Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Creamy Noodles with Spinach

In our house we do not have pasta as a side dish very often, but when I saw this recipe for Creamy Noodles in my reader from A Taste of Home Cooking I though it sounded easy and delicious. The recipe is originally from another fellow cooking board member, Stephanie Cooks. I loved the idea of a the spinach with a creamy sauce. The other nice thing about this side is that the sauce thickens as it bakes in the oven- no standing and whisking over a hot stove! 

We served these noodles with grilled pesto chicken we picked up from Trader Joe's and a big spinach salad.  Kellen even enjoyed the pasta the next day for lunch. He is starting to sue a fork and this was a perfect practice food.  He also recently tried his first bunch of fresh spinach. Hysterical. He loved the crunch and ate a bunch, however as it sat in his mouth it became slimy and he spit it all out.  I think he liked the crunch because he ate more and did the same exact thing.  Babies I tell ya..... 

I kept the recipe the same, except for using milk over cream, but I doubled it because the original recipe served two and we wanted some leftover for lunches the following day. 


Ingredients

4 cups egg noodles, uncooked
2 cup baby spinach, but into thin ribbons
2 cup chicken broth
4 Tbl. flour
4 Tbl 2 % milk
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
4 Tbl Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Onion powder
1/4 tsp white pepper 


Instructions

 Preheat the over to 400 degrees.

 Cook the egg noodles and pour them into an 8x8 baking dish. Toss in the spinach and gently stir.

In a small bowl combine the chicken broth, flour, milk, garlic, cheese, salt, pepper, and onion powder. Stir well, until the flour is no longer clumpy.

 Pour creamy broth over the noodles and spinach and stir to coat evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring halfway through.  Remove from oven stir and serve.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 2/24 - 3/2

Happy Monday!

We had a busy and fun weekend at Blue Harbor with Ron's family.  It started off a little rocky with the room situation, but I think that it to be expected with people who never travel together. However, once that was straightened out everything was going great until Ron got sick.  Poor Ron was sick in bed all weekend!  We were both so bummed out because he had to miss out. I was also a little burned out from the weekend when four hands turned into two.  We are really hoping that we can try again when everyone is healthy!  On the positive side, the kids had a blast together and were so adorable in the water. 

This week we are laying pretty low, but I have a girls sushi night on Friday! I am really excited because we are trying a new (to me) place called Bonsai.  Ron is not a big fan of sushi so I look forward to when I get a chance to have some!

Here is what is on tap:

Monday: Bacon Pieorogi Bake and Green Beans
Tuesday: Sausage and Mushroom Stroganoff Over Egg Noodles and Salad
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday:  Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches, Tatertots and Green Beans
Friday:  Out for Sushi with Girlfriends
Saturday: Crockpot Brisket with Bacon Horseradish Sauce, Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower
Sunday:  Out for Broasted Chicken


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Garlic Bread Carbonara

Time for February's Improv Cooking Challenge!

The theme for this month is bread and butter. I wanted to try and think of something outside the box to create for this challenge.  Ron and I have really been enjoying carbonara since I made Nigella's recipe for an Improv Cooking Challenge a few months ago.  I drew inspiration from one of my favorite bread and butter combos: cheesy garlic bread.  Garlic bread is a staple for Kellen, Ron and I with almost any pasta dinner. We absolutely adore it and, I thought, why not make it into a pasta? 

I made some adjustments to a typical carbonara recipe by slightly increasing the cheese, adding garlic to the wine reduction and topping it with crispy buttery garlic bread crumbs.  This recipe was a hit at our house and Ron even told me that I should make this version from now on.  I think the bread crumbs add that extra special touch to the pasta. I had never experimented with bread crumbs and pasta, but I know see why it is so popular!  Carbonara lover or a bread & butter lover- this recipe is amazing! 

If you want to join the Improv Cooking Challenge visit Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for details!


Ingredients

1 lb spaghetti
1 lb bacon, cut into 1/2 in- 3/4 inch pieces
1 small white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup fresh Parmesan
4 eggs
1/4 milk (I use 2%, but you could use cream if you prefer)

for bread crumbs:
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 Tbl. garlic powder


Instructions

Pre-heat oven to  350 degrees. Toss bread crumbs with melted butter and garlic powder.  Spread evenly on a lined baking sheet. Set aside. 

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

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

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

Add white wine to the skillet with the bacon. Allow it to gently simmer and reduce for about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute for an additional 2 minutes. 

While garlic cooks, place bread crumbs in the oven 2-3 minutes or until crispy. 

Add pasta to bacon mixture and toss. Remove from heat and add the egg mixtures while quickly tossing the pasta. 

