Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Grilled Chicken Caprese

It is not quite tomato season in Wisconsin, but I had a hankering for a caprese salad after seeing Novice Chef's Caprese Chicken on Pinterest I decided that I needed to create my own take on caprese chicken. I am all about marinating and grilling chicken breasts. Baked, sauteed and fried are all delicious, but do not hold a candle to grilled chicken, in my opinion. I kept the flavors simple in this dish with an easy pantry friend marinade of balsamic, olive oil, brow sugar and garlic. I knew the flavors would make the chicken pop when pared with my balsamic reduction with warm tomatoes and gooey melted fresh mozzarella cheese.  I also topped the final product with a little extra freshly chopped basil because, in my world, extra basil is great! 

My family totally dug this meal and it was so easy to prepare! I find grilling to be a perfect weeknight option and giving the chicken a little caprese twist does away with any "boring chicken" notions. I serves my chicken with Parmesan couscous and an arugula salad, but this would be fantastic with pasta of over a salad. 

Tonight, I am going to swing by the gym for a quick workout and my friend Emily is coming over a little t.v. viewing and a little (grilled) pork tenderloin.... win win all around! Kellen recently got a new swing set and his been excited about having his friends over to enjoy his new toy with him. 

Today I was looking at vacation pictures my sister posted and love the ones of Kellen and I swimming together. It was so wonderful to have an entire week together and I hope we will be lucky enough to do it again....or before I before an "embarrassing mom".... Time goes by way too fast! 


Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbl brown sugar
2  cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbl granulated sugar
One pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup basil, chopped (reserved 2 Tbl for topping)
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced into 8 slices


Instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients. Place chicken into a large resealable bag and pour in the marinate. Toss to coat and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but 8 hours is preferable. 

In a medium pan, slowly simmer 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar and granulated sugar till reduced by 1/3. Add tomatoes and basil and cook over low heat while you prepare the chicken. It is important to keep the heat low enough once the vinegar has reduced to the tomatoes and basil cook slowly.  

Heat grill to medium heat. Remove chicken from marinate and grill chicken 3-5 minutes per side or until no longer pink (this will depend on size and thickness of the chicken breast).  During the last minute of cooking place two slices of cheese on the chicken and allow it to melt. Remove chicken from grill one the cheese has melted. 

To serve, plate the chicken and spoon the tomato mixture over the chicken. Top with a bit of the reserved basil and serve immediately. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mini Garlic Monkey Bread

Welcome to April's What's Baking!

We were challenged to bake with garlic this month and I immediately knew that I wanted to try out a recipe my friend Emily made for dinner awhile ago, Mini Garlic Monkey Bread. I opted to use the recipe from Damn Delicious because it looked so easy and I knew it was something I could put together to serve with a weeknight dinner.  My entire family goes nuts for garlic bread in any form and I knew this recipe would be a hit in my household.  Kellen and I loved peeling the morsels of warm buttery bread from the muffins and popping them into our mouths. It seems, with toddlers, that anything that can be made little or mini is well received by little appetites. I served these along side a roast, cheesy potatoes and a crisp salad, but they would be fantastic with lasagna or spaghetti. Another wonderful thing is that these can be made prior to the meal and reheated quickly when you are ready to serve.

Today I finished unpacking and am working on laundry (which feels like forever and ever!). I was lucky to have some "me" time today and got to the gym and had lunch with a friend.  Tonight, Ron and I are relaxing and playing with Kellen on his new swing set before dinner and more laundry.  I also need to run to pick up my elderberry syrup (click to read more about the health and wellness benefits) from a friend- no after plane sickness for us (doesn't it always feel like this happens?)! Have a great Monday everyone! 


Ingredients

1 (16-ounce) tube refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbl grated Parmesan
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/8 tsp salt


Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

 Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin  with cooking spray.

Cut each of the 8 biscuits into eighths and set aside (I like to use a pizza cutter).

In a large bowl, whisk together butter, Parmesan, garlic, oregano, basil, parsley and salt, reserving 2 tablespoons for later. Gently stir in biscuit pieces till well coated. 

Arrange 5-6 pieces into each muffin cup, gently pressing the last piece in the center.

Place into oven and bake until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Brush with remaining butter mixture and serve warm.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Weekly Meal Plan 4/26 - 5/3

It is good to be back in Wisconsin. Not that I didn't love the perfect weather, sandy beaches, refreshing ocean, shelling, rum daiquiris and fresh fish...... but we missed Ron and it was wonderful to see him after a week away! 

