Yum

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Roast Beef with Horseradish Gravy and Potatoes

Good morning!

Growing up, roasts were always a special occasion meal. Like when we had company, or for Sunday dinner. Since moving out, I understand why we never had roasts too often. They can be quite expensive. I recently lucked out and found some roasts on sale, so decided to splurge and buy one. Hubby and my nephew love beef. They'd eat it everyday. While I don't dislike steak and beef roasts, I'd rather eat chicken, or do a meatless meal, LOL. I figured I'd give the boys a treat.

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Since marrying Hubby, I've learned a lot about flavor combinations. Before then, if I would have cooked a roast, I would have seasoned it with plain salt and pepper. That's what I grew up on and my Mom's spice cabinet doesn't really go beyond cinnamon and cloves. So, now when I cook, I think about flavors I like and then think of whether they would pair nicely with what I'm making.

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Which is what I did with this roast. I thought of flavors I enjoy with beef and threw them all together, to make a rub. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, became great flavors. Now that the beef would taste great, I had to make sure not to cook it to a dry shriveled unrecognizable piece of shoe leather. Not to insult my Mom, but that's what we grew up on..... Thankfully I cooked it to my preferred doneness, Medium Well. Hubby and my nephew would have to make due. (I've still not been able to eat pink meat, let alone half cooked beef).

The roast was tender, the spices danced on your tongue, the gravy added a nice bite. Perfect dinner and an even better roast beef sandwich! The potatoes had taken on a slight beefy flavor, while cooking in the pan drippings. Growing up we use to eat our potatoes topped with lettuce which was mixed with mayonnaise. Not sure why, but that's how we like it, LOL. Feel free to eat the potatoes topped with gravy!

Roast Beef with Horseradish Gravy and Potatoes

1 3lb beef roast (I used an eye of round roast)
1 Tbs rosemary, crushed
1 tsp mustard seeds, crushed
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 C beef stock/broth
2 Tbs horseradish
1 Tbs corn starch
6 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

Place beef in roasting pan. With a mortar and pestle, grind the rosemary and mustard seeds. Add the garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Rub roast with spice blend and let sit for 30 minutes, to take the chill off. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add 1 C water to the roasting pan, cover and place in the oven. For med-well beef, cook roast for 2 1/2-3 hrs (45-60 minutes, per pound), letting water and dripping evaporate. After 2 hrs, add 2 C of water to the pan, scrapping up any brown bits. Throw potatoes around the roast and turn them to coat with the liquid. Cover and continue cooking for 30 minutes to 1 hr; until potatoes are tender. Let roast rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

In a small sauce pot,  take any roast dripping and beef broth and bring them to a boil. Mix cornstarch with a touch of water, to make a slurry. Remove broth from heat and whisk in cornstarch mixture. Return to a low heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened. Add horseradish and warm through. Serve gravy over sliced beef and potatoes.

Tip: If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you can whiz the rosemary and mustard seeds in a small coffee grinder. (Just remember to clean it later, LOL)

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mini Sausage Meatball Minestra

I've really got to say that I'm so happy to have gotten Rachael Ray's new Look & Cook cookbook. This is the 3rd recipe I make so far and they've all been wonderful. Not the usual Rachel though, who likes to fancy up meals with tons of ingredients. These recipes are simple, yet delicious.

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I choose this one for Hubby. He really loves Italian Wedding soup and while reading this recipe, I found that it was quite similar. A nice light broth surrounds the bite size meatballs and slightly bitter Kale. I used Kale, since I could not find Escarole anywhere. I figured it was the closest I could find, LOL. I made my own beans by simmering some great northern beans in water, with a touch of bacon grease, until tender.

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This soup was so wonderful. The beans added a creaminess that cut the bitterness of the kale. The meatballs were tender and flavorful. Topped with Pecorino, it was fantastic. Even the kids ate it, minus the 'green stuff', LOL. I'll surely be making this again, next winter!

Mini Sausage Meatball Minestra
courtesy of Rachael Ray Look & Cook cookbook
printable recipe

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
1 1/4 pounds bulk sweet Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large heads escarole, trimmed, washed and chopped
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 can cannellini beans (15 ounces), drained
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups short cut pasta, such as mini penne or ditalini
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Crusty bread, for mopping

Heat 1 tablespoon EVOO in a large skillet. Roll the sausage into walnut-size meatballs. Drop them into the skillet and brown on all sides, then remove.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons EVOO in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, then wilt in the escarole and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the beans and heat through. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil, then add the pasta and cook to al dente. Add the meatballs back to the pot for the last 4 minutes of cooking. Adjust the seasonings and serve with cheese sprinkled heavily on top. Pass the crusty bread for mopping.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Meal Plan Monday~ March 28

Happy Monday! I can't believe that March is already coming to an end. I wish the weather would hurry up and realize it's Spring already. It's been an interesting week, weather wise, with snow and frigid tempuratures. I saw some poor confused Robins flying around wondering why the heck they had returned, LOL.

