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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Breakfast in a box

Once upon a time, there was a bread called panettone.  It came in a box and was stacked in stores as if it were a Christmas display.  Or, it was stored high upon the shelves, where it was impossible to reach.

People weren't sure what to make of it when they received it as a gift.  Most people just ended up throwing it away.

Until now.

Make.this.NOW.  Or at least, this weekend.

So, reach up waaaaay high and grab a box!  There's no longer a reason to deny the panettone.

Baked Panettone French Toast
slightly adapted from Whole Foods

6 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon water
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
6 thick slices panettone, cubed
2 cups milk
6 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons butter, sugar and water until combined.  Spread over bottom of 9x13 baking dish and set aside.

Heat remaining butter in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add apples and cook until softened, about 8-10 minutes.  Transfer apples and juices to baking dish and spread evenly over sugar mixture.  Scatter cranberries over apples, then add panettone cubes.  Set aside to let cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk milk, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon then pour over panettone, making sure all pieces are coated.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Uncover baking dish and bake until just cooked through, golden brown and puffed, about 40 minutes.  Set aside for 10 minutes to cool before serving.

Linked to: Sweets for a Saturday
                 Best Breakfast Recipes

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just call me Wimpy

I confess - I am a cheeseburger junkie.  I'm sure I could eat burgers every day.  Juicy, cheesy, delicious hunks of meat.  Who's with me?

Over the summer I was hoping to post a different recipe each week, but that sort of fell by the wayside.  And now that grilling season has come to an end, I'll take 'em any other way I can get 'em.  Like in the form of meatloaf.

My friend Kelly from Running Mama Cooks took a meatloaf recipe from Rachael Ray and made it "fun" by forming it into muffins.  I've seen it done before, both in the blogosphere and in real life, but these really caught my attention because they have all the components of my beloved cheeseburger.  Cheese and onions (both "musts" for any burger I eat!), ketchup, and even pickles!  Yum.

We really enjoyed these.  Next time I think I'll add more cheese, because, you know, you can never have too much cheese :)

Cheeseburger Meatloaf Muffins
from Running Mama Cooks

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2/3 cup ketchup, plus extra
2/3 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped bread and butter pickles
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.  Heat oil in a skillet and saute onion until softened.

In a large bowl, combine ketchup, bread crumbs, eggs and pickles.  Mix in onion.  Add beef and cheese and mix all together.  Place filling in muffin tin and press down slightly.  Brush ketchup on top of each muffin.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Tradition (What's Baking?)

This time of year brings many traditions for many people.  For me, one of my favorites is the annual Leftovers Party.

It takes place on the day after Thanksgiving, bringing our close knit group of friends together.  Some of us only see each other a few times a year, while others are able to get together more often, so this constant is something that we cherish and rely on.  Jason is always a gracious host...creating an ambiance that's always loved and appreciated.

After opening some wine, and noshing on an array of expensive cheeses and other delicious apps, everyone crowds around the tables to read the place cards that Jason writes to designate seats.  What makes these special, though, are the fact that they don't have names on them.  They tell each person why he is thankful for him/her.

Once everyone finds their place, we chow down on all the leftovers brought by each person from the day before.  The past few years have become more "civilized" with hired help and warming trays, as opposed to all of us crowding around an oven and a microwave when we first started this tradition 11 years ago.

And after we eat, we make our way around all the tables (which include about 30 people), read our cards to the group, and then tell what we're most thankful for that year.  These mini-speeches induce much laughter, as well as some tears.

And through it all, the drinks are flowing.  This year, our newest member brought something new and different to the table (literally!)...jello shots.  Seeing as the majority of us went to college together, where these were a common indulgence, they were very well received.

Then, dessert is...ummm...served.  My key lime pie is a staple and made especially for this party, since it's a long time favorite with this bunch.  And it never makes the dessert table.

One of my leftover contributions this year was these wonderful, light, delicious biscuits.  I only had a few dishes to make for this year's Thanksgiving dinner but still wanted to keep it simple.  These definitely fit the bill!

These also happened to fit the requirement for this month's What's Baking challenge.  Jessica from The Jey of Cooking asked that we bake something savory for November.  Can't wait to see what the other ladies came up with!

