Friday, January 30, 2015

#TripleSBites: A Preview, A Thank You And A Fantastic Giveaway!

Welcome to #TripleSBites Preview! 



We have 20 bloggers with tons of recipes scheduled to inspire you for Valentine's Day and beyond. Triple S Bites stands for spicy, saucy and sexy- perfect for a romantic celebration with the one you love. The event runs February 2nd - February 9th and we will be bringing appetizers, meal dishes, drinks and, of course, desserts). One the week is over you will have all the inspiration needed to create a delicious meal for Valentine's Day (and beyond). 



I want to start with a HUGE HUGE HUGE thank you to our event sponsors who have graciously donated prizes for our readers and bloggers. These sponsors have contributed great prizes for the giveaway. Please check out their pages below to learn more about these companies! We have an incredible giveaway for this event. The different prize packages are detailed in the rafflecopter below. The rafflecopter will go live on February 2nd. Please check back, if you're reading this before our kick-off.

The Sponsors


NOT Ketchup

Gourmet Gardens Herbs & Spices

Kitchen IQ

2 Armadillos

Acala Farms

Intensity Academy

Out of the Woods (Dressings and Sauces)

Pirate Jonny's (Caribbean BBQ Rubs and Seasonings)

Voodoo Chef (RED rub)

Mekinita Brands

Spicely Organics (spice-infused chocolates)


The Bloggers 

Culinary Adventures with Camilla
http://culinary-adventures-with-cam.blogspot.com/

Cooking In Stilettos
http://cookinginstilettos.com
                             
The Not So Cheesy Kitchen
http://notsocheesykitchen.com

The Pajama Chef
http://thepajamachef.com

Cheese Curd In Paradise            
http://cheesecurdinparadise.blogspot.com  

Summer Scraps
http://www.summerscraps.com

Debbi Does Dinner Healthy      
http://debbidoesdinnerhealthy.blogspot.com/

From Gate to Plate      
http://fromgatetoplate.com  

A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures  
http://akitchenhoor.blogspot.com/    

A Day in the Life on the Farm  
http://adayinthelifeonthefarm.blogspot.com/
             
Things I Make (for Dinner)        
http://oreosandcoolwhip.blogspot.ca

Eliot's Eats        
http://eliotseats.com  

CafeTerraBlog
http://www.cafeterrablog.com        

Making Miracles            
https://rebekahrose.blogspot.com

Curious Cuisiniere        
http://curiouscuisiniere.com 

The Spiffy Cookie          
http://www.thespiffycookie.com/      

The Weekend Gourmet
http://www.wendyweekendgourmet.com/
                             
Amy's Cooking Adventures      
http://www.amyscookingadventures.com/    

Famished Fish, Finicky Shark    
http://famishedfish.com          

Dancing Veggies            
http://www.dancingveggies.com/blog


The Giveaway 
Terms & Conditions

Mandatory Entry: Leave a comment (below) and tell me What's your favorite romantic dish to cook for your sweetheart? Many more ways to enter in the Rafflecopter widget [below].

This giveaway is open to residents of the United States only, age 18 and older. This #TripleSBites 2015 giveaway runs from Monday, February 2, 2015 12:00am PT through Monday, February 9, 2015 at 6:00pm PT. Winners will be randomly chosen and announced on February 10, 2015. Winners will also be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond to the email. If a winner does not respond in that time a new winner will be chosen. For more information, see the full terms and conditions in the Rafflecopter widget.

Disclaimer: All prize packages were provided free of charge. Participating bloggers received complimentary product(s) for their #TripleSBites posts. All opinions stated are my own.

Please click on the arrows in the rafflecopter to scroll through the prize packages!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 29, 2015

White Cheddar Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I discovered a long utilized method for mashed potatoes a few months ago after years of resistance..... the stand mixer. All I have to say is that I drank the Kool-Aid and it was goooooood. I always mashed by hand or with a hand mixer until I decided to follow the road traveled by other mash potato lovers and try out my stand mixer. My method is simple: cook potatoes, drain and place in mixer, add butter mix with whisk attachment until just blended,  turn up the speed and slowly drizzle in the milk until light and fluffy, and season with salt & pepper.  I am so annoyed with myself for not doing this when I got the stand mixer....YEARS ago.... In my defense, all of my instincts told me they would be an over mixed gloppy mess....wrong again. 

 Seriously, if you have a stand mixer try this method and you will never go back. 

I love roasted garlic and use it in a lot of different recipes, and I love any chance I get to add it to mashed potatoes. I also like to play with different flavors with the roasted garlic (you may remember my roasted garlic white chocolate potatoes- surprisingly awesome combo) I usually like to roast in bulk, but a scaled down recipe is listed below. I love roasted garlic and mixed with sharp white cheddar makes an awesome mashed potato dish! I like to use Steve's white cheddar because it is a Wisconsin brand, close to home, and it is super sharp and full of flavor. 