Plate pasta and top  with crispy garlic bred crumbs. 

Monte Cristo Roll Ups with Dijon Dipping Sauce

Time for February's Crazy Ingredient Challenge! 

The theme for this month was mustard and strawberry.  When I first heard the ingredients my mind went to barbecue sauce, but then I thought of Monte Cristos.  A Monte Cristo is essentially a french fried ham and cheese sandwich. There are many types of variation, but I decided to do things a little differently and use crescent rolls, strawberry preserves, brie cheese and top it off if a Dijon dipping sauce.  This is a really easy recipe and is a perfect party food.  I love the combination of the savory and sweet- plus the tang from the mustard is fantastic.  If you would like to join the fun of the Crazy Cooking Challenge check out our host's (Jutta) blog Hungry Little Girl for more details! 

While making these I did a little reading on Monte Cristo sandwiches. They are a variation of a croque-monsieur and it seems like that variation was that monte cristos are fried, not grilled. There are also many variation of this sandwich in France. I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be a Kellen favorite when we are in France this spring...  


Ingredients

2 tubes of crescent rolls
16 thin slices of ham 
5 oz spreadable brie cheese
Strawberry Preserves (I use Bonne Maman)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbl mayo
1/2 tsp honey
Powdered Sugar, optional garnish


Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Open the crescent rolls and remove two at a time. Use your fingers to pinch the rolls together at the seam to create a rectangle. 

Spread a layer of brie gently over the crescent roll followed by a layer of strawberry preserves.  Place two slices of ham on the crescent and roll it up. Place it seam side down on the prepared baking sheet. 

While baking, prepare the dipping sauce. Stir together mustard, mayo and honey. Set aside. 

Bake 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow them to cool for about 10 minutes.  You may slice if desired or serve whole with a side of the mustard dipping sauce.  Dust with powdered sugar if desired. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Stop what you are doing and make this cheesecake. 

I was trolling for a Valentine's Day treat for my special guy and found Smitten Kitchen's recipe  for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake.  I have made other recipes from Deb's blog Smitten Kitchen and they never disappoint.  This cheesecake does have a few extra steps, but they can be done at different times and are very easy.  Ron loves peanut butter and chocolate, and I knew this was the perfect treat for us.  The only modification I made was to use chocolate graham crackers over wafers (and left out the brown sugar) because my store did not carry the chocolate variety.  The graham crackers worked very well and the texture of the crust was very good. I also used a 10-inch springform because I do not have a 9-inch springform.  I couldn't get the crust quite high enough, but it worked out fine.  The original recipe also gives instructions for a water bath or non-water bath baking method. I did not do a water bath and the cheesecake turned out lovely and was evenly baked. 

The cake is very rich (thank you thick fudge layer) and sinfully delicious. Despite is simplicity it is very impressive looking and looks like a big peanut butter cup!  Ron and I have been enjoying this for a few days and brought a few slices to my in-laws as a thank you for watching Kellen overnight for out volleyball game tonight.  Thank goodness for physical activity after a snow storm and a few slices of this bad boy!


Ingredients

Chocolate Crust
9 ounces (16 sleeves) chocolate graham crackers
 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still hot

Fudge Layer
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
13 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter 

Cheesecake Layer
2 8-ounce packages  cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups smooth peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ganache Topping
1/3 cup  heavy or whipping cream
4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter 


Instructions

Make chocolate crust: In a food processor, blend cookies and chocolate together until finely ground. If you do not have a food processor you can do this by hand, but chop the chocolate finely with a knife. Drizzle in melted butter and process until crumbs begin to stick together, scraping down the bowl if needed. Transfer crumbs to springform. Wrap fingers with plastic wrap and press crumb mixture up sides to within 1/2 inch of top, then evenly over bottom of pan. Chill crust in until next step.

Make fudge layer: Bring cream to simmer in large saucepan. Remove from heat. Whisk in chocolate and peanut butter until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Pour into bottom of chilled crust and spread in an even layer. Freeze until fudge layer is firm, about 30-40 minutes.

Heat oven: To 325°F.

Make cheesecake layer: Using stand or electric mixer, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in sour cream, then eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Pour over fudge layer once set in the freezer.

To bake: Place springform (no need to wrap with foil) on middle baking rack. Bake cake until slightly firm to the touch and the top appears dry, about 1 hour. The center two inches should only move slightly when pan is gently shaken. Transfer cheesecake to rack in the fridge until fully cool, at least three hours, but for best results chill overnight.

