Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last post of 2013: Too Much Chocolate Cake :)

Yes, one last super indulgent post for this year.  One last chance to pig out on this delicious cake before our conscience remembers that it's the beginning of a new year and we need to get serious about losing that stubborn weight. :)  Oh, yes, before I forget again, hubby reminded me to mention that yes, I did get new plates for Christmas, so if you're a regular reader of this blog, do not be confused. :)
Ok, too much blabbering.  Make this cake, enjoy it because it is absolutely delicious, and have a wonderful New Year!
Ingredients:
-1 (15.25 oz) box devil's food cake mix
-1 (5.85 oz) box instant chocolate pudding mix
-1 cup sour cream
-1 cup vegetable oil
-4 eggs
-1/2 cup warm water
-2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Coat a bundt cake pan with the baking spray (the one with butter and flour in it).  Set aside.
Mix together all the ingredients, except chocolate chips.  Mix until smooth.  Gently stir in the chocolate chips.  Pour mixture into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Let it cool in the pan for 1 hour.  Remove onto a plate and lightly dust with powdered sugar.  Let it cool completely, slice and enjoy!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Slow Cooker Pineapple Ham

Warming the holiday ham in the slow cooker and adding some extra flavor to it, is quite nice because it frees up some much needed space in the oven, it takes another worry off the list, it's super easy and it turns out delicious.  The possibilities with this are endless.  You can use any kind of ham you want and adjust the flavors to your liking.  This is just one simple way of doing it.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-one ham (any kind you like)
-1 can sliced pineapple
-1/3 cup brown sugar
-1/2 tsp ground cloves
Directions:
Coat slow cooker with cooking spray.  Place ham in slow cooker.
Pour juice from pineapple in small bowl.  Arrange pineapple slices on top of the ham.  Mix juice with brown sugar and cloves.  Pour on top on ham and pineapple slices.
Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours.  Slice ham and enjoy!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Slow Cooker Super Easy Meatballs

This is another wonderful, delicious and easy appetizer; always a crowd pleaser.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-64 oz frozen meatballs
-20 oz grape jelly
-12 oz chili sauce
Directions:
Place meatballs in slow cooker.  In a separate bowl, combine the jelly and sauce.  Pour over meatballs.  Cover and cook on low for 2 hours.  Switch to warm.  It can stay like that for about 8 hours.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cranberry Feta Pinwheels

This is a super easy appetizer.  I love the flavors in it.  The slight saltiness of the feta mixed with the sweetness of the cream cheese and cranberries, followed by the sharpness of the green onions, all enveloped in the deliciousness of the spinach wraps.  Delish!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-8 oz whipped cream cheese
-5 oz crumbled feta cheese (regular or low fat; both work just as well)
-5 oz dried cranberries
-4 green onions, chopped
-4-5 spinach or spinach with herbs tortillas
Directions:
Mix the cream cheese, feta, cranberries and onions.  Spread onto each tortilla, then roll tightly.  Wrap each rolled tortilla in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  When ready to serve, remove plastic, then slice each tortilla.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Romanian Sweet Bread with Nut Filling (Cozonac cu Nuca)

One of the greatest achievements in the life of a Romanian woman is to make a good cozonac.  I know, it's silly.  But people really are afraid to even try making it because it takes a lot of little details to ensure the success of this bread.  It's well worth it though, as the taste is absolutely amazing!  Super aromatic, fluffy and simply delicious, this sweet bread will sure win you over. My dough didn't really rise during the time it was supposed to, even though it was well covered and it sat on a warm surface, like it's required.  I almost gave up and didn't want to make it anymore, thinking that it will fail.  It only rose a little after I put the filling in, but still not much.  Very disappointed, I put it in the oven and what do you know!  Not even 10 minutes into it and BAM, it rose like crazy!  And it continued to do so, until it became this beautiful, wonderful, fluffy yumminess.:)  Anyway, enough of this blabber.  Here's the recipe!  Enjoy!
 Ingredients:
For the dough:
-4 cups PLUS 1 Tbs flour
-1 package active dry yeast
-1 cup PLUS 1 Tbs sugar
-4 egg yolks PLUS 1 full egg
-1 cup PLUS 2 Tbs warm milk
-pinch of salt
-1 Tbs rum extract
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-3 Tbs to 1/4 cup oil
For the filling:
-2 cups finely chopped walnuts
-1 Tbs cocoa powder
-1 egg white
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 Tbs rum extract
For brushing:
-1 egg yolk
-1 Tbs milk
Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 F.  You will place the dough on top of the stove, where the heated oven will provide enough heat.
Mix yeast, 1 Tbs sugar, 1 Tbs flour and 2 Tbs milk.  Let it sit for about 15 minutes.
Mix all the eggs, sugar and salt.  In the mixing bowl pour the flour and make a crater out of it.  Inside the crater pour the yeast mixture, egg mixture, warm milk, rum and vanilla extracts.  With the hook (paddle works fine too) attachments, mix the dough for about 10 minutes.  Gently fold in the oil, a little at a time.  Cover the mixture well and put on top of stove (see note above).  Let sit for about 2 hours (it should double in size).
Meanwhile, mix all of the filling ingredients.
When the time is up for the dough, spray a bit of oil on your kitchen countertop.  Divide dough into two.  Spread them out into rectangles (not too thin).  One one of them pour out all the filling mixture.
Spray generously a large loaf pan with cooking spray. Gently roll both doughs (the filled one and empty one).  Then intertwine them (like a two strand braid).  Carefully, pick up the "braid" and place it in prepared pan.  Cover and let it rise for another hour.  Brush with egg mixture.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Lower the heat to 350 F and bake for another 15-20 minutes. If the crust gets too dark, cover it loosely with aluminum foil until the cozonac is fully cooked (the toothpick should come out clean).  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Boeuf Salad (Romanian Potato Salad)

