Tuesday, March 8, 2011

We *have* been eating around here...

...contrary to what this blog would indicate.

We have just been busy and I've had no time for blogging about culinary delicacies! So, I'm going to cheat a little. For archival's sake, and so that after I have this baby I will be able to remember some of the delicious recipes we've had recently, I'm going to just make a list and rate them with stars without a lot of fanfare or pictures. There are a few that I REALLY want to remember!

I've been having a love affair with melskitchencafe.com. Many of the dishes come from that website recently - especially since I've been doubling and then freezing a lot of dishes in preparation for the baby's arrival and she has a lot of great freezer-friendly meals.

Mel's Kitchen Cafe Recipes:
I do have to say, most of her recipes are just wonderful. I don't like as much meat in my recipes as she typically calls for, so I find that I usually 1/2 the meat and that works for us.
Ultimate Beef Stroganoff: Fantastic slow cooker stroganoff. Easy. Freezer Friendly. Doesn't call for a packet of seasoning. 4 stars.
Creamy White Chili: This. Is. Amazing. Really, words don't do it justice. I think I've made it 3 times since we first had it - that never happens in our house. You don't have to use cream - milk works fine. I also like it a little thicker, I never use the full amount of liquid, and I take the lid off for the last 30 minutes or so. 5 stars.
Chicken Pot Pie Crumble: This was good. Not unbelievable, but very good. The main reason I'm writing about it is because in our entire marriage, I have never made pot pie. That may not sound like that big of a deal. But it is. Because it's my husband's FAVORITE meal. Poor man has to order it whenever we go out because I hate the stuff and won't stand to slave away in the kitchen over a meal I find so repulsive. However, we have officially found common ground with this dish and I'm thrilled about that. I can eat it for one meal, and he can eat it for days on end as leftovers and that is something to blog about. 3 stars (from me), 4 stars (from him)
Chicken and Corn Chowder with Sweet Potatoes: This was awesome. Pure awesomeness. My kids loved it. I loved it. My husband raved and raved about this. We'll make it over and over. 5 stars.
Chicken Cordon Bleu Bread Bowls: I followed everything about this recipe to the "t". Except that all the stuff she wants you to put on top at the end - I just threw it all in the soup at once. I have to say - I think the apple juice is crucial. And these were a LOT of work. But, this recipe was exceptional, and the bread bowls were delicious and turned out beautifully, even though they were my first attempt at such things. I would make this again for an event or company - but probably not for dinner. 5 stars.

Now, for a fan-friggin' tastic recipe from Smitten.com:
Mushroom and Farro Soup: I honestly couldn't stop eating this. I ate until my stomach hurt, and then I ate some more. And then I ate it for leftovers for days. I love farro, although you could easily substitute barley. This soup was SO easy and SO deliciously perfect. I used beef broth because that's what I had from another recipe on hand, but vegetable broth would be good, too. I wanted mine thick, so I adjusted the recipe accordingly. She mentions how she considered putting cream in it and then thought again. I have to agree - this soup doesn't need it. 5 stars.

And of course, an Ina Garten Recipe:
Mustard-Roasted Fish: We eat fish about once a week in this house. I was looking for a new recipe that would be a little different than the usual and this recipe was perfect. Easy, pretty healthy. I used sour cream mixed with a little milk instead of creme freche. This recipe was easy and so yummy. My husband and I couldn't stop picking at it long after we were done with the meal. It's slightly sour flavor is perfectly balanced by the fish. A beautiful dish that also helped me get rid of those last few pesky capers sitting in my fridge. 5 stars.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Macaroni and Cheese I Never Thought I'd Have

Ok, I may be having a small love-affair with Mel's Kitchen Cafe. This dish was so perfect, I can't even begin to describe it. Homemade mac and cheese struggles, in my opinion. I do have a couple of recipes that I really like, they're complex to make and taste yummy, but they're not that oozy, goozy goodness kind of mac 'n' cheese that I get a hankering for. They're more like a casserole. Oh, I realize you can achieve that oozy goozy flavor if you are willing to throw in a bunch of processed foods, but I'm not. So, I just figured my days of creamy mac 'n' cheese goodness had come to an end.

