Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top Ten of 2011

What a fantastic year it has been! I can only hope that 2012 is just as wonderful. We had much to be thankful for this year.  Our wedding, a new special kitty join our family, a new home, a brand new niece getting ready to make her debut in January....the list is long.

I wanted to share our favorite recipes from 2011 for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy the final days of 2011!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
This was a fantastic slow cooker meal, and tasted just like our favorite restaurant.

Bloody Mary Steak with Horseradish & White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
I made this dish for the Crazy Cooking Challenge and loved the steak! Anytime I can have a bloody mary I am a happy girl!

Ina's Seafood Stew
This was a recipe from the recipe swap I participate in. We are making it again on New Year's Eve.

  Grilled Salmon with Lemon Summer Vegetable Risotto   
Perfect grilled meal at the height of summer vegetable season.                  

Taco Burger   
Taco in a bun. Delicious.                 

3 Cheese Skillet Mac and Cheese
Creamy, dreamy & rich comfort food at its finest.

Chicken Mole Enchiladas
I am a sucker for a good mole, and I loved how easy this recipe was.

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
Ron's favorite comfort food. It is hard to go wrong with potatoes, ham, and cheese.

Cuban Burger
A twist on my all time favorite sandwich.

Tilapia with Peppers, Olives, and Capers
A recipe inspired from one of my favorite local restaurants.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Recipe Swap: Hoisin Braised Short Ribs

Time for another Recipe Swap! The theme for this swap is Special Occasions. I submitted a recipe for grilled ribeye steak with caramelized onion and blue cheese sauce....yummy.... In return, I received Hoisin Braised Short Ribs from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations. I had never cooked short ribs before and was pleased to try something new. This recipe takes a little while, but it is well worth it. 

My Dad took a nasty fall on the ice today and while trying to salt the driveway (ironic, i know). We came over with this dish for dinner and gathered with him to watch Monday night football. My entire family (even my 3 year old nephew) loved this dish. It is wonderful, and the meat melts in your mouth. It was a nice meal for my parents after a very stressful day filled with ambulances and x-rays.

I followed the suggestion to serve the ribs with mashed potatoes, and it was delicious with the sauce! A perfect comfort meal! Check out the other swappers at A Taste of Homecooking, and thank you Mary Ellen for a delicious recipe!

3 lbs boneless beef short ribs (we used bone-in-about 2-3 ribs per person)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 c chopped onion
1 c peeled and chopped carrots
1 c chopped celery
1/4 c tomato paste
1 c dry red wine
2 c beef stock or low sodium beef broth
1 1/2 c hoisin sauce
1/4 c firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 c fresh orange juice
2 c water
Leaves from 1 bunch fresh time, a few sprigs reserved


Pat the short ribs dry and season with salt and pepper.

In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed ovenproof pot, heat 1 tbsp of the oil over medium high heat. Sear the short ribs to brown them on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side, and then remove them from the pan. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Add the remaining 1 tbsp oil to the pot. Add the onions, carrots, celery and saute until caramelized, 10 to 12 minutes. Push aside the onion mixture, add the tomato paste, and brown for 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the onion mixture, add the red wine, and stir to scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Reduce the sauce until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the beef stock, hoisin, brown sugar, orange juice, water, thyme leaves, and bring to a simmer.

Put the ribs back in the pot, cover, and transfer to the oven. Braise the ribs until they are very tender, about 3 hours, checking the pot and stirring every hour.

Transfer the ribs to a platter and keep warm. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve into a medium saucepan. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then reheat the sauce.
To serve, divide the short ribs among 4 dinner plates. Top with the sauce and garnish with the thyme sprigs.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Roasted Duck with Wild Rice & Sausage Stuffing

What a wonderful holiday! It makes me sad that it is over. This meal was our Christmas Eve dinner. Last year we had duck, and liked it so much it is becoming a Christmas Eve tradition. Last year, I focused on rosemary, orange, and onion. This year I tried a wild rice stuffing at my mom's request. Our 2011 duck was fantastic (even better than the previous year). This recipe is so delicious, and very easy. I didn't get a chance to get a picture before we carved the duck, so please excuse the platter picture! We served our duck with wild rice stuffing, and Van Abel's green beans. Perfect beginning to a Christmas celebration. I hope everyone had a beautiful holiday.

2 6-7 lb ducks
3/4 cup uncooked wild rice
3/4 lb mild italian sausage
2 golden delicious apples, peeled and diced
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 white onion, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 oz pecan pieces
2 Tbl fresh thyme
2 Tbl italian parsley
1 tsp black pepper
salt & pepper for ducks
2 medium roasting pans, or 1 large (for ducks)

Cook wild rice according to package instructions and set aside.

Remove duck from refrigerator. Allow duck to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. With a fork, prick the skin without piercing the meat. This will allow the fat to drain off while the ducks cook.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large rimmed skillet, brown sausage till it is completely cooked. Add apple, celery, and onion. Cook till tender (about 10  minutes).  Add wine, herbs, and pepper. Continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes. Gently fold rice into sausage mixture and remove from heat. Allow stuffing to cool.

