Thursday, April 16, 2015

Roasted Asparagus and Pancetta Carbonara

Time for April's Improv Cooking Challenge!

The theme for this month is asparagus and egg- a perfect combo for spring! I initially thought about doing a simple salad with roasted asparagus, a poached egg and a little cheese, but my family was craving pasta. Ron and I love carbonara and I knew this was a perfect opportunity to mix in one of my favorite spring veggies. I was torn between roasting my asparagus or grilling, but decided that roasting is a little easier (and I was feeling a little lazy), but if you are up for grilling is would be a delicious adaption. I loved the fresh flavors from the roasted asparagus, the rich pasta and the wonderfully salty pancetta- this was one amazingly delicious plate of pasta. Kellen, Ron and I gobbled this down in no time flat, and the leftover pasta made fantastic leftover for work lunches the following day. 

One more day till Florida....and I have lots to do- eekkk! I have Kellen pretty set to go, but my clothes are still wet in the washer and suitcase empty (we are going to the beach how much do we really need??).  Tonight, I am finishing my suitcase and I have a volleyball game later in the evening. I am also starting a nice big pot of meat sauce for Ron while I am gone during the week. I also need to finish organizing my freezer because we recently bought a 1/4 of a cow and I have more steaks than I know what to do with (what a horrible problem to have)! Finally, I am hoping to grab an ice cream with my friend Kayla before I leave.... seems like I am going to have a busy night.... 

If you want to join the fun of the Improv Cooking Challenge visit Lesa of Edesia's Notebook for details! 

Stay tuned for next month's recipe using cilantro and lime! 


2 pounds asparagus trimmed 
1 Tbl olive oil
Black Pepper
4 oz chopped pancetta
 2 small shallots, diced
1 cup  dry white wine
4 eggs
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup cream
1 lb pasta


Preheat oven to  350°. Place asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a small amount of salt and black pepper on the asparagus. Roast till al dente, remove from oven and chop into 1-2 inch pieces. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

Place pancetta in a large rimmed skillet and saute till semi-crisp. 

While pancetta cooks, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together cheese, eggs and cream. Set aside. 

Add white wine to the skillet with the pancetta. Allow it to gently simmer and reduce for about 10 minutes. 

Add pasta to pancetta mixture and toss. Remove from heat and add the egg mixtures while quickly tossing the pasta.  Gently stir in the asparagus to warm. Serve immediately. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mini Chocolate Chip Cheesecakes

Hump day and 2 days till we leave for vacation! The weather has been great in Wisconsin, but I can't wait to feel the ocean breeze on my skin and the cool water. 

Kellen has been taking swimming lessons with my Mom on Wednesdays in preparation for the trip, but last week was the final class- I need to remember to call and sign them up for round 2! Kellen really enjoys the water and we are so lucky that my Mom loves to swim because with our work schedules it is hard to get to a class weekly. 

On to the cheesecake. 

I was looking for a cheesecake recipe to bring to Easter dinner and I found these Mini Chocolate Chip Cheesecakes. Originally, I was thinking a salted caramel or toffee, but sometimes simple is better and I knew our family would love these little bites. The original recipe makes 8 mini cheesecakes, but I doubled it and came out with 18 mini cheesecakes.  These were a big hit with my family and everyone said they were delicious! I loved how easy they were and that it was a perfect bite to end the meal. They also travel nicely and, even though it is a short, trip it is one less thing to worry about.  The only changes I made to the recipe were minor, I used chocolate graham crackers over regular and opted for mini chocolate chips over regular sized chips. I love using mini chocolate chips in desserts like this because you get a lot morsel of chocolate in each bite.  I also topped the cheesecakes with a little whipped cream and extra mini chocolate chips. (plain is delicious too if you prefer that).  

Tonight, I am in pack mode for our trip. My goal is to get Kellen all squared away tonight and have my clothing and swim stuff packed. We are leaving right after I am done with work on Friday and I want to be set to go when Ron drives us to my parents house (Ron has to work and had to sit this trip out- next time!).  I always buy myself a few new outfits for trips and am in love with a colorful maxi dress I got on Zulily- can't wait to put it on! Yesterday, I made a Target run for our toiletries and miscellaneous stuff (i.e. plane entertainment for Kellen). My in-laws are also coming for dinner and to spend a little time with Kellen before we leave for our trip. 

Kellen is really excited to ride the plane and this will be his third plane ride and the shortest one to date. This trip will be about 3 hours which feels like a breeze compared to the 7 1/2 hours to Paris last summer! What I learned last time is to bring lots new books, stickers and snacks....made for a happy toddler. He also really liked playing puzzles on my Kindle. Kellen's cousin (he is 6) will be there as well and will probably have a movie they can watch together (Kellen s loving Lion King and Nemo lately). 

