doesnt get rolled into the sushi roll.  (I hope this makes sense--again, see video for clearer image/demonstration) Continue to roll it til the whole thing is rolled into a log shape.  If any of your ingredients from the center are coming out of the roll, tap the ends to push it all back in.

With a sharp knife cut the roll in half, and then each half in half, and then each of the quarters in half again to make 8 pieces.  Repeat process again til you have completed all 6 rolls.  Serve with wasabi paste and pickled ginger.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lemon Curd

Alright, this is a rare thing that most people in America have no idea about, but my family LOVES it.  Pretty much everyone I have talked to has had a lemon bar/lemon square so they have eaten lemon curd before, but they have never known what it was, just this delicious lemon stuff on top of a shortbread crust.  But it has much more potential than just for that.

Last week Bountiful Baskets had an add-on of a 38 lb box of lemons for $21.  I suggested to my mom that we split the box and make some lemon curd which is one of her favorite toppings for toast.  Or make lemonade concentrate, or just frozen lemon juice in ice cube trays for later use, or pie or whatever we wanted.  She said that was a good idea and today we got my sister to join us for a day full of canning a bunch of lemon curd.  Mom also did a few ice cube trays of lemon juice, and some candied lemon peel for later use.  All in all it was a pretty successful day.

So, anyway, back to the original subject, our recipe of the day.  Lemon curd is a custard like lemon jam.  It's spreadable gold in my book, delicious on toast, pancakes, waffles, gingerbread, scones, english muffins, or even as a filling for lemon cake (or cupcakes for that matter).  It's also commonly used in baked form on lemon bars as mentioned before.  The only difference between the lemon bars and the curd in the jar is that you just mix everything together and pour it over the crust and it bakes in the oven for the bars, and for the jarred stuff you cook it on the stove til it thickens and then pour it into canning jars and then process it to seal the lids.  So imagine lemon bars flavoring on your toast in the morning.  Yup, you got it, it's DELICIOUS!

Here's how you make it.  We tripled the batches to make it go faster, and made about 26 jars for the 3 of us to split up and take home.  Trust me, you'll want the triple batch, it makes about 5 jars and it's worth the work.

Lemon Curd

juice and zest of 9 lemons (about 3 cups juice)
3 sticks of butter
1 pinch salt
3 cups of sugar
9 egg yolks
3 whole eggs

Zest your lemons with a microplane or fine grater or citrus zester.  Then roll lemons on the counter to loosen the juice inside, and cut them in half to juice them.  This is where an electric citrus juicer comes in very handy because it really makes things go faster.  My mom has a juicer attachment for her Kitchen Aid and we just hooked it up and it made it go really fast.  You'll want to use a sieve over whatever bowl or measuring cup you use for the juice (we used one of those Pyrex measuring pitchers) so it catches the pulp and seeds.  Once you have gotten all of the lemon halves juiced, measure to make sure its roughly 3 cups of juice, then add your zest to the juice.  Set aside.

In a double boiler, or a pot of water with a heat proof bowl over top of it, melt the butter.  Add sugar and salt and stir together, and then add lemon juice and zest.   Whisk over medium low heat til sugar is dissolved and mixture is heated through.

Separate your eggs (the first 9) and whisk the yolks with the 3 whole eggs til they are lemony in color and uniform.  When the lemon mixture is dissolved and heated through, add approximately 1 cup of the lemon sugar mix to the eggs and whisk vigorously while slowly pouring in the lemon mixture.  Once the eggs and lemon juice are together, and mixed well, add the whole thing back to the lemon juice and sugar on the stove, and continue to cook and stir for about 15 minutes til the mixture thickens to the consistency of honey and it looks glossy.

Take your canning jars out of your canner (a large pot that processes canning jars) and carefully ladle the curd into half pint jars and then top the jar with a lid and ring and screw on tight, and then flip it over onto a towel on the counter or table to seal.  Let stand for about an hour til the lid is sealed tight (when you press the center it shouldnt go down or make a clicking sound).  Store in a cool place for up to 2 years.

Spread on toast, english muffins, cake, banana bread, brownies, shortbread cookies, whatever you want. You could pipe it into the center of cupcakes too if you want.  Or on pound cake or gingerbread cake.  Delicious!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Quick and Easy Asian Style Salad

Do you ever have those nights when you are craving veggies like crazy and you don't feel like cooking a big heavy hot meal?  Or it's a warm summer night and you don't want to heat the kitchen up by cooking something in the oven?  Or maybe you just want something light and healthy and quick before you run off to your next family thing of the evening...

