Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I printed out this recipe from my cousin's blog last year. Sometimes it seems like I'll never get around to all the printed, bookmarked, and torn out recipes I want to try!

Contrary to the plan, we didn't make the homemade pumpkin ice cream on Thanksgiving. There were just too many other sweets to warrant making it. However, I'd already thawed some fresh pumpkin puree from the freezer so I needed to find a way to use it up!

I used Anne's recipe exactly, with the only exception of fresh puree in place of canned and some chocolate chunk pieces because I didn't have enough chips on hand.

I think the fresh puree might have made these cookies a lot more moist than canned puree would have. They were very "cakey" and I think would have been better in muffin form. Some fell apart, but they still tasted great! A subtle pumpkin and spice background to the traditional chocolate chip cookie!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grilled Cheeseburger Chili

Marx Foods sent me a sampler package of 6 of their dried chiles. Upon opening the envelope, my nose caught wind of one particular chile and I couldn't get it out of my mind.

The chipotle - a smoked jalepeno. That spicy smokey aroma worked its way into my thoughts and imagination until I conconcted this dish to suit it.

See - when I smell something smoky I think of the grill. And when I think of the grill I think of juicy hamburgers, smothered in cheese and bacon. The last part - use of a spoon - seemed a no brainer at that point: Turn a burger into a chili!

9 dried chipotles, stemmed and seeded
1 cup hot water
1 lb. hamburger meat
2 small onions, diced fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz. can tomato paste
28 oz. can tomato puree
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
6 slices cheddar cheese
6 slices cooked bacon

Begin by stemming and seeding the chipotles. Toast them until aromatic in a heavy bottomed pot. Then, soak the chiles in a cup of hot water for about 15 minutes. Blend the chiles and water into a smooth paste. Pass through a sieve, using a spoon to press down. The results will be a chile sauce, which we will use to season the chili.

In the same heavy bottomed pot used to brown the chiles, brown the hamburger meat. Drain if necessary. Add the tomato paste, onions, and garlic, simmering over medium heat until the vegetables are tender. Next add the tomato puree, seasonings, and the chile sauce. Start small and add more sauce based on your personal heat preference. I added about 1/4 cup for a medium spice level.

Spoon into an oven safe bowl and add a slice of cheddar cheese, just as if you were topping a burger. Place into a warmed oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts. Garnish with bacon slices. Serves 6.

The chiles featured in this post were received complimentary from Marx Foods for participation in their recipe challenge. The photos, opinions, and recipe are my own.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas

If you're like me there are only so many times you can re-heat and eat the same old leftovers in the same old form.

In honor of all the Thanksgiving leftovers millions of Americans are currently tackling, I thought I'd recycle this old post of mine.

Stir-fries are a great way to use up not only vegetables, but leftover meat. It gives you the freedom to cut the meat in smaller pieces and add it at the end of cooking, so it doesn't get dried out and overdone. Had I used this steak in another method, it would have easily become very tough and dry, but it remained moist and tender heated only a minute with the veggies at the end.

Stuffed Peppers! Use any pre-cooked meat and mix with veggies or rice. Stir in cheese or spices to make the meal have a different taste each time. Spoon the mixture into a half of a green pepper, and top with sauce or gravy and bake in a 350° oven, covered, until the peppers are tender, usually about 30-45 minutes. (Additional stuffed peppers here.)

I've made two versions of stuffed acorn squash, found here and here. The squash microwaves quickly and you can use literally anything to fill the cavity where you've scooped out the seeds. Couscous, quinoa, small noodles, rice, and any veggies or meat you have on hand. The possibilities are endless! (Additional stuffed squash here and here.)

Pot pies are an excellent way to use up both red meat and poultry. Mix the meat with a gravy and your choice of fresh or frozen veggies. You can buy the frozen pie crusts in the pack of 2 and simply flip the 2nd crust upside down as the "top," and crimp the edges together. Either bake then, or freeze for later! My mom always makes turkey pot pies with all the Thanksgiving leftovers, killing two birds with one stone!

Soups! I've made way too many to link to, so you can either search (up at the top left), or come up with your own ideas! I usually start with my "big ass pot" and fill it with a mixture of veggies on hand. Carrots, celery, onions, potatoes are staples. Then, vegetable stock and sometimes rice, barley, pasta, to bulk it up. I usually use a store-bought rotisserie chicken, but you could use any meat on hand. Just add it to the pot last and let it come up to temperature. This is another post-Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey user-upper.