I was wrong.
Very, very wrong.
Mel's Kitchen Cafe introduced me to this:
It's easy.
Really easy.
Really creamy.
It doesn't call for creepy things like Velveeta.
Although it did call for evaporated milk, but I'm ok with that every now and again.

It. Was. Unbelievable. And we will be eating it again and again and again in this house. Please, try it next time you have a craving for the best Macaroni and Cheese you've ever had. Without the use of hyper-processed foods.

Oh, and I skipped the hot sauce because I didn't have any, but I bet it would be tasty. I also used various cheeses I had on hand, and increased the sauce just a little, because I love me some creammmy mac 'n' cheese!

5 stars.

Recipe here or below:

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

from My Kitchen Cafe (www.melskitchencafe.com)

3 1/2 cups water, plus extra if needed

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

12 ounces (about 3 cups) elbow macaroni

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

6 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)

6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small chunks

Ground black pepper to taste

Bring 3 1/2 cups water, 1 cup of the evaporated milk, the macaroni, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a simmer in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. Cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring often, until the macaroni is tender and the liquid has thickened, 9 to 12 minutes.

Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup evaporated milk, the cornstarch, mustard and hot sauce together in a small bowl, then stir into the skillet. Continue to simmer slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Off the heat, stir in the cheddar and Monterey Jack, one handful at a time, adding water as needed to adjust the consistency of the sauce (I didn’t need any additional water when I made it). Stir in the butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thai Chicken Pizza

Little Buddy had to sneak a bite while I was taking the picture, he just couldn't wait!

I had this pizza at a church function and HAD to have the recipe. The bean sprouts, the cucumbers, the peanut butter, the sweet and sour sauce!! It was such a fun dish, given that it combined so many pieces of different cuisines.
I assumed the crust was some sort of store-bought bread because it was so thick, but when my friend sent me the recipe, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was homemade! That also made it so I could make most of the bread with a white wheat flour instead of regular floud. I made the crust as directed - with the italian herbs and everything. The crust is quite thick, which suits this dish, so I'm glad I didn't use my normal pizza crust recipe.
After making it, my husband and I decided it will be something I need to make again in the future. SO many fun flavors - I am a sucker for anything that has a peanut flavor mixed with crunchy vegetables. My kids loved it in pieces - they'd pick off the cucumbers, then have a piece of chicken, and then they would scrape everything off and eat the crust. Doesn't bother me at all, they still got their food groups in!

This could also be an ideal dish to bring for a party or shower. You can cut it up nice and bite-sized.
There are a few steps I did that made this recipe faster:
1) I made the dough in the morning and then after the first proof, I wrapped it in saran wrap (with extra saran wrap on the top so it wouldn't pour out of it as it rose slowly in the fridge) and popped it in the fridge. Then I just rolled it out and popped it in the oven as directed when I was ready to cook it. 2) I also did all the chopping in the morning, so the evening was just making the sauce and assembling it. 3) In addition, I knew I was making this, so the night before, when we had chicken, I just cooked it up then so the next day the chicken was ready to go.

Lastly, I was shocked to find that the next day this was delicious - even heated in the microwave for 30 seconds or so per piece! My husband actually thought it was better. This recipe was so refreshing, different, and yummy, it is definitely a keeper.

5 stars!

Thai Chicken Pizza:


1 package active dry yeast

1 teaspoon white sugar

1 cup warm water

2 ½ cups Flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Garlic powder, Italian seasoning, basil, oregano

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast & sugar into warm water.

Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

Stir in flour, salt, and oil. Also add your garlic powder, Italian seasoning, basil, & oregano.

Mix with fork and hands until smooth. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, and pat or roll into a round or square)

Transfer crust to a lightly greased pizza pan, cookie sheet, or baker’s peel

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove.