I grew up in Romania, a beautiful Eastern European country.  One of the traditional dishes is this amazing potato salad.  It might not look like much, but it is absolutely delicious!  Traditionally, you boil the potatoes in beef broth (from boiling a large beef bone with some meat on it), then also add the meat to the salad.  However, that's more time consuming and more and more people have been dropping that step.  The name still stands though, since the French word boeuf (which has been borrowed in Romanian for this salad) means beef. You can still add meat, if you so desire, but this side dish version has become a lot more popular.  However you choose to have it, it's definitely worth the time it takes to make.  There simply isn't another potato salad like this one!  And definitely  don't count the calories.  :)  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 bag potatoes (5 lbs)
-2-3 carrots (normal size, not baby carrots)
-1 (15 oz) can sweet peas, drained
-6-8 baby dill kosher pickles, plus 3-4 more to decorate the salad
-salt 
-1 Tbs yellow mustard
-mayonnaise
-black olives to decorate
-optional: sweet pickled peppers to decorate
-optional: cooked turkey or chicken breast (cut in small pieces) 
Directions:
Boil all the potatoes with the peel on.  They are done when you can stick a fork through them.  Drain 
the water immediately and let them cool.  If you leave them in water they become mushy and gross.  Peel them after they are cool.  Dice them in tiny pieces mand place them in a large bowl.
Peel the carrots and boil them until fork tender.  Drain and let them cool.  Dice them in tiny pieces (like the potatoes).  Add them to potatoes.
Add the drained peas to the potato mixture.
Dice the pickles.  Drain them on paper towels- squeeze until there's no more juice coming out of them.  Then, add them to the mix.
If you decide to use meat, add it now. 
Mix everything well.  Add salt (to taste) and mix.  Add yellow mustard and 1 cup of mayo.  Mix well and taste.  Add more salt or mayo if necessary.
When it tastes good enough to you, pour the mixture on a large platter and shape it as you want.
Place 5-6 Tbs mayo on top and spread all over in a thin layer.  You can add more if you want to. 
Cut 3-4 pickles, the olives and sweet peppers in any shapes you want and decorate the way you want to.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Best Gingerbread Cookies

I love making stuff with my kids.  Of course, gingerbread cookies are just perfect for that.  I made the dough while they were at school, then let it chill in the fridge.  Then they helped me roll it and had a blast cutting it into shapes.  Of course, the best part was to eat them once they were done. :)  This recipe is very easy and produces, by far, THE best gingerbread cookies.  Super yum!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-6 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
-3/4 cup brown sugar
-1 large egg
-1/4 cup molasses
-1/4 cup honey
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-3/4 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 Tbs ground ginger
-1 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/4 tsp ground cloves
-3 cups flour
Directions:
Cream butter with the sugar and egg.  Slowly add the molasses, honey and vanilla.  Mix until well incorporated.  Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves.  Mix well.  Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix until doughy looking (it will look crumbly at the beginning).  
Separate the dough into halves.  Wrap each half into plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but no more than 8 hours.  
About 15 minutes before you need the dough, take it out of the fridge and let it rest to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Line 2-3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Lightly flour your working area and rolling pin.  Place the dough and roll it to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into desired shapes.
Bake in preheated oven for 7-10 minutes.  It depends on how crispy you like them.  The less time they bake, the softer the cookies are.
Let them cool completely, then remove onto serving plate.
If desired, you can either dust a little powdered sugar on top or decorate with icing.  We prefer them plain.  They are simply delicious!  Enjoy!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Quick, easy and delicious!  If you claim to not like Brussels Sprouts, this dish will definitely make you change your opinion.  And it's not just the bacon...  :)  The sprouts are beautifully roasted and there's still a little crispiness to them.  Super delicious!  A must try!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-6 slices bacon, chopped
-2 Tbs salted butter
-1/2 onion, finely diced
-1 lb Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
-salt and pepper, to taste
Directions:
Cook bacon until nice and crispy.  Remove onto a plate lined with paper towels.
Leave the bacon grease in the pan and add the butter.  Once melted, add the onion.  Saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add the sprouts and give it a good stir.  Roast for 6-8 minutes until golden brown.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Stir well.  Add the cooked bacon and give it another stir.  Cook for 1 minute.  Remove from the stove and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Super Moist Pistachio Bundt Cake