Last week's menu kind of went out the window. With an emergency trip out of the country, we ate out a few nights. So, I'll be carrying some meals from last week over to this week. But the good news is, as of today, my mother in law has started to walk again. It's slow going, but she's progressing each day. I'm sure seeing the kids helped her motivation to become mobile again and get home. Thanks for all who sent up prayers and good thoughts for her.

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This week Hubby is off mid week. Though it's still freezing out, he's been itching to fire up the grill. Who could blame him, with this beautiful sunshine. I just wish the temps would co-incide with the sun, LOL. So, I may veto one of my planned meals for bugers and dogs on the BBQ. Here's what the plan is suppose to be; in no particular order

Head on over to OrgJunkie.com for tons of other meal plans for the week!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Not Your Ordinary Banana Bread

I love browsing recipe sites. Every day I go to several of them and save or bookmark recipes, that I intend to try. Recently, I was browsing my saved recipes and stumbled upon this recipe, from King Arthur Flour. Yes, ANOTHER banana bread recipe! Curious as to why I would save it, I read through it and saw the reason why. It's not your ordinary banana bread.
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I love recipes that have hidden ingredients. Ingredients that you really can't see, but they add extra pizazz to the end result. This is totally the case with this recipe. Looking at the end result, you could never tell there was Apricot jelly and spices in there. But, then you taste it and you say "Wow, this is really good!" and certainly not your average banana bread.
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Moist, sweet, and comfortingly warm. I really loved the flavor the jelly (I added an apricot/passion fruit jelly) and spices added. Once I smelled it baking in the oven, I knew I was done for. The smell just wrapped you up and brought a smile to your face. Not to mention a rumble to your tummy. Everyone loved this bread, which proved true the next day, as I shared the last slice with the kids, LOL. This one is definitely going into my favorite recipe notepad!

Banana Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
printable version

 Banana bread is oh-so-simple... yet like many simple recipes, requires a few out of the ordinary ingredients to bring it from potentially boring to memorable. A hint of spice, honey for sweetness and moist texture, and one final touch—a few spoonfuls of jam—distinguish this tasty bread from run-of-the-mill versions.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar, light or dark, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium or 2 large bananas)
3 tablespoons apricot jam or orange marmalade, optional but tasty
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

1) Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan.

2) In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, beating till smooth.

3) Add the mashed bananas, jam, honey, and eggs, again beating until smooth.

4) Add the flour, then the walnuts, stirring just until smooth.

5) Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top. Let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

6) Bake the bread for 45 minutes, then gently lay a piece of aluminum foil across the top, to prevent over-browning.

7) Bake for an additional 25 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven; a long toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean, with at most a few wet crumbs clinging to it. The tester shouldn't show any sign of uncooked batter. If it does, bake the bread an additional 5 minutes, or until it tests done.

8) Allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Remove it from the pan, and cool it completely on a rack.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Granola

I know I've been missing for a few days.... My mother in law was rushed to the hospital and has now mysteriously lost her ability to walk. I'd appreciate if anyone could say a prayer for Gramma Kory. Thanks so much!!Now onto Granola! I love granola bars. The sweet, chewy bars filled with yummy surprises. From nuts, to fruit and chocolate; I love it all, LOL. A few months ago, my mother in law came to visit and brought a bag of granola. She loves to top her oatmeal with it and before then, I'd really never had it. I instantly was hooked and was so pleased when she left the bag behind. Since then I've had granola on the brain and haven't really been able to find it, at our regular grocery store.


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Then I saw my friend Bex mention, on Facebook, that she was going to make some granola. I asked her for the recipe and she pointed me in the direction of a fellow blogger, that frequents Cooking for your Family. It turns out that Astrid, from Lunches Fit For a Kid, has the most amazing homemade granola recipe. Seriously, I tried a different recipe before this one and it didn't stand a chance. I love that Astrid's recipe only uses half of cup of maple syrup. Other recipes I've seen ask for way more maple syrup/honey to sweeten theirs. I also love the addition of flax (which I've been using for a while), wheat germ and oat bran.