I am already looking forward to the weekend because we are grabbing sushi with friends before our friend's birthday party! I love sushi and I don't get it very often so I am really excited to dig in on Saturday!  I love escolar and always make sure to get it along with a few rolls!  I am sure a saki cocktail will also make an appearance..... 


Ingredients

2 1/2 - 3 lb russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 Tbl butter
1/4 cup roasted garlic (about 2-4 heads depending on size)
1/2-2/3 cup milk (depends on the thickness you desire)
1/2 cup grated sharp white cheddar
Salt and Pepper, to taste


Instructions

roasted garlic:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut off  top of garlic heads. Drizzle olive oil into a small baking dish. Place garlic in baking dish. Drizzle garlic with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover baking dish with foil and roast until tender, 45 minutes-1 hour. Cool slightly and squeeze out garlic cloves. 

Boil potatoes till tender. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl.  Add butter and garlic and gently mix while slowly adding the milk. Stir in the white cheddar and season with salt and pepper. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken in Tomato & Olive Sauce

I love all things olive. I even have a favorite olive outside black and green. Castelvetrano olives are the best olives in my opinion. They are a beautiful bright green Sicilian olive. The flavor of these olives is what I find so unique about them. They are not extremely salty and have a meaty buttery quality about them. The first time I had this olive was in Rome during an open air market. I was there with my friend Heather and my family for two week in 2009 and our apartment (read my funny story about Heather and I mixed with wine and the old door the first night) was very close to an outdoor market on  an off street by the Vatican.  There was a vendor that had tons of olives in bins and we tried these, and they were amazing! My favorite snack of the trip consisted of these olives, red wine and a cigarette….memories. I did not have them again in the US until they popped up on a salad at a local Italian restaurant. Since then, I have seen them a handful of times in different olive bowls.

Since I love all things olive I knew I needed to make Savory Tart’s recipe for Chicken Thighs inTomatoes and Olive Sauce when she posted it for our red and green Improv Cooking Challenge in December.  I opted to use chicken breasts over the thigh because my store did not have skinless and skin in the crockpot not a favorite of mine. The recipe calls for fresh herbs and delicious briny capers. I loved that the flavors of the fresh herbs came out in the dish because I was worried they would be lost in the long cooking time. The original recipe also called for fire roasted, but my store was out and I used regular tomatoes which produced a delicious result.

I served this with wild rice to soak up the sauce and a crisp green salad. It was a beautiful plate and full of color. The chicken was wonderful and the sauce so flavorful. If you are not an olive fan this may not be the dish for you, but the long cooking time mellows the strong flavor from the olives a bit.

Tonight,  we are hanging around the house and getting caught up on laundry and fun things like that. However, the best part of the night will be finally getting to watch the movie Fury. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Kellen got wore out at daycare and will be in bed early (or I will just be tired tomorrow!). 


Ingredients

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 Tbl capers, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup pitted green olives, quartered
1 Tbl fresh thyme
2 tsp fresh oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt


Instructions

Add the onions, tomatoes, olives, capers, and fresh herbs to the bottom of the slow cooker. Place chicken on top of tomato mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

Cook on low 7-8 hours. To plate, remove chicken from slow cooker and spoon the sauce over the top. The sauce will have lots of liquid and you mat want to use a slotted spoon. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Weekly Meal Plan 1/26 - 2/1

Happy Monday (evening). 

I wish I had lots of fun weekend stories to share with you, but I don't. Poor Kellen was sick all weekend and I was home with him today too. He is on the mend and it was just a virus, but I feel so bad for the little guy. Like any parent, seeing the little one sick makes my heart heart.  

Sooooo..... this weekend I saw Plans and Turbo. I liked them more than Kellen I think. When we were in the Dells Ron won a stuffed Turbo from the claw machine and Kellen has been obsessed ever since. He usually runs around the house saying, " I am Turbo the racing snail", and when he learned there was a movie he has been asking to see it. It is funny because I don't think he has actually watched a movie before this weekend. We normally, don't let him watch much t.v. because, like his mother, and will get disgustingly sucked into the t.v. Naturally, I do not think to limit my t.v. intake....maybe I should heed my own advice....or maybe not because Walking Dead started in two weeks and Game of Thrones is around that corner (did I mention that he gets that from this mother???). 

I am hopeful that this week is sickness free because I have some cooking to do for an upcoming blog event. I will be posting details later this week, but it is similar the the tailgating challenge I did in the fall- it has an awesome prize package too! 

Sorry I don't have more at the moment, but it has been a bit of a busy weekend, and not the good busy! 