Make ganache topping: Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering. Remove from heat and whisk in choocolate and peanut butter. Pour onto chilled cheesecake and spread to the edges. Return cheesecake to the fridge until the ganache sets, about 30-45 minutes.

To serve: Gently cut around between edge of cheesecake crust and springform pan to make sure it isn’t sticking. Unhinge the sides. Cut into slices and enjoy. Cake keeps in fridge for up to a week.

Monday, February 17, 2014

French Onion Soup Dip

I love french onion soup. I think I would go as far to say that it is my favorite.  I love trying different french onion soups because each one always feels unique to me.  One of my favorites I only had recently and it was at BrownTrout in Chicago.  My other favorite is at a restaurant called Mark's East Side in Appleton.  We are going to France in May and I am excited to try it there as well. 

Confession: I have never made french onion soup. 

I have always wanted to, but I never do it. Honestly, I am not sure I ever will because I love trying them at restaurants.  Time will tell.... I have also seen recipes for french onion soup casserole.  I am intrigued by the idea and may have to give that a try. 

I know for some people it is all about the cheese or the bread.  For me, it is all about the broth (ok-the cheese is awesome too)- savory. rich, salty and sweet. 

This recipe came about during Superbowl weekend and I was craving french onion soup. I opted to make a creamy dip, but did not want it too thick.  The flour allows the stock to thicken with the onions and it was perfect of sliced french bread.  I used traditional  Gruyere cheese to give the dip the ooy-gooey quality that is necessary in all good dips.  

I was really pleased with how the dip turned out and it was quickly gobbled up by our guests. I think that adding a few herbs would give it a little something extra for next time. 

It is snowing in Green Bay.....and now all I can think about is a bowl of baked french onion soup. 


Ingredeints

2 sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic
2 Tbl salted butter
1 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl sherry
2 Tbl Worcestershire sauce 
1 1/2 Tbl four
1 cup beef stock
6 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
Sliced French Bread and Chips


Instructions

Heat a medium sized rimmed skillet over medium low heat. Add butter and olive oil to skillet  and add onions.  Allow onions to caramelize 20-25 minutes.  

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Add garlic, sherry, Worcestershire sauce with the onions and allow it to cook 2-3 minutes. Add flour and stir to coat. Stir in beef stock and allow it to simmer and thicken 1-2 minutes.  Stir in half the amount of cheese.  Pour dip into a small baking dish and top with remaining cheese. 

Bake 20-25 minutes till bubbly and hot.  Serve with sliced french bread and chips. 

Weekly Meal Plan 2/17 - 2/23

Happy Monday! 

Wisconsin is getting more snow today.... Joy.  I realize complain about the snow is obnoxious, but it is sometimes necessary.  I feel like this winter has either been tons of snow or horrible below zero temperatures.  I can't wait for spring.... 

This weekend has good, but they always feel too short!  We celebrated Valentine's Day on Friday night, but we were both feeling a bit under the weather.  On Saturday, Ron has school, and Kellen and I finished up our shopping but still felt gross. We had planned on a birthday party with friends, but we ended up staying in and watching Cold Case (reality-ish show...it is great). On Sunday we were both feeling a little better! Yay! However, our basement pipes were draining slowly and it meant some icky work for poor Ron.  We ended the day with a spicy chili dinner and I finally made Smitten Kitchen's peanut butter chocolate cheesecake (oh so awesome). I have also been obsessed with American Horror Story, and may have binge watched a few episodes on Sunday (I am only on season 1).   This week we are laying pretty low and getting ready to go to Blue Harbor water park (indoor- ha!) with the Lecker family.  My sister in law and I are so pumped.... we were both wishing it was here already this past weekend.  I can't wait to relax with family.... and a little vino too. 

Have a great week!  

Monday: Leftover Chili
Tuesday: Pesto Chicken, Creamy Noodles, Broccoli and Salad
Wednesday:  Cafe Rio Chicken Tacos, Rice and Black Bean
Thursday: French Bread Pizzas and Salad
Friday:  Out of Town to Blue Harbor
Saturday: Out of Town to Blue Harbor
Sunday:  Pasta with Trader Joe's Vodka Sauce and Pesto Chicken Sausage


Friday, February 14, 2014

Chocolate Glazed Baileys Irish Cream Cheesecake

Happy Valentine's Day! 

The day of love for some and the day of Hallmark for others.... To me I treat it as a day of love. I like the idea of extra special time with a loved one. Cards, candy and flowers are really not important to us (however I never complain about getting flowers), but we love to make a special dinner together on Valentine's Day.