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This is slightly crispy, with a nice toasted nut flavor. Hubby and the kids also love it and that makes me so happy, since it's full of stuff that's good for them; and they don't even know it's in there. It's a very versatile recipe and I've been omitting the coconut, since Hubby isn't a big fan. Instead I'm adding unsalted, roasted sunflower seeds, once it's been baked. The fruit is very versatile too. Raisins, dried cranberries, apricots or dried apple; all are great in this!


Grandma's GranolaAdapted from Lunches Fit for a Kid

4 c rolled oats
1/2 c wheat germ
1/2 c oat bran
1 c shredded coconut
1/2 c dry milk
1/4 c ground flax seeds
1 c slivered almonds
1/2 c maple syrup (real only please. If you only have the fake stuff, just use honey)
1/4 c oil
1 1/2 c dried fruit (I used King Arthur Flour Fruitcake Fruits: dried apricots, raisins, pineapple, dates, and cranberries)

In a very large bowl, combine the dry ingredients, except for the dried fruit. Mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and maple syrup. Pour over the dry mixture in the bowl, stirring and tossing till everything is very well combined.

Spread granola on a couple of large lightly greased baking sheets; a half-sheet pan is ideal. (I used four 11x13" baking pans) Bake in a preheated 250°F oven for about 45-60 minutes, stirring the mixture with a heatproof spatula, spoonula, or turner every 15 minutes or so.

Watch it carefully so it doesn't burn!!! If it looks toasted and smells good, it's pretty much done. Burning granola is a very very sad thing.

When the granola is a light–to–medium golden brown, remove it from the oven and cool completely on the pans. Transfer the granola to a large bowl, and mix in the dried fruit.Store in a tightly closed container at room temperature for several weeks; freeze for extended storage


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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pink and Brown Cupcakes for Queenie's Birthday

It was Queenie's birthday Sunday. Though we are having her party this Wed, I still wanted her to have a treat and a candle to blow out, on the actual day of her birth. Knowing I was going to have a cake on Wed, I only wanted to make a few cupcakes. I decided to cut my cake mix in half and freeze the rest. I've done this before and the remainder is still fresh and works perfectly. Since I wanted to do pink and brown cupcakes, I decided to use white cake mix and tint half pink and turn the other half into chocolate cake. I melted 6 oz of semi sweet chocolate and added it one half of the prepared cake mix. The rest I turned pink, with some Wilton coloring gel.



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It's the first time I've ever made butter cream and I think it turned out so wonderfully! It was light and fluffy; even Hubby was impressed, LOL. The cupcakes were so cute (even though I ended up having to use Halloween liners, since I forgot to buy regular liners.....), light, moist and delicious. Queenie especially loved the frosting and was quite pleased with her pink and brown cupcakes.



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Pink and Brown Cupcakes with Butter Cream Frostingprintable version
1 vanilla cake mix
3 eggs
1/4 C oil
1 1/3 C water
12 oz semi sweet chocolate, melted
pink coloring gel

Line cupcake pan with liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake mix with eggs, oil and water, following manufacturers directions. Pour half the batter into a second bowl. Add the melted chocolate, mixing well to combine. Tint remaining batter to desired shade of pink, using the coloring gel. Fill muffin cups 1/3 of the way with pink batter. Fill remaining 1/3 of the cup with chocolate batter (cups should be 2/3 full). Bake in oven for 18-25 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Butter Cream Frosting

1/2 C unsalted butter (1 stick)
5 C powdered sugar
4 Tbs heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
Wilton food color gel

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and food color, until light and fluffy. Slowly add powdered sugar; 1 C at a time, beating well after each cup is added. If mixture becomes too thick, add 2 Tbs heavy cream, then continue adding powdered sugar. Once all sugar is added, add remaining 2 Tbs cream and beat until light and fluffy. Frost cupcakes or cake; or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.



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Monday, March 21, 2011

Meal Plan Monday~ March 21

Happy Monday! We're back to school today after a nice March Break. We didn't do much, since DH was working, but it was nice to be able to relax, especially with the time change. I'm hoping we can get back into the routine with no problems.


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Sunday was Queenie's 3rd Birthday. We had a lovely day. Hubby had to work, so I made some pink and brown cupcakes and we had an early morning celebration of cupcakes and presents; before Hubby headed out to work. Queenie loved her gifts and I found myself having to remind Mr.B that they were Emily's toys, not his, LOL.


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This week will be some what hectic, with a mid week birthday celebration with Hubby's Mom and sister and one of our best friends. It was the only convenient time to have it, since Hubby will be off. I'm glad everyone has flexible schedules and is able to accommodate us. Emily is looking forward to finally getting her beloved 'blankie' cake. She even told Hubby not to forget his tail; which is the tag. I think it's too cute for words.