In a small saucepan on low heat stir together just until combined

4T peanut butter

4 T soy sauce

2 cloves minced garlic

1 t ginger

4 T brown sugar

2 baked chicken breasts, diced

pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)


½ bottle of Lay Choy duck sauce or sweet and sour sauce (*note, my store was out, so I just used a thin layer of sweet and hot sauce)

1 chopped and sliced cucumber

handful of bean sprouts

handful of chopped cilantro or fresh parsley

handful of chopped dry roasted peanuts

half a red bell pepper sliced or diced

1 ½- 2 cups shredded Monterey jack and cheddar cheese blend

After pre baking crust for about 10 minutes dough will be firm but still doughy. Remove from oven and spread a thin layer of Duck Sauce or Sweet and Sour Sauce. Cover with shredded cheddar cheese. Top with peanut chicken mixture and red bell pepper slices. And bake 10-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and top with cucumber slices, bean sprouts, cilantro, and chopped peanuts.

Slice and Enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hawaiian Haystacks - Reinvented

So I've never made Hawaiian Haystacks, but I've had them before and really liked them.
However, when I was searching for recipes, I really was turned off by the gravy... I mean, call me a snob, but I really try to steer clear of Cream of "x" Soup, if it's from a can...and that, to my dismay, was what most of the recipes were calling for.
However, I was diligent, I really wanted to try my hand at these! That was when I came across Mel's Kitchen Cafe. I had a "where have I been" moment as I stopped by her website. It's so easy to navigate and seems to have some fun recipes! If I were to get serious about this blog...I'd make it like hers.
Anyway, she had the same gravy/sauce problem I did, only she seized the moment and made THE most delicious sauce to put on the Hawaiian Haystacks from scratch. So, SO much better than anything from a can. My family devoured it. I ate it happily for leftovers over the next 3 days... we'll definitely have these again. Even if I was chopping my way through the 5th topping thinking "why is it that people think these things are SO easy and fast?" They were worth it. So worth it.

Oh, and I also used her baked brown rice idea, simply because we had company coming for dinner and I wanted to make a lot all at once. I just used water and a little salt, and I must say, it was perfectly delicious! We love brown rice in our house, so it wasn't anything earth- shattering, but it was fluffy, soft, and easy.

Oh, and I used plenty o' salt in the gravy. And I reduced the amount of milk and chicken broth and then added it in as necessary. I just wanted my sauce to be a little bit thicker.

Mmmm. Yummy. So, so very yummy! 5 stars.

Recipe here and below.

Hawaiian Haystacks: Chicken Sauce Reinvented

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks (or leftover cooked chicken, cubed)
3 tablespoons butter
½ onion (about ½ cup), finely chopped
3 cloves garlic; finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth

In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion and raw chicken (if using leftover cooked chicken, don’t add it to the skillet now, you’ll add it later). Saute the onion and chicken, if using, until the onions are soft and translucent and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute, stirring, until fragrant.

Sprinkle the flour over the onions and chicken and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for one minute - this helps get rid of the starchy, flour taste. Slowly whisk in the milk and chicken broth. Cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, and bring the sauce to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat. Add the salt and pepper. If you are using leftover cooked chicken, add it now. Continue simmering, stirring the sauce frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes.

Serve the chicken sauce over rice with your toppings of choice, such as olives, tomatoes, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, green onions, mandarin oranges and chow mein noodles.

Recipe Source: My Kitchen Cafe

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 Menu

I thought I'd share what my menu was this year for Thanksgiving. Mostly so that next year I won't have to re-find a number of them, and because I've had a couple of people ask for them. There are a few that really deserve their own posts, but better to get them up in a big group than not at all since a lot of these recipes could easily be used for a Christmas feast as well!

Every year I get intimidated of making stuffing, but I think I'll try it out from scratch next year. If you ever get in a pinch, I always just use Stove Top Turkey Stuffing, add some chopped dried cranberries and celery to it at the last minute and it gives it a homemade flavor and tastes like you slaved over it. =) It's worked for me every year, especially since so many people don't really like stuffing, it's not fun to work hard on something few people enjoy. However, I am excited to try a "real" stuffing recipe next year, so if you have one you love or tips on how to make it taste great, please share!


