Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hamburger Noodle Casserole

Tonight's dinner was another yummy recipe from the Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet magazine. This lightened hamburger noodle casserole is sort of a homemade hamburger helper, but much tastier! The addition of ricotta, sour cream and cream cheese make it nice and gooey and the egg noodles keep it from being too much like a baked ziti. I made a few changes to the recipe - I used only 4 ounces of cream cheese but a cup and half of ricotta (I used fat free), omitted the onion, used whole wheat egg noodles and used shredded mozzarella in place of the cheddar. This was a nice, simple comforting recipe - and it makes a ton so you can enjoy the leftovers another a night!

Hamburger Noodle Casserole

5 cups uncooked egg noodles
1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 package (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese
1 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3 green onions, thinly sliced, divided
2/3 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Cook noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook beef and garlic until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the tomato sauce, sugar, salt and pepper; heat through. Drain noodles; stir into beef mixture. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, ricotta cheese and sour cream until blended. Stir in half of the onions. Spoon half of the noodle mixture into a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with cheese mixture and remaining noodle mixture. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake 5-10 minutes longer or until heated through and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with remaining onions.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie

Today was a snow day for Joe and I, and what better to do on a day like this than bake cookies? These Best, Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies definitely get a lot of face time on cooking blogs. Some people adore them and some find them overrated. I fall into the former category - I LOVE these cookies. They are by far my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. They come out just the way I like them - big and sturdy, soft in the middle and crisp on the edges. And loaded with chocolate! Two tips for making these cookies turn out fantastic - chill the dough for at least 2 hours in the fridge before baking and let the cookies cool completely on the cookie sheets. I think it's a combination of these two things that makes the cookies nice and chewy. Oh okay, and a third tip - make them big! They definitely lose something if you try to portion them smaller. I used my 1/4 cup ice cream scoop and recommend something similar! Definitely give these a try - even if they don't turn out to be your new favorites, you'll still have some kick-ass cookies!

Best, Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Cover dough and chill for 2 hours.
Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool completely on baking sheet.

Spicy Pork Sandwiches

My experiments with pork continue! This sandwich marks my first attempt at using ground pork. I spotted this recipe on kmay's blog and thought it looked like a nice throwback to summertime. What were supposed to be po'-boys morphed into plain old sandwiches when a yucky snow storm kept me from wanting to go to the store and get a baguette and lettuce. Instead I grilled these babies up and put "naked" the on wheat hamburger rolls. And they were delicious! The variety of seasonings make them nice and spicy, but the heat is nicely balanced by the mayo/mustard spread. I'll definitely make these again when the weather gets warmer - I know they'll be even better on the grill as opposed to on the stove top.

Spicy Pork Po-Boys

1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 medium kosher dill pickles, very finely chopped
1/2 small shallot, minced
Four 8-inch soft baguettes, split
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce (I used green leaf lettuce.)
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
Hot sauce, for serving

Preheat a grill pan. In a large bowl, using your hands, mix the ground pork with the paprika, thyme, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Form the pork into twelve 1/2-inch-thick patties. Grill the pork patties over moderate heat, turning once, until they are cooked through, about 8 minutes total.
Meanwhile, mix the mayonnaise with the Dijon mustard, pickles and shallot and season with salt and pepper. Spread the mayonnaise on both sides of the baguettes.
Place 3 pork patties on the bottom of each baguette and top with the lettuce, tomato and a few splashes of hot sauce. Close the sandwiches and serve.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lentil Sausage Soup

Joe and I eat lentils once a year - on New Year's Eve. Joe's grandmother Lucy believes that eating lentils at midnight on New Year's Eve will bring one luck and prosperity in the coming year. Each New Year's Eve Joe and I buy a can of lentil soup (Lucy used to make her own before her arthritis got the better of her) and dutifully eat a spoonful (and feed some to Roy, Roger and Tucker too) when the clock strikes 12 on January 1st. Each year we take our bite of lentil soup and say, "Mmmm, that's not bad. I'd eat that." But then we never do.

So when I spotted this recipe for sausage and lentil soup on Tara's blog I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try lentils on another occasion. And I'm glad I did - this soup is fantastic! I halved the recipe (the full version appears below) because it seemed like it would make a lot of soup. That was the right decision - Joe and I each had a nice big bowl and there are still a lot of leftovers! The only other changes I made was to sub spinach for the leeks (I stirred in a few cups of spinach right before I added the kielbasa) and to use turkey kielbasa for a little less fat and calories.