Sweetie Pie's cabbage nests are fantastic for new flavors and ideas. I've made them with sausage and I've made them with chicken. Simply roast the cabbage and any veggies in the oven. Then, assemble, putting the meat of your choice, sauce, gravy, etc. on top and bake. You could add cheese during the second bake, or even top it with a fried egg, which Sweetie has done before, but I've yet to try!

Savory bread pudding is a relatively new introduction to my repertoire of using up leftover meat, but it's a great one! Use up your old bread or rolls, use up veggies, and use up meat. Smother it with eggs and cheese - could anything be better, or easier? It also scores bonus points for being a one dish meal and the ability to throw it in the oven and forget about babysitting it!

Throw it on a salad! I've put everything from leftover steak cut in strips, chunked up ham, chicken breast, tuna, shrimp, and Morningstar burgers on a salad. It's so easy to fluctuate the toppings and dressing choice to compliment the extra protein you've thrown on top!

If all else fails - add eggs! You can mix meat with your egg sandwich in the morning, throw it in an omelette, or make a skillet frittata for dinner! Eggs are a great way to use up leftovers from breakfast to dinner and everything in between!

What is your favorite way to use up leftover meat, or any other leftovers for that matter!? I'm always looking for new ideas!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Firsts - Thanksgiving

Friday Firsts

Happy Friday everybody! I hope you are all recovering from yesterday nicely.

My first for this week was hosting Thanksgiving! This was my first time ever hosting and I had a blast. You can see from my menu that I took plenty of liberties with the traditional fare.

We had 10 people, including myself. Everybody was here for almost 12 hours and we had a blast. We played board games, video games, and crafted our little hearts out. Oh, and we also ate and ate and ate our way through pounds of food!

Now it's your turn to tell me about your first! To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

If you would like to display the Friday Firsts button as a badge in your post or on your side bar, you can copy and paste the following code:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

First things first - I'll be doing another review for CSN stores. They have everything from counter height stools to luggage to pet items. With something for everybody, I'm hoping to find a few Christmas gifts at their site this year!

On our Thanksgiving menu this year:

cheese, sausage, and crackers
baby carrots and hummus

Southern Punch
Fisherman's Punch
Shirley Temples (for the kids)

2 roasted ducks
bone in spiral ham
garlic mashed red potatoes (with the skin on!)
cranberry wine sauce
Iowa corn casserole
Johnny's mom is bringing:
kapusta (saurkraut)
ogurki (cucumber salad)
yam and pineapple casserole

peach and blueberry pie (my mom and I made this summer and froze)
vanilla ice cream
home made pumpkin ice cream (using fresh, not canned)
assorted hot chocolates
Di is bringing:
French silk pie

Hopefully that will guarantee us stuffing ourselves full. Photos and recipes will be posted after the holiday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Johnny loves minestrone soup. If it's on the menu, chances are he'll order it.

Funny thing is - I've never made it at home. Until now, that is.

Johnny has been feeling under the weather for about a week. He says he feels "stuffy" so has been loading up on immune boosters and Vitamin C, keeping it at bay.

He asked me if I had a "magical Italian soup" that would make him feel better. Later, he said he was in the mood for something "full of fruits and veggies."

Put those two requests together and what do you get!? Minestrone! A magical Italian soup full of fruits and veggies - guaranteed to make him feel better.

Working with what I had on hand, this soup was ready in under an hour. It was delicious and hit the spot! Plus, it makes tons! Great for a crowd or to have leftovers on hand.

29 oz. can of tomato puree
2 cans of water
3 vegetable bouillon cubes
~1/2 lb. meatballs (mine were frozen)
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Kosher salt
2 small onions, chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, minced
5 stalks celery, chopped
5 carrots, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
15 oz. can of white beans
15 oz. can of red beans

First, combine the tomato puree and two cans of water with the bouillon in a large pot. If the meatballs are frozen, add them at this point to slowly come up to temperature over medium heat. Add the seasonings so they have a chance to flavor the broth as it cooks, too.

Chop the vegetables, adding them to the pot. Once they are all included, turn the heat up to low boil. Let cook until the vegetables are al dente. Add the macaroni, letting cook 6-7 minutes until tender.

In the meantime, drain and rinse the beans in a colander. Add during the last 2 minutes of cooking to heat them. If your meatballs are not frozen, also add them during the last few minutes.

I have no idea what took me so long, but now I can make minestrone at home! It was really flavorful and tasted like it took all day to make!