I highly encourage all of you to come up with your own version of a Leftovers Party.  I know some have a "Friends-giving" celebration before the actual turkey day, which is a nice idea, too.  The bottom line is - make time for those you love and don't see often.  Traditions produce memories, which are wonderful and priceless :)

Buttermilk-Thyme Drop Biscuits
from Martha Stewart

2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine flour, thyme, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large bowl.  Using a fork or your fingers, incorporate butter into dry mixture until it resembles coarse meal.

Mix in buttermilk until dough becomes sticky (add another tablespoon or so of buttermilk if needed).  Drop dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment (about 1/3 cup) and lightly pat tops to flatten slightly.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown, rotating halfway through.  Transfer to wire rack to cool for a few minutes.  Serve warm.

Makes 8 biscuits.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

The day after (and 6 years today!)

I'm guessing that one of the reasons sweat pants were invented was for "the day after"...also known as Black Friday, or one day after Thanksgiving.  People everywhere are pondering over how much they ate yesterday, maybe even feeling some side effects...while others might be diving into the fridge to throw together a plate of leftovers.  Either way, comfort is key.

So what was I thinking when I wore this 6 years ago, the day after?

This is most definitely the polar opposite of sweat pants.

Today, Frank and I are celebrating our 6th anniversary.  We were married on Black Friday of 2005 in the largest retail grossing zip code in the country (maybe even the world?).  We defied the odds and avoided setting foot in any of the thousands of stores in town for the "best deal".  Instead, we had a kick ass party :)

The day after has long been a favorite day of mine, even before our wedding.  A close group of us started a tradition 11 years ago today known as the "Leftovers Party".  Every year, we gather at Jason's house for some good eats that we enjoyed with our families the day before.  The wine is flowing, the laughs are constant, and memories are relived as well as created.  Our wedding (as well as my brother's, on Black Friday 2004) was an excuse to do the same...just dressed a little nicer.  

More on that tradition soon...I need to make my obligatory key lime pie for the party now.

Happy Anniversary to my groom!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Loving leftovers

It's no secret that kitchens are overwhelmed this week...most people have already started their Thanksgiving prep.  I don't think anyone needs any more recipe ideas for tomorrow.

What you might need, though, is an idea for what to do with all those damn leftovers.  Well, I have two:

1.  You invite your close friends over the day after Thanksgiving and instruct them all to bring their leftovers, as well as a bottle (or two) of wine.  This is no longer known as Black Friday in the lives of those who have this tradition.  Instead, it's known as one of the best days of the year...The Leftovers Party (or, in this year's case, my 6th anniversary...but I digress).  More on this tradition to come next week...

2.  You soften up some cream cheese and stir in some of that yummy leftover cranberry sauce.  Slice a bagel, pull apart an english muffin, or perhaps scrounge up a biscuit (but really, are there ever any biscuits leftover?).  Now spread lots of goodness on both sides.  Generously.  

Take it easy on Friday morning and enjoy this super quick breakfast.  Then talk to your friends about starting up that leftovers party tradition :)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving stress?

The food blogosphere is chock full o' Thanksgiving posts right now...what to bake, what to cook, how to make it, when to make it, how to eat it as leftovers, how to set the table, how to clear the table, how to label your plates/bowls...it's enough to make your head spin, right?

That's why sometimes it's better to be a guest :)

My first piece of advice - delegate.  In our family, no matter who hosts, we all contribute pretty equally.  It's fair.  It's courteous.  It keeps the peace.

My second piece of advice - simplify.  Easy dishes can be just as delicious as complicated ones, with the upside of having a less stressed host.  So, I bring you this dish.  The flavors are great and it takes just a few minutes to prep.  A bit different from the typical candied carrots offering, but just as good!

You deserve a break on Thursday.

Honey Roasted Fennel & Baby Carrots
1 fennel bulb, cut into chunks (fronds removed)
2 cups baby carrots
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix.  Place on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan and cook for about 35-40 minutes, turning twice during that time.

Serves 4-6.