Here is to and good week and here is what is on tap:

Monday: Blood Orange Herb Glazed Salmon, Wild Rice and Roasted Cauliflower
Tuesday: Bacon Pieorogie Bake and Salad
Wednesday:  Spiced Fig Glazed Cornish Game Hens, Wild Rice and Roasted Broccoli
Thursday:  BBQ Chicken, Bacon Cheddar Risotto and Roasted Green Beans
Friday: Grilled Ribeye with Herb Blue Cheese Mustard Sauce, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus
Saturday: Out for Sushi & a Birthday Party
Sunday: Super Bowl Sunday! I am making Slowcooker French Onion Pulled Chicken Sandwiches, Herb Crab Cakes with Citrus Pesto Aoli, BBQ Lil' Smokies, Retro Shrimp Dip, Pickle Wrap Dip and Slow cooker Spicy Chorizo and Cheese Dip

Bacon Pesto Spread

I love dip and spreads, and if you are a regular read you know that I love to play with different flavors. One of my favorite flavor combinations is pesto and bacon. It seems that it has become pretty popular and I have seen it more and more in restaurants (mainly with pasta). I love the herby garlic flavors in pesto mixed with the smokey salty bacon. I also love fresh tomatoes in this combination for a little acidity.  

I made this with the last of our homemade pesto from the summer and it made me sad that I have to wait till July for the bounty of fresh basil. I can buy it at the store, but it is very expensive since it is off season. However, it was wonderful to get a flavor from the summer in this appetizer. Besides being delicious this dip is super quick, and the only thing that takes a little time is cooking the bacon and chopping the tomatoes! The dip also travels well and would be perfect to bring to a Superbowl party this Sunday. 

Tonight we are hanging at home and I am working on a few recipes for an upcoming blog event/giveaway. The movie Fury also come out this week to rent at home, and we have been wanting to see it and never had a chance in the theater.  Ron and I both like history (esp WWII) and WWII military movies are usually something we never miss, and our interest was the reason for our trip to Normandy, France last summer. I was thinking about Normandy the other day while making dinner and I wish I was back there again! It feels very similar the the area I live the the coastal beauty is second to none. If you ever have a chance to visit- take it without a second thought! 


Ingredients

12 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
12 slices bacon, cooked and chopped 
1/3 cup pesto
1/2 cup quartered cherry tomatoes


Instructions

Mix together cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Stir in the pesto and then gently mix in the bacon (reserving 1 Tbl for topping). Spread into a serving dish. Top with quartered tomatoes and chopped bacon. Serve immediately with crackers or bread, or chill until ready to serve.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chicken Chesapeake

Ron and I have a serious love for crab cakes and almost always order them when we are out for dinner. We also love making them at home with and always use this recipe.  I came across Tide and Thyme's recipe for Chicken Chesapeake on my cooking board and it sounded fantastic!  Chicken, crab, cheese and bacon- sign me up!

This recipe was adapted from Tide and Thyme's recipe for Chicken Chesapeake. I changed the crab mixture and cooking method on my version of the dish. I bulked up the amount of crab and added a few other ingredients. Also, the crab cake is more like a crab cake stuffed into the chicken and sits on top versus stuffed into the chicken breast.  However, the cheese and bacon recommended in the original recipe were naturally a must in my house!  This was a great weeknight meal and was a great combination of a delicious crab cake and juicy baked chicken.

Last night a few friends and I went to a restaurant called 335 and it was so delicious! They are only open on Wednesday nights following the market so it was great to finally have a chance to go. I have had  the catered food and my baby shower was help there, but it was fun to go for dinner! I think that the simple goat cheese with honey comb and beet and orange salad stole the show for me! Sometimes it is the little things that are the most delicious. We also tried roasted bone marrow which was something I have wanted to order for awhile and finally got the chance to share with my foodie friend Tracy. We also shared a few delicious desserts: churros with blood orange sauce, affogato and pomegranate soft serve. Yum.

Isn't the beet salad pretty?!


Tonight I am headed to the gym after work and then home to make dinner and watch SVU with my friend Emily. I am making lasagna soup and Ron’s eye lit up this morning when I told him what was on the meal plan for the evening- it is one of his favorites.  This weekend we are going to have a few fun things on the agenda- Ron has a cribbage tournament on Saturday and we are going out for Thai after. Thai curry = love in my book and I am really excited!


Ingredients

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5 strips thick-cut bacon, sliced
1 Tbsp Old Bay
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

For the filling:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 Tbl sour cream
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 egg, beaten
6.5 oz lump crab meat
1/2 cup crushed saltines
1 Tbl finely chopped fresh parsley


Instructions

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.

Prepare the crab filling by combining cream cheese, sour cream, mustard, Worcestershire, lemon juice, egg, crushed saltines and parsley. Carefully fold in crab meat until combined. Let the crab mixture rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Season chicken breasts with Old Bay. Using a small knife, cut a pocket into the center of each chicken breast – about 2 inches long by 1 inch wide. Place 1/4 of the crab filling into the pocket of each chicken breast. The chicken breast does not need to be closed or sealed. 