We had a fantastic trip and I loved spending time with my mom, sister and nephew!   Sanibel is a barrier island on the gulf in Florida. Sanibel concentrates on preservation and ecology and natural habitats are put at high importance. Also, because of how the island is shaped and it's location many beautiful shells wash up on the beach.  We arrived at Fort Meyers (Kelln was awesome on the plane) on Saturday afternoon and made our way to Sanibel. Here is a picture of us navigating the airport (babywearing isn't just for babies!):


We stayed at the Sundial Resort and had a little trouble with our room not being ready until after 6pm and the first woman we spoke with was pretty snappy! After being up since 5 am with two young children this did not sit well with us but resort gave us a discount for our trouble.  We were is warm beautiful weather and those things become small potatoes.  However, in Wisconsin, people who work in Door County have described having a "case of the Augusts" at the end of the season and I think this place had a "case of the Aprils" since it was near the end of their busy season on Sanibel.  We hit the beach after we were finally able to check-in and it was beautiful. It was very calm compared the to remainder of the week when the waves were crashing in. 


 The following day we had a beach day with sun, surf and strawberry daiquiris.  My sister and I also began our shelling (obsession) fun! We were literally running up and down the beach with goggles, shell bags and nets......

Kellen loved trying to hear the ocean in the shells. 



The remainder of the week was a mix of pool/beach time, but we also had a few excursions. Our first stop was to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. This was perfect for my sister and I to look and see what finds we were missing! The shell museum also had a wonderful children's area. 


Lofty goals.........


We also made a stop at J.D. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It was so cool to see the wildlife, but it was really hot and the kids were not feeling the longer walks. I would love to go back and explore more. 



In the evening I made sure to have a few of these delicious bad boys:

and a delicious caramel chocolate ice cream from Pinocchio's called Dirty Sand Dollar:


The next few days were by the beach filled with sand castles and shelling before we had to come home. 



and then it was time to say goodbye to Florida!


The flight home went great with the exception of a bit of anxiety. Before the plane took off the captain announced that there would be a bit turbulence due to a weather front.  The kids thought the bumps were fun and the adults white knuckled their arm rests, but we landed safe and sound. 

When we finally arrived home  (after a quick Trader Joe's stop) my Dad was nice enough to have grilled ribs and beans ready for us! Ron picked us up and it was so nice to finally crawl into my own bed and read.  I am currently reading The Girl on The Train and really enjoying it. I wish I could have finished it, but Kellen wanted to do a few puzzles on my Kindle on the flight. 

Tonight we are grilling brats and relaxing. I am off work tomorrow and will spend the day getting all of our laundry finished and put away! The rest of the week will be pretty relaxed and getting a bit of yard work done. I am also looking forward to Law and Order's crossover show on Wednesday (and Game of Thrones tonight!). I am also working on a few blogging events and getting my recipes in line. 

Have a great week!

Here is what is on tap:

Sunday: Grilled Brats, Baked Beans, Pasta Salad, Cole Slaw and Cottage Cheese
Monday: Darn Good RoastCompany Potato Casserole and Salad
Tuesday:  Grilled Chicken Caprese, Parmesan Cous Cous and Salad
Wednesday: Hawaiian Pork Tenderloin, Wild Rice and Salad
Thursday: Skillet Ham and Cheese Gnocchi and Salad
Friday: Grilled Honey Cilantro Lime Shrimp Skewers and Charred Vegetable Quinoa Salad
Saturday: Out
Sunday: Garlic Herb Burgers with Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Aoli and Feta, American Fries and Zucchini

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Slow Cooker Poor Man's Beef Stew

Another greeting from Sanibel Island in Florida! Our week is going really well and I feel so blessed to have this time with my family and my Kellen. We have spent a majority of our time relaxing and taking in the sunshine. 

Here is my view from our chairs the other day during high tide (I also was holding a strawberry daiquiri):

It honestly doesn't get much better than that. Kellen has loved vacation (but misses his Daddy something terrible!). My sweet husband has been home and text me a photo of the raised bed he finished building while we are away- so nice!

My sister and I have taken to shelling on this trip. We are the two grown adults running up and down the beach wearing goggles, holding a shelling mesh bag and waving around fishing nets.  We have no shame and we are on a shell hunt.  Here are our some of our findings (yes, we organized them):


Tomorrow is our last full day and I am sad to leave, but happy to get home (isn't that always the case when you are away from home?).  I was going to save this recipe till I got home, but I have a moment right now, and everyone is sleeping- just enough time for a quick post. 

