Saturday, February 9, 2013

Blizzard of 2013

Well I had been wishing for a good snowstorm...and Mother Nature delivered.

 We had a blizzard!

It started snowing yesterday...

And kept snowing all night into this morning...

We lost power for a little over 12 hours. It was a very long and cold night. Thankfully once power was restored we were able to warm the house back up quickly. My poor little car on the other hand, still has to be dug out. We'll save that for tomorrow.

Before we lost power I was lucky enough to have a chance to make an amazing bean recipe that my boyfriend's friend gave me, which I've now nicknamed "Blizzard Beans". She found it originally in "Bon Appetit" magazine and made them one day and gave some to my boyfriend for us to try. I was in love with this recipe. It's so warm and comforting and full of healthy ingredients. It truly is something I could eat any day and be satisfied.

Honestly the picture does it no justice, but it is seriously one deliciously satisfying dish. My Dad actually came home from work and ate some then came back and saw there was still some left and ate the rest right out of the pan. It's just that good.

Chorizo, Spinach and Cannelini Beans (Blizzard Beans)

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 lb Chorizo ( I used turkey chorizo), sliced
1 Medium Sized Onion, chopped
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Sprig of Fresh Thyme
2 (15oz) Cans Cannelini Beans, drained and rinsed
2 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 (16oz) Bag of Fresh Baby Spinach
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika (optional)

1) Heat 1 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the chorizo to the pan and cook through, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

2) Place the pan back on the heat and add remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and let cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add the beans and broth and let come to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Crush some of the beans in the pan to help thicken the sauce and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and paprika (if you use it). Add the spinach and cook until it just wilts, about 2 minutes. Add the chorizo back to the pan and stir to combine. 

Serve with a crusty piece of bread and enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from a friend's recipe that she found originally in "Bon Appetit" magazine.) Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Italian Wedding Soup

Now I must be honest and let you all know that I am not Italian. Luckily for me that is not a requirement for making this tasty soup. 

I really wasn't feeling the soup vibe until my coworker came into work with a bowl of this for lunch the other day. It smelled divine and made my humble ham and cheese seem just a little too humble. My coworker is actually one of those people that is super good with the habit of making a big batch of something then bringing it for lunch every day. That is both a cost effective and time saving habit to have. I admire her ability to do this.

I don't have that ability. I'm a throw a bunch of stuff in a bag and hope for the best at lunch person. Sad, right?

But, I can happily make this soup for dinner and maybe if I'm lucky the leftovers will last a couple of days.

Now if you haven't had Italian Wedding Soup before, basically it's a clear broth soup with some veggies, a green leafy veggie and little meatballs. For my version I like a hearty green so I used Swiss chard, which is a mild, yet hearty green and can stand up to the cooking of the soup. My meatballs are made of ground turkey. These little guys are tender and moist. Plus since they're made of turkey they help make this guilt free!

Italian Wedding Soup

For The Meatballs:

1 (1.3 lb) Package Ground Turkey (I used 94% Fat Free)
2 Large Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 Egg, beaten
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp Panko Bread Crumbs
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper

For The Soup:

1 tsp Canola Oil (Or any cooking oil)
1 Small Onion, chopped small
1 Stalk Celery, chopped small
3 Small Carrots, peeled, sliced into circles
1 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
3 Cups Swiss Chard, chopped
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
10 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Stock
1 Cup Dried Ditalini or any small pasta shape

To Prepare The Meatballs:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2) Mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Use a fork to mix so that the meat doesn't get too mashed up. 

3) Scoop teaspoon sized amounts of the meat mixture and use your hands to roll them into balls. Lay on a sheet pan that has been lined with foil and sprayed with nonstick spray.

4) Place the tray of meatballs into the preheated oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

To Prepare The Soup:

1) Heat your pot over medium heat. Add the oil and let that get hot. Add the onions, celery, carrots and parsley and cook until translucent or about 5 minutes. Add the Swiss Chard and cook another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2) Add the chicken stock and then add the meatballs to the pot. Stir the pot and then turn heat to medium-low. Let slowly cook for 1 1/2 hours. 