You could omit the meatballs for a completely vegan meal. If pressed for time, you could load everything into a slow cooker with dried beans and let it cook all day while you're at school/work, too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blogger Meet Up - Big Bowl

Sunday morning Di (Johnny's sister) and I set off to pick up Jenn. Then we met Mara, Beth, Mel, and Kelly (Johnny and Di's sister-in-law).

We were all at Big Bowl to gab it up and chow down - which is exactly what we did! We definitely need to do this more than once a year! Can you believe September 2009 was the last time I saw Beth and Mara!?

I'd never been to Big Bowl before and to be honest, I was so busy conversing that I really didn't study the menu like I normally would. I opted for a ginger seafood dish, with scallops and shrimp.

It was good, but because I requested no mushrooms, there really wasn't much in terms of veggies - just the green onion bits.

Before we said our goodbyes we got a group shot. Last time we totally forgot to get pictures together!

I left with some goodies too, of course!

Jenn made everybody mini banana muffins with chocolate chips. Forgive the notebook paper background, but I had to get a really quick pic because this was the last one! They were so good, I had all I could do to save one for a shot!

Mel made an awesome white chocolate "bark" with pecans and dried cranberries. This is so creamy and delicious - just my type of dessert! I'm not a huge fan of chocolate, but dark and white chocolate are an exception!!

And Beth was such a sweetheart to get up early and make us all pumpkin scones! I've already gobbled up three four of these!

Thanks girls! Di, Kelly, and I had a blast with you! :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hickory Farms

Right now I'm at a blogger meet up with Beth, Mara, Jenn, and others! I'll have tons to recap later, but in the meantime here's a short video for your viewing pleasure! I filmed my recent Foodbuzz Tastemaker package, a box from Hickory Farms.

The package seen in the video was provided by Hickory Farms as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Firsts - Pork Shoulder Steak

Friday Firsts

Happy Friday everybody!! (Click the image above for more information on Friday Firsts.) Is anybody else really excited that Thanksgiving is next week? It's not my favorite holiday, but I'm looking forward to it this year because I'm hosting!

My first for this week is cooking with pork shoulder steaks. While perusing the meat aisle, I came across 4 large pork steaks, for a little over $6. It looked like a great deal, with the dark marbelized meat that was sure to be tender and flavorful. I called my dad to see how to cook it, and took his advice with vegetables in a kind of braise situation.

4 pork shoulder steaks
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
~2 cups red wine (I used a Pinot Noir)
glug of olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

In a heavy bottomed pot with a lid, add a glug of olive oil over medium high heat. Throw in the vegetables and let cook until fragrant. Remove to a bowl and turn the heat to high. Sear both sides of the meat in the bottom of the pot. Add the wine, stirring and scraping the bottom to deglaze. Add the vegetables back, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a slight simmer, place the lid on, and let it cook for about 20 minutes.

I chose to serve mine with the braising vegetables and roasted cabbage with cheese sauce (a favorite in our household).

Johnny and I both really liked the pork shoulder steaks. And $6 for two huge dinners is not a bad deal in my book. Just as I hoped, the meat was really juicy, tender, and full of flavor. The wine and vegetables complimented it beautifully!

Now it's your turn to tell me about your first! To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

If you would like to display the Friday Firsts button as a badge in your post or on your side bar, you can copy and paste the following code:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pumpkin Rice Pudding

Don't you groan at me!

I know a lot of you are sick to death of hearing about pumpkin, but tough.

I'm not one of those bloggers that manages to add pumpkin to every drink, breakfast, baked good, and treat they eat. In fact, I searched and I've only shared a tart, a cheesecake, and ice cream. So I'm allowed to share this recipe, ok!?

Glad we got that out of the way.

This is yet another recipe from the Cooking Club magazine. What can I say- they had a really good October/November issue. I switched it up some, though.

15 oz. can pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup milk (I used skim)
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups cooked rice (I used brown)
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together the pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla. Next, stir in the milk and eggs. Last, fold in the rice, raisins, and pecans.

Scoop into a sprayed 11" x 17" glass baking dish. Place inside a larger dish or roasting pan. Add enough water to come 1" up the sides of the baking dish.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let rest for about 20 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Firsts - Muffin Tin Frittatas

Friday Firsts

Happy Friday everybody! (If you're new to Friday Firsts, click the image above for more information!) Is it fall where you're at yet? We're still enjoying some beautiful weather here, something I'm thrilled about!!