This recipe comes from my friend Kylee of Kylee Cooks. I am sure you notice that her recipe pop up here from time to time and this recipe sounded too good to pass up. I love beef stew and never thought to use ground beef of the cubed stew meat. It was a fantastic recipe for a weeknight meal because it involved no cooking after I got home from work (which was great because I took advantage of the extra time and met my friend Emily for a playdate. I kept close to the original recipe with the exception of using frozen pearl onions over the fresh sliced because I happened to have a bag on hand that I needed to use.  

My entire family loved this meal and the stew made wonderful leftover for work lunches the following day. I can't wait to pull this one back into the rotation! I also love recipes like this in the summer because it cooks in the slow cooker and doesn't heat up my entire house with an oven of afternoon stovetop cooking. 

Have a great weekend everyone- see you on Monday! 































Ingredients

1 lb lean ground beef, browned and drained
4 medium potatoes, diced large 
4 medium carrots, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, sliced (or a small bag of frozen pearl onions)
1 6 oz can tomato paste
3 cups beef broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried thyme


Directions

Layer the ground beef, potatoes, carrots, onion into the slow cooker. Whisk together the tomato paste, broth, salt, pepper, garlic powder,  onion powder and thyme. Pour the liquid mixture over the meat and veggies and stir gently.  Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or 4 hours on high.

Monday, April 20, 2015

King Crown Burrito Casserole

Hello from Sanibel Island, Florida! 

We are starting off our week at our resort and enjoying the lovely pools, fruity drinks, cool ocean and sandy beaches full of shells!

However, I couldn't leave for a week and not share a new tasty recipe with all of you!  This recipe came about someplace in between a burrito craving and cleaning out my pantry.  I love casseroles full of flavor and goodies and this casserole doesn't disappoint! It is full of beans, beef, corn, spicy chilies, tomatoes and cheese. The topper of this casserole is crispy potato rounds. I have no shame in my love of tater tots and these little rounds are a perfect topper for my casserole. Kellen, Ron and I loved this casserole and it reheated perfectly for lunch leftover the following afternoon. 

After making the casserole I was at a loss what to call it and Ron came up with this name and I thought it was perfect! 

Enjoy the casserole and see you soon! 


Ingredients

1 medium onion, diced
1 yellow bell, diced
1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (11 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies (I use Rotel brand)
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (11 oz) can of corn
1 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 Tbl chili powder
1/2 Tbl ground cumin
1 tsp salt
 1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
20 oz Crispy Crown tater tots (about 2/3 of the bag)


Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 casserole dish and set aside. 

In a large rimmed skillet, brown beef with onions, peppers and garlic. Drain excess grease. Add corn, beans and tomatoes. Add seasonings and allow beef mixture to cook for a few minutes.  Spread beef into the casserole dish and top evenly with cheese. Arrange tater crowns over the casserole. 

Bake 35-40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Roasted Asparagus and Pancetta Carbonara

Time for April's Improv Cooking Challenge!

The theme for this month is asparagus and egg- a perfect combo for spring! I initially thought about doing a simple salad with roasted asparagus, a poached egg and a little cheese, but my family was craving pasta. Ron and I love carbonara and I knew this was a perfect opportunity to mix in one of my favorite spring veggies. I was torn between roasting my asparagus or grilling, but decided that roasting is a little easier (and I was feeling a little lazy), but if you are up for grilling is would be a delicious adaption. I loved the fresh flavors from the roasted asparagus, the rich pasta and the wonderfully salty pancetta- this was one amazingly delicious plate of pasta. Kellen, Ron and I gobbled this down in no time flat, and the leftover pasta made fantastic leftover for work lunches the following day. 

One more day till Florida....and I have lots to do- eekkk! I have Kellen pretty set to go, but my clothes are still wet in the washer and suitcase empty (we are going to the beach how much do we really need??).  Tonight, I am finishing my suitcase and I have a volleyball game later in the evening. I am also starting a nice big pot of meat sauce for Ron while I am gone during the week. I also need to finish organizing my freezer because we recently bought a 1/4 of a cow and I have more steaks than I know what to do with (what a horrible problem to have)! Finally, I am hoping to grab an ice cream with my friend Kayla before I leave.... seems like I am going to have a busy night.... 

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 cilantro and lime! 


Ingredients

2 pounds asparagus trimmed 
1 Tbl olive oil
Salt
Black Pepper
4 oz chopped pancetta
 2 small shallots, diced
1 cup  dry white wine
4 eggs
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup cream
1 lb pasta


Instructions

Preheat oven to  350°. Place asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a small amount of salt and black pepper on the asparagus. Roast till al dente, remove from oven and chop into 1-2 inch pieces. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

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


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


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


Add white wine to the skillet with the pancetta. Allow it to gently simmer and reduce for about 10 minutes. 


