Thursday, July 30, 2009

Porky Top

This is one of those recipes that you can try to shoot from every angle and still won't get a decent picture of. In retrospect, I really should have taken the sausage off the top because it really doesn't look appropriate! :) I'm hoping you'll be able to look past this to try the dish! This casserole is my husband's ultimate comfort food. It's a meal that his grandmother used to make, and his parents after that. If I remember correctly, it's also the first meal he ever made me. The dish uses ingredients that are fairly easy to keep on hand, and it does get put together pretty quickly.

On a sad note, my blogging is about to get a little more limited. My maternity leave is ending and I am about to head back to teaching full time. The idea of leaving my little ones during the day is really difficult for me to even think about. If I didn't have the BEST babysitter in the world, I wouldn't even be able to imagine it. Needless to say, my evening time will be more limited and as much as I love blogging about recipes, I want every spare second to spend with my family. (Once they go to bed-- the grading pen and lesson planning comes out! :) ) I am still hoping to update my blog on the weekends, and check in with my favorite bloggers whenever I have spare time. I hope you guys will be patient with me... I've developed so many incredible foodie friendships and look forward to continuing to share and discover recipes and ideas with all of you.

Porky Top
2 cans tomato soup
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup green pepper, finely diced
Velveeta cheese
Brown and Serve Sausage (I prefer the 'beef' variety-- but you can use any)
2 cups uncooked macaroni

In a saucepan, mix the tomato soup and water over low heat. Mix in the green peppers. Cook the macaroni noodles according to the directions on the box. In an oven-safe bowl, mix the noodles and the tomato soup mixture together. Cut up 1/2 of the box of sausage (into thin slices) and mix in with the noodles and soup. Cut chunks of the velveeta and also mix in with the noodles. The amount of cheese you choose to add varies, depending on taste. We prefer things pretty cheesy here, so we add quite a bit!

Smooth the top of the casserole mixture. Place the other half of the sausages on top in a pinwheel design. Place small slices of cheese in-between each sausage. Bake in a oven preheated to 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Source: Grandma Ellis

Friday, July 24, 2009

Raspberry Smoothie

My son recently discovered milkshakes. The kid wants them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. . . with just a few in-between! I can't say I blame him. If it weren't for the fact that you would be rolling me out of my house, I'd probably join him in his quest! Knowing this isn't exactly the healthiest option, I wanted to come up with a way to still satisfy his sweet tooth while giving him a bit more nutritional of a choice. If seeds bother you, you will want to either puree your berries and strain them first, or come up with a different fruit option for your smoothie. I am anxious to make a strawberry-banana smoothie next. I think that would be a hit as well! It couldn't be any easier to throw this together and would be a great "on the go" option for early morning work or school days.

Raspberry Smoothie
1 cup frozen red raspberries (or alternate fruit)
1 cup apple juice
8 ounces vanilla yogurt
1/2 tablespoon honey

Pour ingredients into a blender. Cover and blend until smooth.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Marinated Cucumber Salad

Last month, my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. Even though we celebrated at that point, I couldn't let yesterday go by without acknowledging its importance. Yesterday marked 10 years that my husband and I have been together. I wanted to make a special dinner for him. He's a big seafood fan, so I decided to make the tilapia that my sister posted some time ago. You can find that recipe here-- it is really a good one! One thing that Rachel did say was that there was a bit of heat with this crust due to the red pepper flakes. I knew my husband would love that aspect of it, but I don't do real well with a lot of extra heat. Rather than adjust the seasoning, I made it as she recommended and chose this cucumber salad to be a 'cool' balance to the heat. This salad was incredibly easy to make and came together very quickly. The only thing to note is that it tastes much better served very cold, so make sure that you allow plenty of time to leave it in the fridge before serving. Now that everyone's cucumbers are coming out of their gardens, it is a great, economical choice for a side dish!

Marinated Cucumber Salad
4 cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon dried dill, more or less to taste

Toss together the cucumbers and onion in a large bowl. Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and pour over the cucumber and onions. Stir in dill, cover, and refrigerate until cold. This can also be eaten at room temperature, but be sure to allow the cucumbers to marinate for at least 1 hour.