Place filled chicken breasts in the prepared baking dish and bake in the oven 30-40 minutes (this may depend on the size of the chicken breasts). 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Roasted Chicken with Smoked Paprika, Blood Orange and Ginger

I originally saw this recipe from Elly Says Opa! over a year ago and bookmarked it to try once blood orange season came around. Well, I never had a chance to make it until now and figured that another savory dish featuring delicious winter citrus was in order! This chicken marinade is chalked full of different flavors and makes one delicious chicken dinner. Elly cooked potatoes in her roasting pan with her chicken, and I opted to do the same because less dishes are always a plus! I loved the flavor of the cilantro with the bite from the ginger and jalapeno, and smokiness of the paprika! The fresh flavors from the orange also provide a wonderful and subtle sweetness to the chicken. I only made a slight change to the recipe and added a little mustard to the marinade because I love the flavor it gives to chicken. The other great thing about this recipe is the crispy skin on the chicken thighs.  I love cooking chicken with the skin on, but hate when it does not turn out crispy. The potatoes are equally delicious and full of flavor from roasting in the delicious pan juices alongside the meat. This recipe will work well with regular oranges if you do not have blood oranges. 

Tonight, I am headed out to dinner with a few girlfriends to a restaurant called 335. I have eaten here a few times and had the catered for at my gift opening, baby shower and a few political parties. The food is always creative and delicious and I am really excited to go!  Ron and Kellen are having a boys night and having a pizza- Kellen will be thrilled because he has been asking for pizza for weeks!


Ingredients

1 tsp blood orange zest
1/2 cup fresh blood orange juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
3 Tbl olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbl fresh cilantro
1 small jalapeño, halved
1 Tbl grated fresh ginger root
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked hot paprika
1 3/4 - 2 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 8 thighs)
1/2 tsp salt
Sliced scallions for serving

for potatoes (optional):
3 - 3 1/2 cups chopped potatoes 
1 1/2 Tbl olive oil
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp black pepper


Instructions

In a blender or food processor, combine the zest, juice, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, ginger, salt, and paprika. Blend until smooth. Place chicken in a large re-sealable bag and pour in marinade. Seal and gently toss to coat. Place in the fridge and marinate 4-8 hours (longer the better). 

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix potatoes oil, salt and pepper- set aside. Place the chicken in a pan and surround the chicken with the potatoes. Sprinkle chicken with a little salt if desired. Roast the chicken until skin is golden and meat juices are no longer pink, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from over and sprinkle with sliced scallions. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Beef and Quinoa Meatballs in Lemongrass Curry

Time for January's Crazy Ingredient Challenge!


The theme for this month was lemongrass and quinoa. When I first heard the ingredients I did not think it would be too tricky, but when I sat down to create my recipe it was very tricky! I recently received a few products from Gourmet Garden for an upcoming blog challenge and one of them was lemongrass. The product is almost like a paste and is sold by the bagged salad and herbs at the grocery store.  I was really happy that I had something to use because I have had a hard time finding lemongrass when looking for other recipes! 

I decided that I was not going to use the quinoa as a side dish, but was going to make it the binder for a meatball in a curry sauce. I opted to go for Thai flavors such as basil, chili, ginger and a little lime (and of course lemongrass) in a coconut sauce.  I have made variations of this style curry before, but never with meatballs and I was excited to taste the fruits of my labor.  I also added a generous amount of cauliflower and broccoli. I love the way they soak up curry sauce and they are always a favorite of mine when in a Thai curry entrée. 

How did my quinoa beef meatballs turn out? Kellen and I thought they were delicious! Ron was not a big fan, but he is not a quinoa lover like the rest of us that drink the kool-aid on this grain. I liked that the quinoa made the meatballs sturdy and they could take a stir or two in my skillet and not fall apart.  However, Ron (along with the rest of us) really enjoyed the curry sauce.  The curry sauce is excellent and full of flavor. It is not very spicy and if you like more heat you can add a little chopped chili or a bit more paste to your recipe. I was feeding a little mouth that is just getting use to a little heat and did not want to overwhelm him. Kellen surprisingly loves spicy food, but only can take a little at a time. He wanted to try a bit of sriracha this past weekend and was allowed licked a tiny bit off a fork. His cheeks got a little red, but it didn’t stop him from wanting more…..my little fire eater. I have to limit him because his mouth likes it, but his little hinder- not so much……. 

Tonight, I heading to the gym and then home a dinner.  We are juicing the last of my blood oranges for a new (to me) chicken thigh and roasted potato recipe. I will get the post up quick so if you have a few blood oranges you take advantage! 

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

for meatballs:
1 1/2 lb ground beef (I use 85% lean)
Two eggs
1 Tbl  chopped fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup cooked quinoa
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp fresh lime zest zest


for curry sauce:
1/2 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbl olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbl lemongrass paste (I use Gourmet Garden)
1 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbl finely chopped fresh basil
2 1/2 - 3 Tbl Thai red curry paste (depends on your taste)
2 cans coconut milk
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups chopped broccoli
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste


Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, grease lightly and set aside.  Gently mix all meatball ingredients together until fully combined. Roll meatballs using your hands to uniform shape and size. This recipe makes 24-30 meatballs.  Place meatballs on the baking sheet and cook 35-40 minutes.

