Sunday, August 24, 2008

Best Dinner Yet

Carl decided he wanted to have his parents over for dinner. I obliged and said we should make a rockin dinner. That we did. I don't think I've ever had a dinner with so much flavor. The IL's kept saying they felt like they were eating at a restaurant :) The menu consisted of Grilled Steak with Blue Cheese & Herb Butter, Mediterranean Orzo Salad and Roasted Potato Bites. First up...the beef.

Blue Cheese & Herb Butter
1/4 c butter, softened
2 tbsp crumbled blue cheese
2 tsp chopped green onion with top
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

4 garlic cloves, pressed
4 beef ribeye steaks, cut 3/4 inch thick (about 8 ounces each)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

For Blue Cheese and Herb Butter, place butter and blue cheese in a small bowl. Add green onion, lemon juice and black pepper and mix until well blended.

Prepare grill for cooking at medium temperature. For steaks, press garlic cloves and spread over both sides of the steaks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place steaks on grid of grill. Grill uncovered, 6-8 minutes for medium rare (145 degrees) to medium (160 degrees) doneness, turning occasionally. Top steaks with Blue Cheese & Herb Butter.

Notes: I was more in the mood for a we did that instead. Because of that, the cooking time was more like 12 minutes due to the thickness of the steaks. Other than that...we left it all the same. OMG- so good! (Lindsay, my fellow blue cheese lover,...if you are reading this- make it now!

Next up: Roasted Potato Bites
12 small red potatoes, unpeeled
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
4 ounces chive and onion cream cheese spread
3 tbsp sour cream

Optional toppings such as grated cheddar cheese, bacon bits and snipped fresh chives.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut potatoes in half crosswise. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each potato half. Carefully scoop out a small amount of pulp from each potato half. In medium mixing bowl combine oil, garlic, salt and black pepper. Add potato halves and toss to coat.

Place potato halves, hollowed side down, on a bar pan or cookie sheet. Bake 30-32 minutes or until deep golden brown and tender. Remove from oven, cool slightly.

In small mixing bowl, combine cream cheese spread and sour cream; whisk until smooth. Spoon a dab onto each potato and top with optional toppings.

Notes: I just used 8 potatoes because there were only 4 of us, but I still just made the normal amount of everything. That worked out well as the sour cream and cream cheese mixture was so good I wanted to use WAY more than it called for on each potato. These were seriously so good. I could have made a meal out of them alone.

And Last: Mediterranean Orzo Salad

(Monica...this one is for you :) )
1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed and in 1 inch pieces
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium red onion, sliced into 1/2 inch wedges
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper optional
3/4 c uncooked orzo pasta
1 can garbanzo beans
1 package (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/2 c pitted whole kalamata olives
1/2 c snipped fresh parsley
1/4 c prepared Greek vinaigrette dressing

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine asparagus, bell pepper, onion and oil in a medium mixing bowl. Press garlic into mixing bowl; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

Arrange vegetables on a bar pan (or cookie sheet). Bake 25-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender and deep golden brown. Remove from oven; cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare orzo according to package directions, drain and rinse under cold running water. Place orzo in large mixing bowl, add vegetable mixture, beans, feta cheese, olives, parsley and salad dressing. Toss gently and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more.

My Notes: Soooo much flavor. And since I had to send Carl on a mad search for orzo, I did things a little out of order- but it worked fine. It made enough for about 12 people- this could be a great dish to take to a gathering. The salad definitely got better the longer it sat in the fridge and I'm pretty anxious to see how good it is after sitting overnight. Yum.

I was honestly pretty proud of this meal- it took a good hour and half or so, but it was worth the time and energy!! Oh and sorry...the pic isn't really the greatest. I was too excited to eat it!

German Apple Pancake

I contemplated making a fancy breakfast on Saturday morning, but I realized we had too much to do, so Carl just made a donut run. Well this morning I woke up and found Carl looking at the cookbook with the "fancy breakfast" I was > < this close to making. I knew he was desperate for something more than cereal. So...