Linked to: Side Dish Saturdays

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Eat to the Beat: "Mambo Italiano" Chicken Parm

If you're equally as obsessed with music as you are with food, you can pretty easily come across a song that reminds you of something you'd eat, or vice versa.  Elly from Elly Says Opa came up with Eat to the Beat a few years ago and challenged food bloggers to come up with a dish that relates to a song.  Since Elly is coming upon her blog's 5th anniversary, she decided to bring back Eat to the Beat as a way to celebrate, and I was happy to join in on the fun.  The round-up will be posted on her blog on the 30th, so be sure to check it out!

The good news about Italian food is that it's as passionate as music, so it was easy for me to come up with a dish and a song that related to each other.  A traditional, comforting, "red sauce" Italian dish, paired up with an Italian song?  Perfetto.

"Mambo Italiano" by Rosemary Clooney talks about "the girl who went back to Napoli", which is where my mother came from and where many of our relatives still reside.  It's loud, it's dramatic, it's powerful...just like many of our family dinners and dishes.  The one I thought would represent that best is my chicken parmigiana.

There isn't much more that would scream "Italiano", eh?  Looking at this just makes me want to smile, pour a glass of wine and dig in.  After I boil up some pasta to serve with it, of course :)  It's another one of Frank's favorites...and I guarantee once you try it it'll be one of yours, too!

Congratulations on hitting the 5 year mark, Elly!

"Mambo Italiano" Chicken Parmigiana
3 pounds boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin (butterfly first if necessary)
2 cups Italian bread crumbs
salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten (add about a tablespoon of water to thin them out)
extra virgin olive oil
marinara sauce
fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
grated pecorino romano cheese
fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly sprinkle chicken cutlets with salt and pepper, then dip in egg, followed by bread crumbs.  Shake off excess and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add chicken (do not crowd the pan) and turn after brown on one side.  Brown other side and remove from pan.  Continue until all chicken is cooked.  Place on paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil.

Spread a thin layer of marinara on the bottom of 9x13 pan.  Add chicken, then top with mozzarella and more marinara.  Sprinkle some pecorino romano on top.  It's okay if you need to stack some chicken on top of each other...just make sure each piece is covered with cheese and sauce.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until cheese and sauce are bubbling (check after 20-25 minutes).  Top with fresh parsley and serve.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Packing it up

Lately you may have noticed that I've alluded to some changes going on around here - reasons why I will need to make things a bit easier for me in the kitchen a few days a week.  The big news is that I've decided to reenter the workforce after almost 4 years!

I wasn't really planning on it, but a great opportunity with a company that I worked for several years ago came along.  I started yesterday and will be working part time, which is perfect for me right now.  Soooo, obviously I'll be busier...BUT, don't worry, my blog will not suffer as a result.  I wouldn't neglect my second baby like that! :)

In my previous life, when I was a career woman without kids, I rarely packed my lunch.  Working in the city made eating at restaurants and/or ordering lunch in way too tempting.  You walk out of the door to your building and have so many fantastic options within a few blocks...NYC is great like that.  Plus, who wants to carry their lunch while commuting via bus or train or ferry?  I really didn't.

Now that I'll be driving to the office (and a very short drive, I may add!) and work in an area where you have to get in your car for anything you need, bringing lunch is more practical.  And of course, it gives me more material to write about :)

I know there are a lot of ways to make egg salad (I have a few favorites myself)...this one is probably at the top of my list.  I love the tastes of these ingredients together, and it only takes a few minutes to make.  Easy to pack, too!

Now I have to get busy baking, since my new coworkers are dying to try some of my sweet treats...

Tangy Egg Salad
4 hard boiled eggs
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon
2 teaspoons sweet relish
salt and pepper to taste
diced onion

Peel and chop eggs in a bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and taste as you go to adjust seasonings to your liking.  Serve as a sandwich, with crackers, or eat straight up with a fork!

Serves 2.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Beans, beans, good for your heart

I love beans.  Frank doesn't love beans.

I miss beans.

I was happy to receive my assigned recipe for our latest swap, which was a one-pot meal theme.  Turkey black bean chili, you say?  Yes, please!

I cooked it up (pretty quickly, I might add) while Frank spent the night at the Jets game.  It made for a great dinner with some sour cream, cheddar cheese, scallions and a few tortilla chips.

