Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Favorite Recipes (My List)

Last post for 2014. It has been a fantastic year for my family and we are blessed with a lot of good things in our life. This year I celebrated my 30th birthday, winning the Taste of Home appetizer contest, took a few trips to Milwaukee and Chicago, an international family trip to France (Gif, Normandy and Paris) with an 18 month old, lots of fun in Door County with friends and family, countless outings with family and friends, attending 2 Packer games (wins!), winning Festival Foods Tailgating Challenge, hosting our first Thanksgiving, Kellen turning 2, Ron graduating from school and getting a fantastic job.

Like everyone, we have ups and downs but this year had a lot of ups for our family.

2015 will bring new challenges and new adventures. A few things we are already looking forward to are a trip the the Dells with friends and a trip to Stanibel Island, Florida with my family. I am hoping to get down to Chicago and Milwaukee this year as well. I am also looking forward to watching my baby boy continue to grow. He is such a sweet person, and I love watching him develop and grow...this year also bring on the adventure of potty training!

Tonight we are going to our friends house with Kellen for dinner and celebrate a successful 2014.

Happy 2015 everyone!!!!

January


I made this for my Improv Cooking Challenge for our cheese and crackers theme.  Ron has two favorite ways to us leftover brat- mixed in scrambled eggs or in mac and cheese. I make a few different variations of this dish, but it is one of our all time favorites. I have a similar skillet recipe for Brat and Beer Mac and Cheese that won Festival Foods Tailgating Contest in October. 


February

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

This cheesecake is dreamy. This is by far the best cheesecake I have ever made and it reminds me of a giant creamy peanut butter cup. The recipe is wonderfully easy and worth every single calorie (especially with the rich chocolate layers!). 



March

March had a tie because I could not decide!

Bacon Pieorogie Bake

This is one of my go-to meals. It is Ron's favorite and so delicious. I love making it because it is very easy on a weeknight, and I can't wait to eat the leftover the following day. 



Corned Beef and Cabbage with Herb Buttered Potatoes

This was my first time making corned beef and my family had decided that we will be coming here instead of going out for corned beef! The meat is so tender and is perfect with the herb buttered potatoes. I love to make corned beef hash with a few poached eggs with the leftovers. 



April

Carrot Cake Cheesecake

I made this recipe for Easter and loved the cake/cheesecake swirled together! The cheesecake makes the carrot cake wonderfully moist and a perfect treat to enjoy after Easter dinner. 



May

Roasted Potatoes with Lemon, Oregano and Feta

This was also the readers choice for May and I could not disagree. As I said in the previous post, this was inspired by one of my favorite "junk food" splurges. My favorite place to get gyros has a french fry option topped with feta, lemon, salt, pepper and oregano. Amazing. 



June
Blue Cheese Topped Pork Chop

This recipe come from a fellow blogger on my cooking board and I bookmarked it right after she posted it. I love blue cheese on just about everything, and this was perfect for a weeknight and full of flavor. 



July

Grilled Shrimp with Garlic Scape Pesto

In the summer, I like to make garlic scape pesto for pasta and marinades. Garlic scapes are fantastic and only in our area for a short time. I paired them with grilled shrimp and we could not get enough of this summer meal. 



August

August has a a three way tie- too many things to pick from!

Bang Bang Chicken Skewers

These skewers are pretty popular in the blogging world and for good reason! I love the sweet 'n' spicy sauce and love mixing it with fresh summer vegetables. These skewers are one of out summer staples. 



Tart Cherry Galette

I made this galette with fresh tart cherries from Door County. My Grandmother always made tart cherry pie in the summer and this dessert brings back so many wonderful memories of her. 



Refrigerator Dill Pickles

I am a pickle lover to the max. In the summer I love having a pickle pot in my fridge with crispy salty fresh pickles ready for snacking. 



September

Pesto Rigatoni with Pan Roasted Tomatoes and Sausage

This meal was so simple, but perfect for the end of summer herbs and tomatoes. The pesto with the roasted tomatoes is delicious. What is even more delicious is watching your adorable toddler put the rigatoni on each of his fingers!



October

October is also a two for one!

Baked Pumpkin Goat Cheese Alfredo with Bacon

I made this recipe for my henna party with my girlfriends, and it was a big hit. We had a blast sipping wine, eating pasta and exploring beautiful henna designs together. 