Stuff the ducks equally with the wild rice stuffing and place in the roasting pan. Salt and pepper the outside of the ducks. Place duck in the oven and roast until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees (about 2-2 1/2 hours) basting with the drippings every 30 minutes. Allow the duck to rest for for 10-15 minutes before carving.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!!

Happy Holidays to everyone! Wishing you a healthy & happy Christmas! Thank you continuing to support my blog and influence us with your thoughts and creativity! We wish happiness, good food, and great memories to everyone!

Ashley & Ron (and the cats too!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Crockpot BBQ Dr Pepper Pork

Ron's family came to watch the Packer game with us last week, and I wanted to make something yummy in the crockpot. I didn't want to do a normal BBQ pork (even thought it is awesome), and we happened to have some Dr Pepper in the house. This recipe came together very easily, and you really can't go wrong with a set it and forget it recipe when company is coming. I loved the flavors of this pork. It is not too saucy, but has wonderful flavors. Perfect for a Sunday game day....and NO I do not want to talk about the game last night... We also had a wonderful family Christmas with our extended family this weekend, I love the holidays!Have a wonderful week!
4 lb pork shoulder roast
1 1/2 cup BBQ sauce (we use Stubb's)
1 1/2 can Dr Pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin

Rub roast with seasonings and place in crockpot. Pour BBQ sauce over roast, and top with Dr Pepper. Set crockpot to low and cook 7-8 hours. Between the 7th and 8th hour, remove roast and shred. Place meat back in crockpot. Allow pork to cook for an additional 30 minutes. Top with additional BBQ if you prefer a sandwich with extra sauce.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Recipe Swap: Candy Cane Fudge

Time for a new swap! The theme for this swap is cookies/treats. I submitted my peanut butter cups, and received this Candy Cane Fudge from Jenna. As I have said before, I am not a big fudge fan. but you never know what is going to tickle your fancy. I love candy canes and was excited to make this treat. This recipe is really simple and easy to put together compared to some of the fudge recipes out there (candy thermometers!!! Eeekkk!!).  The recipe calls for red or green food coloring to be stirred in, but I decided to do a swirl and thought it turned out really pretty. Alas, I am just not a fudge person. I found it a little too sweet for my taste, but I know my sister will love it (she loves white chocolate and peppermint).  I am always happy to try something new and love the festive colors! Thank you Jenna for this sweet holiday treat! Next month is "special occasion" and I can't wait to see what I get!
2 (10 ounce) packages vanilla baking chips
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 1/2 cups crushed candy canes
1 dash red or green food coloring (for swirling)

Line an 8 inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, and grease the foil (I used Pam).

Combine the vanilla chips and sweetened condensed milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until almost melted, remove from heat and continue to stir until smooth. When chips are completely melted, stir in the peppermint extract, and candy canes. Add drops of food coloring and use a toothpick to swirl.

Spread evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Chill for 2 hours, then cut into squares.

Gluten Free Baked Eggnog French Toast with Cranberries and White Chocolate

Time for another Improv Cooking Challenge! The theme for December is Eggnog and Cranberry. I thought a lot about what to make and wanted to try something new. I developed this recipe while trying to make bread pudding. I never made bread pudding and wanted to give it a try, however I thought this was closer to french toast. I really liked the flavors of this dish, and was very happy with how it came out. This makes a great breakfast dish, or you can have it as a late night dessert like Ron and I did.

So excited about the holidays! My sister and I made some candy last weekend (mostly the usual- a few new I will post) and that always helps get me in the mood for Christmas.

Check out my Improv recipe next month for a new combo! To sign up, visit Kristen at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker.
6 cups cubed gluten free bread (16 oz loaf-we use brown rice)
1 pt eggnog
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbl maple syrup
2/3 cup cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 Tbl butter

Pre heat oven to 375 and grease an 8X8 baking dish with butter.

Place bread in a large bowl and set aside.

Whisk eggnog, syrup, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and ginger in a medium mix bowl. Pour over bread and mix. Allow the bread to sit and absorb the liquid for 45 minutes stirring every 5-10 minutes.

Layer 1/2 the bread mixture into the baking dish. Next, layer 1/2 cranberries, 1/2 sweetened condensed milk, and chocolate chips. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Bake in the over for 50 minutes. Allow casserole to rest for 15 minutes.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Crockpot Cheesy Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Ohhhh...My weakness.... I love spinach and artichoke dip. In my opinion, the cheesier and gooier (?) the better! I made this for a work party and it fits in my mini crockpot (a little bigger than the "little dipper") perfectly. It went over very well with my co-workers, and my favorite part is that it is mayo free. In warm dips I really do not like the taste of mayo.... something about hot mayo makes me a little green. This is a great dip, and it super easy to put together. Perfect for your next PACKER party..he he..