Apple Filling:
1 small Granny Smith apple
2 tsp butter or margarine
1/4 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 c milk
2 tsp butter or margarine (melted)

Powdered sugar or warm maple syrup (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray small oval baker with nonstick cooking spray. For apple filling, peel, core and slice apple into thin quarters. Melt butter in small saute pan over medium heat. Add apple, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook 20 minutes or until apple is very tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.

Meanwhile, for pancake, combine flour, sugar and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Then whisk together eggs, milk and melted butter in a small mixing bowl. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; whisk until dry ingredients are moistened. (Batter will still be slightly lumpy.) Pour batter into baker. Spoon apple mixture evenly over batter. Bake 20-23 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Remove from oven; sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. Cut into wedges and serve with maple sypup, if desired.

Yield: 2 servings

Notes: I didn't change a thing, because baking is a science...and science kind of scares me.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Florentine Cookie Towers

So....the wedding is over. And we love dessert. Wedding Over + Love Dessert = Dessert Every Night :) But I like to try different ones all the time, so this recipe out of Pampered Chef's Cooking for Two was perfect! It looked light and yummy and it was!

1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp finely chopped almonds
1/2 c ice cream
1/2 c fresh berries (straw, blue, or rasp)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet or stone with parchment paper. Whisk together butter, corn syrup, flour and sugar. Divide mixture evenly into two circles on the parchment paper. Spread evenly into 5 inch circles at least 2 inches apart from each other, sprinkle with almonds.

Bake 13-15 minutes or until deep golden brown. Remove from oven, immediately cut each circle in half using a pizza cutter. Slide parchment paper onto a cooling rack and then lay each cookie half over a clean pop can (or a round drinking glass). Cool completely.

For each serving, place one scoop of ice cream onto serving plate. Stand up two cookie halves, surrounding ice cream to form a tower. Top with berries and sprinkle with almonds and or powdered sugar.

Makes 2 servings.

My notes: I used round drinking glasses instead of pop cans...that seemed easier than digging out pop cans and cleaning them. And...unfortunately I forgot to sprinkle with powdered sugar. This was really yummy, but next time I will definitely drizzle chocolate syrup over the top. That would make it TO DIE!

America's Favorite Pot Roast

So I had that other half of the roast we had last week hanging out in the freezer. I decided to thaw it out and cook the other beef recipe that looked good in my Crock Pot cookbook. They've deemed it "America's Favorite," but I think it needs more seasoning. Both Carl and I agree that next time I will either add a package of onion soup mix (thanks Mon) or coat the top with mustard. But all in all....this was a good, tender pot roast!

3 1/2 to 4 pound boneless pot roast
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 carrots, pared, sliced lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 small onions, sliced
1 stalk celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
10 button mushrooms, sliced

Trim all excess fat from roast; brown and drain if using chuck or
another highly marbled cut. Combine 1/4 cup flour, the salt and pepper.
Coat meat with the flour mixture. Place all vegetables except
mushrooms in Crock-Pot and top with roast (cut roast in half, if
necessary, to fit easily). Spread mushrooms evenly over top
of roast. Cover and cook on Low for 10 to 12 hours.

Servings 4

Notes: So what did I do different? For starters, my roast was only 2lbs, so I cut the cooking time to about 6.5 hours. It was well done at that point, still very tender, but well. Next time I will start checking it at 5 hours. I dashed the top with thyme and paprika, but again, next time I'll add onion soup mix or coat the top with mustard- I think either will do the trick to give it a little kick! Lastly, don't forget the salt and pepper to needs a little more oomph.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chicken & Asparagus Risotto Skillet

I'm continuing to find new recipes to try and I must say, so far so good. We have a friend in culinary school that came over last winter and made us the most delicious risotto. OMG it was good. Well...I didn't exactly want to compete with that, but I've been dying to have risotto again! So when I stumbled across this quick recipe, I knew I had to try it. I was so determined to make this that even after my asparagus in the fridge went bad and Meijer was out- I made an extra stop at Kroger just to make sure I had all the ingredients! This was the perfect coming home meal for Carl who has been gone all week!