Tonight, we are having steaks with blue cheese and sauteed mushrooms, Baked Potatoes, Seared Scallops, Shrimp Scampi and a salad (gotta get the greens in). I was a planning on making this beauty from Smitten Kitchen last night, but I am not feeling great.  However, much to my surprise, Ron is going to try and tackle it this afternoon.  I love how willing he is to jump into the kitchen because it takes the pressure off. I have a tendency to hog our meal preparations, but Ron also knows his way around the kitchen. 

I thought this cheesecake was perfect for today because it is rich chocolaty and delicious.  I got the recipe from my co-worker and it is delicious. The original recipe also calls for chocolate curls on top of the cake, but I was not feeling that ambitious. 

Hope you all have a great Valentine's Day! 


Ingredients

Crust: 
18 Oreos
2 Tbl butter, melted

Filling:
3 8 oz packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
7 Tbl sugar
1 Tbl all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/4 cup + 2 Tbl sour cream
1/4 cup + 2 Tbl Baileys Irish Cream liqueur
1 tsp vanilla extract

Glaze:
1/2 cup whipping cream
9 oz semisweet chocolate chips


Instructions

for crust: 

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

for crust: Place the Oreo cookies in a gallon-sized zip-top plastic bag, and crush finely with a rolling pin (you could also use a food processor). Pour in melted butter, and mix until crumbs are coated. Press into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely.

for cheesecake: 

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. 

Using a stand or electric hand mixer beat cream cheese and sugar till smooth.  Beat in the flour.  Add in the eggs one at a time, beating until combines. Mix in the remaining ingredients. 

Pour filling into the crust. Bake 10 minutes and reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees. Bake cheesecake till set, about 50 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool for ten minutes and chill overnight. 

for glaze (prepare about an hour before service): 

Bring cream to a slow simmer in a sauce pan. Reduce heat to low and add chocolate.  Stir till smooth. Cool glaze till it is lukewarm. 

Remove cheesecake from springform.  Pour glaze over the cheesecake and smooth with a spatula.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze to set before serving. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 2/10 - 2/16

Happy Monday! 

We had an awesome weekend in Chicago.  We saw Alton Brown Live and it was absolutely hysterical!  He is very clever and his different inventions are so fun -i.e. an EZ Bake Oven you can stand on. If he is coming to your area you will not regret buying a ticket because it is a great show!  We enjoyed dinner with my cousins at BrownTrout.  I love the mission of the restaurant to use as much local and sustainable ingredients as possible. I tried a new fish, new to me, called fluke and it reminded me of flounder and was delicious. To finish the evening we went to Lincoln Tap Room to watch my cousin's band, Prom Night, play. It was so great to see the band because we had not had a chance to until now. I also tried a new-to-me beer called Green Line- yum! 

The crux of the weekend was when we returned home and poor Kellen got sick! I think it was a 24 hour thing because he was ship-shape this morning.  I hate to see my little buddy sick, but am happy it was a quick mover. 

This week we have a double-header volleyball game on  Wednesday night. I am going to be wiped out!  However, the week is pretty slow besides that and there is a lot of Olympics to be watched! 

Valentine's Day is around the corner and we are going to stay in with a steak dinner, but we are going to grab Thai with friends on Saturday at our favorite place in Appleton. 

Monday:  Loaded Baked Potato Soup and Grilled Cheese
Tuesday:  Chorizo, Black Bean and Quinoa Bake and Salad
Wednesday: Out
Thursday: Crockpot Style Gyros and Salad
Friday: Happy Valentine's Day! Grilled Steaks with Blue Cheese, Seared Scallops and Shrimp with Garlic Prosecco Sauce, Asparagus, Salad and Something Rich and Chocolaty
Saturday: Out for Thai with Friends
Sunday: Chili and all the Fixin's

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Green Onion Drop Biscuits

Time for February Secret Recipe Club!

Secret Recipe Club

This month I received the blog On The Move - In The Gallery.  There were so many lovely recipes for me to select from but I narrowed it down to the Green Onion Drop Biscuits.  Biscuits have always been a scary food to me.  I never made them before and always thought it would be very difficult.  I was making bean and ham soup last week and decided that I needed to give it a try. It sounded easy enough and the thought of the biscuits with the soup was too good to pass up. To my delight the biscuits came together very easily. I am a little annoyed with myself for waiting so long to try a recipe!  I stayed close to the original recipe, but used plain Greek yogurt over regular plain yogurt.  I love the idea of using all different types of ingredients in biscuits and am excited to try different combinations. 

Thank you for a delicious new recipe and a nudge to step outside my comfort zone. 