In a large rimmed skillet, sauté onion in olive oil over medium heat till tender. Add garlic, lemongrass paste,  ginger, basil and Thai red curry paste. Stir to evenly coat the onions.

 Whisk in the coconut milk followed by the chicken stock. Add the cauliflower and broccoli and simmer for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the meatballs to the sauce and stir. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Serve over hot rice.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Weekly Meal Plan 1/19 - 1/25

Green Bay has a bit of a cloud over it this morning after yesterdays loss to Seattle. It was a total bummer of a game, but the team is still strong and hopefully we will make it to the Superbowl next year- I was really hoping that this was the year! Other than the Packer loss we had a really wonderful weekend in the Dells!

I was off on Friday and got the family ready for the trip so we would leave right when Ron was done with work on Friday.  We stayed at The Wilderness in Wisconsin Dells and had a blast checking out the place when we arrived on Friday night. The pools closed, but Kellen checked out the game room before crashed for the night.

A natural? Mom isn't too sure about that! 


The following morning we did a little more exploring and started the day with a big breakfast before meeting our friends at the water park. The Wilderness has three different pools (including a lazy river and a large wave pool!) and Kellen loved every minute. We spent a lot of time by the lazy river because there was a large shallow area for the kids to play and splash. In the afternoon, Kellen enjoyed lunch and a long nap. We ordered spaghetti in the room and took a trip to the arcade (Kellen won a stuffed Turbo!).  

Kellen and Dad in the lazy river!


On Sunday, we packed up and got breakfast before heading to the pool for one last swim. Ron and Kellen rode a tube in the wave pool and I hung on to they didn't flip over! It was wild surf! After, we met with our friends and swam a little longer before getting our stuff together and heading home. We went right to my parents for the game. We enjoyed snacks and drinks before the defeat....boo.... oh well, we have next year! After the game we headed home for warm baths and a bit of relaxing. Kellen headed to bed early and we watched an episode of Cold Justice (seriously, if you haven't watched thus show give it a try!). 

This week I do not have a lot on the agenda, but am having dinner with my girlfriends on Wednesday. This weekend Ron has a cribbage tournament and we are going out for Thai! 

Have a great week! 

Here is what is on tap: 

Monday: Weeknight White Chicken Chili
Tuesday: Roasted Chicken with Smoked Paprika, Blood Orange, & Ginger, Roasted Potatoes, Roasted Cauliflower and Salad
Wednesday:  Out with my Girlfriends (Ron and Kellen are having pizza)
Thursday: Lasagna Soup , Salad and Garlic Bread
Friday: Pan Seared Pork Chops with Red Wine Thyme Reduction, Roasted Garlic Mashed and Roasted Broccoli
Saturday: Out for Thai (Ron has a cribbage tourney during the day and I am sending cookies!) I am aslo making Kellen Homemade Baked Chicken Nuggets for lunch!
Sunday: Pan Seared Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Ale Sauce, Parsley Buttered Red Potatoes and Green Beans

Friday, January 16, 2015

Slowcooker Cheddar Bacon Ale Dip

I am having a good food week. Not like eating healthy good, but good as in I want to make everything I posted and eat it again. 

Remember how I told you that I won my work’s dip contest last week? Well this dip was my winning creation and, speaking of re-making things, I had to make it again so I could share it with you! You have no idea how tickled I am that there is a crock of it sitting in my fridge ready to be destroyed by Ron and I tonight while we watch Cold Justice and play Mario Kart tonight (yep- battle is still going!). 

This dip came together on a whim for me as I was brainstorming what to make for the contest. I was having a craving for strong amber beer and thought what could be a more perfect base? I of course needed to add cheese and bacon because they are the remaining amigos of that trifecta.  There are a few key things to this dip that put it over the top (not that it won’t be delicious if you deviate, but it will be more delicious if you don’t), the type of bacon, flavor or the beer and sharpness of the cheese. I exclusively use Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon in our house. I have tried a lot of different bacons and this is the best. The smoky flavor is amazing and they bacon is nice and thick.  If you do not have Nueske’s available to you I recommend getting a thick and very smoky bacon for this dip.  My favorite amber beer is from Capitol Brewery and I use the Capitol Amber in this recipe. The beer has a bitter flavor and is very smooth. I would use an amber beer (or lighter if you wish) for this recipe, but probably would not use a dark beer. The final part is the cheese. Sharp cheddar is a must to provide the tangy bite of the dip. I like to use Steve’s sharp cheddar freshly grated off the block. I am sure I sound completely picky, but these flavors will provide you with an amazing dip! I also like to serve the dip with pretzel bites. I do not make mine and buy pretzel buns from a bakery and cut them up to serve with the dip. However, if you are feeling ambitious homemade bites would be amazing!