Titletown Tailgate Chili

I had to include my chili (and probably my favorite recipe). Chili is one of my favorite foods and this chili won two cook-offs in 2014!



November

Bone Broth (Chicken)

Bone broth is a wonderful wellness food and has so many different uses. My post goes into more detail about bone broth and the benefits, but this is a cooking (and sipping staple in my house). 



December

Antipasto Stuffed Chicken

This is recipe is so good and fancies up a plain chicken breast with olives, peppers, herbs and cheese ( crispy proscuitto too!). My family loved this and I can't wait to make it again!


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Reader Favorites

One of my favorite parts of blogging is looking at my readers favorite recipes for the year. This year I decided to look at the favorite of each month. My other favorite part of this round-up is the evolution of my picture taking in 2014. One of my goals was to put more effort into my photos. I got a new camera and purchased some lighting for winter months, and I love the result of my changes. I also noticed that my views have significantly gone up as the pictures have gotten better.  It makes me so happy that you visit this space, and I can share my food and photos with you. 

I hope you enjoy this round-up (well I know you will since you picked them!), and the timing is perfect because I am doing a bit of meal planning and think it is time to revisit old favorites. 

Tomorrow I will have my final post in 2014 full of my favorite recipes, a recap of our year and a few things we are looking forward to in 2015.

January

Million Dollar Spaghetti Casserole

I love this casserole. I haven't made it in awhile, but the flavors are fantastic and it can feed an army. 



February


I made these for Secret Recipe Club and they were delicious. It was my first time making biscuits, but not my last!



March

Eggs Benedict Risotto

I love this recipe and was very proud of the result I got when I combined two of my favorite things- risotto and Eggs Benedict. 



April

Spinach, Tomato, Basil and Ricotta Stuffed Chicken

This recipe was another Secret Recipe Club submission and was fantastic. The flavors were so fresh and I loved the fresh herbs with the creamy cheese and sweet tomatoes. 



May

Roasted Potatoes with Lemon, Oregano and Feta

This was inspired by one of my favorite "junk food" splurges. My favorite place to get gyros has a french fry option topped with feta, lemon, salt, pepper and oregano. Amazing. 



June

Grilled BBQ Chicken With Brown Sugar Onions

This recipe came from a fellow blogger who posts wonderful sandwiches. This sandwich is so packed with flavor and perfect for summer. 



July

Caprese Macaroni and Cheese

Mac and Cheese is one of our favorites and making it caprese style was delicious- especially with fresh garden tomatoes and basil. 



August

Peach Liqueur

When fresh juicy peaches hit the stands at the farmer's market we can't get enough. This is a fantastic way to use some of your lot and make a few killer cocktails for your friends around the bonfire. 



September

Ultimate Bacon Burger

I feel like this needs little explanation. My husband was the inspiration for this burger and any bacon lover will adore this.  Bacon in the burger, bacon aoli and crisp bacon on top....what could be better?


































October


I wasn't surprised that this recipe took the prize in October on this list because it has won a few chili cook-off since. It is my favorite go-to recipe for chili. We are making this on New Year's Day and I can't wait to dig into a big bowl. 



November

Crispy Parmesan Chicken with Lemon Hollandaise

This chicken is so pretty and so easy to make. I made this for the Crazy Ingredient Challenge (citrus and breadcrumb theme) and it was absolutely amazing- the picture doesn't lie. 



December

Cranberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

These are so pretty. I made them for a Cupcake Day round-up and loved how they photographed, but loved how they tasted even more! 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 12/29 - 1/4

Happy Monday! 

I hope that you had a wonderful remainder of your holiday break! 

On Friday, we laid low and watched a movie in the evening. Ron loves the storm chaser shows, and has been wanting to see the movie Into the Storm and was happy to see it available to rent. We also snacked on the remainder of our Christmas candy.  