So, here is what's on the menu this week (in no particular order)


Don't forget to head over to OrgJunkie.com, for more great meal plans, for this week!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Smoothies

Mr.B and Queenie have recently developed a love for smoothies. Early one morning, a few months ago, they saw a little girl helping her dad make smoothies on TV. Quickly they did an inventory of ingredients they knew we had in the house and asked to make their first smoothies. Mr.B (who remembers everything) remembered seeing a recipe for smoothies in our Disney cookbook. He quickly found it and convinced me that it was 'imperative' that we make these smoothies. Since then, there has been many request for smoothies, with many variations on ingredients.



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One of our favorite combinations is vanilla yogurt, with strawberries, frozen bananas, OJ and pineapple. A squeeze of honey goes in, to add a touch of sweetness. I've yet to be able to sneak in some wheat germ, which I've wanted to try. I am determined to try the addition in the future. Cold, creamy and slightly sweet. Perfect for a quick breakfast, or a mid day snack.



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Tropical Fruit Smoothies
Adapted from Disney's Magic Kitchen Cookbook
printable version

1 medium banana, peeled
1 1/2 C cut-up fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, papaya, or kiwi
1 6-to-8 oz carton vanilla low fat yogurt
3/4 C fat free milk
Honey (if you like)
Fresh fruit (if you like)

Put banana, cut-up fruit, yogurt, milk and honey (if desired) in a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until mixture is smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Pour into tall glasses and top with additional fresh fruit.
Makes 4 servings

Cindy's notes: We really love to use frozen blueberries and sometimes orange juice, rather than milk



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Friday, March 18, 2011

Colcannon

Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day and we once again celebrated with some festive eats. We had the traditional corned beef, though I couldn't cook it with cabbage, which is the custom. Hubby loathes cabbage, so if I wanted him to be able to enjoy the corned beef, I had to compromise. We had Fried Cabbage instead, which my nephew fell in love with. Since I was making mashed potatoes, I decided to try and make some Colcannon as well. I had all the ingredients already cooking, so it was the perfect opportunity.


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It was really delicious. I'm a huge cabbage fan, so I was happy to find another dish I can use it in. The potatoes were creamy, with bits of slightly crunchy, sweet cabbage and nice salty bacon. I mean how can you go wrong when bacon is involved?? The kids had a love hate relationship with this. They love mashed potatoes and bacon, but didn't appreciate the cabbage that was hidden inside, LOL. That's quite fine, since that meant more for me.

Colcannon
printable version

6 lrg russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 Tbs butter
1/2 small cabbage, cut into 1/2 in wedges
6 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/3 C milk (or more)
4 Tbs butter
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook potatoes until fork tender. In a separate pot of boiling water, cook cabbage until dark green in color. Add 2 Tbs of butter and cook covered for 2 minutes longer.

In a frying pan, cook the bacon, until it begins to brown. Add in onion and cook until bacon is cooked through and onion is translucent. Drain on a paper towel.
Once potatoes are cooked, drain and return to the hot pot. Add the 4 Tbs of butter, and milk and mash until smooth. Chop up the cooked cabbage into bite size pieces and add to the potatoes, along with the bacon mixture, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.


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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blueberry Poppy Seed Brunch Cake

Mr.B and my Dad did a lot of blueberry picking last summer. Well, my Dad did the picking, while Mr.B explored the forest. I think this is one of my favorite perks of living in Northern Ontario. Blueberries grow practically in your back yard. Even though Mr.B didn't pick much, my parents brought us tons of blueberries to tide us over, during the winter months. Nothing like wild blueberries to make waffles, pancakes and cakes even yummier.



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I was going through my recipe files when I found this recipe. I can't remember where I jotted this one down from. It surely isn't my Mom, since this is the first time I've ever had/made it. I was drawn to the blueberry/poppy seed combo. Even more, I was excited I had recently bought poppy seeds, so I could actually make this.

It is a very beautiful cake. You expect it to be light, with all the beating, but it has an almost cream like texture. The outside edge is more cake like, but the inside is dense and tender. I want to say almost like a cheesecake, but then I don't want to give a false impression of the cake. The blueberries pair nicely with the slight citrus taste. It really would be a great addition to any brunch, since it's such a pretty cake.

Blueberry Poppy Seed Brunch Cake
printable version

Cake:
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 egg
1 1/2 c. flour
2 tbsp. poppy seed
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease and flour bottom and sides of 9 or 10 inch spring-form pan. In large bowl, beat 2/3 cup sugar and butter, until light and fluffy. Add lemon peel and egg. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed.

Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup. Level off. In medium bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, poppy seed, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream. Spread batter over bottom and 1-inch up sides of greased and floured pan, making sure batter on sides is 1/4-inch thick.

Filling:
2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed, drained on paper towels
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. flour
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

In medium bowl, combine all filling ingredients. Spoon over batter.
Bake at 350°F for 45 to 55 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool slightly. Remove sides of pan.

Glaze:
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 to 2 tsp. milk or lemon juice

In small bowl, combine powdered sugar and enough milk until glaze is of desired drizzling consistency. Blend until smooth. Drizzle over top of warm cake. Serve warm or cool.

Makes 8 servings.

Tip: Greek yogurt would make a great alternative to the sour cream.



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Garden Variety Wednesday

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What's Cooking Wednesday

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tomato Herb Focaccia

Every time I go to the grocery store, I always end up in the bakery dept, drooling over all the baked goods. Most of the time I see something and wish I knew how to make it. Which was the case with Focaccia. I saw it, I would drool, cave in and buy it. Then once I got home and we ate it all, I would long to know how to make it for myself. Then I got the latest issue of Taste of Home magazine. Guess what was on the cover??


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Focaccia! It looked so wonderful that I knew right away I would make it. I anxiously held my breath, as I turned the page, hoping it didn't require any exotic ingredient, or require long tedious hours in the kitchen. I was in luck, because it was simple and used ingredients I always have on hand.

Let me just say that Mr.B is not a big herb and spice fan. But, you know what? He ate 2 pieces of this bread! That's how stinkin' good it is. While I was making it, Hubby kept insisting I use more cheese. I kept reminding him that it was Focaccia, not pizza. Normally I would give in ( after all, it is cheese and cheese is GOOD!), but I am very glad I did not go heavier on the cheese. It gave the dough and the tomatoes a chance to shine and compliment each other so nicely. The herbs weren't overpowering at all. This surprised me, since I started to doubt the recipe, as I was making it. It sure seemed like A LOT of dried herbs to me, LOL. But no, there was just the right amount to make the dough savory and to mingle nicely with the sweet tomatoes and salty cheese.


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Tomato Herb Focaccia
Adapted from Taste of Home
printable version

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon each dried oregano, thyme and rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Dash pepper
2 to 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1 tablespoon oil, salt, sugar, garlic powder, herbs, pepper and 1-1/2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape into a 13-in. x 9-in. rectangle; place on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. With fingertips, make several dimples over top of dough.
Brush dough with remaining oil; arrange tomatoes over the top. Sprinkle with cheeses. Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack. Yield: 1 loaf (12 pieces).


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Tasty Tuesday

Tuesday Night Supper Club

Made from Scratch Tuesday

Hearth and Soul

Tempt my Tummy Tuesday

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meal Plan Monday~ March 14

Happy Monday! Boy what a weekend. Can you believe all that is happening in Japan?? It's just so terrible. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this disaster!!

Life has been hectic in this household. Hubby had to complete another cake order Saturday, so I was busy most the day, helping out. So, that meant putting off laundry until Sunday. I'm not a big fan of our new smart electric meters, which charge according to the time of day. It's quite inconvinient for us stay at home moms, since 7am-9pm are peak hours and when they charge the most for electricity. I sure am not going to wake early to do laundry and once the kids are in bed, laundry is the last thing I feel like doing. So, that means cramming a week's worth of laundry in 2 days.... sigh.

OK, enough complaining, LOL. This week is a special one. Not only is it Spring Break for Mr.B, but Sunday is Queenie's 3rd birthday! It's so difficult at times, watching my two babies grow up so fast. We will have a small celebration Sunday and Queenie's actual birthday party on the following Wednesday. Odd I know, but Hubby could not get her birthday off, so we are altering our plans to include him. Well, we pretty much have to, since Queenie has requested he make her a 'blankie' cake. Should be fun!




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Nothing too adventurous on the menu this week. Of course we'll have traditional eats for St Patty's Day and Queenies favorite meal on Sunday, but the rest of the week should be easy peasy.




Other things I'm planning to bake/make

Head on over to OrgJunkie.com for tons of other meal plans for the week!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

While cleaning my baking cupboard, the other day, I found a grocery bag full of candies. Hubby had bought tons of candy, for the kids to decorate our gingerbread house with. He MAY have went a bit over board, and the result are the tons of candy I recently found. Among the candy were some of our favorites; Reese's Pieces. Those sneaky little bits of peanut butter goodness!





When I was a teenager, I worked in a coffee shop (Country Style Donuts). One of my favorite treats they made were chocolate cookies, studded with Reese's Pieces. Nothing was better than a warm cookie, during my lunch break, LOL. Not having time to make cookies and wanting the chocolate/Reese's combo, I opted to make brownies.