Let the trip preparation begin!


2 cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbl brown sugar
 pinch salt
6 Tbl butter, melted

2 8 oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips (plus extra for topping)
Whipped Cream, for topping (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 cups of a muffin pan with paper liners.

To make to crust, mix together graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and salt. Pour in melted butter and stir with a small spatula to moisten all the crumbs.

Place about a tablespoon to one and a half tablespoon of crumb mixture in each of the prepared muffin cups and pack down into an even layer.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (you can usr hand held too), cream together cream cheese, sour cream and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla extract. Fold in the mini chocolate chips and stir to evenly distribute.

 Evenly divide cheesecake batter between the muffin cups.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheesecakes are set. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin pan, then carefully transfer cheesecakes to a cooling rack to cool completely before refrigerating.

To serve, add a whipped cream to each cheesecake and a sprinkle of chocolate chips. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Kale Salad with Homemade Poppy Seed Dressing

Time for April Secret Recipe Club

This month I missed the sign-up for a the swap, but thankfully there was blogger in need and I was happy to step in an make a recipe. I received the blog The Pinterest Kitchen. I love the concept of the blog:  3 ladies testing and making popular recipes and projects from Pinterest to let their reader know if the recipes are really worth all the hype! It was hard to choose one recipe from their blog- Korean Beef, Honey Lime Sririacha Grilled Chicken and "OMG" Sour Cream Chicken all sounded fantastic.  However, I had almost settled on a recipe when Kale Salad with Homemade Poppy Seed Dressing was posted. The recipe was from an Amish family, but was pretty much identical to the superfood salad sold at Costco.  The salad caught my eye because I am addicted to that salad! It is so delicious and I never think the make it at home.  The recipe was so simple and (the the author said) I had most of the ingredients on hand- I loved the suggestion to use apple slices in the salad!  I brought this salad to share with my family on Easter because they are also superfood salad lovers. The verdict? The salad was amazing! I loved the dressing and the crunchy greens were delicious and refreshing.  I can't wait to make this recipe again (and never need to buy bagged salad!).

We have another day of sunshine and I am excited to get to the park tonight for a quick play before dinner!

 Have a wonderful Monday everyone!


1 Tbl apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Italian dressing
1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
salt and pepper to taste

6 to 8 cups of chopped kale
1/2 small red cabbage chopped
Stalks from 1 head of broccoli, julianed and halved 
6 large sliced brussel sprouts, trimmed and sliced thin
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds


Mix together dressing ingredients, cover and place in fridge so ingredients can marry while you make the rest of the salad.
Chop enough kale to fill your salad bowl (enough for about 4 people).
Slice 5-6 brussel sprouts thinly and add to salad.
Juliane a few broccoli stalks (save the tops for another recipe). Add to salad.
Add thin slices of red cabbage to the salad, along with a handful each of pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries.
Immediately before service, toss with dressing.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weekly Meal Plan 4/13 - 4/19

Good evening! 

This weekend was so beautiful, the temperature reached 70 degrees and the sun was shinning. It is hard to ask for anything more! 

On Friday night, Ron, Kellen and I met our friends Amanda and David for pho and curry at one of our favorite Thai restaurants in the Appleton area. I know when I order pho Kellen will devour his portion and I usually need to ask for extra noodles when we are sharing. Tonight was no different than the norm, and the little guy ate noodles and broth like he had a hollow leg.  We headed to bed early because  Ron has to work a 12 hour shift on Saturday at 6:00- makes for a long day!  A quick side story from our ride home from daycare, Kellen has decided to quiz me. As we drove Kellen said to me, "mama say sky" and I said "sky", "mama say cloud" "cloud", "mama say alligator" "alligator". "Good job mama". I guess I passed the test. 

The next morning Ron was up before Kellen and I rolled out of bed (Kellen gets up at 5:30 so that is not saying much). Kellen and I got ready, picked up my sister and nephew and headed to The Big Event for Little Kids to meet our big and little friends. The Big Event is really wonderful and there are tons of hands on crafts and projects for the kids. Kellen was a little overwhelmed by the whole thing and will probably enjoy it more when we is a little older. My nephew and my friends older daughter were the perfect age and loved all of the different activities.  My favorite area was filled with sensory tables with all different things little hands could explore. Another favorite was sitting in a real cement mixer!

