Monday, October 20, 2014

Baked Pumpkin Goat Cheese Alfredo with Bacon

Time for October's Crazy Ingredient Challenge!


The theme for this month was pumpkin and bacon. Bring on my happy dance.....seriously.  If you are a regular reader you probably know that we (Ron, Kellen and I) and bacon lovers, and (like a big chunk of the rest of the United States) we look forward to ways to put it in anything.  My thoughts immediately went to pasta because of the pumpkin component, and I wanted to go savory. However, though my husband is a bacon lover he is a pumpkin hater (boo hiss), and I thought this was prefect opportunity for cook for my girlfriends during our henna party. I thought a baked alfredo type pasta was just the ticket! I also used goat cheese because I know my girls love it (and it is another ingredient my husband is not a fan of). This pasta is wonderfully easy to put together, unique and a perfect fall savory dish. 

My girlfriends and I absolutely loved this pasta, and it was perfect for our evening (check out the henna photos on my last meal plan post). I am sure that you could lighten up this dish, but I am not going to pretend that is a good idea in this case because this is a pasta that is meant to be sinful. One point to note- the sauce with seem a bit watery when poured into the baking dish, but it will thicken as it is in the oven. The flavors of bacon, pumpkin and goat cheese are amazing together, and each distinctive. 

If you are interested in joining our challenge, stop over to Dawn of Spatulas on Parade to say hello and to get more information.  I am excited to see what next month will bring! 

Ingredients

1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 Tbl olive oil
4 Tbl salted butter
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl fresh chopped sage
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6 oz goat cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (+ a few extra Tbl for topping)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp white pepper
Salt, to taste
1 lb shaped pasta


Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish and set aside. 

Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and set aside. 

In a large pot, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and allow it to cook for 1-2 minutes stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Add sage, cream, milk, 4 oz of goat cheese, pumpkin and Parmesan. Reduce heat to low, whisking continuously and allow the sauce to slowly bubble. Allow the sauce to cook for 7-10 minutes. The sauce should reduce a bit, but will not be thick (it will thicken in the oven). Taste and season with salt and white pepper (remember you will add bacon so do not over salt). 

Remove from heat and gently stir in the pasta. Pour pasta into the prepared baking dish. Top with a few tablespoons of Parmesan, remaining goat cheese (crumble with your hands) and bacon. 

Bake for 30-40 minute or until sauce is bubbly. 

Weekly Meal Plan 10/20 - 10/26

Happy Monday!

Less than two weeks till Halloween! Even time I think that I get the song from Halloween III and the Silver Shamrock commercial.  This weekend we had a few fun Halloween activities and a fun adult activity at Lambeau Field! 

On Friday, we bummed around and went out for fish. Kellen is a fish lover, but loves the pickles that come with the meal even more!

On Saturday, we started the day at the community Trick or Treat Trail with my mom, sister and nephew. The trail was beautiful and Kellen got a lots of treats and coupons to use around Green Bay. The event is put on by the Village of Bellevue and is a lot of fun for kids. 

My sweet Triceratops:
 

Later in the evening (and after a nap), we headed to Heritage Hill for a Brother's Grimm Halloween with a few friends. I have been going to this since I was a child and I love feeling like we stepped back in time. The kids loved running around and having a few treats as well. Heritage Hill is a living museum and it is awesome to see the different volunteers bring the era to life. 

On Sunday, Ron and I were up bright and early to drop off Kellen and head to Lambeau Field with my cousins for the Packer game. We have gone the past few years as a group and it is always so much fun. We usually start our tailgate around 8:00 am so we are properly ready for the game. Grilled brats and coolers of cold beer are musts in my book. The game was a bit of a blow out in our favor, and was a blast!


This week I am doing some Halloween prepping and we are headed to to zoo for ZooBoo this weekend with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, nephew and niece. 