This recipe comes as a perfect post before the play-off games on Sunday! I don’t know about you, but I am pumped for Sunday’s Packer game! However, before Sunday rolls around we are heading to the Dells with a few friends and kids. It is going to be a fun weekend and I can’t wait to relax in the pool, laugh with our friends and play with Kellen. We are staying at The Wilderness and the hotel has a bunch of restaurants and lots of water park activities (even a wave pool!).  I am off today and getting ready for the trip while Ron works and Kellen is at daycare (or “friend’s house” as he call it), and we are leaving as soon as they get home! I am really excited to get away even if it is for a few days…. Our family is always so busy and It is nice to take a weekend to spend time with each other.  

Have a great weekend everyone and Go Pack Go! 


Ingredients

18 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 Tbl Dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
8 oz amber beer 
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 lb bacon cooked and chopped - reserve 2 Tbl for topping 
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbl thinly sliced green onion
Pretzel Rolls, cut in bite size pieces


Instructions 

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream, mustard, garlic powder till smooth.  Slowly whisk in the beer until smooth. Stir in the grated cheese and chopped bacon.  Spoon the dip into the slow cooker and turn the heat to low. Cook for about 3-4 hours and stir often to make sure the sides do not burn.  In the 30 minutes of cooking, stir in the heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time.  Once all the cheese is melted and dip is smooth turn the heat to warm. Top with remaining bacon and onions. Serve with pretzel bites.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Creamy Wild Rice and Sausage Soup

Time for January Improv Cooking Challenge! 

The theme for this month is pork and rice. My mind went a few different ways when deciding what to make: pineapple fried rice, a casserole or a stuffed pepper. I finally decided on making a soup. I don't know about you, but there is nothing better than a big bowl of soup on a cold evening after a long day. I kept this recipe really simple and used a simple seasoned ground pork sausage, chopped veggies, fresh herbs and a bit of cream. I knew I wanted to use fresh thyme, and decided to add a bit of fresh marjoram to the soup because I love the slightly sweet flavor it gives to a dish. This soup was amazing and my entire family gobbled it up. Kellen loves soup and kept telling us "I love this" in between spoonfuls of warm soup. 

Tonight we are headed to Appleton for my friend Amanda's inauguration. We are so proud of her election to the State Assembly and wouldn't miss this for the world! After the inauguration we are heading out for Pho. I know Kellen will be thrilled because he adores Pho and it is so cute to watch him slurp the noodles and drink the broth. I am also hoping that we can get an order of chicken saute- I love the sauce! I am also getting ready for our trip to the Dells this weekend! I am so excited to get away for the evening and enjoy some time with my family and friends! 

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 Coffee and Cream!


Ingredients

1 lb pork sausage
1 onion, diced
5 stalks of celery, sliced thin
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1 Tbl fresh minced thyme
1 tsp fresh minced marjoram
1 cup uncooked wild rice
7 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
Salt and Pepper, to taste


Instruction

In a soup pot, brown sausage over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots to the sausage and cook till tender.  Add herbs and stir. Add stock and rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to bring soup to a slow simmer. Cover and cook till rice is tender (depending on the wild rice blend you use times may differ). 

Remove cover and add cream. Season with salt and pepper and serve.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dijon Blood Orange Marinated Salmon

I needed to create another citrus recipe while the season is hot using one of my favorite citrus fruits: the blood orange. Oranges in general are delicious, but there is something so pretty about blood oranges and they always catch people's eye with their distinctive hue.  I do not find the flavor a lot different than a basic orange besides a touch more tartness and slight bitter quality. 

Salmon is not a fish that comes to our table often. I love it, but Ron is not a big fan. He will eat it and always says he likes it, but it never seems tacky to his taste, as they say. However, I was determined that he would like this recipe. Kellen always enjoys salmon when I make it, and calls it "pink fish". Adorable.  I really like the flavor of dijon and orange together (to be fair I like dijon with everything) and knew it would make a killer marinade for the salmon. I like to marinate my salmon for at least 8 hours to make sure that all of the flavors get into the fish before cooking. However, if you are crunched for time to what you can for marinating time, but add a bit extra over the top for baking. I opted to bake the salmon with a few fresh orange slices over the top to get even more of the fresh citrus flavor. I finished the salmon under the broiler because I love the caramelization on the oranges and the slight char it gives to the salmon. I serve my salmon medium-rare to medium. If you like your salmon at a different temp you can simply adjust the cooking time. 

How did the salmon do with Ron and Kellen? Fantastic. Ron liked it a lot and Kellen finished his plate of "pink fish". I was so happy that they flavor of the mustard and citrus were bright and distinctive.  This would also be a fantastic marinade for chicken or pork tenderloin if you are not a lover of "pink fish". 

Tonight, my friend Emily is coming over for our Law and Order: SVU watch party. I am trying out a new recipe for a cooking challenge using quinoa and lemongrass- hoping for delicious results! 