A few things I want to bring attention to before I post my first!
  • Our Chicagoland Blogger Meet-up is approaching quickly! We're going to be meeting in Schaumburg on Sunday, November, 21st. Any bloggers or readers in the area who would like to join in, please send an e-mail!
  • I'm an entrepreneur! The all natural dog bones I bake for my dog have gotten a cutesy name and logo. I've sold out of three batches of Corky Crisps at two local craft shows. They're now available on Etsy, too!

Now, onto my first! Ever since Biz started South Beach, her crustless quiches have been making my tummy growl when I read her blog. I thought it'd be a cute idea to make them in muffin tins, like a mini frittata.

15 oz. can new potatoes
4 eggs
1/2 cup cheese (I used skim mozzarella)
11 oz. can of Southwestern style corn (*see note)
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°. Mix the last 4 ingredients in a small bowl until well blended. The Southwestern style corn is from Green Giant and contains corn, black beans, tomatoes, and I think chiles.

Spray 12 muffin tins with non-stick spray. Crumble enough potatoes in each well to fill the bottom. Spoon the egg mixture over top each, until the muffin cups are about halfway full. Bake for approximately 20 minutes.

These will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, so they're perfect for weekday lunches. Just re-heat in the microwave for a minute or two and you've got a hot breakfast!

Now it's your turn to tell me about your first! To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

If you would like to display the Friday Firsts button as a badge in your post or on your side bar, you can copy and paste the following code:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Corky Crisps debut!

Puppysitting a few weeks ago had me in the kitchen thinking about what dogs like. On top of getting creative with frozen yogurt, I also developed a peanut butter treat recipe from a collaboration of other recipes and online reading.

The dogs went ga-ga for them. Especially my dog, Corky (up in front). His trademark trick is to spin around in a complete 360° circle, landing in a sitting position, ready to receive a treat. He loved these home made peanut butter treats so much he would spin in four or five complete circles, desperate for me to pass them out!

I thought it'd be a cute business venture. What with my love for cooking, and Corky's love for eating.

After coming up with a cutesy name and Johnny whipping up a logo, I tagged along with Johnny's sister, Di, to a few craft shows. I wanted to see how they'd sell to others. I'm happy to report that I sold out! That gave me the go ahead I needed to move to online sales!

I would absolutely love your support in "liking" Corky Crisps on Facebook.

Also, if you have a dog, or know somebody with dogs, please consider visiting my Etsy store!

Right now I'm offering four sizes of traditional bone shaped treats, as well as two sizes of holiday shaped treats!

Thank you so much guys! Your support of my human food sharing already means so much to me, so I hope it's not a stretch for you to also love my canine cooking ventures!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sausage and Rice Stuffed Peppers

One of my very first posts ever was stuffed green peppers. Johnny and I still love them, still enjoy them at least once a month, and I've never really strayed from that recipe.

Then, last month I saw sausage and rice stuffed peppers in my Cooking Club magazine. I tore it out in hopes that it would become another beloved stuffed pepper recipe. Of course I changed a few things, but I'm happy to report that it was great, and will definitely be entering our rotation!

4 bell peppers (I used green)
~1 lb. loose Italian sausage (I used my dad's)
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup leftover or prepared sauce
1/2 cup water
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I used skim)

Cook your brown rice ahead of time. It will need about 40-50 minutes depending on variety, so make sure you start early enough. Wash the peppers and lob off the top where the stem is to make "bowls." Reserve the top part, minus the stem. Place the pepper bowls in a microwave safe dish and microwave for a few minutes to give them a head start and reduce oven cooking time. (Mine took about 4 minutes on high.)

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large skillet, brown the sausage. Chop the reserved pepper tops and add them to the skillet with the onions and garlic, cooking a few minutes until softened. Add the brown rice, sauce, and water. Stir until everything is incorporated, then remove from the heat. Stir in about 3/4 cup of the cheese.

Spoon the mixture into the pepper bowls, topping with the remaining cheese. Bake 20 minutes, uncovered until the peppers are tender and the cheese is browned.

As I said - these were great! I really like the brown rice with the sausage - it makes them a lot heartier and filling. This is the first time I've made stuffed peppers this way, using the whole pepper. I usually cut them in half lengthwise, stuffing each half, which doesn't fit nearly as much stuffing! I think it also makes for a much more impressive presentation!

Have you made stuffed peppers before? If so, what is your favorite recipe? If not - what are you waiting for!?