Add pasta to pancetta mixture and toss. Remove from heat and add the egg mixtures while quickly tossing the pasta.  Gently stir in the asparagus to warm. Serve immediately. 




Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mini Chocolate Chip Cheesecakes

Hump day and 2 days till we leave for vacation! The weather has been great in Wisconsin, but I can't wait to feel the ocean breeze on my skin and the cool water. 

Kellen has been taking swimming lessons with my Mom on Wednesdays in preparation for the trip, but last week was the final class- I need to remember to call and sign them up for round 2! Kellen really enjoys the water and we are so lucky that my Mom loves to swim because with our work schedules it is hard to get to a class weekly. 

On to the cheesecake. 

I was looking for a cheesecake recipe to bring to Easter dinner and I found these Mini Chocolate Chip Cheesecakes. Originally, I was thinking a salted caramel or toffee, but sometimes simple is better and I knew our family would love these little bites. The original recipe makes 8 mini cheesecakes, but I doubled it and came out with 18 mini cheesecakes.  These were a big hit with my family and everyone said they were delicious! I loved how easy they were and that it was a perfect bite to end the meal. They also travel nicely and, even though it is a short, trip it is one less thing to worry about.  The only changes I made to the recipe were minor, I used chocolate graham crackers over regular and opted for mini chocolate chips over regular sized chips. I love using mini chocolate chips in desserts like this because you get a lot morsel of chocolate in each bite.  I also topped the cheesecakes with a little whipped cream and extra mini chocolate chips. (plain is delicious too if you prefer that).  

Tonight, I am in pack mode for our trip. My goal is to get Kellen all squared away tonight and have my clothing and swim stuff packed. We are leaving right after I am done with work on Friday and I want to be set to go when Ron drives us to my parents house (Ron has to work and had to sit this trip out- next time!).  I always buy myself a few new outfits for trips and am in love with a colorful maxi dress I got on Zulily- can't wait to put it on! Yesterday, I made a Target run for our toiletries and miscellaneous stuff (i.e. plane entertainment for Kellen). My in-laws are also coming for dinner and to spend a little time with Kellen before we leave for our trip. 

Kellen is really excited to ride the plane and this will be his third plane ride and the shortest one to date. This trip will be about 3 hours which feels like a breeze compared to the 7 1/2 hours to Paris last summer! What I learned last time is to bring lots new books, stickers and snacks....made for a happy toddler. He also really liked playing puzzles on my Kindle. Kellen's cousin (he is 6) will be there as well and will probably have a movie they can watch together (Kellen s loving Lion King and Nemo lately). 

Let the trip preparation begin!


Ingredients

Crust:
2 cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbl brown sugar
 pinch salt
6 Tbl butter, melted

Cheesecake:
2 8 oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips (plus extra for topping)
Whipped Cream, for topping (optional)


Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 cups of a muffin pan with paper liners.

To make to crust, mix together graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and salt. Pour in melted butter and stir with a small spatula to moisten all the crumbs.

Place about a tablespoon to one and a half tablespoon of crumb mixture in each of the prepared muffin cups and pack down into an even layer.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (you can usr hand held too), cream together cream cheese, sour cream and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla extract. Fold in the mini chocolate chips and stir to evenly distribute.

 Evenly divide cheesecake batter between the muffin cups.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheesecakes are set. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin pan, then carefully transfer cheesecakes to a cooling rack to cool completely before refrigerating.

To serve, add a whipped cream to each cheesecake and a sprinkle of chocolate chips. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Kale Salad with Homemade Poppy Seed Dressing

Time for April Secret Recipe Club


This month I missed the sign-up for a the swap, but thankfully there was blogger in need and I was happy to step in an make a recipe. I received the blog The Pinterest Kitchen. I love the concept of the blog:  3 ladies testing and making popular recipes and projects from Pinterest to let their reader know if the recipes are really worth all the hype! It was hard to choose one recipe from their blog- Korean Beef, Honey Lime Sririacha Grilled Chicken and "OMG" Sour Cream Chicken all sounded fantastic.  However, I had almost settled on a recipe when Kale Salad with Homemade Poppy Seed Dressing was posted. The recipe was from an Amish family, but was pretty much identical to the superfood salad sold at Costco.  The salad caught my eye because I am addicted to that salad! It is so delicious and I never think the make it at home.  The recipe was so simple and (the the author said) I had most of the ingredients on hand- I loved the suggestion to use apple slices in the salad!  I brought this salad to share with my family on Easter because they are also superfood salad lovers. The verdict? The salad was amazing! I loved the dressing and the crunchy greens were delicious and refreshing.  I can't wait to make this recipe again (and never need to buy bagged salad!).