Tonight I was craving the veggies, and we had a bunch of good produce in the fridge from our Bountiful Basket that we picked up on Saturday.  This time we ordered the Asian pack with it, so my wonderful husband has been having some fun experimenting with different stir fry recipes and we've been enjoying the different flavors. Tonight I was trying to decide how to make a quick dinner that would satisfy my veggie craving and also feed my hungry bear of a husband.  He had a headache tonight and wasn't feeling so great, so it was up to me to make sure something made its way to the table.  Salad to the rescue!  It seems silly to write a recipe for a salad, but here we go.

Asian Salad

1/2 head romaine lettuce, chopped into thin strips (about 1/4 inch wide)
2 carrots, chopped fine
2 ribs of celery, chopped fine
a handful of sugar snap peas
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 avocado, peeled and diced small
sesame ginger salad dressing.  We used Newman's Own, but you can also make your own pretty easily.

Dressing suggestion:

1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/3 c rice wine vinegar
1/3 c olive oil
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 c soy sauce

Whisk together til well combined.  Pour over salad when ready to serve, toss well to coat everything and then serve.

We got a head of romaine lettuce in the basket on Saturday, and we already had half of a head left from before Saturday, so it needed to be used up before it all went bad.  I used the half head and chopped it into thin strips and then added some carrots, celery, green onions, and snap peas, and then a chopped up avocado (I cut it up pretty small so hubby wouldn't notice it so much--he's not a huge fan of the avocado for some strange reason).  Then I just tossed it in some dressing and served it all along side some pan fried potstickers (which I got from the frozen foods section of my local Costco--cheating, I know, but let's be honest, potstickers are a big pain to make from scratch unless you have a party of 20 people hanging out at your house for the night and you all make them together).

We loved it and it felt good to have something fresh and light for dinner.  It was also quick and easy and ready by the time the potstickers were done cooking on the stove.  I had dinner done in about 10 minutes!

So that's what we had for dinner tonight.  What did you make for your family?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Today was rainy.  Very, very, wet and rainy.  At first I was kind of disappointed because it was so warm a couple days ago and I loved having the sun shining and being able to wear short sleeved shirts without worrying about a jacket.  I love Spring, it is my favorite season, but mostly I just love the sunshine of it, and the blooming flowers and green grass and trees, and the birds and because I love it so much I'll mention it again, the SUNSHINE.  After a bit of accepting the fact that it was going to rain and I would just have to deal, my husband saved the day and my mood by suggesting we have soup for dinner.

We had some broccoli in the fridge that needed to be used (and I guess he decided afterall that he wasn't going to make Chinese style beef and broccoli with it), so he suggested I go to one of the fancy grocery stores on my way home from the hospital and get some good quality sharp cheddar and make broccoli cheddar soup tonight.  Umm.... do you have to ask me twice?  I love broccoli cheddar soup! And I love ANY excuse to shop at our local "gourmet" grocery store (this is Utah, where it can be VERY hard to find unique and high quality meats, cheeses and produce--you have to search for a bit, so when this store opened my foodie heart was THRILLED).

**Warning, blatant tangent begins here** Seriously, people, I could get myself into serious trouble here.... they have a cheese counter, totally dedicated to high quality cheeses, and a nice bakery with yummy artisan bread, a fantastic seafood counter, and a meat department with all kinds of amazing meat options.  The produce department is huge, and everything is ripe and the right color (I know, that sounds weird to be excited about, but it's hard to find here sometimes), and you can get all kinds of different ethnic foods and things.  I could spend hours and lots of money at this place if I am not careful.

So... back to our regularly scheduled blog post... the soup.  I've tried making this before and to be honest, while it was good, it wasn't great.  I tried too many variations and should have stuck more to the basic idea of the recipe.    So here is the new version, and I hope you like it.