WATCH THE MOVIE that goes along with the recipe. It's like 3 minutes long or something and it's totally different: he doesn't steam the artichokes, he adds a ton more parmesan cheese and lemon juice, etc. It changed everything for me. Also, I used fresh artichokes, which totally intimidated me, but I just did it like he does on the movie and they turned out perfectly. I think they brought the dip up a big notch for me, but if you were in a pinch, or want a cheaper option, I'm sure canned is fine. My favorite crab artichoke dip I have ever had. I even ate it for days after the feast. And I don't eat seafood leftovers. Also, I made it the night before and then just cooked it the day of, worked great. 5 Stars, easily.
Notes: Don't let the fancy name fool you, it's just a sliced baguette with a few toppings. You can make the goat cheese mixture the day before and then just toast the bread and assemble it the day of. I love this appetizer because it has so many flavors going on - cinnamon, salt, pepper, cranberries. Really, it looks and tastes fancy, and tastes different than your average appetizer. I love this. 4.5 Stars.

The Turkey
When something has over 3000 reviews on the foodnetwork.com and it's 5 stars, well, you aren't joking around. I had never actually brined a turkey and put in "aromatics" before, but let me tell you: I just experienced turkey for the first time in my life this Thanksgiving. It was moist. It was flavorful. It wasn't like turkey at all. And it was easy. I did cringe a little as I was pouring in that much chicken stock, so I poured in 12 cups instead of 16, and then added a quart of water to bring it up. I also totally forgot the ice water, but my bag was full enough to almost cover a 14 pound turkey, so I figured it was fine, which it was. I was able to buy my candied ginger in bulk, luckily, and allspice berries were cheap, so it all worked out. Plus, now I know I'll never make another kind of turkey, so I can just keep using what's left over in spices for next year.
A word about cooking time: My turkey was seriously done in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let's say that again: My 14 pound turkey that normally takes 3 hours to cook was done in 75 minutes. I tested it in 3 different places with two different thermometers because I couldn't believe it. Yours might take longer, but I finally just pulled mine out at an hour and a half and let it sit for an hour while I hurriedly got all my side dishes together. I'm glad that I did pull it, since it truly was done, and it was so tender. I think it's because you kind of sear it in the beginning on such a high heat, which, by the way, I stopped after 20 minutes and dropped the temp to the 350 because my turkey was a beautiful dark golden color. Anyway, everyone's oven is different, but just a word to the wise. 6 stars. Oh yes, I just gave something 6 stars.

Side Dishes
Roasted Green Beans with Pumpkin Seeds.
I just broiled pumpkin seeds with some kosher salt and olive oil the day before. Then the day of I threw the green beans in the oven with some kosher salt, pepper, and oil as the rolls were cooking. Then I threw the pumpkin seeds on them as I plated them. Yummy and a great change of pace from all the creamy dishes.
This was another one of those moments where I went "Have I ever really tasted mashed potatoes before?" As I was throwing in what was WAY more than I ever put in my mashed potatoes (which I typically prefer with just a little milk, salt, and pepper), I kept remembering how amazingly delicious they looked on tv when I saw her do her Thanksgiving Throwdown with Bobby Flay. So I trusted in the Ree, and you know what? I'll never make potatoes on Thanksgiving any other way. I do have to say that I think the last part about putting even MORE butter on the top and baking them is completely unnecessary, unless you need to reheat them because you made them the day before (which you could, because these are good enough that I bet no one would even notice), next time I'll skip that part. Other than that, well, let's just say I made enough that we are still eating them a week later and they are just the perfect creaminess and blend of flavor. 5 stars.
Heidi's Amazing Sweet Potato Casserole
My friend, Heidi, gave me this recipe years ago. I fell in love with it. My brother-in-law always calls them "stupid good", and I have to agree, since I never liked any sweet potato dish before this, and I can eat these for days on end. Actually, I have been eating them for days on end. It's more like a dessert, the sweet potatoes are really more like a custard and then you put the topping... mmmmm. You can make and bake them completely up to about 3 days beforehand and then just warm it/toast it just before serving the day of to save time, they're just as good if not better. I always spray a little cooking spray on during the last 10 minutes to really brown it and crisp it up. Oh, and I like the sweet potatoes a little on the creamy side and a lot of topping, so I alter it to my liking every time, feel free to be liberal with your portions, this time I added so much vanilla and milk to the sweet potatoes that I had to add an extra egg to thicken them up!
Heidi's Sweet Potato Casserole
6 to 8 Cs cooked mashed sweet potatoes
1 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 C milk
½ C butter
1 C finely chopped pecans
1 C brown sugar
1/3 C flour
1/3 C butter