We have another day of sunshine and I am excited to get to the park tonight for a quick play before dinner!

 Have a wonderful Monday everyone!


Ingredients

Dressing:
1 Tbl apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Italian dressing
1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
salt and pepper to taste

Salad:
6 to 8 cups of chopped kale
1/2 small red cabbage chopped
Stalks from 1 head of broccoli, julianed and halved 
6 large sliced brussel sprouts, trimmed and sliced thin
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Instructions

Mix together dressing ingredients, cover and place in fridge so ingredients can marry while you make the rest of the salad.
Chop enough kale to fill your salad bowl (enough for about 4 people).
Slice 5-6 brussel sprouts thinly and add to salad.
Juliane a few broccoli stalks (save the tops for another recipe). Add to salad.
Add thin slices of red cabbage to the salad, along with a handful each of pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries.
Immediately before service, toss with dressing.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weekly Meal Plan 4/13 - 4/19

Good evening! 

This weekend was so beautiful, the temperature reached 70 degrees and the sun was shinning. It is hard to ask for anything more! 

On Friday night, Ron, Kellen and I met our friends Amanda and David for pho and curry at one of our favorite Thai restaurants in the Appleton area. I know when I order pho Kellen will devour his portion and I usually need to ask for extra noodles when we are sharing. Tonight was no different than the norm, and the little guy ate noodles and broth like he had a hollow leg.  We headed to bed early because  Ron has to work a 12 hour shift on Saturday at 6:00- makes for a long day!  A quick side story from our ride home from daycare, Kellen has decided to quiz me. As we drove Kellen said to me, "mama say sky" and I said "sky", "mama say cloud" "cloud", "mama say alligator" "alligator". "Good job mama". I guess I passed the test. 

The next morning Ron was up before Kellen and I rolled out of bed (Kellen gets up at 5:30 so that is not saying much). Kellen and I got ready, picked up my sister and nephew and headed to The Big Event for Little Kids to meet our big and little friends. The Big Event is really wonderful and there are tons of hands on crafts and projects for the kids. Kellen was a little overwhelmed by the whole thing and will probably enjoy it more when we is a little older. My nephew and my friends older daughter were the perfect age and loved all of the different activities.  My favorite area was filled with sensory tables with all different things little hands could explore. Another favorite was sitting in a real cement mixer!

Here are a few photos from our morning:

After the Big Event we went to grab burgers and a nap! I did a few things around the house before dropped Kellen at my in-laws house before grabbing Mexican take-out for Ron and I.  Since Ron and I had a free night we headed out for a little karaoke with our friend Emily. Emily is an awesome singer and killed her songs (Ron did great too!). I haven't sang in a long time and didn't get in the saddle tonight, but will next time around! We only stayed for a bit and were excited for a chance to sleep in because Mr. 5:30 AM was out of the house for the night!  

Sunday morning I ran to the grocery store and we headed to our friend to visit their new baby girl and bring them a meal. After our visit we stopped at the Rainbow Playground outlet to order Kellen's new play set with my mom. After,  we grabbed lunch and picked up Kellen from his grandparent's house. Kellen has such a wonderful time he didn't want to leave!  Once we got home we all relaxed and got our brats ready because my parents came for dinner. We spent a good portion of the evening outside enjoying the weather. Poor Kellen took his first digger of the season and scratched his poor little nose! Cuddles with mom always makes the bumps better!


This week we are getting ready for our trip and I have lots of laundry on my list. We are also going to take advantage of the nice weather and make sure that we get to the park. I also have a volleyball game later in the week that I am really looking forward to! 

Have a great week! 

Here is what is on tap: 

Monday: Slow Cooker Poor Man's Beef Stew, Salad and Rolls
Tuesday: Out with my In-Laws
Wednesday: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Garlic Bread and Salad
Thursday:  Junk Yard Special and Salad
Friday: Out to Culver's
Saturday: Florida!
Sunday: Florida!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Curry Honey Mustard Pork Tenderloin

Anyone else saying TGIF today? I can't tell you how happy I am that the weekend is almost here! 

Are you looking for a great pork tenderloin recipe to make on Saturday night? This recipe highlights one of my favorite flavor combinations- honey and curry. I love the sweet heat combo and paired with pork and a cream sauce this meal is fantastic. I added a little ginger and cilantro to the marinade as well because I like the extra kick from the ginger and freshness from the cilantro. The only word of caution I have on this recipe is that is that you need to watch your pork because of the sugar from the honey it can burn easily, but you can combat that by rotating it frequently. My family loved this recipe, and Kellen gobbled it up (like I said previously- he loves pork tenderloin). 