3) After the soup has cooked for the 1 1/2 hours turn the heat back to medium and add your pasta. Since this is a small pasta shape it will cook quickly and not need to boil. Plus I like to let it cook a little slower so it will absorb more flavor. Once the pasta is cooked you can serve your soup and enjoy!

I recommend serving this soup with some crusty bread and a little extra parmesan cheese on top. It's great for a cold winter night, but light enough for a warm spring evening. Or you can be like my consistent coworker and make a big batch for those dreaded workday lunches! Whatever you choose, this soup is sure to satisfy.
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Friday, January 25, 2013

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Valentine's Day is coming! Are you excited? Are you a lover or hater of this love oozing day? 

I personally am a fan of the day, BUT I wasn't always. Before my boyfriend and I started dating I was most certainly not a lover of Valentine's. He actually made his move on Valentine's day of 2009 with two single roses and a "Happy Valentine's Day" and it was the cutest, sweetest thing ever! He nabbed me right then and there! Sorry I'm having a cheese fest here. 

Seriously though I wish I had made more of the holiday before then and wasn't always such a negative Nancy about it. You don't have to be in a relationship to enjoy spreading the love. Do something nice for your Mom or Grandma or even a complete stranger! And really, who says it has to be only on February 14th that we express our love and kindness? 

In fact, you can start spreading the love right now by making someone special these deliciously decadent brownies! That's what I did as a surprise for my Dad last night. Which he didn't end up having one since he went to bed so I sneaked one into his lunch for work today. I bet he was surprised when he went to lunch today! See that? I'm spreading the love!

This recipe was adapted from Culinary Concoctions By Peabody's recipe for "Red Velvet Swirl Brownies", which she adapted originally from Sunny Anderson, host of “Cooking for Real”.

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

For the brownies:

1/2 cup (1 stick) Salted Butter, melted
1 cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1/8 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Red Food Coloring (I used Wilton's Icing Colors in "Red Red")
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Eggs
3/4 cup Flour

For the cream cheese swirl:

1 (8oz. package) Cream Cheese, softened
1/4 cup Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or grease an 8 x 8 in pan.

2) In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer add the butter and sugar. Mix until just combined. Add the vanilla, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring and vinegar one at a time and mix between adding each ingredient until just combined.

3) Pre-whisk the eggs in a separate bowl then mix into the other ingredients. Then using a rubber spatula gently fold in the flour until just combined. Add the batter into the pan, reserving about 1/4 cup of the batter that will be used on the top of the brownies to swirl with the cream cheese layer.

4) To make the cream cheese layer, in a medium sized bowl cream together the softened cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla. It will look a little like runny frosting. 

5) Spread the cream cheese mixture over the brownie batter that is all ready in the pan. Dollop the extra brownie batter on top of the cream cheese layer then, using a knife or toothpick, swirl the layers together. Swirl as much as you like until you get the desired level of "swirl". 

6) Bake for 30 minutes, remove from oven and let cool entirely before cutting. 

I drool a little every time I look at these. They're fudgey, creamy, rich and a perfect treat to give to someone you love or care about. Is it me or does the swirl in the left brownie look like a heart? It's love!

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Red Wine & Sweet Chili Sauce Braised Short Ribs

It's cold! 

So when it's cold and dreary what's better than stick to your ribs braised meat? Not much I'd say. 

I went to the store today with my heart set on buying short ribs. I was on a mission. I arrive at the meat department and the shelf was bare! Nooooo! I must make my beloved short ribs! There happened to be one of the workers standing there and I inquired about the ribs...he had just added them to his prep list and they would be ready in a few minutes. Perfect!

Ten minutes later he handed me four packages of short ribs to pick whichever ones tickled my fancy. I walked away with three packages of fresh cut, meaty short ribs! What service! The lesson? Don't be afraid to speak up and ask for what you're looking for. Even if it's not on the shelf or in the case, they may have it and can cut it fresh for you. 