12 oz reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper

In a large bowl mix all ingredients together. Pour into your crock pot and heat on low until warm and gooey. Easier than pie!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pizza Tot Casserole

It's Sunday, and that means it is Packer day!!!!!!!! I love the Packers. One awesome thing about the Packers, there are many, is that they are owned by the people. Years ago my Grandparents owned stock and when they passed away it was given to the kids and grandchildren. It makes me so happy to see that hanging on my wall, and know we own a small piece of history. Today my in-laws are coming for the game, and we are taking the kids to the Green Bay Botanical Garden for a light show after the game. Perfect Sunday in my opinion.

This is a dish I cam up with when I was in a pinch for dinner one weekday evening. It is super tastey and makes great leftovers for the work week. You can use any toppings you like depending on your pizza preferences.

Have a fabulous Sunday! Go Pack Go!!

1 1/4 lb lean ground beef
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 large onion, diced
2/3 cup chopped turkey pepperoni
4 1/2 oz slices black olives
1 14.5 oz pizza sauce
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
3 Tbl reduced fat cream cheese
1 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 Tbl pizza seasoning (or italian seasoning)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
32 oz bag of tater tots


Pre-heat over to 350 degrees, and grease a 9X13 casserole dish with Pam.

Brown beef with onions and peppers in a large rimmed skillet.  Drain, and add pizza seasoning, salt, and pepper. Add tomatoes and olives. Stir in cream cheese till evenly mixed. Add pizza sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour beef into casserole dish. Top with pepperoni, then cheese, then tater tots. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until sides are hot and bubbly.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Crazy Cooking Challenge: Phat Cow Fudge

Time for another Crazy Cooking Challenge!

The theme for this month is Fudge! I am not a big fudge eater (that silly chocolate thing), but I always love to try something new. I usually let Ron take charge of the fudge around the holidays because he has a great recipe from this Grandmother. However, I wanted to try something new and see if my fudge making skills were up to par. This is a recipe from Jenn at Eat Cake For Dinner. I have to say the name was the first thing that caught my eye because who wouldn't chuckle about Phat Cow fudge? It was just what I was looking for- easy and unique. I love how it looks like a spotted cow! This recipe is so yummy! The fudge melts in your mouth and is so creamy. Perfect addition to a holiday fudge arsenal. Please remember to vote below and check out the other fudge recipes!

Phat Cow Fudge
recipe from Jenn at Eat Cake For Dinner

20 oz Hershey's milk chocolate bars, broken into pieces
1 (12 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. (2 cubes) butter, cut into pieces- No substitutes
4 c. sugar
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
2 1/2 c. mini marshmallows
4 c. frozen mini marshmallows
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Lb. walnuts, chopped, opt.

Place four cups of mini marshmallows into the freezer.  In a large bowl, prepare  broken milk chocolate bars, chocolate chips and butter pieces; set aside.  In a large pan, combine sugar, evaporated milk and 2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows.  Bring to a boil over medium heat while stirring constantly, then, continue to cook and stir at a light boil for 7 minutes.  Remove from heat and immediately pour over the chocolate/butter mixture.  With a wooden spoon, stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted and loses its shine (Don't worry if it looks separated, just keep stirring).  Stir in the vanilla.  Add the frozen marshmallows and walnuts.  Spread into a buttered cookie sheet.  Cool completely.  Cut into pieces and serve.  Store in an airtight plastic container (can be stored for about two weeks).   

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

This morning I had every intention of getting up early and putting together this dish so all Ron had to do was plug in the crockpot. Then I forgot. Oops.... So it was Ron's task to get this dish ready for dinner. Ron is a great cook, but usually lets me do the cooking because I enjoy it so much. However, today was his moment to shine, and boy did he shine! I found this recipe at Food With Your Family and knew we had to try it. This dish is a staple when we go to an Indian restaurant.  Ron did an amazing job putting this dish together, and said it was very easy. Props to you honey- you can cook for me anytime. I can't wait for leftovers tomorrow because this is my new favorite crockpot dish! 

For the chicken:
9 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (we used 4 chicken breasts- about 1 1/4 lb)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 cup yogurt
4 tablespoons butter

For the sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, peeled and diced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 large piece of ginger (2-3 inches in size), peeled and grated
3 tablespoons garam masala
4 cups crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon raw sugar (or granulated white sugar)
1 whole jalapeno, washed, stem removed and pierced several times with a sharp knife
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Cut the boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 1- 1 1/2 inch pieces. Sprinkle the coriander, cumin and 1 teaspoon salt over the chicken, then stir in the yogurt until all the pieces are evenly coated. Cover lightly and let sit for 10 minutes before proceeding.
Melt 1 tablespoon the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Raise the heat to medium high and quickly brown about 1/4 of the chicken. Transfer browned chicken to the slow cooker as it is finished, using 1 tablespoon of butter per batch, and repeat until the chicken is all in the slow-cooker.
Return the pan to the heat and melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and the 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, then stir. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to lightly brown around the edges.
Stir in the garam masala and ginger and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute) before raising the heat to high and adding the crushed tomatoes and raw sugar. Stir well, scraping the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil. Pour over the chicken in the slow-cooker and add the jalapeno pepper.
Cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours, or until the chicken is very tender.
Use a fork or whisk to stir the cornstarch or cleargel with cream. Add to crockpot.
Serve over hot rice