Beat together all the first stuff, then put in casserole and put topping and bake 20 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees
Yet another recipe that had me unexpectedly raving. When I made it (days in advance, of course, there's no way I can do that much cooking in one day!) I was lamenting that it was entirely too sweet - the the point that I would have halved the sugar the next time. However, when paired with the turkey, it was truly perfect. I found myself making excuses to eat the turkey so I could have more of the sauce! I'd probably put in 1/3 less sugar, not because the taste was off, but I thought the flavors and cinnamon carried the dish well, so why not reduce the sugar? I also loved that it didn't require anything special like fruit pectin or multiple steps. It's just straightforward and yummy. I will make it every Thanksgiving from now on. 5 Stars.
Auntie Pam's Rolls:
Everyone loves their roll recipe, there are a million out there. Truthfully, a good roll is a good roll, so I'm not going to sell you on these ones if you already have one you love, but I find myself coming back to this recipe every time. I make them a few days in advance and then freeze them about half-way through the second proof. Then, I let them rise as they thaw (it takes about 3-4 hours, I believe, for them to thaw - and I only let them thaw for 2 hours before finally popping them in this time because my turkey was done so early, so apparently that's fine). Then I cook them as directed. They are a little dense, which I like, but moist and soft. So yummy. I also use about 1/3 wheat flour, just to make me feel a little better about all my binging on Thanksgiving! 5 stars.

Auntie Pam's Rolls:

Makes: 30 Rolls


½ C sugar

½ C oil

2 eggs

2 Tbsp yeast

1 Tbsp salt

2 ½ C water

6-7 C flour


Proof the yeast by adding 1/2 C warm water to the yeast. While it proofs, beat sugar and oil together. Add eggs and beat again. Add 2 C flour and beat until smooth. Add yeast, salt, and water and gently mix until unified. Add flour until it pulls away easily from bowl. Knead for 10 minutes by hand/6-7 minutes with a mixer using a kneading hook. Let rise 35-45 minutes. Form into 30 small balls/rolls and let rise again 30 minutes (if you are freezing them, let rise 20 minutes, then place in the freezer on a plate or cookie sheet until mostly frozen, and then transfer to ziploc bags or other freezer container and store in freezer until ready for use); preheat oven to 375°F. Bake 20-25 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Brush with a little oil or butter and sprinkle with salt, if desired.


Junior's White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake with a Blackberry Balsamic Reduction Sauce


This is one of my favorite cheesecakes! I just make a graham cracker crust for the bottom. This year I decided to to a Blackberry Balsamic Reduction Sauce which I thought paired fabulously with it (although a little went a long way). I made the cheesecake days in advance and then froze it. Then, I popped it in the fridge 24 hours before serving it. I just removed it and let it sit at room temperature for about 2 hours before serving and it was perfect. Just play with it until it's the right temperature. The sauce paired SO nicely with it - my husband doesn't like cheesecake (I know, he should be arrested), but he actually ate a whole piece and attributed it to the pairing of the sauce with it. I was pretty liberal, I added balsamic to taste (more than the recipe called for) and sugar to taste (less than the recipe called for). I also added raspberries. But I followed all the steps perfectly, and made it days in advance and it was great. Cheesecake and sauce: 5 stars.

Junior's White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake


Graham Crackers, sugar, a pinch of salt, butter. You know the drill, just make whatever crust you like, bake it, let cook until golden and then let it cool while you make the cheesecake.