On Saturday, I made a big breakfast for the family before working on a few loads of laundry. In the afternoon, Kellen and I met my mom for lunch and headed for a nap after our meal (nap for him and American Horror Story on Netflix for me).  Late afternoon Ron brought Kellen for an overnight with his parents and I met my parents to see Into the Woods. I really enjoyed the movie and loved the music. I know that Into the Woods is not a familiar musical to most people, but it was one that I saw as a child and loved ever since. The songs are fantastic, and I love the story. The movie version was well cast and I thought the actor who played Jack was one of the best. I like Meryl Streep in the role, but love Bernadette Peters in the original more. Bernadette plays the witch with a bit more sass, and I love that. I also loved the prince's duet....hysterical. Now that I am a parent some of the songs ("Stay with Me") strike a hard nerve because the feels are so real of wanting to protect a child from the world, but knowing they will only thrive when you let go.  If you love musicals (or even if you aren't sure) I would give this one a try because it is a unique show and the characters are flawed and wonderful.  After the movie, I headed home and got ready for a date night with Ron to Plae Bistro.  After a busy week we were both so thankful for a break and a chance to sleep in! For dinner, we shared bruschetta and tuna bites (sliced tuna with tomatoes, avocado and wasabi aoli) to start and had grilled ribeye with garlic horseradish au jus for our main dish. Delicious! 

On Sunday, we picked up Kellen and got ready for the Packer game! We had pizza with my parents and watched the Packers win the division for the 4th year in a row! Packers played great (dirty Suh stepping on Rogers), and will have first round bye and a game at home! We hold season tickets and a lucky couple of family member will get to go to the game! 

Game faces!

This week we are going to celebrate New Year's at a friends house and have a relaxing New Year's Day. I am going to have a big pot of chili on the stove for anyone that stops by for a visit. On Friday, Ron's cousin is in town and his uncle is having a get together for everyone to come and see him. It will be fun, and Kellen's cousin's will be there to play. The remainder of the weekend is footloose and fancy free, but I am sure we will fill it with a few fun activities and a little non-Packer football!

Here is what is on tap:

Monday: Chicken Saltimbocca Spaghetti and Salad
Tuesday: Creamy Wild Rice, Vegetable and Sausage Soup and Crusty Bread
Wednesday: New Year's Eve- I am making Mac & Cheese, an app TBA and New York Cheesecake with Tart Cherry Topping
Thursday: New Years Day- Brunch: Pancakes and Fruit Salad/ Spicy Beef Chili in the Evening
Friday: Leftover Chili
Saturday: Creamy Balsamic and Herb Chicken, Quinoa and Peas
Sunday: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Salad and Garlic Bread

Friday, December 26, 2014

Creamy Tortellini and Sausage Soup

Well, I know I can let out a sigh because Christmas is over. It is a lot of work and a lot of running, but we had one of the best Christmas celebrations ever.  I was wrapping until Christmas Eve, but made it by deadline and all the gifts made it under the tree looking beautiful and ready for their recipients. Kellen and I also made Oreo truffles to bring to our family gathering. On Christmas Eve, I headed to my parents house to get a head start on cooking. I made Blue Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Tenderloin w/ Thyme Merlot Sauce, Julia Child's Potatoes Dauphinois (heavenly cousin to scalloped potatoes with cream and gruyere cheese) and Roasted Brussel Sprouts. Unfortunately, I do not have a photo to share! I get everything ready and we usually sit down immediately to feast, and breaking away to set up my lights and to photograph never appeals to me. I was going to make a dessert, but opted to enjoy cookies and Oreo truffles prepared earlier in the day. The true magic of the evening was watching Kellen and his cousin enjoy the evening together. After dinner, we have always had the tradition of singing Christmas carols from my Grandmother's singing books. The kids don't know the songs yet, but seemed amused by the adults belting out Jingle Bells. After carols, Santa's Elves sent a gift to the boys to help them get ready for Santa's arrival. In side a package they found a matching pair of pjs and a new Charlies Brown Christmas DVD. Shortly after, a strange knock came at the door and, upon opening, the boys found Santa had dropped off an early Christmas gift! Kellen received a digger he could ride on and exclaimed to his Gratherfather as he sat down, "I like this!".  After Santa's visit we opened gifts together, the boys took a bath and changed into new pjs and watched Charlie Brown and the Grinch. We had to leave shortly after checking the Santa tracker to make sure we got home in time for the big guy! 