Then I was sick for the next few days, so I added a little (oh who am I kidding...a LOT) hot sauce each time I heated it up for lunch.

There are some serious sinus clearing, throat healing properties in this dish.

Nicole from Prevention RD has some great, healthy dishes...this one is a winner, for sure.  I'll be making this again and freezing it for my dinners without the bean hater :)

Turkey & Black Bean Chili
slightly adapted from Prevention RD

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt to taste

Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add onion, pepper and garlic, and stir and cook until softened.

Add turkey and cook for about 3 minutes, or until no longer pink.  Stir in beans, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, salt and oregano.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender (about 45 minutes).

Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.  Spoon into bowls and add your favorite toppings.

Serves 6.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Morning rush

I noticed I was in a breakfast rut as of late and really needed to do something about it.  I had to find something that I can grab quickly.  Something I can even take with me on the run.  Something that basically requires zero effort.

It had been a while since I made granola.  Why?  I have no idea.  Time to change that!

This recipe jumped out at me and I knew I had to make it ASAP.  What's not to love about these flavors?  It's great sprinkled on top of Greek yogurt, with milk, or even on its own by grabbing a handful.  Bella's a big fan of it too...it's just about time to make another batch!  Well - a double batch this time.  Good thing it's super easy.

Maple Almond Granola
slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped or slivered almonds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix the oats, almonds, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar together in a medium sized bowl.  In another bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, oil, agave nectar and vanilla.  Pour oven dry ingredients and mix well (you can do this with your hands).

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray (or line with foil or parchment paper) and spread granola evenly over it.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  It's done when it starts to brown.

Stir in raisins and cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

More eating on the cheap

This dish is another great example of stretching your buck to its maximum.  Leg quarters can always be found at a great price, but when they're on sale the cost is almost too good to be true.  I picked up 5 for less than $2.50, so needless to say, this went a long way in our house for next to nothing.  All of the other ingredients are basic pantry items...and if you aren't a beer drinker, invite company over to enjoy this dish and offer the rest of the six pack to them :)

Some people commented on my Facebook page that they were looking forward to this recipe.  I'm happy to be sharing it today!  We really liked it - the taste, the smell, the price (dirt cheap!), the comfort...the perfect dish to add to your fall/winter rotation.

This would be great with any cut of chicken, and other starch sides I'd recommend are mashed potatoes and couscous.

Beer and Onion Braised Chicken
slightly adapted from Tuesday Recipe

5 leg quarters, bone in and skin on
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 (12 ounce) bottle dark beer

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Heat oil in a 6 quart dutch oven over medium high heat.  Sprinkle salt, pepper and allspice over chicken and add to pot.  Cook both sides until brown.  Transfer to plate.  Do this twice if all chicken doesn't fit at once.

Add onions and stir until slightly soft.  Stir in brown sugar and reduce heat to medium low.  Cover and cook until onions are golden brown, about 10 minutes (stir a few times).  Add bay leaves, mustard and beer, and bring to a boil.

Place chicken in pot along with juices from plate.  Transfer pot to oven (do not cover) and cook for about 40 minutes, or until meat is very tender and sauce has slightly reduced.

Serves 4-5.

Linked to: Tastetastic Thursday

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Friday, November 11, 2011

KISS (Keep it simple, silly)

No, your calendar isn't playing tricks on you.  Thanksgiving really is less than two weeks away.  For some of you, this could cause a bit of stress.  Hosting a large group and not sure where to begin?  Committed to being at 3 different places in one day?  Staying put at one house and not sure what to bring?

Times like these are perfect for having a few recipes that you can pretty much make with your eyes closed.

The best thing about this cranberry sauce is that you can make it your own by adding pretty much whatever you like.  Oh, and it takes about 10 minutes to make.  And, you can make it days in advance.  Super easy to transport, too!

Are you sold yet?


You didn't really think I'd call you stupid, did you?  ;)

Simple Cranberry Sauce
from Simply Recipes

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries, washed and picked over
1/2 cup chopped pecans

additional ideas for add-ins:  raisins, pomegranate seeds, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, walnuts

Put water and sugar in a medium sized pot.  Bring to a boil while stirring to dissolve sugar.  Add cranberries and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until cranberries burst.