10 oz dry-pack frozen whole raspberries (unsweetened/not in syrup), thawed and drained well

5 T cornstarch

8 oz white chocolate

3 8 oz packages cream cheese (use only full fat), at room temperature

1 1/3 C sugar

1 T pure vanilla extract

2 extra-large eggs

2/3 C heavy or whipping cream

1 half-pint fresh raspberries (about 6 oz)

White chocolate curls (for garnish, not necessary)



Pulse the thawed raspberries in food processor until pureed (you need ¾ C puree). Stir in 1 T of the cornstarch and set aside. It will thicken slightly as it stands. Melt white chocolate and set aside if doing white curls for garnish.

Put one package of cream cheese, 1/3 C sugar, and remaining 4 T cornstarch in a large bowl. Beat with electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl several times. Beat in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, scraping down the bowl after each one. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat in the remaining 1 C sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the melted white chocolate, then the cream, just until completely blended. Do not overmix!! (Overbeaten eggs cause cracking!)

Gently spoon the batter on top of the crust. Drop the raspberry puree in teaspoonfuls on top of the batter, pushing it down slightly as you go. Using a thin, pointed knife, cut through the batter a few times in a ‘figure 8’ design, just until red swirls appear (don’t overmix and turn the cake pink!).

Place cake in a large shallow pan with hot water that comes 1 inch up the sides. Bake until the edges are light golden brown and the top is slightly golden tan with raspberry swirls, about 1 ¼ hours. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 2 hours (just walk away – don’t move it!). Leave the cake in the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely cold, preferably overnight or at least 4 hours.

Remove from pan and put on cake plate if desired. Decorate with raspberries, white chocolate curls, and puree. Can wrap and freeze leftover cheesecake for 1 month (without fresh raspberries on top of course).

Magnolia's Banana Cream Pudding Pie

I love this recipe and make it every year. And every year that I make it I forget that it's better the next day, so next year, I'll make it 1 day in advance. I will also remember that it makes an EXORBITANT amount of pudding, so I will make 1/3 of the recipe and serve it in a smaller bowl (hopefully a clear one, because it's so pretty in a clear bowl, it looks like trifle). The bananas on top are the only part that need to be pretty, so put those on just before serving. The longer it sits, the more the flavor because amazing! Oh, and don't be fooled, I know this looks like your cheating with these ingredients, but really, who cares, if it's good, it must be Thanksgiving worthy (and if people line up for blocks in NYC for it, it must be good as well). I'm not a big fan of banana cream, but this is good. My husband loves it and has to have it every Thanksgiving! 4 stars.

Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding
From 'More From Magnolia' Cookbook
Serves 12

1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup vanilla pudding mix
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3 cups cold heavy cream
1 (12 ounce) box vanilla wafers
4 ripe bananas, sliced

Whisk together the water, pudding mix and sweetened condensed milk until will mixed. If not using instant, refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. If using instant, it will be ready to go within 15 min.

When pudding is ready, whip the heavy cream in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well incorporated.

In a deep glass bowl (or pie pans or whatever you want to use to layer...but honestly the deeper the bowl the more it will all 'mish mash' together), layer the pudding, wafers, bananas and pudding again. Continue until all the mixture is used up, ending with either wafers or pudding. Don't end with bananas because they will just turn brown and end up looking unappealing. I sprinkled crushed wafers on top of mine.

Now, I can't take credit for all this cooking, my good friends came into town and helped make a lot of these dishes! Plus, my friend made amazing Collard Greens (seriously, they were really good!) and Pumpkin Cake with whipped Cream Cheese Frosting that were both so good. I need to get those recipes. I just had to share these recipes, and also document them so next year I can make them again!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Slow Cooker Minestrone *with update*

Note: Pictures were taken a day or two after making this meal, when a lot of the liquid was soaked up by the vegetables. Still delicious, but not as soupy-looking for a blog picture.