I know it's silly, but I do have a weakness for bundt cakes.  I don't know if it's the shape or because it's easier than the regular cake, but I love it. :)  This cake is VERY moist, which I love.  It's very easy too.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 (15.25 oz) box super moist/moist supreme yellow cake mix
-2 (3.4 oz each) packages instant pistachio pudding
-1 1/2 cups water
-4 eggs
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-1/2 cup chopped roasted, salted and shelled pistachios
-powdered sugar, for topping
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Coat a bundt cake pan with the baking spray (the one with butter and flour in it).  Set aside.
In your mixer's bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding, water, eggs and oil.  Beat on low for 30 seconds, then on medium for 2 minutes.  Stir in the pistachios.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.  Dust with some powdered sugar.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Easy Broccoli Cheese Soup

For the past few months, my ward's relief society newsletter started including recipes too.  How awesome is that!  This is one of the recipes included.  As soon as I saw it I knew it would make it on our dinner calendar.  I am so glad I made it because it's super easy, quick (less than 30 minutes!) and delicious!  I only made a few small changes to it; otherwise is just as it was in the newsletter.  :)  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-2 cups chicken broth
-1 small onion, finely diced
-2 cups milk
-4 Tbs salted butter
-1/3 cup flour
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
-1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
-3 cups frozen chopped broccoli
Directions:
Simmer broth and onion in a small saucepan for 15-20 minutes, covered.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in the microwave for a couple of minutes.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Add the flour and create a roux.  Season with the salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.  Gradually, whisk in the warm milk.  Stir well and cook for about 7 minutes or until the soup starts to thicken.
Add the broth and give it a good stir.  Add the cheeses and stir until completely melted.  Stir in the frozen broccoli.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Creamy Burrito Casserole

Yes, it's super easy and yes, it tastes just like a burrito.  Actually, I think it tastes better than a burrito. :)  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 lb extra lean ground beef
-1/2 medium onion, finely diced
-1 package taco seasoning
-1 (16 oz) can refried beans
-1 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
-1/2 cup sour cream
-8 (7 inch) flour tortillas
-3 cups shredded taco cheese or cheddar cheese
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Brown the ground beef with the onion. Add the taco seasoning.  Stir well.  Add the beans and stir until well combined.  Remove from stove.
Mix the soup with the sour cream.  Spread half of that on bottom of 9x13 casserole dish.  Tear 4 tortillas and layer them on top of soup mixture.  Top that with half the meat mixture.  Sprinkle half the cheese on top.  Repeat layers: soup mix, torn tortillas, meat mix and cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

White Bean and Roasted Mushroom Soup

The weather is super cold and snowy where I live, so a nice, hot soup was in order.  This is the perfect soup.  The flavor is amazing!  Imagine the roasted mushrooms, mixed with roasted onion and garlic with yummy herbs, all combined with delicious beans and broth.  It really can't get better.  This soup is just amazing, delicious and filling.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-16 oz mushrooms,washed, patted dry and quartered
-2 large onions, peeled and quartered
-3 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly crushed
-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1 tsp dried sage
-2 tsp dried thyme, divided
-6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a full vegetarian soup)
-3 (15 oz each) cans great northern beans, NOT drained
Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 F.
On a large baking sheet, place the mushrooms, onions and garlic.  Sprinkle with the oil, some salt and pepper, the sage and 1 tsp of the thyme.  Give it a good stir, making sure that everything is evenly coated with the oil and spices.  Roast in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Toss and roast for 15 more minutes.
While the veggies are roasting, add the broth, beans, a little salt and pepper, and remaining thyme to a large stockpot.  Bring to a simmer.
When the vegetables are done roasting, place the onion and garlic in a blender.  Add two cups of beans and one of broth from the stockpot.  Blend until creamy.  Return bean and onion mixture to the stockpot.  Add the mushrooms with all the juices.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.  Serve warm.  Enjoy!
Slightly adapted from a recipe found here.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Slow Cooker French Chicken