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. olive oil
1/3 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 oz. fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
1 T lemon zest
2 cups milk
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1/2 lb. fresh asparagus cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups instant long-grain rice

Season chicken with 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in skillet and cook chicken 5-7 minutes on each side or until chicken is no longer pink.

Remove chicken from skillet; keep warm. Add milk, soup, asparagus, onion, garlic. cheese, lemon zest and remaining 1/4 tsp. salt to skillet. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes.

Stir in rice; top with chicken. Cover pan; remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Serves 4-6.
This is yet another recipe from Pampered Chef (I have a bunch of the cookbooks).

Notes: I actually used 3/4 c of cheese because I just love cheese and an extra clove of garlic...well because I love garlic. You could definitely taste the lemon zest every once in awhile- which was an awesome flavor addition- but if you aren't a fan I think you could easily leave it out. From start to finish, this took me 45 minutes- not bad.

Carl loved it. I'm a fan. It will stay in our regular rotation. (He thought he would be funny and give the wine glass bunny ears...he didn't know he was in the picture :) )

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mom's Apple Crisp

I wanted to make something special for dessert tonight. We've been lazy and just making little chocolate malts, but tonight we are dog sitting so we decided to take Buster for a walk to Kroger and get some fun stuff.

Ok, another Pampered Chef recipe.
4-6 Granny Smith apples
8 graham crackers, finely chopped
3/4 c packed sugar
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c quick or old fashioned oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c butter or margarine
ice cream is optional

1. Peel, core and slice apples using. Cut apples in half; place in Deep Dish Baker (This is a PC stoneware dish that can go in the microwave or oven).
2. Finely chop graham crackers using Food Chopper; place in Classic Batter Bowl. Add brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon and nutmeg; mix well. Place butter in microwave on HIGH 1 minute or until melted. Add butter; mix well.
3. Sprinkle graham cracker mixture evenly over apples. Microwave on HIGH 12-15 minutes or until apples are tender, rotating dish after 6 minutes. Cool slightly; serve warm topped with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.
Yield: 10 servings

My notes: Well there are only 2 of us, so I cut this pretty much in half, and used the small oval stoneware from PC. It only needed 7 minutes in the microwave and it was delish! Oh and in my opinion- the ice cream is a MUST!

Shrimp Linguine

We were in the mood for something different, so I searched the cookbooks for something I'd never made before. I came across Shrimp Linguine in one of my Pampered Chef cookbooks. It has a lot of ingredients, but the mix is really quite delicious!

3/4 pound uncooked shell-on medium shrimp (about 20-30), peeled, de veined and tails removed. Frozen shrimp can be substituted for the fresh shrimp, if desired. Simply thaw the shrimp and proceed as recipe directs.
3/4 cup coarsely chopped carrots (2 medium)
2 large plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 cup sliced green onions with tops
1/3 cup (1 1/2 oz) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
8 ounces uncooked linguine
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 cup fat-free evaporated milk
1/4 cup snipped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Additional grated fresh Parmesan cheese (optional)

  1. Peel and devein shrimp; remove tails. Coarsely chop carrots using food chopper. Dice tomatoes and slice green onions using chefs knife. Grate Parmesan cheese using deluxe cheese grater.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions in professional (4 qt) casserole; drain. Return pasta to casserole; cover and keep warm.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in large (10 inch) saute' pan. Add shrimp, carrots and garlic pressed with garlic press. Cook and stir over medium heat 3-4 minutes or just until shrimp turns pink; remove from skillet and keep warm.
  4. Gently heat sour cream and evaporated milk in same skillet over low heat whisking with nylon spiral whisk. (Do not boil). Stir in Parmesan cheese. Add shrimp mixture, tomatoes, green onions, basil, salt and black pepper; mix gently. Pour shrimp and vegetable mixture over pasta; toss gently to coat. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.
I wouldn't say this is my favorite meal, but if you are in the mood for pasta and shrimp it will definitely do the trick! Although both Carl and I agree that the next time I make it, I'm going to try a spicy chicken instead of shrimp!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Quick Kielbasa & Kraut

So tonight had to be quick and simple. I was just planning on having leftovers, but Carl was actually able to stay home longer than expected before leaving for that meant another new meal. This isn't very exciting, but the thing I like about it is that the ingredients will stay good in your pantry/fridge for a long time. So it's a good meal to having "laying around."