***Important note: Don't make the vinegar solution before chopping the cucumber because it's important that the vinegar solution be hot when poured over the vegetables to ensure proper flavoring.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Top Sirloin with Onions and Carrots

This is another meal from my new Sam's Club cookbook that I wrote about earlier this month. This was the third thing I have tried from it, and I liked it just as much as the others! My only regret with this one was that it really is a meal that is better for fall or winter weather. The picture in the cookbook looked so good that I just couldn't hold off on at least trying it, though! It has all the makings of comfort food and the flavors really blended together nicely. There was a nice sweetness to the vegetables that complemented the beef perfectly. I'll definitely be making it again, but will hold off until cooler temperatures. I say that now but just looking at the picture, I'm craving it again! :)

Top Sirloin with Onions and Carrots
4 slices bacon
4 small onions, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
8 small carrots, halved lengthwise
4 small red potatoes, cut up (about 1 pound total)
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup beer
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1 1/4 pounds boneless beef top sirloin steak, cut 1.5-2 inches thick
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Fresh thyme (optional)

In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove it from the skillet and drain it on paper towels. Drain the skillet, reserving about 1 tablespoon of the drippings. In the same skillet, cook the onions over medium heat for about 3 minutes per side or until browned. Remove the onions and set aside. Add the carrots, cooking for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove the skillet from the heat. Carefully add the potatoes, broth, beer, brown sugar, and half of the dried thyme. Return the onions to the skillet. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer, covered, for 30-35 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, season the beef wtih remaining dried thyme, salt, and pepper. Place on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil 4-5 inches from the heat for 16-22 minutes for medium-rare or 22-28 minutes for medium, turning once halfway through broiling. Cut into 4 pieces.

Remove the vegetables from the pan with a slotted spoon. Gently boil the juices, uncovered, for 1-2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Divide the steak, vegetables, and bacon among 4 plates. Spoon juices over and sprinkle with fresh thyme, if desired. Serves 4.

Source: Favorite Family Dinners

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Zucchini

Not exactly the healthiest option for using my zucchini, but when my mother told me she used to wrap her stuffed zucchini with bacon, I knew I couldn't make it any other way! The flavors melded so well together and all plates were clean at the end of this meal. I served the zucchini next to a bed of white rice along with some fresh breadsticks. Thanks again to Christy for sharing her crop of zucchini with us. I'm hoping my garden catches up sometime in the near future so that we can make this one again soon!

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Zucchini
2 large zucchini
1 - 1.5 pounds ground round
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar tomato sauce
garlic salt, to taste
oregano, to taste
bread crumbs
1 package bacon (center cut if available)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Trim a small amount of the bottom of each half so that the zucchini will lay flat in the baking dish. Scoop out the inside part of the zucchini, creating a boat for the filling. In a large saute pan, brown the ground round with the onion and garlic. Drain off grease and mix with spaghetti sauce, garlic salt, and oregano. Fill the zucchini boats with the meat mixture, mounding slightly. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the top of the meat and then wrap with the uncooked bacon. Place the zucchini in the prepared baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 45 minutes, uncover and bake for another 15 minutes or until the bacon is browned and crispy. Serve with white rice.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Strawberry and Cream Cupcakes

I fell in love with these cupcakes the moment I saw them on The Ungourmet. Part of the attraction was likely that they are made using strawberry soda. I haven't had strawberry soda since I was a kid (there's a story there, but I won't go there!) I was anxious to have a positive association with the stuff! :)

These cupcakes were incredibly easy to put together-- I am not ashamed to admit that it's a box cake mix! If you aren't planning on eating all of them the day they're made, the box mix product always lasts so much longer, while tasting just as fresh as the first day! No surprise either... the star of the show was the cream cheese frosting. Can anything else really compete?

Strawberry and Cream Cupcakes
1 package white cake mix
3 egg whites
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups strawberry soda
Cream cheese frosting, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Prepare cake mix as directed, with the egg whites, the oil, and substituting the soda for the water. Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake as directed on the box and cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1- 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
2 drops of red food coloring

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and food coloring with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time until smooth and spreadable.