Tonight we are heading out for Pho and curry, and to see my friend Amanda. We are up bright and early tomorrow to go to the Big Event for Little Kids with friends, and after that Kellen is going to visit Ron's parents for the evening and we might actually get to head out for a few drinks with friends! We may have to play it by ear since Ron will be working a 12 hour Saturday and may want to crash..... but that doesn't mean I can't sneak out for a bit! 

Have a great weekend everyone! 


Ingredients

1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 1/2 Tbl soy sauce
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (heaping) Tbl curry powder
1/4 cup honey
Two pork tenderloins (about 1 lb each)
1 Tbl olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and Pepper


Instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup oil, mustard, soy sauce, ginger, cilantro, salt, garlic, curry powder and honey.  Place pork tenderloin into a large resealable bag and pour marinate over the meat and toss to coat. Marinate for at least 4 hours, but 8 hours is recommended. 

Remove pork from marinate (reserve for sauce) and heat 1 Tbl olive oil over medium-high heat in an oven safe skillet. Brown pork tenderloin on all sides. Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, turning every so often to prevent scorching, or until the pork registers 155-160 degrees.

While the pork is roasting, pour remaining reserved marinade into a saucepan, and over medium-high heat. Bring the sauce to a boil and allow it to cook uncovered, stirring regularly, until the marinade has reduced by about 1/3. Whisk in the cream and broth.  Season with salt and pepper if desired. Keep warm over low heat if the sauce is finished before the pork.

Remove pork from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Slice pork tenderloin and spoon sauce over the top. Serve immediately. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Slow Cooker Cuban Sandwiches

Cuban sandwiches rank, to me, are at the top of the sandwich food chain. I worked at a restaurant called Nicky's  for 10 years that had the bet Cuban sandwich ever.  The unique thing about Nicky's Cuban was that it was not pressed and was a big whopper of a sandwich. Whenever I was working it was one of the most popular things on the menu. I have had Cuban sandwiches in Miami and Key West, and I still think Nicky's is the best out there. 

I decided that I wanted to make a slow cooker version of my favorite sandwich. I used a pork tenderloin because it was what I had on hand, but you could easily use whatever type of cut you prefer.  I also opted to use bolillo rolls over traditional Cuban bread or a hoagie roll. I love bolillo rolls because they are the perfect size for a single sandwich. I used citrus and cumin to spice my pork and a little bit of beer. On the sandwich I  paired the pork with Swiss cheese, thinly sliced smoked ham, mayo, yellow mustard and pickles.  I also opted to toast the sandwich slightly once assembled to melt the cheese and warm the ham. 

How did my sandwich shape up? It was amazing! The flavors and textures were spot on and my entire family gobbled it down. I was so sad when the leftovers were gone....I am already craving another! Seriously, makes these ASAP- you will not be disappointed. 

Tonight, I was going to have sushi with a few friends but a few had to cancel, and with all this Cuban talk we might have to venture to Nicky's for  sandwich! However, I am equally satisfied with the taco pizza that was put on the menu last minute. 

Last night Kellen and I met my friend Kayla for ice cream, and when I asked Kellen what time he wanted he yelled, "the brown one with the red M&Ms!". Kids are hysterical. Ron and I also caught up on The Following last night and it was so good. I really like the new character they introduced, and he is providing great suspense to the show! 



Ingredients

1  lb pork tenderloin
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 Tbl dried oregano
Juice of one lime
Juice of one orange 
1/4 cup beer
10 thin slices smoked ham
10 slices swiss cheese
Mustard
Mayo
Sliced pickles
5 Boillio rolls


Instructions

Place pork in the slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mix broth, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, lime juice, orange juice and beer. Pour over the pork. Cook on low heat for 8 hours. Remove from slow cooker and shred. Return to slow cooker and keep warm till you are ready to assemble the sandwiches. 

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. 