Here are a few photos from our morning:

After the Big Event we went to grab burgers and a nap! I did a few things around the house before dropped Kellen at my in-laws house before grabbing Mexican take-out for Ron and I.  Since Ron and I had a free night we headed out for a little karaoke with our friend Emily. Emily is an awesome singer and killed her songs (Ron did great too!). I haven't sang in a long time and didn't get in the saddle tonight, but will next time around! We only stayed for a bit and were excited for a chance to sleep in because Mr. 5:30 AM was out of the house for the night!  

Sunday morning I ran to the grocery store and we headed to our friend to visit their new baby girl and bring them a meal. After our visit we stopped at the Rainbow Playground outlet to order Kellen's new play set with my mom. After,  we grabbed lunch and picked up Kellen from his grandparent's house. Kellen has such a wonderful time he didn't want to leave!  Once we got home we all relaxed and got our brats ready because my parents came for dinner. We spent a good portion of the evening outside enjoying the weather. Poor Kellen took his first digger of the season and scratched his poor little nose! Cuddles with mom always makes the bumps better!

This week we are getting ready for our trip and I have lots of laundry on my list. We are also going to take advantage of the nice weather and make sure that we get to the park. I also have a volleyball game later in the week that I am really looking forward to! 

Have a great week! 

Here is what is on tap: 

Monday: Slow Cooker Poor Man's Beef Stew, Salad and Rolls
Tuesday: Out with my In-Laws
Wednesday: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Garlic Bread and Salad
Thursday:  Junk Yard Special and Salad
Friday: Out to Culver's
Saturday: Florida!
Sunday: Florida!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Curry Honey Mustard Pork Tenderloin

Anyone else saying TGIF today? I can't tell you how happy I am that the weekend is almost here! 

Are you looking for a great pork tenderloin recipe to make on Saturday night? This recipe highlights one of my favorite flavor combinations- honey and curry. I love the sweet heat combo and paired with pork and a cream sauce this meal is fantastic. I added a little ginger and cilantro to the marinade as well because I like the extra kick from the ginger and freshness from the cilantro. The only word of caution I have on this recipe is that is that you need to watch your pork because of the sugar from the honey it can burn easily, but you can combat that by rotating it frequently. My family loved this recipe, and Kellen gobbled it up (like I said previously- he loves pork tenderloin). 

Tonight we are heading out for Pho and curry, and to see my friend Amanda. We are up bright and early tomorrow to go to the Big Event for Little Kids with friends, and after that Kellen is going to visit Ron's parents for the evening and we might actually get to head out for a few drinks with friends! We may have to play it by ear since Ron will be working a 12 hour Saturday and may want to crash..... but that doesn't mean I can't sneak out for a bit! 

Have a great weekend everyone! 


1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 1/2 Tbl soy sauce
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (heaping) Tbl curry powder
1/4 cup honey
Two pork tenderloins (about 1 lb each)
1 Tbl olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and Pepper


In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup oil, mustard, soy sauce, ginger, cilantro, salt, garlic, curry powder and honey.  Place pork tenderloin into a large resealable bag and pour marinate over the meat and toss to coat. Marinate for at least 4 hours, but 8 hours is recommended. 

Remove pork from marinate (reserve for sauce) and heat 1 Tbl olive oil over medium-high heat in an oven safe skillet. Brown pork tenderloin on all sides. Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, turning every so often to prevent scorching, or until the pork registers 155-160 degrees.

While the pork is roasting, pour remaining reserved marinade into a saucepan, and over medium-high heat. Bring the sauce to a boil and allow it to cook uncovered, stirring regularly, until the marinade has reduced by about 1/3. Whisk in the cream and broth.  Season with salt and pepper if desired. Keep warm over low heat if the sauce is finished before the pork.

Remove pork from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Slice pork tenderloin and spoon sauce over the top. Serve immediately. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Slow Cooker Cuban Sandwiches

Cuban sandwiches rank, to me, are at the top of the sandwich food chain. I worked at a restaurant called Nicky's  for 10 years that had the bet Cuban sandwich ever.  The unique thing about Nicky's Cuban was that it was not pressed and was a big whopper of a sandwich. Whenever I was working it was one of the most popular things on the menu. I have had Cuban sandwiches in Miami and Key West, and I still think Nicky's is the best out there. 

I decided that I wanted to make a slow cooker version of my favorite sandwich. I used a pork tenderloin because it was what I had on hand, but you could easily use whatever type of cut you prefer.  I also opted to use bolillo rolls over traditional Cuban bread or a hoagie roll. I love bolillo rolls because they are the perfect size for a single sandwich. I used citrus and cumin to spice my pork and a little bit of beer. On the sandwich I  paired the pork with Swiss cheese, thinly sliced smoked ham, mayo, yellow mustard and pickles.  I also opted to toast the sandwich slightly once assembled to melt the cheese and warm the ham. 