I was definitely happy with the way this turned out. It was the perfect cold Sunday evening supper. I wonder if eating lentils after New Year's Eve is also good luck? I hope so, because I could use some this week! :)

Lentil Sausage Soup

1 pound French green lentils (recommended: du Puy)
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for serving
4 cups diced yellow onions (3 large)
4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (2 leeks)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cups medium diced celery (8 stalks)
3 cups medium diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)
3 quarts chicken stock or broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 pound kielbasa, cut in 1/2 lengthwise and sliced 1/3-inch thick
2 tablespoons dry red wine or red wine vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.
In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and tender. Check the seasonings. Add the kielbasa and red wine and simmer until the kielbasa is hot. Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Must Make Chicken

You need to make this chicken. Now. Right now. What are you waiting for? Seriously - go make this chicken! I loooooved this dish (in case you couldn't tell)! I've had this recipe in my files for a long time and for some reason I had never made it. In fact, I don't even know where I got it, but I did track it down on Recipezaar. I selected it sort of spur of the moment last night and am so glad I did! The flavor of this is wonderful and the melty cheese and crunchy stuffing topping are a great contrast. I added about a cup of sliced mushrooms and and 2 cups of spinach to the sauce before pouring it over the chicken and I really liked this edition, plus it added some nutrients. I will most definitely be making this again - I was practically licking my plate!

Swiss Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 slices Swiss cheese
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup herb seasoned stuffing mix
1/4 cup butter, melted (I used cooking spray)

Arrange chicken in a lightly greased 13x9 inch baking dish. Top chicken with Swiss cheese. Combine soup and wine and stir until well mixed and spoon soup mixture evenly over chicken. Sprinkle with crumbled stuffing mix and drizzle melted butter over crumbs. Bake at 325° for one hour.

Honey Yeast Rolls

It's been way too long since I posted some bread, so here you go! I love, love, love making fresh bread and rolls, and mixing the dough in the bread machine makes it so much simpler. I did that with the dough for these amazing honey yeast rolls - I put all the ingredients (through the flour) in the bread machine on the dough cycle, then picked up the recipe in the third paragraph when my dough was done. So easy and so awesome! These rolls, courtesy of Amber, are delicious! Slightly sweet and soft and yeasty - yum! I followed Amber's suggestion and baked the rolls in a 9 x 13" baking dish and I recommend you do the same - I can't imagine all these big fluffy rolls fitting in a 9-inch pan. Joe and I gobbled up more than our share of these babies and are looking forward to polishing the rest off tomorrow!

Honey Yeast Rolls

2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup warm water (105°-115° F)
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 cups bread flour, separated
vegetable cooking spray
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast and warm water. Add the honey, oil, salt, and egg and mix well. Add 3 cups of the flour and mix until the dough comes together in a sticky mass. With the mixer on low speed, add the remaining 1 cup flour and mix until it is incorporated into the dough. Switch to the dough hook, and continue kneading on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk, about 2 hours.*

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 30 seconds. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.Punch the dough down and divide into 12 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball and place into a round, lightly greased baking dish, spacing evenly. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 20 minutes. Mix together the melted butter and honey, and brush lightly over the tops of the rolls. Bake at 400° for 13-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*To utilize your bread machine, put all ingredients (through flour) into the machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer and select the dough cycle. Once dough is done, proceed with paragraph 3 of the recipe.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Parmesan Potato Balls

I've mentioned before that my side dishes are often lacking in the creativity department. Rice, roasted potatoes, cheesy pasta - that's pretty much my repertoire. So when I spotted this recipe for Parmesan potato balls in the Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet magazine (a really great purchase, by the way!) I knew I had to give them a try. I'm going to link to the original recipe here, but I made a lot of changes so I'm posting my modified version below. First off, I'm lazy when it comes to mashed potatoes. DH and I are both perfectly content with instant mashed potatoes so I just can't be bothered going through the process of boiling and mashing potatoes. Plus, while I had cornflakes in my pantry for the crust, I didn't feel like crushing them up (hey, it was Friday night, what can I say?) so I used breadcrumbs instead.