Cut the rolls in half. Spread mustard and mayo over one side of the bread. Top with pickles, 2 slices of ham and 2 slices of cheese. On the other half of the roll, top with shredded pork. Place the sandwich open face in the oven and cake till cheese is just melted. Join halves together, cut and serve immediately. 
pickles mayo mustard halve the bread cheese and ham then cheese and pork toast to melt

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Thai Chicken Curry and Butternut Squash Soup

Remember the soup swap I did with my girlfriend a little over a week ago? Well this is was my creation for our swap and it is deeeelicious! I am lover Thai food and anything with the name red curry in it immediately grabs my eye. I wanted to make something I little different than I would make for Ron and Kellen to try out on my friends because Ron really doesn't like anything squash related (breaks my heart a little bit....).  I opted to blend butternut squash to my soup base to provide a bit of natural sweetness and richness to the broth of the soup. I also wanted to use some of my favorite veggies to have in a curry to add a bit of green and body to my soup (zucchini is my all time favorite). As I said before I blended my soup before adding the chicken and veggies, but you certainly do not have to do this, but you will not have the same smooth texture achieved by blending the squash. 

This soup is so wonderful and so full of flavor. The broth is so good that I just wanted to sit and drink it....and not share it. The flavors of the lemongrass and ginger are subtle, but balanced with the salt from the soy and fish sauce, sweetness from the coconut and squash and slight heat from the curry. I finished the soup with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime to brighten the entire bowl. 

This recipe makes about 7 quarts because I was using it for a soup swap with 5 other people, but it can easily be halved or scaled down to your preferences. 

How did my friends like the soup? They loved it of course! It is a bit unique and a great way to add variety to a soup rotation. Kellen and Ron also loved the soup. Kellen is a big fan of Thai flavors and gobbled leftovers for lunch. He exclaimed, as he usually does when eating soup, "Mama, I love a hot soup!". He is such a cutie pie. 

If you are looking for a new soup to fit into your rotation give this a try- you will not be disappointed! 

Tonight, I am hoping to grab an ice cream with friends and relax at home. I have also had a hankering to beat Ron at Mario Kart, and it may have to make an appearance as well.... 


Ingredients

1 Tbl olive or sesame oil 
4 cups butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1Tbl grated fresh ginger 
1/2 Tbl lemongrass paste (I use Gourmet Garden)
4 1/2 Tbl Thai red curry paste
14 cups chicken broth
2 Tbl soy sauce
1 Tbl fish sauce
2 cans coconut milk
6 oz snow peas, trimmed
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cup sliced zucchini
3 cups fresh spinach
2 - 2 1/2 lb chicken cooked and shred 
Salt, to taste

for garnish:
Fresh chopped cilantro
Fresh lime wedges


Instructions

Heat oil in a large soup kettle over medium heat. Saute butternut squash, onion and garlic for 10 minutes. Stir in lemon grass and curry paste. Cook an additional minute. 

Add broth, soy sauce and fish sauce. Bring to a slow simmer and cook till squash is tender. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, a regular stand blender will work. Return blended soup to the pot and turn heat to medium. Stir in the coconut milk and allow soup to come to a slight simmer.  Add chicken, peas, zucchini, mushrooms and spinach. Cook till veggies are tender and soup has thickened a bit. Season with salt if desired. 

Serve in bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro and a lime wedge.

Yields about 7 quarts.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Weekly Meal Plan 4/6 - 4/12

Happy Monday!

Hope everyone had a lovely Easter weekend filled with family, jelly beans and Peeps! 

On Friday, we relaxed at home after a bit of an overwhelming week. I caught this picture of my boys walking around the backyard. They are so cute. Kellen really liked to mimic Ron and I love that he is keeping in step close behind his Dad. Adorable. 


On Saturday, Kellen and I headed to the zoo for the Eggstravaganza. My friend Kayla was home with a sick kiddo and Ron had class and it became a lovely one on one date with my little man. The zoo has loads of colored plastic eggs all over the property and the kids have to pick up the eggs and drop them with the correctly color egg drop and they got a little treat. 


Another little treat were these cute friends! They came right over to us and were standing up and sliding into the water- must have been close to feeding time! Kellen told me they were his favorite of the day. 


We also met the Easter Bunny! From this photo Kellen looks a bit nervous, but he actually really liked him and loved his nice warm paws wrapped around his little hands. 


Later in the evening (and after a nap), we headed to my parents house for dinner and the Badger game. My Dad made his famous tenderloin steaks with a brandy mustard sauce. We also had mashed potatoes, roasted brussle sprouts and a kale salad with poppy seed dressing (homemade Costco style!).  We also enjoyed coloring eggs! Kellen didn't really get into it, but my nephew loved it and loved watching the eggs get darker and darker.  Ron and I have deviled eggs on our minds with these babies! 


Saturday was not all good. Right when we got home poor Kellen got sick and threw up all over his car seat! The next morning the poor guy didn't want to get out of his bed. It wasn't until around 10 am that Kellen wanted to take a peek at his basket from the bunny. Since our little guy was sick I went to my parents for grilled burgers and baskets while Ron stayed with Kellen. When I got home Ron went to his parents house for dinner while I stayed  home with our sick boy. We relaxed, read books, got a special visit from Grandma and Grandpa and watched The Lion King. 