Here is what is on tap:

Monday: Mummy Calzone with Bloody Dipping Sauce
Tuesday: Loaded Potato Gnocchi Soup and Salad
Wednesday:  Spaghetti with Oozy Eyeballs, Garlic Bread and Salad
Thursday: Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings and Green Beans and Carrots
Friday:  Chicken Curry Soup 
Saturday: Zoo Boo and Out for Dinner
Sunday:Slow Cooker Peanut Thai Beef, Brown Rice, Pea Pods  and Graveyard Cake

Friday, October 17, 2014

Taco Ranch Chicken

Do you have a go to method for chicken tacos? I have a few favorites. Two of my favorites are cheddar beer chicken tacos and salsa verde chicken, but my all time favorite is Taco Ranch. I do not know what it is about this flavor combination, but I absolutely adore for our tacos. The meat is so flavorful and juicy, and is always raved about when I bring it for a taco bar at work. Kellen really like shredded chicken and goes nuts for this stuff. He especially liked it with rice or couscous as a meat carrier system. 

Tonight we are having a low key night at home before a busy weekend. On Saturday, we are going to a pumpkin walk with my sister in the morning and a Halloween event at Heritage Hill with friends in the evening. I am excited because Kellen gets to wear his Triceratops costume for the first time and it is soooo freakin' cute! On Sunday, we are dropping Kellen off and heading to the Packer game with my cousins for a bright and early tailgate followed by the football game. I am so excited! It is my first Packer game of the season and I am so pumped! 

Have a great weekend everyone! 


Ingredients

2 1/2- 3 lb chicken breasts
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 envelope ranch seasoning
Juice from 1 lime
2 cups chicken stock


Instructions

Place chicken breasts into crockpot. Mix remaining ingredients into a medium bowl and pour over chicken. Stir to coat. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to crockpot and cook for an additional hour.  Use for tacos, sandwiches, salads or wraps. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bread

Time for October Improv Cooking Challenge! 

The theme for this month was chocolate and peanut butter. When I first heard the month's ingredients I was very excited because I already knew the flavor combo I wanted to try that would be perfect for fall- chocolate peanut butter pumpkin. In my head I knew it would make a delicious bread, but I just needed to tweak my recipe to get the right consistency. I opted to use a little greek yogurt because I like the moisture it gives to bread and the creaminess fit perfect with the chocolate. I wanted to use pumpkin because 1) i love it, 2) it is perfect for the season and 3) it produces wonderfully dense and rich quick breads. I also opted for a little cocoa powder because who doesn't love a little extra chocolate! 

Kellen was my trusty helper and may have eaten way more than his share of chocolate chips! So, what was the verdict on our finished product? Absolutely delicious! After coming home from work Kellen and I each devoured a piece standing over it in the kitchen- caveman habits only in our house. I think the stand out was the combo of pumpkin and peanut butter..... I have a bag of butterscotch chips in my pantry that might have a variation of this recipe written all over them.

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 Apples and Cinnamon!


Ingredients

2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 eggs
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 light brown sugar
1 Tbl pumpkin pie spice
3 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips, divided


Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8.5 x 4.5 loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, yogurt, eggs, peanut butter and vanilla using  a stand mixer or handheld beater till smooth. Beat in the sugars, spice, cocoa and baking soda till evenly mixed. Gently stir in the flour by hand. Stir in 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips. 

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth so that it is even. Top with remaining chocolate chips. Bake for 45 minutes or until middle is set (this is a very dense bread and you will likely always have a  few crumbles with the tooth pick test)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Company Potato Casserole

Cheesy potatoes are a staple at almost any Midwest potluck and are usually one of the first things to disappear from the spread. We make a few different variations of cheesy potatoes in our house and my favorite recipe included cream of chicken soup. Since I recently made a homemade batch of my own I decided it was time to update one of my favorite potluck side dishes.  There is just something addictive about these potatoes to me....maybe it is the melted cheese or creamy potatoes or the buttery topping....or all three!  I have to say I love this updated version even more than the original! 

Speaking of cheese, tonight we are looking forward to relaxing at home and making a new recipe for mac and cheese with broccoli and chicken- yum! Tonight is also American Horror Story and, so far, I am digging this season. Anyone else think Twisty is horrifying!?  I am also getting ready to do a little pumpkin baking tonight and I feel like I am really late to the party with it this year! I see many of my friend's blogs adorned with delicious pumpkin treats, and I need to get my ass in gear! 