1 package of Polish Kielbasa
1 small can of sauerkraut
1 tsp of chili powder

Slice the kielbasa to 1/4 inch thick pieces and fry in a pan until they start to darken up. (I personally like it more on the burned side, but obviously, however you like it is how you should cook it) Drain about half of the grease and then add the contents of the sauerkraut can and top with the chili powder. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. You'll know its done because the sauerkraut will start to have a cararmel brown color. I served this with my quick loaded baked potatoes (poke holes in the potato and stick in the microwave for 7ish minutes= perfection). If you serve it alone, it will feed about 2 people, give it a side dish and serve more like 4.

My notes: I've decided that sauerkraut is my beer. It's an acquired taste, but after trying it a few times I fell in love. I'm not sure which I like more, the smell or the taste. BUT if you don't like it...clearly you are not going to like this meal. If you do...yum!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mom's Mac & Cheese

Growing up, my favorite meal my mom used to make was Macaroni & Cheese. I'm not talking Kraft- although I've never been one to turn down anything that includes cheese! This is homemade, real cheese, real butter stick to your thighs Mac & Cheese. I get cravings for it all the time, and am sure to make the full recipe so I can have it for lunch days later! YUM!

1 stick of butter
3 cups of milk
3 tbsp of flour
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
1 pound of cooked elbow macaroni (or your favorite noodle for cheese)
1 large chunk of sharp cheddar (cubed)
1 medium chunk of swiss (cubed)

Melt the stick of butter and milk and add the flour to make a paste. Then add the cheese and stir. Add more milk or flour to get the consistency you like. Pour the cheese over the cooked macaroni in a casserole pan. Top it with the bread crumbs and bake for 45 minutes at 375. Then enjoy! This will easily feed an entire family- but trust me, make the whole recipe. You'll want more later!

My notes: I have none- this recipe in my mind is perfect. I don't mess with my mom's perfection :)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I'm a Meat and Potatoes Kind of Girl

Through and through, I will take a good red meat and potato over just about anything else I'm offered. So when I realized I had all day today to make dinner, I opened my slow cooker cook book and landed on "Spicy Beef Roast." I chose mashed potatoes and asparagus as the side dishes and it turned out really well.

The Spicy Beef Roast really wasn't spicy but it definitely had a LOT of flavor. It calls for a 3lb roast, but I bought a 4lb roast, cut it in half, food saved one part and cooked the other. It made enough for 4 people. So the saying is true, about 1/2 lb per person.

3 lb round tip roast
1 tbs cracked black peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dry mustard

Rub the cracked pepper and garlic into the roast. Place the roast in the Crock Pot and make several shallow slits in the top of the roast. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the meat. Cover, cook low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5.

My notes: Like I said, I used a 2 lb roast, but still followed the sauce instructions. 3 hours on high was plenty of time. I also turned the roast about every hour. Then when it was done, I added about half a cup of flour to the leftover sauce and it made a very flavorful gravy for the mashed potatoes and put more juice into the meat. I steamed the asparagus for 11 minutes (perfect) and used my handy Kitchen Aid for the mashed potatoes. Overall, the meal gets a 10!


Ah yes, I'm joining the food blog world. I've decided to do it for two reasons: 1. The wedding is over and so I can really focus on what I make for dinner instead of that pesky wedding to do list. 2. I have a HORRIBLE memory and can barely remember what we ate last night, much less last week. So hopefully this will remind me how much I liked certain recipes...or maybe not so much.

I am no chef. I love my cooking tools, but that doesn't mean I am good with them. So I will try to give fair warning on any and all of my meals if they aren't exactly superb. And lastly, I grew up as the baby in a family of 8. Even when I was the last one there, my mom was still making enough food for 8. I have inherited this trait. But I am a huge fan of leftovers as lunch, so it works for me. Don't worry though, I will tell you how many people my meals feed, so you can always cut down on the proportions. Enjoy and happy cooking!
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