Cheddar Broccoli Soup

2 15 oz cans of low sodium chicken broth or stock (about 4 cups)
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 c all purpose flour
8 oz good sharp cheddar cheese, grated (trust me guys, its worth getting the good stuff--the flavor is oh so much better)
2 heads broccoli, cut into florets, and stems chopped up fine
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, finely diced
pinch salt
pinch cayenne pepper, and black pepper
1/2 c milk

In a medium saucepan, melt butter and then add onions.  Saute onions in butter til soft and translucent.  Stir in flour, and mix til flour is absorbed into butter and all is combined well.  Add chicken broth or stock, and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer, and then add your cheese and half the broccoli, and all of the carrots.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, and then add the rest of your broccoli.  Continue to cook for another 5 minutes, and then serve hot with more cheese on top and if you like, a dollop of sour cream.  We ate ours with sliced roasted garlic artisan bread.


P.S. I realize this post got kind of long.  I guess I have been needing to blog for awhile, and I had a lot to blab on about today.  Sorry!  Hope the recipe is worth the random babble.  If not, feel free to skip the babble and go straight to the recipe--it's a good one, I promise.

Thanks for your patience!

I appreciate you all bearing with me while I was away for awhile.  I am now recovered from my c-section and life is getting a bit easier.  My son is still in NICU (and will be for about 6 more weeks), but he is doing well and for the most part is stable.  So while I am still making multiple trips a week down to the hospital, I am beginning to get back into the swing of cooking again.

I think I have finally gotten tired of frozen foods and short cuts again, enough that I am willing to put forth the effort to make things homemade again.  Don't get me wrong, I always prefer homemade from scratch over quick fix boxed or frozen meals.  I just haven't had the energy or brain power to come up with menus and dinner ideas for awhile.  Too many other things going through my head recently (like the health and welfare of my premature baby boy) and not enough energy to spend the whole day at the hospital and then come home to figure out what groceries to buy and put together for dinner.

So I appreciate very much that you all have given me the time needed to get back into my groove, so to speak. I was lagging a lot anyway before the c-section because of the low energy due to pregnancy, but I think most of the fatigue is really starting to wear off and my energy is coming back up to normal levels and I am ready to cook again for awhile.  I may have to beg your pardon again when our baby boy comes home in a few weeks, but hopefully not for too long.

And now....let's get started again!  I am going to post another recipe tonight, and I think you'll all enjoy it.  It's good for those Spring days when the weather can't quite decide if it wants to be warm or cold, and I bet your whole family will love it!

Happy Cooking!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Taking a break for a bit

So I am going to be taking a hiatus from the blog for a bit.  I had a c-section and delivered very early due to some blood pressure trouble and so I am recovering from surgery and visiting my little baby boy in the hospital each day--not much time for cooking, and when I am home, I have my feet up to keep the swelling down.

I probably won't be blogging for the next 2 months while my little guy is in the NICU, so I hope you guys don't mind the lack of posts for the time being and in the meantime can find some good recipes in my previous blog posts by using my search tool on the right side bar.

Until next time, Happy Cooking!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Valentines Day Menu

This year my husband and I decided because of our previous bad luck in years past to find restaurants for Valentines Day, that we would make dinner at home and save ourselves the nightmare of waiting for 2 hours for a table at some random restaurant.  I don't know if you readers have the same trouble in your area, but for us it seemed silly to wait til 8pm to eat even though it meant we had to be at the restaurant at 6pm because NOWHERE takes reservations anymore!  So anyway, I thought about it for a few weeks, searched recipe pages online and combed through Pinterest endlessly, and I came up with a few ideas for a fancy romantic dinner of my own.  I hope you like them and maybe find them useful for your Valentines dinner next year, or maybe just for any romantic occasion you have coming up.

I decided my menu would be:
Linguini with Shrimp, Roasted Red Peppers, and Artichoke hearts in a garlic cream sauce
Stuffed Mushrooms
Homemade Caesar Salad with homemade croutons
Roasted Garlic Artisan Bread (most local grocers sell this--check out your store's bakery)
and for dessert...Cheesecake with sliced strawberries.

I cheated and bought the cheesecake and the bread.  And I used that new stuff out there called Philadelphia Cooking Creme for the garlic sauce on the pasta.  But here I post the recipes for the Stuffed Mushrooms and the pasta, and the croutons for the salad.  I usually don't cheat so much, but I am 6 months pregnant and tired these days and I didn't want to spend all of my energetic time cooking, rather than spending it with my husband.  I wish I had pictures but unfortunately I forgot to take them the night of and my husband ate all of the leftovers before I got around to it.  Sorry about that!

First here is the recipe for the croutons since you'll want to make those ahead.