How did my sandwich shape up? It was amazing! The flavors and textures were spot on and my entire family gobbled it down. I was so sad when the leftovers were gone....I am already craving another! Seriously, makes these ASAP- you will not be disappointed. 

Tonight, I was going to have sushi with a few friends but a few had to cancel, and with all this Cuban talk we might have to venture to Nicky's for  sandwich! However, I am equally satisfied with the taco pizza that was put on the menu last minute. 

Last night Kellen and I met my friend Kayla for ice cream, and when I asked Kellen what time he wanted he yelled, "the brown one with the red M&Ms!". Kids are hysterical. Ron and I also caught up on The Following last night and it was so good. I really like the new character they introduced, and he is providing great suspense to the show! 


1  lb pork tenderloin
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 Tbl dried oregano
Juice of one lime
Juice of one orange 
1/4 cup beer
10 thin slices smoked ham
10 slices swiss cheese
Sliced pickles
5 Boillio rolls


Place pork in the slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mix broth, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, lime juice, orange juice and beer. Pour over the pork. Cook on low heat for 8 hours. Remove from slow cooker and shred. Return to slow cooker and keep warm till you are ready to assemble the sandwiches. 

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. 

Cut the rolls in half. Spread mustard and mayo over one side of the bread. Top with pickles, 2 slices of ham and 2 slices of cheese. On the other half of the roll, top with shredded pork. Place the sandwich open face in the oven and cake till cheese is just melted. Join halves together, cut and serve immediately. 
pickles mayo mustard halve the bread cheese and ham then cheese and pork toast to melt

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Thai Chicken Curry and Butternut Squash Soup

Remember the soup swap I did with my girlfriend a little over a week ago? Well this is was my creation for our swap and it is deeeelicious! I am lover Thai food and anything with the name red curry in it immediately grabs my eye. I wanted to make something I little different than I would make for Ron and Kellen to try out on my friends because Ron really doesn't like anything squash related (breaks my heart a little bit....).  I opted to blend butternut squash to my soup base to provide a bit of natural sweetness and richness to the broth of the soup. I also wanted to use some of my favorite veggies to have in a curry to add a bit of green and body to my soup (zucchini is my all time favorite). As I said before I blended my soup before adding the chicken and veggies, but you certainly do not have to do this, but you will not have the same smooth texture achieved by blending the squash. 

This soup is so wonderful and so full of flavor. The broth is so good that I just wanted to sit and drink it....and not share it. The flavors of the lemongrass and ginger are subtle, but balanced with the salt from the soy and fish sauce, sweetness from the coconut and squash and slight heat from the curry. I finished the soup with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime to brighten the entire bowl. 

This recipe makes about 7 quarts because I was using it for a soup swap with 5 other people, but it can easily be halved or scaled down to your preferences. 

How did my friends like the soup? They loved it of course! It is a bit unique and a great way to add variety to a soup rotation. Kellen and Ron also loved the soup. Kellen is a big fan of Thai flavors and gobbled leftovers for lunch. He exclaimed, as he usually does when eating soup, "Mama, I love a hot soup!". He is such a cutie pie. 

If you are looking for a new soup to fit into your rotation give this a try- you will not be disappointed! 

Tonight, I am hoping to grab an ice cream with friends and relax at home. I have also had a hankering to beat Ron at Mario Kart, and it may have to make an appearance as well.... 


1 Tbl olive or sesame oil 
4 cups butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1Tbl grated fresh ginger 
1/2 Tbl lemongrass paste (I use Gourmet Garden)
4 1/2 Tbl Thai red curry paste
14 cups chicken broth
2 Tbl soy sauce
1 Tbl fish sauce
2 cans coconut milk
6 oz snow peas, trimmed
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cup sliced zucchini
3 cups fresh spinach
2 - 2 1/2 lb chicken cooked and shred 
Salt, to taste

for garnish:
Fresh chopped cilantro
Fresh lime wedges


Heat oil in a large soup kettle over medium heat. Saute butternut squash, onion and garlic for 10 minutes. Stir in lemon grass and curry paste. Cook an additional minute. 

Add broth, soy sauce and fish sauce. Bring to a slow simmer and cook till squash is tender. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, a regular stand blender will work. Return blended soup to the pot and turn heat to medium. Stir in the coconut milk and allow soup to come to a slight simmer.  Add chicken, peas, zucchini, mushrooms and spinach. Cook till veggies are tender and soup has thickened a bit. Season with salt if desired. 

Serve in bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro and a lime wedge.

Yields about 7 quarts.