On Christmas morning, Kellen let us sleep till around 8 am before coming downstairs to see that Santa had arrived at his house.  I popped a breakfast casserole in the oven and we opened a few gifts before we ate and got ready to go to Ron's parents house. At Ron's parents, the kids watched a bit of the Polar Express before sitting down for lunch. Kellen was a little excited during lunch, and did not eat much, but saved room for cheesecake....of course. My sister-in-law made a delicious english toffee no bake cheesecake (it even had caramel sauce!). I normally make a cheesecake for Christmas, but was so happy to take to holiday off and have one less thing to do. After lunch, we opened gifts and watched the kids run around with their new toys. Kellen got a Radio Flyer tricycle from his grandparents and promptly fell off and cut his cheek. As I said yesterday, "what is the first thing every little kid does when he gets a new bike? Fall off.".  We headed home after a wonderful day and Kellen requested mac and cheese for his Christmas meal. I fixed him and Ron a bit before heading out to see The Hobbit with my parents. The theater was packed, but I really enjoyed the movie (and the company)!

We had an amazing holiday, and are so blessed. 

This is a fantastic meal that I found on Pinterest from Katie Dietrich. The tagline was best crockpot meal I ever had! Well, that was reason enough for me to try it out! I love my slow cooker, but I opted to cook this on the stove top because the 4 hour cook time did not work for our schedules. I used a low heat to still allow for an hour of cook time and I opted for a bit of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes over using two cans of diced tomatoes.  This recipe used creamy cheese for the creamy element (the flavor is not strong which we liked a lot), but I think you could use cream or milk in place if you do not like cream cheese. If you are using cream cheese I would caution if you are using a reduced fat because it make separate. 

Ron, Kellen and I loved this meal. The soup is very flavorful and nice and thick with hearty ingredients. The soup makes a pretty large amount, but I really enjoyed the leftovers for lunch! 

This weekend we are on relaxation mode and excited to see the Packer game on Sunday!


Ingredients

1 (19oz) bag of cheese tortellini (I use the brand that is not frozen and by the cheese)
4 oz baby spinach
1 (14.5 oz) cans of Italian style diced tomatoes
1 cup tomato sauce
8 oz cream cheese, cut in 1 oz chunks
1 lb of ground mild sausage 
4 cups of chicken broth 


Instructions

In a soup pot, brown the sausage, breaking it a part with a wooden spoon.  Add, tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, spinach, tortellini and cream cheese to the pot. 

Set heat to low and cook 40-60 minutes depending on when the pasta s done. Serve with crusty bread. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Weeknight White Chicken Chili

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve! Woo hoo!

This recipe is not Christmasy or festive, but it is a delicious and quick meal that is perfect during the final preparation for the holiday. I love white chicken chili and it was a favorite growing up at my house. I made a quick version that is perfect when you need dinner on the table on a weeknight. I added a little beer to my chili because I like the slightly bitter taste it give to the soup, but feel free to replace it with stock if you prefer not to use beer.  Normally, I soak my beans for this type of soup, but since this was a quick version I used canned and rinsed them before adding them to my chili. I also like to load mine with different topping so add your favorites- mine are always tortilla, cheese, sour cream and olives.  My entire family loved this meal and it was a perfect meal to warm our bellies on a cold damp evening. 

Tonight, we are finishing up any last minutes gift buying and gift wrapping.  I am off work for the remainder of the week and can finish will finish any odds and ends before my parents Christmas celebration.  The best part of having time off work is that Kellen and I get to spend the day together.  I am going to let him try his hand at oreo truffles and peppermint bark (he will probably eat them all) tomorrow before taking him out for lunch.  Also on my agenda tonight is to watch Christmas Vacation and Home Alone.  The only Christmas movie I have seen this year is the Grinch- I am way behind. Tomorrow we will watch The Ref (if you have not seen this please watch it because it is hysterical) with my family after the food and gifts wind down. 

Today, it is raining in Green Bay, but snow is in the forecast for tomorrow and I am hoping for a white Christmas!  I hope everyone’s shopping and prepping is coming to a close and that you enjoy the holiday with those you love!  