Oh my goodness. You know, I love a good slow cooker meal. I really love a slow cooker meal that isn't mushy. I L.O.V.E. a slow cooker meal that has lots of vegetables, is easy to prepare, and isn't mushy.

Enter my new favorite slow cooker meal: Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup.

Seriously, try it. My general rule for slow cooker meals is th
at it can't include a ton of steps and prep-work. I usually need a slow cooker meal on a day that I'm really busy and so I need to throw and go. I was shocked (and thrilled) that because of the way this recipe is layed out, I could have everything done early in the day, but still have it taste like I had sat there babysitting it to make sure the carrots weren't overly done, etc. This is such a great meal for a cold day, or when you have company and don't have much time to cook. Or are trying to cut back on meat. Or you just need a delicious meal. Ah, let me count the reasons I will be making this recipe again and again and again.

Oh, and I didn't have dry sage, I skipped it and added some other seasonings that I had. I also skipped the spinach, but I'm sure it would be yummy anyway.

I did add some extra vegetables, I don't remember what, but whatever was in my fridge. Mine needed more liquid than the recipe called for, but yours may not. I also just made sure that I seasoned it to taste. I also doubled the recipe as I was making it for a group and it was wonderful!

Oh, and fresh mozzarella is a must. It just sang with the flavors.
Lastly, I chopped all the vegetables and cooked the pasta in the morning as I was throwing everything else in the slow cooker so that when I got home that afternoon, I could just literally throw them in the slow cooker and there was nothing else to do. It would be a great idea to make something like this the day after you have a short-cut pasta (like penne, rigatoni, or farfalle). Brilliant!

I just made this again the other day and realized that I did not mention or emphasize the changes in spices that I made. The recipe below is the original, but here are the spice changes that I made, which I think make ALL the difference:
1) I about tripled the sage, maybe more. Do it to taste.
2) I added dried oregano, which I thought was a nice compliment to the sage in a serious kind of way
3) I probably doubled the thyme in it as well.
4) Both times I added more liquid than it called for
Basically, I put in a ton more seasoning than the recipe calls for! Just do it to taste, but don't be afraid to add more, once I added more seasoning I realized it made all the difference.

5 stars. Love.

Recipe here and below.

Minestrone Soup with Pasta, Beans, and Vegetables

  • 3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white (cannellini or navy) beans, drained
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked ditalini pasta (I used penne)
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen spinach, defrosted (I skipped this step)
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • Basil sprigs, garnish, optional (I skipped this as well)


In a slow cooker, combine broth, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, sage, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.

Thirty minutes before the soup is done cooking, add ditalini, zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaves and season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top. Garnish with basil, if desired.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Peach Cobbler

The other day I came home with a ton of peaches and was seriously craving some peach cobbler. I know we're moving past peach season, but for any of you with a few peaches hanging around - don't miss this recipe! I am not going to record here how fast I ate it (by myself) - no, not even as an anonymous blogger, it was that embarrassing (and delicious). Trust me, though, it was good.
I typically use my great-grandma's recipe for cobblers (it's unbelievable, I'll post it one day). But I always make it with berries and since I had a new fruit on my hands I felt adventurous and wanted to try a new recipe. I was not disappointed. This is irresistible! I chose it from among many because, well, first of all it said it was "easy", but second because in the ingredients section it mentioned that it tasted like cobbler that the author's grandmother made - perfect! Lastly, I liked that it was basic. Not basic as in "easy", since that was my first reason for making this cobbler, but basic as in it didn't have a bunch of extra mumbo jumbo in there to jazz it up. I was looking for something that stood on its own without extra creams or spices or seasoning, just a delicious buttery, custardy breading that showcased the already perfect fruit: the peach. Just what I was looking for.

Please, enjoy.
5 stars.
Recipe found here and below.

Easy Peach Cobbler


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 cups fresh peach slices
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)


Melt butter in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.

Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt; add milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter over butter (do not stir).

Bring remaining 1 cup sugar, peach slices, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly; pour over batter (do not stir). Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve cobbler warm or cool.

Southern Living, JUNE 1997