Homemade Croutons

1 loaf french bread (whatever you can get cheap at the store)
4-6 tbsp olive oil
seasoning salt or salt and pepper to taste
granulated garlic
parmesan cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut the bread into cubes.  I actually like to wait a day or two after I buy the bread so its a bit stale but not super dried out.  Toss bread in olive oil and seasonings and then spread in an even layer on a cookie sheet.  Make sure you don't have any overlapping pieces, and use 2 cookie sheets if needed.  They can be close together, just not on top of each other.  Bake for about 10 minutes, then use a spatula to move them around and turn them all over, and bake for another 10-15 minutes, til golden brown.   Let cool and then store in a large ziplock bag.  When you are ready to make your salad, just toss them with your cut up romaine lettuce, more parmesan cheese, and your Caesar dressing.  I added some diced heirloom tomatoes, too, but that was just a variation my husband and I love.  You could always also add some diced roasted red pepper, or some grilled chicken (if you weren't already doing the shrimp pasta).  Enjoy!

And now for the....

Stuffed Mushrooms

1 lb large cap white mushrooms, about 16 mushrooms (I got mine at Costco, for some reason they always have giant mushrooms!)
1/2 c breadcrumbs (seasoned or not, doesn't really matter
1/4 c parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1-2 tbsp olive oil or butter
4 slices bacon, diced fine, optional (I didn't use this this time, but my sister says it's my brother in law's favorite.  If you use bacon, you can probably omit the oil)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove stems from mushrooms and carve out the insides to make room for your filling.  Leave the caps in tact, but you'll want to take out some of the outer edge around the stem, so you can fill it up with your filling. Place the trimmed mushrooms onto a cookie sheet.

Dice up your stems and a couple other whole mushrooms very finely.  They need to be small so they can be spooned into the caps easily and not fall out or have big air pockets.  Saute the mushrooms with the olive oil and garlic until about half their volume.  Place this into a medium mixing bowl.  Add breadcrumbs and cheese, and mix together til well combined.  Using a teaspoon, spoon your filling into your caps, trying not to over fill or spill.  Top your filled caps with more cheese, and then bake for about 20 minutes.


And lastly, the pasta.

Shrimp Linguini with Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke Hearts

1/2 lb linguini (I used fresh, but it doesn't really matter what you use, just cook according to pkg directions)
1 lb raw, peeled and deveined shrimp
1 15 ounce can quartered unmarinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 or 2 roasted bell pepper halves (I bought the jarred ones, but you can do your own under your broiler), diced
1 container Philadelphia brand Cooking Creme, classic garlic flavor
1 small can lump crabmeat, drained and rinsed

Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.  

While you wait for the water to boil, saute shrimp in a bit of olive oil and some garlic powder or fresh minced garlic.  Remove from pan when they just barely get pink (overcooked shrimp turn rubbery and unflavorful, not good).  In the same pan you cooked the shrimp, add your cooking creme and mix with the garlic oil and shrimp juices. Stir in your artichoke hearts and roasted bell peppers and let the flavors come together for a bit.  

Meanwhile, cook your pasta.  If it's fresh pasta then it should only take a couple of minutes, if its dry then it will take about 7 minutes or so.  Once it's fully cooked, drain it and add it to your saute pan.  At this point you will want to reduce the heat, and add back your shrimp and then your crab meat.  Toss it all together til the pasta is coated and everything is well combined, then transfer to your serving bowl and serve immediately with your salad and bread and stuffed mushrooms.

And that's it!  Enjoy your meal with your special someone, and when you are ready a couple hours later, have some cheesecake, too.  You have to be decadent sometimes....

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cheese, Spinach, and Artichoke Calzones

This recipe is still a work in progress.  We tried it with some sourdough pizza dough that we had leftover in the fridge from when my husband made pizza last, and the dough was kinda dry... so I learned a few things I am going to implement next time.  I'll share those tidbits of knowledge with you at the end of the recipe.  Overall though, I think it was a success.  I'm going to play with it some more and see if I can't make it better.