Ingredients

1 Tbl olive oil
1 white onion, diced
1 Poblano pepper, finely chopped
4 cans Great Northern Beans, Drained and Rinsed
2 1/2 cups cooked chopped chicken
2 cans diced green chilies
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup beer (I use a lighter beer)
1 Tbl chili powder
1/2 Tbl ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Garnishes:
Sour Cream
Chopped Cilantro
Sliced Olives
Tortillas
Cheese 
Diced Jalapeno 


Instructions

In a soup pot, saute onions and poblano in olive oil till tender.  Add remaining ingredients and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.  Heat soup to medium high and allow it to lightly simmer for about 15-20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend together. 

To serve, place a tortilla in the bowl if desired and ladle in the soup. Top with desired garnishes. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 12/22 - 12/28

Happy Monday and Christmas week! 

This weekend was crazy busy, but was a ton of fun. On Friday, Ron graduated and we went to the ceremony and out for dinner. Ron has been working so hard and to see this accomplishment was so wonderful for us and our families. 

Aren't they cute!?

On Saturday, my cousins, Ron, Kellen and I went bowling. The kids had a blast and it was so cute to watch them try something new (and run off some energy). Later, my cousin and I cooked for our family Christmas. There are about 25 people and this year we feasted on porketta, lemon thyme roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, cauliflower gratin, homemade green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and rolls.  For dessert we treated ourselves to my uncle's homemade grasshoppers, an assortment of cookies and gingerbread cake. The entire meal was amazing and so was the company. I love getting together with family and now that the children are older it has become even more fun!

On Sunday, my cousins staying in town for the Packer game and we enjoyed take-out pho during the game. Kellen loves pho and wish I had snapped a photo of him tipping his bowl to his mouth to get all the noodles and broth. The Packers were victorious and next week play for the division title against the Lions.  In the evening, we ordered pizza and relaxed with a few t.v. shows before bed. Ron was off the bed early because he stated his new job today and Kellen was off to daycare (or to "play with friends" as he says). 

This week we have Kellen buddy's birthday party tonight and Tuesday I have to shop and wrap a boat load of gifts (hey, at least I got my Christmas cards in the mail!).  On Christmas Eve, I am cooking with my Dad at my parents house and Ron's mom is preparing our Christmas day meal at her house.  I love the holidays and am so excited that Christmas is finally here! 

Here is what is on tap: 

Monday: Dinner with our friends
Tuesday: Crockpot Creamy Crockpot Tortellini with Sausage

Wednesday: Ramaker Family Christmas:

Apps- 
Bacon Wrapped Scallops
Wine Steamed Mussels and Chorizo 

Main-
Blue Cheese, Spinach and Bacon Stuffed Tenderloin

Potatoes au Gratin Dauphinois

Asparagus

Dessert- Tart Cherry Pie

Thursday: Lecker Family Christmas

Friday: Creamy Chicken Noodle Casserole
Saturday: Out
Sunday: Spicy Beef Chili

Treats: Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cranberry Gingerbread Upsidedown Cake

Time for December's Crazy Ingredient Challenge!


The theme for this month was cranberry and gingerbread. Since I recently posted a gingerbread cake I decided to modify it a bit to create a gingerbread cranberry upside down cake. I love pineapple upside down cake because of the gooey quality of the cake, and knew this would be delicious. The cranberry flavors paired with the gingerbread are fantastic! The cranberries are tart  and are perfect with the rich gingerbread cake. This cake is so festive for this time of year and is a unique dessert to share with family and friends. The only trick to this cake is getting it out of the pan and the solution is a well buttered pan and patience. Do not try to force the cake out. Gently work on it and it will pop out and your will have a lovely and delicious dessert. 

Today, I am headed out to bowl with my family before returning home to cook Christmas dinner with my cousin. I love our family celebration! We cook, eat, drink, play games, exchange gifts and have good conversation- so much fun! It is also my Dad's birthday and that is a perfect reason to celebrate too! 

f 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

2 eggs, beaten
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted (+ an additional non-melted Tbl to butter the cake pan)
3/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cup cold water
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Tbl ground ginger
2 cups fresh cranberry


Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch spingform cake pan with butter and set aside. A 10-inch will work, but make sure to adjust your cooking time.

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, combine egg, sugars, molasses, butter and water and mix well. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, ginger and salt. Slowing add the four mixture molasses mixture.with mixing on low speed. Evenly spread cranberries in the cake pan. Evenly pour the batter into cake pan, and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until toothpick is almost clean when inserted into the middle of the cake (you will have some crumbs, but not raw batter). 