Add pecans (or other add-ins), stir and remove from heat.  Cool completely at room temperature, then chill in refrigerator.

Makes about 2 1/4 cups.  Can be made a week in advance and stored in fridge.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

You asked for it...

...you got it!  Many of you said you appreciate seeing quick and easy weeknight meals here, so I'll be bringing you more.  They're going to become more of a necessity for me anyway so I'm happy to oblige!

One thing's for sure - you definitely don't have to sacrifice taste when you're taking shortcuts.  Fresh vegetables and seasonings are great to pair with a convenience product like frozen ravioli.  For this particular dish, I used a favorite in this house - broccoli rabe.  If you haven't tried it, please do.  Don't be afraid of its bitterness...although if it really is too much for you, boil it before sauteing.

You will have this meal on the table in the amount of time it takes to cook the ravioli.  Quick, easy, delicious.    The perfect weeknight slogan!

Ravioli with Broccoli Rabe & Pancetta
1 bag mini cheese ravioli
1 bunch broccoli rabe, ends trimmed
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more if you like it spicy)
1/2 cup cubed pancetta
salt and pepper to taste
grated pecorino romano cheese

Cook ravioli according to package directions.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a large deep skillet over medium high heat.  Add garlic, pancetta and crushed red pepper.  Put broccoli rabe in carefully and move with tongs until it begins to reduce (it will shrink a lot).  Cook down until soft.  Turn heat down to low.

Drain ravioli and add to skillet.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Mix everything together until ravioli are coated with all ingredients.  Add cheese, toss quickly and serve.

Serves 3-4.

Linked to: Tastetastic Thursday

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Guest posting today!

Hi everyone!  Head on over to Dainty Chef to see what I've got cooking today.  Here's a hint:

If you aren't familiar with Krissy's blog, now's your chance to make it happen :)  She's got some great recipes that I think you'd all enjoy - check them out!

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Keep em' coming back for more

We're approaching that time of year - the holiday season.  A time when families gather, good food is served, and guests come and stay.  And stay again.  And stay longer.  And eat.  And eat more.  And keep eating after that.

Make ahead dishes, as well as keeping things somewhat simple whenever possible, are key for many people around this time.  Breakfast is a great time to do that.  You can never have too many overnight french toast recipes, in my opinion.  This one is a great addition to the others I have here in my blog...the flavors are great and again, it couldn't be simpler.

Just be careful - they may never want to leave!

Orange Walnut French Toast
adapted from cooks. com

8 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/3 cups orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 loaf challah bread, cut into thick slices

Beat eggs, then add in milk, nutmeg, sugar, juice and vanilla.  Place bread in 9x13 baking pan in two layers.  Pour mixture over bread, cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Carefully pour excess egg mixture out of pan (remove bread if you have to, then put it back in).  Pour butter over and around bread.  Sprinkle with nuts.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve with syrup and butter.

Linked to: Sweet Tooth Friday

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Finger lickin' good (Secret Recipe Club)

Another month, another exciting challenge with the Secret Recipe Club!  This was even more exciting than usual, because the blog assignment I received had endless wonderful possibilities.  Jane from The Heritage Cook has a delicious and diverse collection of recipes, which made it pretty tough to choose just one.  But, the fact that I'd just purchased a rack of baby back ribs a few days before getting my assignment made it a bit easier.

Comfort food is a must this time of year, and ribs scream just that.  I very rarely make them at home so I didn't have a go-to recipe...until now :)  SO GOOD.

My mouth was watering when they came out of the oven.  I couldn't wait to get them on the table!  Easy, comforting and delicious, and all done without a grill.  I cut the recipe back using just one rack of ribs and it worked out well.  We loved it!

If you haven't visited Jane's blog yet, do it soon...you won't regret it!

Baby Back Ribs with Tuscan Espresso BBQ Sauce
from The Heritage Cook

For the ribs:
3 racks baby back ribs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:
1 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce (I used reduced sodium)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup espresso
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Cut each rack of ribs in half and season with salt and pepper.  Stack ribs on foil covered baking sheet in two piles of 3 pieces each.  Bake for about 2 1/2 hours, or until tender, rotating ribs every 30 minutes.