Spinach Cheese Artichoke Calzones

1 recipe pizza dough
15 oz ricotta cheese (one small container)
1 c mozzarella cheese
3 eggs
1 10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 can artichoke hearts (the un-marinated kind, just in water), drained and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp garlic powder, or granulated garlic, or 2 cloves fresh minced garlic
1/4 c pizza sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Divide dough into 12 equal pieces, about the size of a tennis ball.  Spray 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray and stretch dough to a circle about 6" in diameter.   Set aside.  Mix together ricotta, mozzarella, spinach, eggs, artichoke hearts, garlic, pizza sauce, and salt and pepper together until well combined.  Spoon about 2-3 tbsp of the cheese mixture onto half of each round of dough.  Fold over the other half and roll the edges up and pinch them together.  You'll want to roll the bottom edge up over the top one and pinch  to keep everything inside.  Brush the tops of the calzones with some olive oil or melted butter (this is something I am going to try next time--this time they were kinda dry) to keep things soft while it all bakes.  Then top each calzone with some more shredded mozzarella and bake for about 30 minutes.

Serve hot with a salad or whatever you like.  These have veggies and protein in them already so you can also just eat them on their own.  I imagine you could make mini versions of them for appetizers too if you wanted.  Freeze any leftovers on a cookie sheet and they would probably make fantastic homemade "hot pockets" if you will.  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Meatloaf is an American family classic and has been for years, but it also seems to be the brunt of so many jokes around the country.  It can be completely delicious or completely the opposite.  I have a few things that are always the same when I make meatloaf and some things that change depending on what I feel like and what I have in the fridge.  As long as you get the basics of meatloaf down, it doesn't really matter what veggies you use. I learned this valuable lesson as a kid from my mother, a fantastic cook.  So here we go, a primer if you will about meatloaf.


1 lb ground beef (defrosted completely if previously frozen)
1 tube lean ground pork sausage (I use the Jimmy Dean lean--it's about 3/4 of a pound per tube)
2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
1/2 to 3/4 c breadcrumbs (seasoned or not, doesn't matter)
1-2 eggs
1 tsp garlic powder
1 small onion, or 1/2 medium onion, diced very fine
1/2 c each of mushrooms and bell peppers, sliced and diced fine.
also possible: grated carrot, finely chopped celery
optional: ketchup or bbq sauce (I don't like to use these, but sometimes my mom does for extra moisture and flavor

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine meats, egg, breadcrumbs, worchestershire sauce, and garlic powder and veggies together.   I usually use my hands to do this, it just seems to get the job done better than anything else I've tried.  Be sure to remove any jewelry from your hands and wash them well before and afterward to prevent meat germs from spreading everywhere.

Once everything is well combined and the veggies are all sticking together with the meat, you can do one of two things.  My husband prefers I mold the meat into a loaf shape and bake it on a sheet pan so the grease runs off and doesn't pool on the top of the loaf pan.  But you can always do what most people do, and just dump this mixture into your loaf pan and press it down.  At this point, if you wanted to use the bbq sauce or ketchup you can glaze the top of the meatloaf with said sauce.

Bake this for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Let rest for about 5 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  This helps prevent crumbling when you slice it.

Serve with baked or mashed potatoes and your favorite veggie.  My mom also likes this leftover the next day in a meatloaf sandwich.  Not my personal fave, but a common one.  Enjoy!

** Optional Variation** You can also make this more Italian flavored by using oregano and some tomato paste in it, and then coating with marinara sauce before baking.   I've also had it with a more Asian flare with soy sauce in the meatloaf and scallions instead of regular onions and sesame oil--kind of like wonton soup.  Very versatile.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sourdough Pancakes

Ok this is one I tried in the Fall of 2010 when we lived at my in-laws house because my husband wanted to try making sourdough starter and sourdough bread.  The bread didn't turn out so well but these actually worked out pretty well.  I made them again the other night and the only difference was that we made whole wheat starter instead of plain starter (used whole wheat flour instead of all purpose flour).  They tasted a bit different this time because of the wheat factor, but I think they still turned out well.  We also enjoyed making sourdough pizza dough and breadsticks this time around.  I'll get those recipes posted soon, they turned out pretty well.  Without further ado, here is the recipe for the pancakes.