Remove from oven and allow the cake to slightly cool so you can handle the cake pan. Flip upside down and gently remove the springform. If it stick use a knife to gently release the cake. Remove the bottom (covering the cranberries) gently. You may want to use a knife to separately it from the cranberry layer.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Gingerbread Cake with Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Welcome to December's What's Baking!


We were challenged gingerbread theme for the month of December, and it is perfect timing for the holidays! I decided to go traditional and bake a gingerbread cake. I looked for an easy recipe and found this gingerbread cake recipe from Taste of Home. It looked delicious and I decided to top it with a bourbon vanilla buttercream frosting. As expect, this cake was super easy to make and tasted delicious! I really like molasses and love the smells coming from my kitchen as the cake was baking.  The other great thing about this recipe is that it makes an 8x8 (9 pieces) cake and, if you are a small family like mine, it is nice to to have tons of leftover cake by using a 9x13 pan. However, if you want a larger cake doubling the recipe for the cake and frosting should do the trick. 

Today I am doing a little shopping for our family Christmas and then heading to Ron's graduation. Ron has worked really hard toward a career change and it finally at the end of the journey. He starts his new job on Monday with a fantastic company. I could not be more thrilled for him (and us) because it has been a long road.  I think the hardest part for Ron is not getting as much time with Kellen as before, but we will adapt and love that we were given this opportunity for our family.  AFter graduation we are heading to Nicky's for dinner with family to celebrate! 

I can't wait to see what everyone else came up with for our challenge! Have a wonderful Friday everyone!  


Ingredients

for cake: 
1 egg, beaten
  1/2 cup sugar
  1/2 cup molasses
  5 Tbl butter, melted
  2/3 cup cold water
  11/2 cups all-purpose flour
  1 tsp baking soda
  1 tsp ground ginger
  1/2 tsp salt

for frosting: 
1 stick  unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbl bourbon 


Ingredients

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 square baking pan and set aside. 

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, combine egg, sugar, molasses, butter and water and mix well. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, ginger and salt. Slowing add the four mixture molasses mixture.with mixing on low speed. Pour into baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick is clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. 

for frosting:
In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Beat in the confectioners' sugar, bourbon and vanilla at medium speed, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy. Spread frosting over cooled cake and serve.

Yield: 9 servings.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Roasted Red Pepper and Pesto Risotto

Time for December's Improv Cooking Challenge! 

The theme for this month is Red and Green. It was a very flexible theme and could be anything from food to decoration. I opted to make a dish and made my recipe before I posted for the last Improv Challenge in November!   As you know, I love making different risottos, and I had a bit of pesto I made this summer calling my name. I love roasted red peppers and knew that they would be a perfect addition to my risotto. I opted to split my pesto in this recipe by stirring in half and using the other half as topping. If you like, you can stir in the entire 1/2 cup over using it on top and you will have a wonderful result as well.  Kellen is a major rice lover, and devoured this dish. It is funny because pasta can be hit or miss, but if I serve him risotto (or really any rice type grain like cous cous or quinoa) he gobbles it down in no time flat! 

I love how festive this meal looks and it is a perfect side dish for a holiday get together that will impress your guests. Risotto can be a bit tricky to cook initially, but once you have your method down it is like riding a bike, and no ingredient combo is too difficult. 

Tonight, I am finishing (yay!) our Christmas cards so I can get them in the mail on Friday- cross that off my list! I am also doing a little baking for a few blog challenges. I originally planned to make meatballs tonight, but I think that it might turn into a pizza or sub sandwich night so I can get a few things done around the house! 

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 Pork and Rice!


Ingredients

2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl butter
1 shallot, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup pesto
2/3 cup chopped roasted red peppers
3 Tbl shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste


Instructions

Place stock in a medium saucepan. Bring  to a simmer (do not boil). Keep warm over low-medium heat.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots; cook 1-2 minutes minutes. Stir in rice, and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Increase heat to medium and add 1/2 cup wine; cook about 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.  Continue by adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of stock is absorbed before adding the next.   Add the roasted red peppers and 1/4 cup pesto to the rice with last portion of stock is added. Stir to break apart the peppers and evenly cook in the risotto.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Drizzles each portion with remaining pesto and serve immediately. 