Ingredients

Zest of 1 blood orange
Juice of three blood oranges
1 tsp sriracha 
1 1/2 Tbl Dijon mustard
One clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 lb salmon fillet
1/2 tsp salt
4-6 very thin round blood orange slices


Instructions

Whisk together zest, juice, sriracha, mustard, garlic, oil, salt and pepper. Place salmon fillet into a large resealable bag. Pour in the orange marinade, press out the air and seal. Toss the fish gently to coat in the marinate. Place the bag on a plate in the fridge and allow fish to marinate about 8 hours. 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 8x8 baking dish with foil and lightly grease with cooking spray or a bit of olive oil. Remove the salmon from the bag and place in the baking dish. Place blood orange slices evenly over the salmon. Spoon a bit of the marinade over the salmon. Discard remaining marinade. 

Bake salmon 15-17 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil salmon 1-2 minutes to allow the oranges to slightly char and caramelize. Remove from the oven, slice into individual servings and serve. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chicken Bacon Ranch Tot Casserole

Chicken. Bacon. Ranch. 

It seems like this flavor combination is on every bar menu I see these days. Normally in wrap or sandwich form it is tasty combo. When I worked at Nicky’s in De Pere there was (still is) a sandwich on the menu called the Chicken Francisco. It was a grilled chicken breast, melted cheese, bacon, caramelized onions and ranch dressing.  This sandwich was always one of the most popular items on the menu! I decided to take the flavors of chicken, bacon and ranch and create a casserole.  I also decided that I needed to add cheese and tater tots because that is how I roll.  I used shredded cooked chicken in my casserole and I make this a few different ways: 1) poach the chicken and shred 2) cook the chicken in the slow cooker with a little stock or 3) rotisserie chicken for a great quick option.   For this recipe I used do-it-yourself cream of chicken soup, but you can used canned if you do not want to make your own. 

I made this casserole for my friend Emily (Ron and Kellen too) for one of our SVU nights and it received high marks. The casserole hits all the right notes that every casserole should: flavorful, creamy, cheesy. The bacon is perfectly smoky and the tater tots are a perfect crispy topper.  I love how easy this casserole was for a weeknight meal and it warmed up wonderfully for lunch leftovers the following day.  I really like creating new casseroles that give a different take on the same old recipes and give new flavors for dinner. 

Tonight we are laying pretty low.  I have a new chicken recipe in the crockpot and am heading to do a little weight training after work. I think that Ron and I will have a Mario Kart rematch after Kellen heads to bed….  The battle is still going strong with no signs of surrender. I have also been liking a new driving character- Birdo. She is pink, loud and annoying. She also has a pretty fast bike that takes corners sharp….


Ingredients

1 recipe of cream of chicken soup (equivalent of 2 cans), cooled
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 packet ranch dressing packet
1/2 cup sour cream 
1 pound bacon, cooked and chopped
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
One (32 oz) bag of tater tots 


Instructions

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

Mix cream of chicken soup, ranch packet and sour cream. Gently stir in the chicken. Spread chicken mixture evenly into the casserole dish. Top evenly with grated cheese and follow by topping with chopped bacon. Evenly arrange tater tots on top of the casserole. 

Bake uncovered in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Weekly Meal Plan 1/12-1/18

Happy Monday! 

This weekend was lots of fun! On Friday, we had my work holiday party at a local restaurant and it was really fun! We had a dip contest and I entered crockpot cheddar bacon ale dip, and it won! I didn't get a chance to take a photo, but am going to make it again so I can share the recipe with you because it is soooo delicious- perfect for game day! We also played board games and a few minute to win it type of games- have you ever tried to stack 3 golf balls!? According to YouTube it is possible.... 

On Saturday, we headed to our nieces birthday party and it was a blast. The kids are so cute and there were delicious cupcakes. After the party we headed home, rested and ordered pizza. Perfect relaxing evening. 

On Sunday, I headed to the movie theater mid-morning with my friend and her daughter. The theater is showing classic Disney movies this month and Sunday was Beauty and the Beast. We are headed back in a few weeks to see Little Mermaid! It is so fun to see those on the big screen again, Beauty and the Beast was THE movie when I was 7. I remember having a Beauty and the Beast party with a gold dress, candy roses and a doll cake with a yellow dress.....those were the days. After the movie I watched the Packer game with my parents before heading home and to get a few things done before heading out for Thai with my girlfriendsI am particularly happy this morning after the Packer win yesterday. Side bar: for those of you who say the final fourth down Cowboy pass was a bad call- eat it (just kidding......maybe). As explained to me by my husband and father (who know more about football than anyone else I know) maintaining control of the ball is what is needed for it to be a complete pass. Unlike the former rule, which would have allowed for the bounce, pass was incomplete. Since my team is on the happy end of that rule I will smile because Packers have caught the flip side of that very rule in previous games. That concludes my football gloat/rant for this week.....next week we will see. .