Four ingredients thrown together in the crockpot so that you can have a delicious meal at the end of the day.  It can't get better than this!  I had some leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving and used it in this recipe.  But regular, whole berry, canned cranberry sauce works just fine.  Make sure to serve it on top of some rice.  Super easy and absolutely delicious!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
-1 cup canned whole berry cranberry sauce or 1 cup homemade cranberry sauce
-8 oz French style dressing
-1 packet Onion soup and dip mix
Directions:
Coat your slow cooker with cooking spray.  Layer the chicken on the bottom.
Combine remaining ingredients into a small bowl.  Pour over chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.  Serve over hot rice.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Polar Express Hot Chocolate

If you're looking for the chocolatiest, richest, most decadent hot chocolate ever, look no more.  This is it!  You have to try this.  It's insanely good!  Of course, you can top it off with a dollop of whipped topping to make it even richer, if that's possible. :)  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 1/2 cups heavy cream
-1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
-2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
-6 cups milk
-1 tsp vanilla extract
Directions:
Mix everything in a large pot over medium heat.  Cook until simmering and chocolate is melted.  Pour hot into mugs.  Top with a dollop of whipped topping, if desired.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Easy Baked Churros

Before I talk about this recipe, I want to remind everyone of St. Nick coming tonight!  So make sure you and your little ones have cleaned your shoes/boots and placed them by the door.  If you've been good, he'll leave you goodies; if not, a stick!  I love this Romanian tradition and my kids are looking forward to it every year.  It's fun!
Now on to the recipe.  It is beyond simple and quick.  You use puff pastry already made.  That shaves off a lot of the time.  Besides being quick, it's also delicious.  It really tastes like churros, but with 1/3 of the work!  Win-win!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
-1/4 cup unsalted butter
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 tsp cinnamon
Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Carefully unfold the thawed pastry sheet and lay it out on cutting board.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough along the visible folding line.  Then cut each section into 1 inch wide strips.  Arrange strips on prepared cookie sheet.  Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
While they're baking, melt the butter.  Pour it into a shallow bowl.
In another shallow bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon.
As soon as the pastry strips are done baking, quickly dip them (do not soak!) in the butter, then roll into cinnamon sugar.
Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Slow Cooker Saucy Ribs

I know I said it so many times, but I really love my slow cooker.  Life is busy toting 5 little kids around all day long, so it's nice to just throw things in my crockpot and have a nice meal waiting for us at the end of the day.  The sauce is super, extra good in this recipe.  Finger-licking good! And it had a tiny little kick to it. :)  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-3 lbs boneless pork ribs
-2 cups ketchup
-1 cup brown sugar
-1/2 cup chopped onion or a handful dehydrated chopped onion
-4-6 dashes of Tabasco sauce
-2 Tbs yellow mustard
-2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
Directions:
Coat a large skillet with cooking spray.  Quickly brown the ribs (you might have to do this in batches).  Remove and place them in the slow cooker.
Combine all remaining ingredients and pour over browned ribs.  Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Super Simple Fruit Salad

This is not really a recipe.  It's more a way to make that fruit salad even better than before!  There's a little secret and it's called: vanilla pudding mix! Of course, you can use any fresh fruit you have on hand.  This is what I had.  :) Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 pineapple
-1 cantaloupe
-4 kiwis
-2 bananas
-2 cups grapes, halved
-2 Tbs instant vanilla pudding mix
Directions:
Peel and cut the fruit into bite size chunks.  Give it a good stir.  Sprinkle the pudding all over and mix very well.  Try to avoid any clumps.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Filipino Leche Flan

This dessert is super easy to put together and out of this world delicious!  I did use my blender to mix the custard ingredients, which made everything much easier.  When you are ready to serve the flan, you have to turn it upside down.  That's when you see all that caramel oozing, ready to pop out and inundate the dish with its deliciousness.  The flan is creamy, sweet, and it melts in your mouth.  This is a must try dish!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 cup light brown sugar
-1/4 cup water
-10 large egg yolks
-1 tbs vanilla extract
-1 (14 oz) can condensed milk
-1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place sugar and water in a small pot and heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbly.  Pour into a pie plate and let it sit for 5-6 minutes.
Meanwhile, place yolks, vanilla, condensed milk and evaporated milk into your blender.  Process until smooth.  Pour egg mixture on top of slightly hardened caramel in the pie plate.
Place pie plate onto a roasting pan.  Add hot water to the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate (this will nicely steam the flan).
Carefully, place the whole thing in the preheated oven.  Bake for 40-50 minutes or until set (jiggly, but not liquidy).
Remove from the oven.  Transfer the pie plate to the wire rack and let it cool for 1 hour.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Run a knife around the pie plate.  Cover with a big plate and turn upside down.  The caramel mixture should be flowing over the top of the flan.  Cut into serving portions and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope y'all have a wonderful Thanksgiving this year celebrating with your loved ones and remembering the many blessings in your lives.  Of course, we all need a feast on such a special day, so check out my recipes for this occasion.
Enjoy some of my appetizers, rolls, beverages, gravy, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce,  green been casseroles, side dishes, juicy and delicious turkey, and of course, my scrumptious pies.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Best Turkey Gravy