Ingredients

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
2 Tbl cold unsalted butter, grated or cut into small pieces
1/4 cup minced green onion, green and white parts
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
several dashes of your favorite hot sauce, optional (I used Sriracha)


Instructions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Sift the first 5 ingredients together in a medium bowl.

Add the butter and incorporate with a fork until you have a mealy texture.

Gently stir in the green onion, yogurt and hot sauce.  Mix just until the soft and sticky dough just comes together.

Divide the dough into 6 portions and drop by heaping spoonfuls onto a silpat or parchment covered baking sheet. Bake on the middle shelf the oven for 12 to 15 minutes (mine only needed 13 minutes), until lightly golden brown. Be careful not to over bake and enjoy warm. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Recipe Swap: Ultimate Sriracha Burger

Time for February WC Recipe Swap!


The theme for this swap is Superbowl Snacks!  I was excited, naturally, because we are big football fans and always excited to try a new game day food.  I received the blog, The Jey of Cooking  and immediately knew what I was going to make. Ultimate Sririacha Burgers I recently had Jey's blog for another recipe swap and almost made these over a different recipe.  I kept the burger on my radar and this seemed like the perfect fit for our swap.  Ron and I love sririacha and the combination with the blue cheese dressing is absolutely delicious! I made a few small changes to the original recipe, but wanted to keep close to the original because it sounded so great.  I decreased the sririacha by a tablespoon to keep the spice level a little lower.  I also used havarti because Ron does not like swiss and kept the bacon and onions separate.  We would normally grill our burgers, but we have gotten so much snow that we could not get our grill on the deck! I included pan frying instructions, but I think grilled is always the way to go! 

Ron and I both loved this burger....the sauce really makes it!  We made oven fries and used the extra sauce as a dip for our potatoes. Yum! 

This is a perfect burger to dig into with a football crowd and, even though football season is over, it is delicious enough to enjoy year round.

Thank you Jey for a delicious burger and thank you to our host Sarah of A Taste of Home Cooking for organizing our swaps!

I also turned 30 today.....eeeeekkkk!  


Ingredients

1 1/2 lb Ground Beef
2 Tbl Low Sodium Soy Sauce
3 Tbl Sriracha, divided
Pepper, to taste
8 Slices of Bacon
1 Sweet Onion, sliced
3/4 Cup Blue Cheese Dressing
4 Burger Buns
4 Slices Havarti Cheese
2 cups Fresh Arugula


Ingredients

In a large bowl, use your hands to gently combine ground beef with soy sauce and 2 Tbl sriracha.  Form into 4 patties and set aside on a  in the fridge.

 Add bacon to a skillet and heat over medium-low until cooked through and crispy.  Place bacon on a paper towel lined plate and, reserve the extra bacon grease in the pan.  Add the onions and allow to caramelize, about 25-30 minutes.  

In a small bowl, combine the blue cheese dressing with the remaining 1 Tbl sriracha and set aside.

Over medium heat pan fry the patties for 5 minutes per side (or until you reach desired doneness).  After flipping the burgers, warm the buns in the oven.  Add a slice of havarti cheese on top of each burger.

Assemble the burgers as follows:

Spread the blue cheese sriracha sauce onto each half of the burger buns, followed by arugula, the havarti cheese covered beef patty, caramelized onions, 2 bacon slices and a little extra sauce. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Weekly Meal 2/3 - 2/9

Happy Monday!

It is my birthday week!  I am turning 30.... I don't feel 30.  Ron and I are going to Chicago to see Alton Brown! I am super excited and we will also be seeing my Cousin's band.  

This past weekend we has a lot of fun! On Friday, we met our friends of dinner at S.A.L.T.  We I had a blood orange and sriracha drink that was amazing. We shared gravy fries (brown ale gravy and goats cheese curds) and pulled pork nachos. I have scallops, potatoes and ham and a cup of a great onion soup with a biscuit.  Ron has General Taos pork belly with mac and cheese. So wonderful.  Saturday we had our family photos done with my family and ended with dinner at one of my favorite pizza places, Rustique. Sunday we cooked and enjoys the footballs game. Kellen said his first phrase: "Go, Pack, Go!".  That's my boy. 

Here is what is on tap:

Monday: Bean and Ham Soup and Green Onion Drop Biscuits
Tuesday: Million Dollar Spaghetti Casserole and Salad
Wednesday: Out or Leftovers
Thursday: Ron's Crockpot Sloppy Joe's, Potato Wedges and Green Beans
Friday: Happy Birthday to ME! We are going out for dinner...
Saturday: Chicago to see Alton Brown!!
Sunday: Spicy Beef Tacos and Black Beans