These potato balls were really good! They had a nice crunchy exterior with a warm, creamy interior - very comforting. Plus, they had great flavor from the onion soup mix and hot sauce. Joe and I both liked these and I'll definitely be adding them to my side dish rotation!

Parmesan Potato Balls

3 cups prepared mashed potatoes
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 teaspoons onion soup mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 dash pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs

In a large mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese into the potatoes until smooth. Stir in Parmesan cheese, soup mix, salt, hot pepper sauce and pepper. Shape into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place the egg and breadcrumbs in separate shallow bowls. Dip potato balls in egg, then roll in crumbs. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 400 for 15-18 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mini Cheseburger Meatloaves

This is one of those recipes that is so good you honestly can't believe how simple it was. I've actually made these before, but for some reason they have yet to make it on the blog -probably because they're hard to get a nice picture of! They may not be pretty, but they are delicious! This is an Everyday Food recipe that I found on the Joy Through Cooking blog and made just a few modifications to. These little meatloaves take all of five minutes to assemble and bake in 20 minutes, so they're a perfect weeknight meal. And they're full of flavor! It's amazing that a simple glaze of ketchup and mustard can be so tasty, but it is - like eating a juicy cheeseburger without the bun. I definitely recommend these for a family-pleasing meal!

Mini Cheeseburger Meatloaves

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 pound extra lean ground beef
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons mustard and ketchup. In a medium bowl, combine beef, egg, breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup cheddar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and teaspoon pepper. Form into four 2-by-4-inch loaves; place on baking sheet. Brush with mustard mixture; top with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar.

Transfer meatloaves to upper rack of oven. Bake until loaves are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating sheets after 10 minutes. Remove loaves from oven.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Marble-ous Peanut Butter Dessert

This dessert is frozen chocolate peanut butter perfection! My mother-in-law called this past Saturday to invite Joe and I over for dinner on Sunday and I offered to bring a dessert. I had plans during the day on Sunday, so I was going to need to make whatever it was I decided to make on Saturday. I didn't want to have to go to the store, so I perused my cookbooks to find a dessert that I already had all the ingredients for. It didn't take me long to select this one, from the Best of Pillsbury Bake-Off Desserts cookbook. I'd actually been eyeing this recipe for awhile and I had everything on hand, plus it sounded light and refreshing, which would be a good compliment to the gnocchi my mother-in-law was serving for our meal.

This dessert is super simple to put together. I made only a few changes. I used fat free cool whip in place of the whipping cream and since I was feeling lazy and didn't want to bother melting chocolate I swirled in a few tablespoons of hot fudge sauce.

This was a big hit! Everyone loved it. It's the perfect mix of creamy and crunchy, with just the right amount of peanut butter and hints of chocolate. I think I'll make sure to always have the ingredients on hand for this one!

Marble-ous Peanut Butter Dessert

1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. flour
1 c. (6 oz. pkg.) chocolate chips

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 c. (1/2 pt.) whipping cream, whipped & sweetened

In small mixer bowl, cream brown sugar, peanut butter and butter until light and fluffy. Add flour; blend until crumbly. Sprinkle into ungreased 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Set aside half of crumb mixture (about 1 cup) for topping. Lightly press remaining crumb mixture over bottom of pan.Prepare filling. Pour over crumb mixture in pan. Melt chocolate chips; drizzle over filling. Gently cut through to marble.

Sprinkle with reserved crumbs; press in slightly. Freeze at least 2 hours or until serving. Remove from freezer 1 minutes before serving.Filling: In small mixture bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, peanut butter and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. By hand, fold in whipping cream.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cheesy Tomato Chicken Skillet

Joe and I are typically fans of chicken pasta dishes, so this Kraft recipe from Julie's blog caught my eye immediately. It looked delicious and seemed quick and easy. I whipped this up for dinner Friday night and we weren't disappointed with it all! I made a few modifications (reflected below) to the original recipe. I added sliced baby portabella mushrooms for reason other than I like mushrooms and liked the idea of adding another veggie to the dish, and, like Julie, I used a 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes instead of fresh. To lighten it up a bit I used skim milk, Healthy Request soup and just a small handful of mozzarella as opposed to a full cup, and I added a variety of seasonings to liven it up. I cooked this in a deep pasta pot rather than a skillet to avoid splatter so mine was a little saucier than I think was intended, but we like a lot of sauce so it was good - all the better to dip breadsticks in ;) Joe and I both really liked this - it's a great hearty and comforting meal in a snap.