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tex Mex Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Today I am bringing you another winner from my slowcooker.  I originally bookmarked these Tex Mex Pulled Pork Sandwiches from So Tasty, So Yummy when she posted them in August, and can't believe that it has taken this long for me to get them on our dinner table!  I loved the combination of juicy flavorful pork, spicy cheese and creamy avocado sounded too good to pass up! 

I made these on a night my friend Emily was coming over to watch Law and Order for us to munch on as we enjoyed our show (I still miss Elliot Stabler!).  I have to say that these sandwiches are nothing short of amazing. The pork is so flavorful and the flavors of the cheese and avocado are work perfectly in the sandwich.  The sandwiches make fantastic leftovers and I looked forward to the leftovers as lunch time rolled around. 

Tonight I have a little candy making and card sending on my agenda. Ron is finishing school this week and has a bit of school work before graduation on Friday. Tonight I also need to get cracking on my portion of the dinner menu for my family Christmas on Saturday. I really can't believe that the holidays are almost here, but love this time of year.  Kellen and I watched How The Grinch Stole Christmas for the first time last night.  My kid can be so stinking cute sometimes.... he loved the movie, and yelled "Mr. Grinch!" every time the Grinch came onto the screen.   He is a little young for my all time favorite Christmas/Halloween movie: The Nightmare Before Christmas- next year.  I love Jack Skellington and you may remember Kellen wearing Jack Skellington hat the majority of the the fall before I left it at a restaurant (sob). I also find myself singing "making Christmas, making Christmas!" around our house.  

Maybe I will scrap all my plans and watch that tonight with a glass of wine..... 


Ingredients

for pork:
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp  pepper
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 pork shoulder roast
1/2 cup salsa verde
1 cup of beer

for avocado crema:
2 avocados, diced
3 Tbl  sour cream
juice from one lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp chili powder

8 bolillo rolls (or comparable variety)
Queso (I used spicy jarred variety)


Instructions

In a medium bowl, mix together salsa, beer, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Spray the inside of the crockpot with cooking spray and layer the onions over the bottom. Add pork to the crockpot and pour salsa mixture over the top.  Cook on low for 10 to 12 hours. Shred the pork with two forks and return to the crockpot for 30-60 minutes before serving. Using a food processor (you could do this by hand or with a hand mixer as well) process the avocado, sour cream, lime juice, chili powder and salt until smooth. Spread the avocado crema on the bolillo roll, followed by the shredded pork and topped with queso. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 12/15 - 12/21

Happy Monday!

This weekend went by sooooo fast, and with the holidays in full swing I know that slowing down will not be an option anytime soon.  On Friday, I finished prepping for Kellen's party and grabbed dinner with my dad before coming for to relax with Ron and Kellen. 

Saturday was Kellen's party and since I prepped a lot the night before (and the help of my mom) there was not too much to do.  I decided on a farm theme for Kellen's party, and we had lots of great treats for our guests.  I had a hot dog bar including all the traditional toppings plus some homemade chili. 

Shovels and Forks? 

Watering Hole, Farm Fresh Eggs, Vegetable Garden, Dairy Barn and Hay Flakes!

Tractor Wheels and Cheese, Farm Fresh Peas and Horse Treats!

The whole spread!

My birthday boy is a chocolate fan and celebrated with a chocolate cake (the little smash cake is in the background)!

Happy Birthday Kellen!

Even big boys like little toys!

Saturday night we relaxed with pizza and played with new toys. On Sunday we watched the Packer game (boo hiss) before heading home. I did a little baking and started organizing my gifts to wrap. I also need to get my Christmas cards in the mail this week..... This photo of Kellen pretty much summarizes the end of my weekend....


This week I am finishing wrapping, sending holiday cards, baking and a little last minute shopping.  I also have a cookie exchange with a few girlfriends on Wednesday- I am bringing the Mint Hot Cocoa Cookies I just posted.  This weekend Ron graduates!!!!!!! We are going to the ceremony and then grabbing some dinner afterwards. The following day it is our holiday celebration with my family and I always get excited to see our family and have fun!  We have a busy week ahead of us, but I love this time of year and Kellen makes our holiday so much fun. 