I love this gravy because is simply delicious.  It's made from the turkey drippings, which means that all of that yummy flavor from the seasoning comes with it.  It's a very simple, quick and very tasty gravy.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-turkey drippings + 1/4 cup fat from the turkey pan
-1/4 cup flour
-water
-salt and pepper, to taste.
Directions:
Pour the turkey drippings (without the fat) into a large measuring cup (one of those glass ones).
Put 1/4 cup fat into a saucepan.  Add the flour and mix well. 
To the turkey drippings add enough water to make 2 cups of liquid.  Pour that over the flour mixture.  Cook, stirring frequently until thickened and bubbling.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Caldereta (Filipino Beef Stew)

This is a traditional, classic Filipino dish.  It is normally made with goat meat, but since that is hard to find, beef, pork or even chicken are good substitutes.  I chose beef for this one.  The dish is absolutely wonderful.  The meat melts in your mouth and all the flavors combine wonderfully.  It is a little soupy, but don't try top thicken it up.  Instead serve it on top of rice, which will absorb all that liquid.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 cup vegetable oil
-4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
-3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
-2 lbs beef, cut into cubes
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 large onion, diced
-1 tsp red pepper flakes
-4 cups water
-1 cup tomato sauce
-1/2 cup liver spread (liverwurst)
-3 bay leaves
-2/3 cup green olives
-1 green bell pepper, sliced
-1 red or orange bell pepper, sliced
-salt and pepper, to taste
Directions:
Heat the oil in large pot.  Add the potatoes and carrots.  Cook until lightly browned.  Remove onto plate.
Return pot to stove and add the beef.  Cook until browned on all sides.  Remove onto plate.
Return pot to stove and add the garlic and onion.  Cook for about 4 minutes.  Add the pepper flakes.  Give it a good stir.  Return the beef with all the accumulated juices to the pot.  Cook for a couple of minutes.  Add the water, tomato sauce, liver spread (make sure to break it up as much as possible) and bay leaves.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Add the potatoes, carrots and green olives.  Simmer, uncovered for 5-6 minutes.  Add the bell peppers.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir well and cook for 2 more minutes.
Serve hot over rice.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Easy Shrimp Tacos with Roasted Corn Salsa

This dish can be put together in under 15 minutes!  Yes, you read that right!  Not only is it fast; it's also delicious and light, as in low in calories. :)  Win-win here!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 cup fresh or frozen corn (NOT thawed)
-1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
-2 green onions, chopped
-3 Tbs lime juice, divided
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp pepper
-1 avocado, peeled and diced
-cooking spray
-14 oz medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, with tails removed
-2 tsp honey
-1/4 cup sour cream
-6 inch corn tortillas, lightly toasted.
Directions:
Preheat broiler to high.
On a baking sheet, toss the corn with the oil.  Spread evenly in single layer.  Broil for 6 minutes or until lightly browned.
Remove from the oven and place into a bowl.  Mix with the onions, 1 Tbs of the lime juice, salt, pepper and avocado.  Set aside.
In another bowl, combine the shrimp with 1 Tbs lime juice and the honey.  Mix well.
Coat a skillet with cooking spray and heat.  When hot, add the shrimp and cook until pink (about 2-3 minutes).  Remove from stove and set aside.
In another bowl, mix the sour cream with remaining Tbs of lime juice.
To assemble, fill each toasted tortilla with the corn salsa, then about 4 shrimp, then a little of the sour cream mixture.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Korean-Style Pork

This is a super delicious and easy way to cook pork!  The meat is nice and tender, full of flavor which is enhanced by the yummy and a little spicy sauce, as well as the sesame seeds.  Great dish!  I served ours with some broccoli rice and they worked perfect together.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
For marinade:
-1/4 cup soy sauce
-1 Tbs sugar
-2 tsp sesame oil
-5 green onions
-4 garlic cloves, minced
-1/2 tsp ground ginger
For sauce:
-2 Tbs Sriracha hot chili sauce
-2 tsp sesame oil
-4 tsp honey
Remaining ingredients:
-1 1/2 lbs pork, boneless and trimmed of all visible fat
-1 Tbs vegetable oil
-2 Tbs toasted sesame seeds
Directions:
Combine all marinade ingredients in large container and stir until well mixed.  Cut the pork into think strips.  Place in marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Remove pork from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine all sauce ingredients and set aside.
Heat the oil in large skillet.  With a slotted spoon, scoop the pork and veggies out of marinade and place in hot oil.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and nicely browned.
To serve, place pork on top of rice (either plain or flavored), then drizzle some sauce and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.  Enjoy hot!
Adapted from a Guy Fieri recipe.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli

Yes, Chinese food in the crockpot!  It doesn't get any easier than this!  And it's oh, so tasty!  You have to give this one a try.  Also, I love that the frozen broccoli is added at the very end and it keeps its crunchiness.  Super delicious!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 cup beef broth
-1/2 cup soy sauce
-1/3 cup brown sugar
-1 Tbs sesame oil
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 lb beef, cut into thin strips
-2 Tbs cornstarch
-14 oz frozen broccoli florets (kept frozen)
-cooked rice, for serving
Directions:
In your slow cooker, combine the broth, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and garlic.  Mix well.  Add the beef and stir to coat evenly.  Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.
Scoop up about 1 cup liquid from the crockpot and mix it with the cornstarch until smooth.  Add it to the beef.  Also add the frozen broccoli.  Give it a good stir, cover and cook on low for 30 minutes.
Serve over cooked rice.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Baked Reuben Casserole

This dish definitely qualifies as soul food!  It seriously comforts you!  I cannot express in words how delicious this is.  It's like a Reuben sandwich, but better.  You can use either corned beef or pastrami.  Both work just fine.  To that you add the rye bread, of course, and sauerkraut and pickles and cheese and the sauce.  Oh, delicious, delicious!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-6 slices dark rye bread, divided
-12 oz thinly sliced corned beef or pastrami (or both combined)
-1 cup sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained
-3/4 cup dill pickles, sliced
-1 lb Swiss cheese, shredded
-3 eggs
-1 cup milk
-1/4 cup yellow mustard
-1/4 cup creamy Thousand Island dressing
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Coat a 9x13 baking dish with butter flavored cooking spray.
Cut 4 slices of the bread into cubes and layer on bottom of baking dish.  Cover with half of the meat.  Top in the following order with sauerkraut, pickles, half the cheese, remaining meat and remaining cheese.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs.  Add the milk, mustard and dressing.  Mix very well, then pour all over casserole.
Using a food processor, process the remaining 2 slices of bread until fine crumbs result.  Sprinkle them all over casserole.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Green Beans with Roasted Almonds

I had a few frozen green beans that I needed to use.  I thought this would be a quick and tasty way to fix them.  We loved them!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 cup frozen green beans
-salt and pepper
-1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
-2 Tbs roasted almonds
Directions:
Bring some salted water to a boil.  Dump the green beans and cook for 4 minutes.  Drain.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss with the oil and almonds.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Roasted Marinated Rock Cornish Hens

Cooking Cornish hens has been on my list for a while now, but I always hesitated at the last second for some reason or another.  And I really don't know why, because you can find them in any grocery store and they're quite inexpensive.  So I didn't really have a reason.  Anyway, last week I finally picked up some from the store and I made them for our Sunday dinner.  This is an easy recipe, but you need to remember to defrost the hens a day in advance as they need to marinate for a while.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-3 rock Cornish hens, split in half
-1/3 cup soy sauce
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-3 cloves garlic, peeled
-2 Tbs toasted sesame seeds
-2 tsp ground ginger
-1 Tbs brown sugar
-3 Tbs lime juice
Directions:
Poke the hen halves with the fork.  Place them in a resealable plastic bag.
Mix the remaining ingredients in a blender and combine until smooth.  Pour over hens, seal the bag and refrigerate for 6-24 hours, turning occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.  
Place the hen halves into baking dish.  Pour marinade on top.  Roast in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until beautifully browned, basting with the marinade occasionally.
Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Need I say more?  This is like pumpkin pie in a cupcake!  Super, extra delicious!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
For cupcakes (yields about 30 regular cupcakes):
-2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
-1 cup sugar
-1 cup brown sugar
-4 eggs
-2 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp baking soda
-2 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp ground ginger
-1/2 tsp nutmeg
-3 cups flour
-1 cup milk
-15 oz canned pumpkin
For frosting:
-1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
-8 oz cream cheese, softened
-4 cups powder sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 tsp cinnamon
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line your muffin pans with cupcake liners and set aside.
In your mixer's bowl, start making the cupcakes by creaming the butter with both sugars.  When nice and smooth, add the eggs, one at the time, mixing well after each of them.  Add the baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  Mix well.  Add 1 1/2 cups flour and milk.  Mix well.  Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour.  Once well mixed, stir in the pumpkin.  Mix well.
Scoop batter into prepared pans, filling each liner about 2/3 full.
Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  Remove onto wire racks and let cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting by creaming the butter and cream cheese.  Add the powder sugar, one cup at a time.  Mix well.  Add the vanilla and cinnamon and mix well.  Frost the cooled cupcakes and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Slow Cooker Jambalaya and Meal Planning