Sourdough Pancakes


(MUST BE MADE A WEEK IN ADVANCE) This is not an exact science.  It's a 1:1 ratio of water to flour.  You can use AP flour or Whole Wheat, and you just mix them together til you get the consistency of pancake batter. Preferably in a pitcher or large jar with a loose lid.  You need to let it sit on your counter where it can get some air/bacteria in it (that's how it works--bacteria is required to create the yeast which creates the alcohol which creates the sour taste of sourdough.  Don't worry, it's a safe bacteria and the yeast thing is no big deal, it won't make you sick. I've checked, I'm pregnant and I can eat them just fine).  So, you mix the flour and water together til you get the right consistency--I started with 2 cups of each.  Every day for a week, just stir it again and keep an eye on it.  If the top has floating liquid on top, just pour it off (it's alcohol, which is the result of the yeast forming in the mixture.  You can leave it, but it's best to pour it off.). Add more water and the same amount of flour again and just keep stirring and keeping it going.  You can use this starter now to create  all kinds of recipes.  This pancakes recipe is just one possibility.


2 c sourdough starter
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp olive oil
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp warm water

Dilute baking soda in water.  Set aside.  Mix together all the other ingredients in a medium bowl.   Heat skillet to medium high, and then spray with cooking spray.  Add water/baking soda mixture to the rest of the batter and whisk gently.  Pour 1/4 c of batter into pan per pancake (you kind of have to do one at a time with this, the batter is pretty runny).  Flip when browned on one side and the bubbles stop forming.  Serve with butter, syrup, or whatever your favorite pancake toppings are.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mashed Potato Pancakes

Have you ever wondered what to do with your favorite leftover mashed potatoes from that fancy roast beef dinner you made last weekend?  I never seem to make just enough for us to eat around here, we always have leftovers.  Usually we eat them with the rest of the leftover meal, but this time the turkey disappeared faster than you could say "Happy New Year!" so I was needing another solution to the leftover potatoes problem.

So this morning, I was wondering what to make for breakfast.  And I thought, "hmm, I wonder if I could figure out a good way to make mashed potato pancakes....?" I have tried these in the past and never managed to do it right without them falling apart all over the place.  BUT, I learned something new today.... a little thing I tried that fixed my problem.  And it is SO simple you'll wonder "OF COURSE!  Why didn't she/I think of that before?!"  So without further ado, a great solution to the "too many potatoes problem" and one that doesn't make a mess either!

Mashed Potato Pancakes

2-3 c leftover mashed potatoes (the least lumpy the better) recipe found here if needed
1/4 c milk
2 eggs
1/4 tsp seasoning salt (optional, can substitute regular salt)
pinch of dried dill (optional)
2 tbsp all purpose flour (this is the secret problem solving ingredient. this way you don't break it or make a mess when flipping)
grated cheese for topping (optional serving suggestion)

(you can also leave out the seasoning salt and dill and just use regular salt for a sweet rather than savory flavor, I just like them this way.)

Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Should come together in about a pancake batter consistency.  Heat skillet to medium high, spray with cooking spray or grease with 1 tbsp olive oil.  Pour batter into skillet and cook just like you would a normal pancake, flipping after the bubbles around the edges  pop and stop forming.  Serve with grated cheese on top or sour cream, whichever you prefer.

Like I said, you can do these with a less savory flavor, by just using regular salt and omitting the dill.  I just like these savory instead of sweet.  If you prefer sweet, just serve with butter and syrup like regular pancakes, or with sour cream and jam.

I am not sure exactly what about the flour makes these work so much better, but I have a hunch it has to do with gluten or something.  They just hold together better and flip more like normal pancakes when you add the flour to the batter.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic and Mushrooms

Better late than never, I know I promised this to you FB fans out there on Saturday, but I was remiss because we were up later than I planned and I never got back to blogging since.  Sorry about that!  Anyway, this is a very tasty side we had with our turkey and mashed potatoes on Saturday for New Years Eve 2011.  It's super simple and very good and I hope you enjoy!

Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic and Mushrooms

1 1/2 lbs of green beans, ends snapped off and larger beans snapped in half
2 tbsp olive oil
8 oz sliced button mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced very fine
1/4 c water

Heat skillet to medium heat and add oil to the pan.  Add mushrooms and garlic and cook til mushrooms have shrunk to half volume.  Add green beans and stir to combine, being careful to not let the beans fall over the side.  Toss together til beans, garlic and mushrooms are well combined, and then add water and cover skillet with lid or aluminum foil to steam for about 5 minutes or til the water is fully evaporated and beans are tender.  Serve hot with your favorite chicken or other protein and potatoes or rice.  We made it with roast turkey and mashed potatoes and some of my homemade orange cranberry relish.