Remove ribs from oven and cover with foil.

To make the sauce:
Whisk the honey, soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup and espresso.  Set aside.

Place oil and garlic in a medium pot and cook for about one minute, or until garlic turns golden brown.  Lower heat, add honey mixture and stir to combine.  Simmer for about 15 minutes.

To complete the ribs:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees (or preheat a grill).  Brush sauce on both sides of ribs and arrange in single layer on foil covered baking sheets (or directly on grill).

Turn and baste ribs as they cook.  Remove after ribs are glazed and caramelized, about 15 minutes.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

In it for the long haul

Our latest recipe swap's theme was side dishes you'd serve for Thanksgiving dinner.  I have to say, I was a bit intrigued when I received my assignment, submitted by Ashley from Cheese Curd in Paradise.  It was a recipe she got from Pioneer Woman, and it was quite a commitment.  9 HOURS to cook mushrooms?  On the stove?  Wow!

Knowing it would just be us for dinner, I cut the recipe in half, and figured the cooking time would decrease as a result.  So, the changes I made are reflected in my adapted version below, and yes, it was plenty of time to complete them.

Honestly, we weren't big fans of this dish.  It was good, but again, for the length of time it took we weren't blown away by it.  I guess if you're serving it on Thanksgiving and know you'll be home all day then it's no big deal, but I wouldn't suggest altering your normal weekday routine to make it.  There are lots of mushroom dishes that can be made in a fraction of the time that taste just as good or even better.

Also, the original recipe from PW says to add salt...I didn't, because I used salted butter, but even without the added amount this was still REALLY salty!  So I'd recommend not adding any more, for sure.  You might even want to use unsalted butter.

And yes, they're supposed to be this dark!

Burgundy Mushrooms
adapted from Cheese Curd in Paradise

2 pounds whole button mushrooms
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 bottle red wine (I used merlot)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup boiling water
4 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 teaspoon dill seed
4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole

Wipe the mushrooms down and place them in a large pot.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to low and simmer, covered, for 4 hours.  Remove the lid and continue cooking for another hour.  Serve.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Time to improvise

I was excited to make caramel apples for Halloween!  Frank went out and bought a dozen apples, caramels and candies, but couldn't find sticks.  The next day I went to the only other store that was open during our crazy Nor'easter aftermath and power outage.  And of course, no sticks.

Let's do the math.  No sticks = no caramel apples.

Sigh.  I really wanted to make something "cutesy" and finger friendly, and still be able to use what was already bought.  This is where the improvising comes in.

I'd say it worked out well.

These little pies are adorable and delicious.  Next time, when I'm better prepared, I'll make them a little bigger...I had to keep them on the small side because I only had 2 pie crusts (had no time to make any more) and had a set amount of people to feed.

Definitely keep these in mind when you need a quick dessert - they were very easy to assemble and take no time at all to bake.  You could even make them ahead and freeze them for later.  Plenty of time left in the fall to enjoy them - even if it looks like winter outside!

Mini Caramel Apple Pies
slightly adapted from Miz Gina's Front Porch

2 refrigerated pie crusts (or homemade)
3 apples, cored, peeled and chopped very small (I used honeycrisp...anything would work)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
caramel candies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly flour workspace and roll out dough.  Using a small circular cutter (I used the top of a cooking spray can!), cut rounds out of crust.  Ball up and roll crust out again to cut more rounds, until you've used all the dough.

Place rounds on cookie sheets that have been lightly sprayed.  Put apple pieces in middle of each round, then top with caramel (depending on the size of the candies you get, you may want to cut them).  Place another round on top and press around edge with a fork to make little pies.

*If your rounds are larger, you can fold them over and seal the one side*

Brush tops with a little butter.  Mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle on top of each pie.  Bake until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Linked to: Tastetastic Thursday
                  Sweet Tooth Friday

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A homemade trip down memory lane

Not all foods that bring me back to my childhood were homemade, or even from my ethnic background.  Certain ones, which could be considered my mom's "cheater" meals, hold memories that are just as fond.  Occasionally, there were nights that didn't consist of a home cooked meal.  She was a busy stay-at-home mom to 3 kids and also helped run my dad's business (before going back to school and finishing up college to earn her degree in education).  So on those rare evenings, the oh-so-popular TV dinner would sometimes make its way onto the table.