Cheesy Tomato Chicken Skillet

2 cups of pasta
3/4 lbs chicken, cut into pieces
1 can Healthy Request cream of chicken soup
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cup of milk
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

Cook the pasta as directed. Heat 10 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken & cook thoroughly. Reduce heat to medium; stir in soup, tomatoes, milk and seasonings. Stir in cooked pasta. Cook about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until bubbly & heated through. Sprinkle with cheese. Reduce heat, cover & let stand about 5 minutes.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Happy Birthday Joe!

Today my wonderful husband turns the big 3-0! I was lucky enough to be by side the day he turned 18, and I plan to be by his side the day he turns 80 as well. He's the best husband that a girl could ever ask for and I am thankful each and every day that he belongs to me. But I am not the only person who thinks so highly of him, as evidenced by the huge outpouring of love for his 30th! 45 of his friends and family gathered last Sunday for a surprise party in his honor, and today at work he was showered with gifts, cards, balloons and home-baked treats from his students. See, turning 30 isn't so bad! Happy birthday, baby!

The surprise party:

I think I got him ;)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Baked Potato Soup

Soup is the perfect winter food, yet I hardly ever make it. In fact, in the past 16 months that I've had this blog I've only made soup twice. But this recipe from Rachel's blog made me want soup a lot more often! This soup rocks! It's rich and creamy and pretty close to perfect. In an attempt to lighten the recipe a bit I used skim milk and turkey bacon, but you certainly couldn't notice the lighter ingredients in this delicious soup - it tastes like super creamy mashed potatoes. I'll definitely make this again soon!

Baked Potato Soup

4 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 ounces)
6 cups 2% reduced-fat milk (I used skim)
1 cup (4 ounces) reduced-fat shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 teaspoon salt (I used more)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I used more)
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided (I omitted)
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (I used turkey bacon)
Cracked black pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.
Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400° for 1 hour or until tender. Cool. Peel potatoes; coarsely mash. (I microwaved the potatoes for about 20 minutes, then scooped out the insides.)
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place flour in a large Dutch oven; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes). Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat.
Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Ladle 1 1/2 cups soup into each of 8 bowls. Sprinkle each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons onions, and about 1 tablespoon bacon. Garnish with cracked pepper, if desired.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Chicken

Everything's better with bacon, right? I found this recipe on my friend's Sarah's blog, A Taste of Home Cooking, and knew right away that I had to try it. Like Sarah's husband, Joe isn't a fan of blue cheese so I took Sarah's substitution of cream cheese, and I used turkey bacon since that's what Joe bought at the store. I also left out the arugula because I'm not a fan, and used two slices of bacon per chicken breast. This chicken is soooo good! Juicy and gooey and creamy, and the bacon adds a great flavor. We liked this a LOT!

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Chicken

4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
A handful baby arugula, chopped (I omitted)
A handful baby spinach leaves, chopped
8 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a small sharp knife cut into the thick end of the chicken and make an incision reaching 2/3 the way down the breast. Loosen up the incision with your fingers to make a hole. Combine the cream cheese with arugula and baby spinach, season with salt and pepper and stuff into the breasts. Wrap the breasts with the bacon tightly to cover the meat evenly. Place chicken on a nonstick baking sheet and roast 20 to 25 minutes until bacon is crispy and chicken is firm.


For Christmas this year my wonderful bosses gave me a ton of cooking and baking stuff - including a waffle iron. I very rarely cook breakfast, but Joe and I couldn't let our winter break slide by without breaking in the waffle iron and today we finally got the chance to use it. Nothing fancy our first time out of the gate - I used Aunt Jemima pancake and waffle mix. Joe fried up some turkey bacon while I manned the waffle iron. I found that overfilling the iron just a tad made the best waffles - nice and full and fluffy. Joe's waffles were plain and topped with strawberries, bananas and whipped cream. I put chocolate chips in mine and ate them topped with a little margarine and sugar-free syrup. Mmmmm....

Roger enjoyed watching us make waffles - and protected Joe's whipped cream!