I want to share my meal planning with you today, because I've been doing it for years and it works.  We are a large family and on a very tight budget.  I started doing this a long time ago, when my first child was a tiny little toddler.  I plan my meals weekly and make my shopping list, to which I stick.  It saves us a lot of money and we get to enjoy wonderful meals from scratch.  Of course we eat out once in a while too!  But it's usually fast food stuff which is not the healthiest and it costs a lot.  So here's an example of my meal calendar that I place on the fridge each week.  There's nothing fancy about it, but it works for us (sorry for my horrible hand writing).
Mu husband and kids get to choose some meals occasionally too, but they usually leave it up to me to choose, so I have fun experimenting. :)
Now I want you to tell me what works for you?  How do you plan your meals?  I'm excited to hear what you have to say about this.  Thanks in advance!
Now on to our recipe for today: jambalaya in the slow cooker!  Yum!  It's super easy and delicious.  I love how the flavors come together and basically zero effort on my part.  That's the kind of meal I love. :)  Make sure to have some cooked rice to serve it with.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, with the juice
-2 cups chicken broth
-1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
-2 green pepper, seeded and chopped
-1 onion, chopped
-5 garlic cloves, minced
-1 Tbs dried parsley flakes
-1 1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
-1 1/4 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
-1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
-2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, cut into chunks
-1 lb Polska Kielbasa, halved and sliced
-12 oz raw medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, with tails removed
-cooked rice
Directions:
Place tomatoes with their juice, broth and tomato paste in the slow cooker.  Mix until well combined.  Add the green pepper, onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt, cayenne and hot sauce.  Mix well.  Add the chicken and sausage.  Give it a good stir, cover and cook on low for 4 hours.  Stir in the shrimp and cook on low for 15-30 more minutes or until shrimp is nice and pink.
Serve over cooked rice.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cherry-Stuffed Grilled Chicken

The weather's been quite nice around here and I thought of getting one more use out of our grill. :)  Good thing, because I just made this last night, then we woke up to snow this morning!  Crazy weather!  Anyway, this recipe is simple and great because you can use frozen cherries instead of fresh ones and still get that nice sweetness.  The flavors are not overpowering, but they do blend quite nicely.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-3/4 cup fresh or frozen cherries, pitted (and thawed, if frozen)
-2 Tbs chopped onion
-1/2 tsp rubbed sage (found in the spices isle)
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
-2 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless
-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
-2 Tbs white wine vinegar
-1 tsp garlic powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
Directions:
Roughly chop the cherries and combine with onion, sage, salt, and thyme.  Mix well.
Cut a pocket on the thicker side of each chicken breast.  Season lightly with some salt on both sides.  Stuff each pocket with the cherry mixture.  Close opening with toothpicks.  Place chicken in nonreactive pan.
In a small bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients. Mix very well, and pour over chicken.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Remove chicken from marinade and grill until cooked through.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pistachio and Cranberry Biscotti

I love biscotti, even though I don't drink coffee.  :)  It's such a nice, but quite pricey dessert.  This recipe makes about 3 dozens of it and it's very inexpensive.  So, it's a win-win situation here.  I love the combination of the crunchy and slightly salty pistachio with the sweetness and softness of the dried cranberries.  Such a delight!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-2 1/2 cups flour
-1 cup sugar
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1 Tbs vanilla extract
-3 large eggs, slightly beaten
-1 cup roasted, salted, shelled pistachios
-1 cup dried cranberries
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In your mixer's bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking soda and baking power.  Mix well.  Add the vanilla and eggs.  Mix until a dough forms.  Stir in the pistachios and cranberries and mix until evenly distributed.
Divide the dough into three and shape into 2x6 logs.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown or toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from the oven, but keep the heat on.  
Cool the logs on the wire rack for 5 minutes.  Using a serrated knife, cut logs diagonally into 1/2 inch slices.  Arrange the slices back on the baking sheet with the cut side up and leaning on one another.  Return to the oven and bake for 5-7 more minutes or until very lightly browned.  Transfer slices back on the rack and cool completely.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chicken with Garlic, Peas and Spaghetti

Easy, quick and delicious.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-salt
-1 lb spaghetti, uncooked
-2 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless, cut into bite-size chunks
-2 cups frozen peas
-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
-4 garlic cloves, minced
-ground pepper
-1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, stir in some salt and the spaghetti.  Cook, stirring continually, for 2 minutes.  Stop stirring and cook for 4 more minutes.  Add the chicken chunks and peas.  Bring the water back to a boil.  After that, simmer for 2 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a wok.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the drained pasta, chicken and peas.  Stir-fry for 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Season with some salt and pepper.  Add the cheese and give it a good stir.  Serve and enjoy!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Kielbasa with Vegetables and Orzo