These were so darn good. I'd say almost dangerously good. Which is probably why they only lasted 2 days! The chewy chocolate brownie, studded with peanut butter candy, frosted with a crunchy peanut butter frosting. SIGH.....

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies
printable version

1/2 stick of butter (1/4C)
6 Tbs cocoa
3/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 C flour
2 eggs
1/2 C peanut butter candies such as Reese's Pieces
peanut butter frosting (recipe follows)
mini chocolate chips to garnish

In a medium saucepan melt butter and cocoa, over med low heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, salt, vanilla and eggs. Stir in the flour and candies. Spray an 8x8 square baking dish, with cooking spray. Spread batter into pan and bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). Cool completely before frosting and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips. Cut into 16 squares.

Peanut Butter Frosting

3 Tbs butter, softened
1/2 C chunky peanut butter
1 C confectioner's sugar
1-2 Tbs milk, as needed

Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer. Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and spreadable. Beat for at least 3 minutes for it to get good and fluffy.






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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pastitsio

Pastitsio (Greek: παστίτσιο; [pastitsio]) or macaronia tou fournou (Greek: μακαρόνια του φούρνου), which is the term mainly used in Cyprus, is a Greek or generally Middle Eastern baked pasta dish including pasta, meat sauce, and a custard or béchamel sauce. The dish comes from the Italian tradition of "pasticcio (di pasta)", literally mess or scramble {source Wikipedia}

I've seen this dish floating around the internet, quite a bit lately. On blogs, then mentioned on Cooking for your family. Intrigued to see if it really did taste a good as everyone claimed it did; I jumped on the pastitsio band wagon. One thing I looked for is a recipe that wasn't too involved. Though I love to cook, I don't really have that much time to spend in the kitchen, unless Hubby is home. Little hands always seem to find something to get into and my stress free time in the kitchen turns into a stress filled dash to get it done, so I can become the warden again, LOL.



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One of the ladies on CFYF shared this version, which she got from Taste of Home. They are quickly becoming one of my favorite recipe sources and I recently subscribed to their magazine. I liked that this recipe was pretty straight forward. Meat sauce, bechamel and pasta. I could handle that.

I was a bit hesitant about the cinnamon in the recipe. I think of cinnamon as a sweet spice, not savory. I did however want to get the full effect of the recipe, so I used it. Let's just say it was interesting. The meat sauce by itself was sweet; something we aren't used to. But, with the creamy bechamel layer, everything just melded into a very delicious exotic flavor. The kids only ended up eating the bechamel layer, LOL. No amount of explaining that they should eat both layers together helped. The guys (Hubby and my nephew) both inhaled this, as if they hadn't eaten in weeks. So, now we finally know why everyone is so crazy about this dish. It's pretty darn tasty!


Pastitsio
Adapted from Taste of Home December 2010
Printable version

7 oz uncooked elbow macaroni
1 lb ground beef or lamb
1 med onion chopped
1 garlic clove minced
8 oz tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ c. Grated Parmesan
3 Tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups milk
1 egg beaten

Cook macaroni according to package

Cook beef, onion, and garlic until beef is no longer pink, drain. Stir in tomato sauce, ½ t. salt, oregano, pepper, and cinnamon.

Drain Macaroni and place ½ in greased 9 inch square baking pan. Sprinkle with ¼ cup cheese. Layer meat and macaroni. Set aside

In small saucepan, melt butter, stir in flour and salt and stir until smooth. Gradually add milk. Bring to boil and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Remove from heat. Stir a little of the hot mixture into the egg. Return all to pan stirring constantly. Bring to boil. Return to heat and cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheese.
Pour sauce over macaroni.

Bake uncovered at 350º for 30-35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Cindy's notes: I used Ditali pasta, instead of macaroni. This could be made with any kind of tube pasta.



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This post linked to
Tasty Tuesday (33 Shades of Green)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes

We're big cheese heads in this house. No, I don't mean football, I mean real cheese, LOL. I just love how versatile it is and what a huge variety there is to choose from. We usually stick to our regular cheddar, mozzarella and swiss, but sometimes like to throw in some gruyere, blue or pepper jack. Anytime I see a recipe using cheese, my face lights up. I know.... I'm a geek, LOL.


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I've made scalloped potatoes before, but have always gotten frustrated, since the potatoes are never cooked, when the recipe says they should be. What drew me to this recipe, is the fact that you boil the potatoes in the cream, before baking them. Let me tell you, it's so much easier this way. No stressing over wether the potatoes will be tender enough, by the time the rest of your dinner is.