There were the TV dinners that had different sections...you know...the meat, the vegetable, the other vegetable and the fruit (or sometimes, dessert).  They were always a treat.

And then, there was the chicken pot pie.  An individual serving with a golden crust and who knows what underneath it :)  But we loved them!

I'm the first person to admit that convenience is a necessity at times...matter of fact, it's about to become even more important for me (more on that in a later post).  But I'm not interested in the TV dinner.  I'd rather find a quick and easy way to recreate it and make it taste even better, as well as have it be healthier.

Pot pie is a cinch to make and can be on the table in under an hour.  You could even prep most of it the day before.  And yes, it can be made without that sodium-filled cream of chicken/mushroom/whatever else soup.

Making your own biscuits is great, but don't be afraid to take the easy way out and use ready-made, you know, for convenience sake :)

Easy Chicken Pot Pie
adapted from My Pantry Shelf

For the chicken:
3 large boneless chicken breasts
chicken broth
1 bay leaf

For the filling:
4 tablespoons butter
4 red potatoes, cut into small pieces
1 cup diced carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup chopped mushrooms
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup frozen pearl onions
1 cup frozen green beans
1 tablespoon thyme
1/2 cup fat free half & half
salt and pepper to taste

For the topping:
1 tube refrigerated biscuits (or homemade)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Bring broth and bay leaf to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add chicken and simmer for about 20 minutes or until chicken is tender.  Remove chicken and set aside (shred when cooled).  Reserve liquid.

While chicken is cooking, put butter in a large pot and melt.  Add chopped onion, carrots, potatoes, garlic and mushrooms.  Stir together and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes soften.

Add flour, chicken broth, chicken, thyme, green beans, pearl onion, and half & half.  Stir and simmer until sauce thickens.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  (The stew can be made a day in advance...just cool, cover and refrigerate.  Reheat prior to topping with biscuits.)

Place mixture in casserole dish or individual ramekins.  Arrange uncooked biscuits on top of stew.  Bake uncovered until biscuits are brown, about 10-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

Serves 4.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More pumpkin...help!

I went a little overboard last month with the canned pumpkin purchases.  Between all the talk about a shortage, along with vague memories of its lack of availability last year, I figured why not?  It's not like it goes bad.

So now I need more ideas.  Tell me, what would you like to see me make with pumpkin?  Anything sweet or savory is fine...I'm up for all suggestions.  Because at this rate, I'll be cooking/baking all things pumpkin until April.

Now, this dish...this dish was gooooood.  Unfortunately, it didn't photograph that well, but it was really delicious.  I had the last of the leftovers yesterday for lunch and already miss it.  Another batch may be in order soon!

We had this as a main dish but it would work really well as a side, or without the prosciutto.  And for a risotto, it wasn't terribly labor intensive.  I had it finished in about half an hour.  Not bad!  Plenty of leftovers, too.

Pumpkin Risotto with Prosciutto
slightly adapted from Our Life in the Kitchen

2 cups arborio rice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces prosciutto, cut into strips or chunks
2 small yellow onions, chopped
1 cup white wine
6-8 cups chicken stock (I used 6)
1 (15 ounce) can pure pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin

Put stock in a pot and simmer.  In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto and onion, and saute until slightly brown and crispy.  Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

Add rice to pot (with oil still in it) and stir for about a minute or two, until it turns a brighter white and is well coated.  Add wine, reduce heat to medium or medium-low, stirring frequently until wine is mostly absorbed.

Add enough stock to cover rice and cook, stirring frequently, until most liquid is absorbed.  Repeat this pattern until stock is almost gone and rice is nearly tender.

Add cinnamon and cumin and stir, followed by pumpkin.  Stir until combined.  Add any remaining stock and continue cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

Add onion and prosciutto to pot.  Stir to combine.  Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side dish.

Linked to: What's On Your Plate?

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