Source: The Ungourmet

Friday, July 17, 2009

Penne with Spicy Italian Sausage, Cream, Tomatoes & Peas

My mother bought my sisters and I a cookbook from Sam's Club called Favorite Family Dinners. If you have a membership, I'd highly recommend picking up a copy. For under $6.00, this book includes over 200 recipes for everyday meals. It's one of those books where you turn page after page realizing that you would make just about everything in it! I especially like that the first chapter is called the "Chef's Specials" chapter. It has recipes exerpted from many famous chefs' cookbooks, including this one from Tyler Florence's cookbook- Dinner at my Place. (The recipe I posted earlier this month for Guiltless Oven Fried Chicken also comes from this book.)

This particular recipe was definitely one I'd make again. It was a little time consuming, but really easy to put together. Since I was lucky enough to be given some fresh zucchini from a friend, I decided that it would be a perfect addition to the dish. I also added a bit more onion than the recipe called for and these few changes are reflected in the recipe below.

Penne with Spicy Italian Sausage, Cream, Tomatoes, & Peas
4 links spicy Italian Sausage (I used one whole package with 5 links, you can also use mild sausage if you prefer)
1 pound dried penne
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 small or 1 large zucchini, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 - 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups peas, blanched
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the sausages in a roasting pan and roast in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and just cooked through. Cut the sausage at an angle into bite-sized pieces.

Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until tender yet firm.

Set a large dutch oven (or heavy based pot) over medium heat and add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and saute until translucent and fragrant. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, and basil, seasoning with salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add in cream and continue to simmer until rich and creamy. Add the sausage, blanched peas, and cheese. Fold together and cook for 2-3 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Toss with the cooked pasta and serve topped with additional cheese and fresh basil.

Source: Adapted from the exerpted recipe by Tyler Florence, from Dinner at my Place

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Bubble" Pizza Casserole

Once I saw this post on Three on Food, I knew it would be a sure hit in my house! If you ask my son what he wants for dinner, his answer is always the same-- PIZZA! Don't get me wrong, I love pizza as much as the next guy, but a girl has to have a little variety! I'm always looking for ways to mix some protein into the little guy's diet, and this ended up being a perfect way to do it! It was incredibly easy to throw together and tasted wonderful! My husband even heated some up for leftovers, which was the ultimate compliment. My only change would be to add the extra vegetables as Kathy recommended. I knew my son wouldn't like it as much that way, but if I chop them into small pieces, I think I can get away with it! I'd love to try it with some green pepper, mushroom, and onion-- YUM!
**Make sure to stop by my sister's blog, Rachel vs. The Kitchen to enter her 100th Post Giveaway!
"Bubble" Pizza Casserole
2 cups pizza cheese
16 oz. browned sausage (or pepperoni, hamburger, or bacon)
1 jar of pizza sauce
2 tubes buttermilk biscuits
Assorted vegetables, chopped (depending on your preferences)
Brown and drain the meat. Cut the 2 tubes of biscuits into quarters. Put the biscuits into a bowl along with the jar of pizza sauce. Add the meat and any other toppings you may have. Mix it all together. Pour into a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. After baking for 20 minutes, take it out and add your cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes, or until cheese is bubbly. (Make sure you bake your casserole enough-- you don't want doughy bread balls in the center!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp

This is one of those meals categorized, by my husband, as 'girl food.' His reply when I told him that I had a batch of gazpacho in the fridge was that he might as well just eat a jar of salsa. I didn't bother to correct him because in all honesty, I'm happy to have a whole batch of this to myself! I was not at all surprised that I loved this recipe. . . it's another Pioneer Woman recipe and she has yet to let me down. I did make a few minor changes simply based upon the fresh produce that I had in my fridge at the time. Also, I tend to be a bit of a weak one when it comes to spice. Instead of using the tabasco sauce that Pioneer Woman calls for, I used some of the Garlic Chili sauce that I had purchcased to make this fried chicken a while back. It had such great flavor and I would definitely make it this way again. If you are planning on making both dishes, this is a great way to share ingredients! (If my husband ever does decide to try this, he can always add extra tabasco just to his bowl. This is an easy meal to adjust for different people's taste in terms of heat.)

Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 large cucumber, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
5-6 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 zucchini, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 cups tomato juice (I took PW's advice and went with the store brand-- it was much less acidic.)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup (more to taste) red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons (less to taste) sugar
tabasco to taste (I replaced with the Garlic Chili Sauce)
salt and pepper to taste
grilled shrimp

(Optional garnish: finely minced jalepeno, sliced avocado, cilantro, sour cream, extra vegetables- finely diced)

In the bowl of a food processor or in a blender, combine the minced garlic with half of the red onion, half of the cucumber, half of the tomato, half of the green pepper, half of the zucchini, half of the celery, half of the tomato juice, all of the olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar, tabasco or garlic chili sauce, and a dash of salt. Pulse until all ingredients are blended well. The mixture will have a nice speckled, colorful texture. Pour into a large bowl and add the rest of the tomato juice, and half of the remaining vegetables to the food processor, pulsing again. Reserve the rest of the diced vegetables for garnish, if you desire. Stir the mixture togeter and check seasonings, adding salt as necessary. Chill the soup for at least a couple of hours. The soup needs to be served very cold.

Remove the soup from the fridge and stir. Check the seasonings one last time. Ladle into a bowl and garnish with any of the above listed items and the grilled shrimp.

Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Monday, July 13, 2009

Guiltless Oven Baked Fried Chicken

Not the prettiest meal to look at, but the flavor in this chicken certainly makes up for that! I LOVE fried chicken but normally end up peeling most of the skin off to stay a bit healthier. This particular recipe has you remove all of the skin before baking, which I loved since I still got to enjoy the crispy breading! Using the panko bread crumbs was perfect for an oven baked fried chicken because it stayed crispier despite the cooking format. This meal was a hit and there were NO leftovers. Always a good sign!

Guiltless Oven Baked Fried Chicken
1 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
3 tablespoons water
kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
4 chicken thighs, skin removed
non-stick cooking spray
2 cups panko

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, garlic powder, paprika, and chili powder. Mix with water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to make the consistency of whipping cream. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces; coat well with the mayonnaise mixture.

Lightly coat a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray. Pour the panko onto a plate. Toss the chicken thighs, one at a time, in the crumbs to completely coat. Place the chicken on te baking sheet, coat with cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes or until the chicken is browned and cooked through, turning once.

Source: George Duncan "Take This Dish and Twist It"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mom's Potato Salad

This potato salad is the one that my mom has been making for as far back as I can remember. Notice a theme to my sister's and my posts lately? I guess that tends to be the case after any holiday... we all gravitate towards those traditional family meals that we grew up loving. This potato salad is, by far, one of my favorite things that she makes. . . though I don't believe it's one of her favorites to make. I guess I owe her extra big for when she does it! ;) One thing I will warn about is that I have inherited my mother's "make too much for every meal" trait and I really don't measure when making this side dish. I've done my best to estimate. I'm really not exhaggerating when I say that I typically use almost a 10 pound bag of potatoes to make it. Like I said, it's a sickness.

Mom's Potato Salad
5 pounds Russett potatoes
1 bunch green onions (or 1 medium leek)
6-8 hard boiled eggs
1 jar mayonnaise
White pepper to taste
Garlic salt to taste

Thoroughly wash the potatoes and place in a large pot with the skins still on. Cover with water and boil until just fork tender. DO NOT overboil as your potatoes will fall apart when cut. Remove from the water and peel the skin off. Dice the cooked potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Chop the hard boiled eggs and the green onions (white and green parts). Combine with the jar of mayonnaise and season to taste.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stained Glass Jello and Independence Day!