Ingredients

1 30 oz bag frozen hasbrowns
1 recipe for Cream of Chicken Soup
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
2 cups grated medium/mild cheddar cheese
2 cups soft bread crumbs (I put my bread in my food processor, but dried will work too)
2 Tbl chopped fresh parsley
4 Tbl butter, melted
Salt and Pepper, to taste


Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish and set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, mix cream of chicken soup, sour cream and hashbrowns. Season with salt and pepper. In the baking dish layer 1/2 the potato mixture followed by 1 cup of each cheese. Layer the remainder of the potatoes over the cheese and top with remaining cheese. In a medium bowl, gently mix bread crumbs, parsley and butter. Spoon evenly over the potatoes. 

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, or until top is golden and potatoes are hot and bubbly. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

DIY Cream of Chicken Soup

I am a sucker for those 3 ingredients creamy casseroles at potlucks, but they are not something we make at home because we do not normally buy condensed soups.  I have seen a few other bloggers use their own versions of this casserole staple, and when I saw a homemade version from Pinch of Yum for cream of chicken I was sold on giving it a try.  This recipe makes the equivalent of two cans of soup, but can be easily halved if you only need one.  One point of this recipe, when it is done cooking it is important to allow it to cool a bit because it will thicken as is cools and the texture will be closer to the traditional cream of chicken soup. I made this soup for a few upcoming posts and have really enjoyed re-making a few old classics like company potatoes and chicken noodle casserole. 

Tonight I am headed to a fundraiser for an Attorney General candidate.  In Wisconsin, there are many women on the ballot this year and, for me, that is really exciting.


Ingredients

2 1/2 cups chicken broth 
1 1/2 cups milk (I use 2%)
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp onion powder
 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
 1 tsp salt
 1/2 tsp dried  parsley


Instructions

Combine the chicken broth and 1/2 cup of the milk in a large saucepan. Bring to a low boil.
While broth is coming to a boil, whisk the flour and seasonings into the remaining 1 cup milk until it forms a thick smooth paste.

Pour the paste into the saucepan with the broth mixture over low heat and whisk continuously as the mixture simmers. Continue to simmer and whisk until the mixture is smooth and thick, 5-10 minutes. The mixture will thicken  as it cools.

Makes equivalent of 2 cans of soup. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 10/13 - 10/19

Happy Monday!

This weekend was fun and busy! On Friday, Kellen headed to Ron's parents for a sleepover with his cousin while I had my girlfriends over for henna, wine and pasta. We do a lot of traditional girls night activities, but we are always up for something different. I really dig henna, and was fortunate enough to have Joy of Joyful Henna Designs agree to come share her talents with us. If you haven't tried henna before you are missing out. It is a ton of fun and the designs are beautiful (and temporary too)! After henna was done my friend Maggie and I met Ron out for a few beers before calling it a night.
On Saturday, we pickup Kellen and bummed around during the afternoon. Kellen and I met my mom for dinner while Ron worked on school/lab work. We all tucked in early because we were heading to Milwaukee on Sunday to visit our friends & their son and Ron's fellow fantasy football players for a football party (YAY PACKERS- what a nail biter!). It was super fun and the little boys were so cute! They are both only children and are still learning sharing, but they ended the day with hugs- adorable. Ron and I stopped and Trader Joe's to stock up before heading home. Ron watched football when we got home and I waited my turn so I could watch Walking Dead. 

This week we have a political type fundraisers to attend, but the one I am most looking forward to is for our former co-worker Eric's (now State Assembly) birthday party. It is always really awesome to see old friends and support their run. I am also counting down the days till Sunday for the Packer game!!! We go tailgating and to the game every year with our cousins, and I am really looking forward to it. 

Here is what is on tap: 

Monday: General Tso's Meatballs, Rice and Broccoli
Tuesday: Ron's Sloppy Joe's, Oven Fries and Peas
Wednesday: Cheesy Baked Shells with Chicken and Broccoli and Salad
Thursday: Pizza
Friday: Tacos
Saturday: Out for Dinner
Sunday: Go Pack Go....We will be eating at the stadium!