This week we are getting ready for our trip to Wisconsin Dells! We are also attending my friend Amanda's Appleton inauguration and my friend Emily is coming for for Law and Order: SVU. 

I have a few delicious new recipes coming your way this week! 

Here is what is on tap: 

MondayDijon and Blood Orange Marinated Salmon, Cous Cous and Broccoli
Tuesday:Slow Cooker Chicken in Tomato & Olive Sauce, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Salad
Wednesday: Beef and Quinoa Meatballs with Lemongrass Curry, Rice and Salad
Thursday: Out for Pho
Friday: Wisconsin Dells (I am bringing Salted Nut Roll Bars and French Onion Dip)
Saturday: Wisconsin Dells
Sunday: Grilled BBQ Chicken, Cheddar Bacon Risotto and Peas

Friday, January 9, 2015

Meyer Lemon Bars

Greetings from the Frozen Tundra….Brrrrr!

Sunday’s game is going to be a bit warmer than it is today, but still pretty chilly.  Our family has season tickets to the game, but are opting to sell them and watch from a warmer indoor location.  When you live in Green Bay, the thrill of freezing on a metal bench can loose it's appeal to some…. However, we are always thrilled when we get to host the competition and allow them to enjoy our frosty weather. 

Besides being freezing, January brings citrus season from down south.  This time of year we get juicy oranges, grapefruit and lemons on our shelves. It is a perfect way to cast off a bit of the dreary cold with bright citrus flavors.  Earlier this week I shared a recipe for Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake because my family are big fans, but I wanted to try out a few different recipes as well.  I bought a bag of Meyer lemons on a whim because they are hard to find in my area, and are so delicious. Meyer lemons are different than regular lemons, but still pack a wonderful tart flavor. Meyer lemons are originally from China and were brought the United States in the early 1900’s. The lemons are thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. The flavor is very similar to a lemon, but a bit sweeter – perfect for baking and cocktails! If you aren’t in an area that these can be grown make sure to nab a bag in January because they are gone before you know it! 

This recipe was shared on my cooking board, but is originally a recipe from Ina Garten.  The recipe is fantastic and very easy to make even for a novice baker like myself.  Even with the sweeter Meyer lemon, the flavors were still tart and fresh. I was told by a few people that I shared these with that they were the best lemon bars they had ever had.  If you can’t find Meyer lemons, regular lemons can be used in place. 

Tonight it is my work holiday party and it should be a lot of fun! I am on the special events team at my office and help with the planning of the event.  On Saturday, we have my niece’s 3rd birthday party in Appleton. I can’t believe that the cute little bugger is 3 already!  After the party I am hoping that Ron and I can sneak off to see Taken 3 while Kellen naps. I love the first two Taken movies, and am excited to see the third installment.   Sunday is the big Packer game! We are watching with my parents and having a few snacks. After the game, I am heading out for dinner with a few girlfriends for Thai food. 

Have a great weekend and Go Pack Go!



Ingredients

For the crust:
2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt

For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
2 Tbl Meyer lemon zest (4-6 Meyer lemons)
1 cup all-purpose flour
Confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar), for dusting


Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt, set speed to low and slowly add it to butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature. Cut into triangles or squares and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Creamy Balsamic and Herb Chicken

I pinned this recipe from Mother Thyme in fall last year and am finally getting around to making it. I love balsamic vinegar and the addition of fresh herbs and cream sounded too delicious to pass up! The chicken is lightly sauteed before finishing in the cream sauce so it develops a delicious and flavorful coating on the outside and is juicy on the inside. I served this with roasted potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts, but I almost wish I made mashed potatoes to mop up all the delicious sauce. The fresh herbs make the dish, in my opinion, and as I ate it I thought how fantastic this will be in the summer using herbs from our garden! We eat a lot of chicken in our house, and this is one recipe I can't wait to share with family and friends- my sister and mom would go nuts for this meal! Kellen also loved the chicken and loved dipping his portion into the sauce before popping it into his mouth. 

Tonight, my friend Emily is coming over with her daughter for a little Law and Order: SVU (long live Elliot Stabler) fiesta and I am trying out a new casserole recipe. It has been so cold here that a casserole will taste delicious and comforting on this cold blustery night. 

Later this week I have a delicious recipe using meyer lemons- a perfect balance of tart and sweet!


Ingredients

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts 
3 Tbl all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl butter
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tap balsamic vinegar
1 tsp chopped fresh basil
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary


Instructions

Place chicken breasts on wax paper. Top with another sheet of wax paper, and using a mallet flatten chicken to about 1/2 inch thick.

Add flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder to a large resealable bag. Add chicken and toss to coat. 

In a large rimmed skillet heat butter and oil until butter over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.

Add chicken broth to skillet to deglaze pan. Whisk in heavy cream, balsamic vinegar and herbs and bring to a slow simmer.

Add chicken back to skillet and turn to coat. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes and allow sauce thicken slightly (sauce will thicken upon standing).

Place chicken on serving platter. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.