I had half of a Kielbasa in the fridge and wanted to try something new with it.  This dish came to mind.  It's easy and quite delicious.  I also love the orzo in it and the little kick from the tomatoes with jalapenos.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-cooking spray
-8 oz Polska Kielbasa
-1 small onion, chopped
-1 bell pepper, chopped
-1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes with zesty jalapenos
-1 1/4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
-1/2 cup water
-1/2 tsp dried thyme
-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Coat a large oven proof saucepan with cooking spray and place on stove over medium-high heat. Slice the sausage halfway, then slice in 1/2 inch slices.  Add to the hot pan and cook until nice and brown.  Add the onion and pepper.  Cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes with the juice and give it a good stir.  Add the pasta, water and thyme.  Mix well, cover and place in preheated oven.
Bake, covered, for 50 minutes.  Remove from the oven, add the oil and stir.  Cover and bake for 10 more minutes.
Remove from the oven, stir again and scoop into plates.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pudding

There's nothing that compares with homemade pudding.  There is none of that powdery residue from the pre-made mix, the pudding is creamier and healthier.  This one is delicious and a must try!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-3/4 cup brown sugar, divided
-1/8 tsp salt
-3 Tbs cornstarch
-2 cups whole milk
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-2 Tbs unsalted butter
-1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
Directions:
Put 1/2 cup of the brown sugar along with the salt and cornstarch into a saucepan.  Whisk over medium heat until no more lumps.  Add the milk and heavy cream, and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble (about 7 minutes).  Lower the heat to medium-low and keep on whisking for 5 more minutes.  The mixture will be nice and thick then.
Remove from heat and stir in the last 1/4 cup brown sugar, along with the vanilla and butter.  Stir until well combined.  pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Remove from the fridge, scoop into serving bowls and top with chocolate chips.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Slow Cooker Wild Mushroom Beef Stew

This is another delicious and wonderful meal for a busy night.  My schedule is insanely busy, so I rely a great deal on my crock pot.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-cooking spray
-1 1/2 lbs beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
-1/8 cup flour
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1 1/2 cups beef broth
-1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
-1 garlic clove, minced
-1 bay leaf
-1 tsp paprika
-15 oz wild mushrooms, sliced
-1 cup baby carrots
-2 medium potatoes, cubed
-1 onion, chopped
Directions:
Generously coat the slow cooker with cooking spray on the bottom and sides.  Add the beef chunks.
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, salt and pepper.  Pour over beef and stir to coat evenly.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Give it a good stir until everything is nicely mixed.  Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gnocchi with Bacon and Sweet Peas

This is such a yummy and filling dish.  It's very quick to put together.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 lb package potato gnocchi
-8 slices bacon, chopped
-5 cloves garlic, minced
-2 Tbs butter
-1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
-1/4 tsp pepper
-1 Tbs lemon juice
Directions:
In a large pot bring some water to boil.   Add some salt to it, then the gnocchi.  Cook according to package instructions.
While gnocchi is cooking, cook bacon in a large skillet until lightly crisp.  Discard excess fat and add garlic.  Cook for about 30 seconds.  Drain the gnocchi and add it to the pan.  Stir in butter, peas and pepper.  Combine well.  Add lemon juice and allow flavors to blend.  Enjoy!
Adapted from an Aaron McCargo Jr. recipe

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Melt in Your Mouth Shrimp

This is super easy and absolutely delicious!  The shrimp melts in your mouth; literally!  Super yum.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 stick salted butter
-1 lemon, sliced
-12 oz shrimp, shelled, deveined, with tails removed
-1 (0.6 oz) package zesty Italian mix
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Melt the butter and pour it in an 9x13 pan.  Top with the lemon slices.  Distribute the shrimp evenly on top of lemon.  Sprinkle seasoning mix all over the shrimp.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Slow Cooker Country-Style Pork Ribs

This is another great dish for those busy nights.  It can be served with a variety of side dishes, veggies or salads.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-cooking spray
-1 large onion, sliced
-2.5-3 lbs country-style pork ribs
-2 Tbs tomato paste
-1/4 cup molasses
-3 Tbs vinegar
-1 tsp dry mustard
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp pepper
-1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
-1 1/2 cups vegetable juice, divided
Directions:
Generously coat your slow cooker with cooking spray (on the sides too).  Layer the bottom with the onion slices.  Top the onion with the pork ribs.
In a bowl, combine the tomato paste with the molasses, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, rosemary and 1/2 cup of the juice.  Mix well and pour over pork.  Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
In the last few minutes of cooking, pour the remaining 1 cup vegetable juice into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove the meat, without the sauce, from the slow cooker.  Pour the simmered sauce on top and enjoy!

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