Here is what is on tap: 

Monday:  Creamy Taco Mac and Salad
Tuesday: Crockpot Pork and Olives, Rice and Green Beans
Wednesday: Cookie Swap with my Girlfriends - I am bringing a Pesto Bacon Bread
Thursday: Pizza or Subs
Friday: Out for Ron's Graduation
Saturday: Ramaker Family Christmas
Sunday: Porcupine Meatballs in a Tomato Red Wine Sauce, Mashed Potatoes and Peas

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mint Hot Cocoa Cookies

Welcome to the Secret Recipe Club 2014 Cookie Carnival!


Members of the Secret Recipe Club are assigned a blogger each month to make a recipe from their site.  During the holidays, we skip a month of posting and many of us wanted to do something fun and festive! When the idea of a cookie carnival came about I thought it sounded like a blast! I do not have a ton of cookie recipes on my blog, but I thought it would a great opportunity to try something new.  I was assigned the blog PaleYellow. I was very pleased to be able to choose one of her recipes because she is not part of my normal Secret Recipe Club group (we are divided into 4 posting groups), and it was fun to check out all the new recipes. Pale Yellow has a large assortment of beautiful baked goods and it was so hard to pick just one for the carnival!  I finally decided on Mint Hot Cocoa Cookies- perfect for the holidays (however her recipe for Shortbread Dipped in Chocolate and Peanut Butter sound to die for!). 

The cookies were absolutely delicious and as noted by the original post they are not the prettiest cookies, but they sure are delicious! I am doing a cookie exchange with a few girlfriends on Wednesday, and am bringing these babies with me- I know my friends will love them. 

Holiday baking and candy making are one of my favorite things to do this time of year and this was such a fun round-up with fellow bloggers to get into the holiday season. Also, what a more perfect way to get a ton of great recipes all in one place!? 


Ingredients

10 Tbl unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 cup + 2 Tbl cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 
3/4 cup mini dried marshmallows + extra for topping
1 cup peppermint bits (I used the red and white peppermint morsels)


Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 and line three cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, and salt. Set aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar.  Next, beat in the vanilla and egg.

 Add flour mixture to the creamed butter on low speed, and mix until just combined.  Beat in the chocolate chips, dried marshmallows, and peppermint bits.

Spoon a 2-tablespoon scoop to portion the dough on to the cookie sheet.  Add dried marshmallows on top.
Bake for 10 minutes until just done.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Yields 30 cookies. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Roasted Garlic Risotto

Happy Friday! 

I am really looking forward to this weekend for a few reasons- Kellen's birthday party and the Packer game!  Kellen's party is tomorrow and I have lots to do before show time.  I will have some photos and details on the party/birthday fun in my weekly meal plan, but I can say that it is a farm theme with a hot dog bar and there will be mac and cheese!  

I made this risotto and served it with my antipasto stuffed chicken earlier this week. I love roasting garlic and it is normal to find a few sticks of roasted garlic butter in my freezer. I also love making different risottos and this risotto was absolutely delicious! The garlic flavor was just subtle enough, but still allowed the hearty flavor to come through. I kept this recipe simple and added a small amount of shallots, a bit of wine and a little fresh parsley. To me, this is a perfect side because it not the "same old same old", but is versatile enough to pair with any dish. 

Tonight is going to be a bit or a whirlwind, but I think we might try to squeeze in fish at a local bar before I start decorating and cooking. 

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! 


Ingredients

2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl butter
1 shallot, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 medium-large garlic bulb (about 8 good sized cloves)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Chopped Italian parsley


Instructions

roasted garlic:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. slice the garlic at the stem, and wrap it in aluminum foil with a drizzle of olive oil on  top of it. Wrap it up and roast for 30 minutes. Cool and squeeze out garlic cloves. 

Place stock in a medium saucepan. Bring  to a simmer (do not boil). Keep warm over low-medium heat.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots; cook 1-2 minutes minutes. Stir in rice, and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Increase heat to medium and add 1/2 cup wine; cook about 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.  Continue by adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of stock is absorbed before adding the next. Mashed the roasted garlic cloves and add them to the rice with last portion of stock is added. Stir to break apart the cloves and evenly cook in the risotto.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.