These were amazingly good. I know I've said this about other things, but potatoes seem so much better with cheese. Add is a nice creamy texture and it's pure bliss. I really liked the small hint of savory thyme and bay, that mingled with the salty slightly tangy cheese. Cheese being as versatile as it is, you could easily switch one cheese, for another and make a totally different dish, several times over.

Scalloped Potatoes
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Recipe
printable version

Thinly sliced potatoes layered with cream and baked until they are bubbling and browned are a classic accompaniment to a holiday ham or roast beef. Although the supermarket shelves are lined with “add water, heat, and serve” versions of scalloped potatoes, making them from scratch doesn’t have to take much time, and the differences in flavor and texture are tremendous. For the fastest and most consistent results, slice the potatoes in a food processor.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, minced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
4 sprigs fresh thyme (subbed 2 tsp dried thyme)
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, melt butter in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until foaming subsides, about 1 minute. Add onion and sauté until it turns soft and begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cream, milk, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and potatoes and bring to simmer. Cover, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain light simmer, and cook until potatoes are almost tender (paring knife can be slipped into and out of center of potato slice with some resistance), about 15 minutes.

2. Remove and discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Transfer potato mixture to 3-quart gratin dish and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until cream has thickened and is bubbling around sides and top is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Cindy's Notes: I used 2 C of half and half, 1C chicken broth, instead of heavy cream. To thicken, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over the onions and garlic when sautéing. In place of Cheddar, sub Mozzarella and/or Mexican Four Cheese


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This post linked to

Tasty Tuesday

Delicious Dishes

Made from Scratch Tuesday

Tempt my Tummy Tuesday

Tuesday Night Supper Club

Hearth and Soul

Tuesdays at the Table

What's Cooking Wednesday

Monday, March 7, 2011

Meal Plan Monday~ March 7

Happy Monday! Boy what a weekend. We started with rain and ended with snow. I sure wish spring would hurry up and get here. The kids had so much fun playing in the snow, while I cleared the driveway, though. I'm just glad the sidewalks were cleared this morning, since it's so much work walking Mr.B to school, if they aren't.

Hubby is off Tues-Wed this week. Surprisingly we have nothing planned for the week; although I do need to call the Dr, for Mr.B. He's had a cold for 3 weeks now, so I think it's time to get him in. Plus his adenoids are inflamed and for some reason we are having a hard time getting an appt with an ENT. I'm sure it has a lot to do with him being so sick and coughing all the time. I'm hoping to get on them to get him an appt soon.



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I'm trying a few new recipes this week, using ingredients I've never cooked with before. I also have some recipes that I'm carrying over from last week. I seem to be having a hard time sticking to my meal plans lately, LOL. Must be bad influence from DH and the kids..... So here's what I'm hoping to make this week




  • Beefy Noodles with peas

  • Mini Sausage Meatball Minestra (new recipe) with cheddar oat biscuits

  • Burgers, fries and corn on the cob

  • Swiss and asparagus stuffed chicken thighs (new recipe) with Parmesan rice

  • Pork chops with smashed cauliflower and broccoli with cheese

  • Pancakes with bacon and fruit salad

  • leftovers

Head on over to OrgJunkie.com, for more great meal plans.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

Lemons, little bundles of versatile goodness. From sweet to savory, lemons seem to fit in almost anywhere. It happens to be one of our favorite dessert flavors. If it's lemon flavor, it doesn't last too long, around here.


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I was so excited to find the dried spices on sale, a few weeks back. That also included sesame and poppy seeds. I quickly snatched some up, since I've always wanted to cook with them. My sister makes lemon poppy seed loaf, every Christmas, to give as gifts. And every Christmas I tell myself, I should make some too. Well I finally bought the poppy seeds, all that was left was making lemon poppy seed something.

Then I remembered bookmarking a recipe for a lemon poppy seed bundt cake in one of my cookbooks. Once I found it, I went to work. Hubby was excited that I was finally making a dessert he likes, LOL. He's not big into muffins, brownies or bars, but add lemon and he's all over it.


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The cake really is good. Moist, sweet and tangy. The glaze is so deliciously lemon-y. Crazy good!! The kids went bonkers for this as well. Queenie requested a second piece, after dinner tonight. I'll be surprised if there is any left in the morning.

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake
Adapted from Land O Lakes Simply Delicious cookbook
printable version

Pound cake recipe with lemon and poppy seed. Lemon lightens and complements the rich, moist flavor of this delicate cake with a citrus glaze.