I the evening we relaxed with Chicago PD, Easter candy and some delicious leftover ham and gravy my sister-in-law sent home for me. 

This week I am grabbing dinner with a few girlfriend (sushi!!!), Ron and I are having a Pho date on Friday and I am keeping my fingers crossed for nice weather to get outside. We are also visiting our friends and their new little girl on Sunday.  However, tonight is one of the most exciting nights of the week because the Badger are playing for the championship!!! Wisconsin is buzzing and gearing up for the game tonight- I even saw red and white brat buns and tortilla chips at the grocery store today. 

On Wisconsin!!!!!!

Here is what is on tap:

Monday: Go Badgers!!!! Grilled Brats, Baked Beans, Potato Salad, Cottage Cheese and Fruit
Tuesday:  Cowboy Crown Casserole, Roasted Cauliflower and Salad
Wednesday: Out for Sushi with my Girlfriends
Thursday: Baked Chicken Fajitas, Rice and Black Beans
Friday: Out for Pho
Saturday : Cumin Lime Marinated Grilled Chicken Tenders with Spicy Risotto Style Couscous and Avocado Crema
Sunday:  Thai Peanut Pork Tenderloin, Rice, Cardamom and Ginger Roasted Parsnips and Salad

Friday, April 3, 2015

Weeknight Porchetta

Happy Friday everyone! 

I am so happy that the weekend is finally here and looking forward to a weekend with lots of fun activities and family.   I am getting my cheesecake recipe together for Sunday and have Kellen’s basket from the bunny ready to go!  Since Kellen is so young we filled his basket with non-sugary treats like a pair of Mickey Mouse gardening gloves and a bubble gun (this is mainly for his father is you ask me).  Tonight we are making a casserole for dinner that got pushed from last night and doing a little last minute shopping to get ready for the weekend. I am really looking forward to taking Kellen to hunt for Easter eggs at the zoo tomorrow morning!  For what I remember there was a long line in years past and we will likely be going as early as possible. 

On to the food. 

I originally saw this Bon App├ętit for Elly’s blog, Elly Says Opa.  I love porchetta and was thrilled to see an easy recipe that I would make on  a weeknight.  My favorite porchetta is one my cousin brings from Chicago for a holiday. It is so delicious…. spicy, salty, savory and flavorful.  This recipes is a little less intensive and doesn't require a butcher. I kept close to the original spice blend, but I added an extra slice of bacon and some crushed red pepper flakes.... we like a little extra in our  house.  I also followed Elly's lead and added potatoes and broccoli to my roasting dish for sides (they are delicious roasted in the drippings).  I loved the flavors of this tenderloin and they reminded me a lot of the delicious porchetta my cousins share with us.  I was watching my friend Emily's daughter when I made this and the two kiddos devoured this tenderloin like there was no tomorrow! It was cute to watch the kids explore the different flavors of the fennel seed and rosemary (and like it too!). 

In addition to the previously mentioned family time, we are going to dye egg on Saturday and I am really excited. Dying eggs was always one of my favorite thing at Easter time and I love making the different designed with the wax crayon and attempting to get the perfect two-toned colored egg.  

Do you have any fun plans? 



Ingredients

4 garlic cloves, minced +  1 heads, halved crosswise
1 Tbl chopped fresh rosemary +  4 whole sprigs
1 Tbl fennel seeds, finely chopped
1½ tsp kosher salt
2 Tbl olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 (1- 1½) lb pork tenderloin
5 slices bacon


Instructions

Preheat oven to 425°.

 In a small bowl,  minced  garlic, chopped rosemary, fennel seeds, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon oil . Rub garlic mixture all over tenderloin (Note: if you have time to do this in the morning you can do this prior and refrigerate pork until dinner). Scatter rosemary sprigs in a roasting or baking pan. Wrap bacon slices around tenderloin, tucking ends underneath so bacon stays put. Place tenderloin over the rosemary spring and nestle halved heads of garlic around tenderloin and drizzle everything with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.

Roast until the tenderloin for 40-45 minutes or until  an instant-read thermometer reads 150-160 (depending on what temperate you prefer) at the thickest part of the tenderloin. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.

*If you want to add potatoes and veggies to the roasting pan they can cook with the tenderloin. I toss the potatoes in oil and seasoning. I add the potatoes to the pan with the meat and roast. Next, toss the  broccoli in oil and add to the roasting pan about half way into the cook time.*