It's a little late, but I hope that everyone had a wonderful 4th of July! We had our family over to celebrate the holiday and were able to celebrate my birthday as well-- bonus! :) We also were able to have a cousin over who we, unfortunately, don't get a chance to see often. All in all, it was a nice, family-centered day! Since all the kids were in town, I wanted to make a few items that I thought they would enjoy. I made the cookies above to serve alongside the wonderful cheesecake my sister made for dessert. If you haven't seen it yet, check out her blog here.
When I saw this jello on the Brown Eyed Baker, I knew I had to make it. I am a big jello fan myself and I knew it was the one thing I could put out that all the kids would eat. The colors were great and it was really easy to make. My only warning is that it is done in stages and each stage does have to sit in the fridge for a while, so make sure you allow yourself enough time.
Stained Glass Jello
4 (3 ounce) boxes Jello in different colors (I used blue raspberry and strawberry)
14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (I used Knox as recommended)

For each flavor, dissolve one box of Jello in 1 cup of boiling water. Since I used 2 boxes of each flavor, I just doubled the water and poured both into an 8 inch square container. Chill at least 3 hours, or overnight. After chilling the flavors, cut them into small blocks. Carefully mix the blocks in a 9×13-inch pan. In a separate bowl, sprinkle 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin into ½ cup cold water. After the gelatin blooms, add 1½ cups boiling water and dissolve. Add the can of condensed milk. Stir and let cool. Pour cooled milk mixture over Jello blocks in 9×13 pan. Skim off any small bubbles that are created when you pour the condensed milk on the Jello pieces. Chill overnight or at least 3 hours until firm. Cut into blocks or shapes and serve.
**Stay tuned... the BEST potato salad is coming soon!**

Monday, July 6, 2009

Crab Cakes with Lemon Garlic Aioli Sauce

I have a couple of good "Fourth of July" recipes waiting to be shared, but while I wait for my photos to upload, I wanted to go ahead and share this one. I have been slacking from the blogging world all weekend and I do apologize! :) My husband and I both are huge crab cake fans and it tends to be our appetizer of choice when we do go out. I'm always tinkering with them at home, trying to perfect my own recipe. These were good, and definitely worth making, but they were no where near restaurant quality. I'm on the lookout, so if you have a crab cake recipe that you love, please send it my way!

Crab Cakes
1 small/medium red onion, chopped
1 (6 ounce) can lump crabmeat, drained
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1 cup dry bread crumbs

In a small saucepan, saute red onions until tender and lightly carmelized. Mix all ingredients together until well combined. In a medium saute pan, heat oil. Form the crab cake mixture into 4 patties, flattening slightly before placing in the hot oil. Cook each side until lightly browned. Serve with aioli sauce (recipe below).

Lemon Garlic Aioli Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped chives
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Source: Aioli sauce from

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Garlic Roasted Chicken

I saw this chicken on my sister's blog and it looked like the perfect comfort food. I took advantage of a cooler day lately and decided to make this chicken with the garlic bubble loaf that I posted earlier. I love the simple flavors used within this recipe and it smelled incredible as it roasted. In her post, my sister explains that you should check the chicken frequently and should baste it throughout the roasting process. If the liquid evaporates, she suggests adding more broth to the bottom of the roaster. I am not quite sure what the problem was with mine, but I ended up having to add broth every time I checked it. It all evaporated very quickly! I probably ended up adding another 32 ounces of broth throughout the cooking process. I thought it was worth it, though, as the final product was incredibly moist and tender.

Garlic Roasted Chicken
3 pound broiler/fryer chicken
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth, divided
1 lime wedge
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
Fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
2 tablespoons sherry or apple juice

Place chicken breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup wine or broth, lime wedges, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Pour into cavity of chicken. Pour remaining wine or broth in roasting pan. Sprinkle chicken with paprika. Loosely tent with foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove foil; bake 40-45 minutes longer or until juices run clear and a meat thermometer reads 180 degrees, basting occasionally. Add additional wine or broth to pan of liquid evaporates. Discard bay leaf and lime wedges. Remove chicken to a serving platter and let stand for 10 minutes before carving. Pour drippings and loosened brown bits into a measuring cup. Skim fat. In a saucepan, combine the cornstarch, bouillon and sherry or juice until smooth. Gradually stir in drippings. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve gravy with chicken.

Source: Rachel vs. The Kitchen