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup poppy seed
1 cup LAND O LAKES® Butter, softened
1 cup buttermilk**
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat oven to 325°F. Combine all cake ingredients in large bowl. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, just until all ingredients are moistened.

Increase speed to high. Beat, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.

Pour batter into greased and floured 12-cup Bundt® pan or 10-inch tube (angel food cake) pan. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely.

Stir together powdered sugar and enough lemon juice in small bowl for desired glazing consistency; drizzle over cooled cake. .

**Substitute 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to equal 1 cup. Let stand 10 minutes.


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This post linked to

Cookbook Sundays

Potluck Sunday

Recipe Swap Sundays

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spinach and Artichoke Mac and Cheese

I'm really happy I let my friend Brenda, from Brenda's Canadian Kitchen, convince me to buy Rachael Rays new Cook & Look, cookbook. After seeing her post several great looking recipes on her blog, I decided I needed to get the cookbook too. I have several RR cookbooks, but I must say, this is her best one yet. Not too out there with her ingredients and the recipes are more my style of cooking.


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This recipe is one of the many I've marked to try. I mean pasta, cheese, spinach and artichokes all in one dish. Who could resist?

Well, Queenie can, but I'm not giving up on here yet, LOL.
I'm sure some of you are saying to yourself, it's mac and cheese, with spinach and artichoke.... big deal. But you are so wrong!! The creamy cheese paired with the slightly bitter spinach and artichoke pieces is wonderful. It's even good reheated the next day and even the day after that, LOL. My mother in law was over the moon for this. She loves spinach and artichokes. Even Hubby, my meat eater, said this was super good. I'm just glad to get some sort of veggies into him, any way I can. I did use a mixture of mozzarella and fontina cheeses, since the fontina was a little pricey and we like a lot of cheese.

Spinach and Artichoke Mac and Cheese
courtesy of Rachael Ray
printable version

Salt
1 pound semolina or whole wheat penne
2 tablespoons EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups milk
Freshly grated nutmeg, about 1/4 teaspoon or to taste
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and wrung dry in a kitchen towel
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped artichokes, defrosted and wrung dry in a kitchen towel
Black pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese, plus additional for sprinkling on top 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus additional for sprinkling on top

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for pasta, salt water and cook pasta to al dente.

While the pasta water comes to a boil, place a medium pot over medium-low heat with 2turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons, and the butter. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook the veggies until very soft, about 10 minutes. Then heat the broiler and position rack in the middle of the oven.

Turn the heat up to medium-high and sprinkle the flour into the pan. Cook for about 1minute then whisk the wine into the pan, cooking for another minute to burn off the alcohol. Whisk the milk into the pan and bring up to a bubble. Add the nutmeg, spinach, artichokes, salt and pepper to the sauce and simmer until thickened and vegetables are warmed through, 2-3 minutes more. Add 1 cup of each of the cheeses to the sauce and stir until melted.

Toss the prepared sauce with the cooked pasta and transfer to a casserole dish.

Sprinkle some more Fontina and Parmigiano over the top and bake until the cheese has melted and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Cindy's notes: I used tri-colored fusili, instead of WW pasta. I also used a mixture of fontina and mozzarella cheese, since fontina was so expensive. I used 2 cans of artichokes in water, rather than frozen, since I couldn't find any.






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This post linked to
Tasty Tuesday (33 Shades of Green)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Baked Honey Mustard Chicken

I'm always looking for new ways to make chicken. Particularly chicken legs. Legs have been on sale recently, so we bought quite a bit of them. I love breasts, but sometimes you just can beat a nice moist flavorful chicken leg. My friend Amy, from Amy's WFD ,posted this recipe on Cooking for your Family, ages ago. It's one of the many popular recipes on the board. Since I hadn't been able to do groceries and I had all the ingredients needed for these, I gave them a shot.



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These did not disappoint! They were moist, sticky, sweet and tangy. I really love the subtle bite of mustard, mixed with sweet saltiness. Even the kids liked them, which says a lot, considering Queenie is on a new food strike. I did use Dijon mustard, rather than yellow mustard, to get that unique flavor it provides.


Baked Honey Mustard Chicken
Submitted by Amy

6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup prepared mustard
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper to taste, and place in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the honey, mustard, basil, paprika, and parsley. Mix well. Pour 1/2 of this mixture over the chicken, and brush to cover.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over and brush with the remaining 1/2 of the honey mustard mixture. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.



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This post linked to

Delicious Dishes

Made from Scratch Tuesday

Tasty Tuesday

Hearth and Soul

Tempt my Tummy Tuesday

Tuesday Night Supper Club

Tuesdays at the Table

What's Cooking Wednesday