Now I know short ribs can be time consuming and mildly intimidating, but honestly when you break it down by steps it's super easy. The time consuming part you can't really help because these babies need time to cook. Time is the only thing that will let them tenderize and get that luscious, meaty goodness. Trust me though, it's worth the effort and the wait!


Red Wine & Sweet Chili Braised Short Ribs

12 Bone-In Short Ribs
1/2 cup Flour
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 Celery Stalks, large chop
3 Carrots, peeled, large chop
1 Large White Onion, large chop
3 Large Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1 (6 oz) Can Tomato Paste
1 (5 oz) Bottle Sweet Thai Chili Sauce
Salt and Pepper to Season
1 Cup Sweet Red Wine
3 Cups Low Sodium Beef Broth
2 Cups Water
1 Fresh Bay Leaf
6 Sprigs Fresh Thyme

1) Place your Dutch Oven or large (oven-safe) pot onto the stove top over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan and let that heat. You want the pan and oil to be good and hot to sear the short ribs.

2) On a plate combine the flour, kosher salt and pepper. Lightly coat your short ribs on each side with the flour then place into the pot to brown. Brown the short ribs on each side, don't be afraid to let them sit on one side for a couple of minutes so you develop that good brown crust. Once a short rib is brown on all sides remove from the pan and place on a plate. Continue this until you have browned all of your short ribs.

3) Meanwhile, place the celery, carrots and onion into your food processor and grind into almost a paste. Also preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

4) Once all of your short ribs have been browned and set aside, there will be a good amount of fat that rendered off from the ribs, drain off all of the fat from the pan leaving only a tablespoon or so in the pan. Add the ground celery, carrot and onion mixture to the pan and let it cook and brown over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Be sure to scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, those bits taste good! 

5) Next add in the garlic, tomato paste and chili paste and let cook an additional five minutes. 

 6) Stir in the wine and let cook for about 2 minutes. 

 7) Add the beef broth and water and stir until all is combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Yes, taste the cooking liquid! This is what is going to flavor your meat, now's the time to fix it if it needs fixing!

8) Place the short ribs back into the pot with the cooking liquid. Depending on the size of your pan you may have some pieces completely covered in liquid and some that stick up a little. This is fine, the goal is to get everything covered at least 3/4 of the way with liquid. Add the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.

 9) Cover the pan and place into the oven and cook for 3 1/2 hours. Then uncover and cook for an additional 30 minutes to let the sauce reduce and get thick and delicious. Halfway through the cooking time be sure to stir the ribs around and if need be you can add extra water if the sauce begins to reduce too much. When they are finished cooking you will have tender, juicy short ribs that will come cleanly off the bone.

Do you ever watch Chef Anne Burrell? She has this saying, "Brown food tastes good!", she often does it in this meat eating growl, it's really quite amusing. But what she says is true! Brown food does taste good, you want your ribs to be browned well in the beginning and for them to caramelize deliciously while cooking. 

I served these ribs with roasted garlic mashed potatoes. If you don't want mashed potatoes you can do a creamy polenta, risotto, roasted veggies. You need something hearty to go along with the richness of the short ribs. 


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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole

Every year for Christmas we usually have some sort of sweet item, like a danish or cinnamon rolls. This year I felt like trying something new and made a breakfast casserole. 

I was inspired by's recipe for a "Bacon Breakfast Bake", but I tweaked it to make it more my own and to suit our tastes a little better. The beauty of a recipe like this is that you can basically make it however you want as long as you have the base ingredients: eggs and tater tots. You can pick your own cheese, veggies and meat. 

Now I have to say that this dish is absolutely delicious. My family raved over it and we plowed through 3/4 of a 13x9 pan of casserole goodness on Christmas morning. I made it again today since the guys were out shoveling snow and again we took down almost the entire pan. It's addictive and cheesy and satisfying. My dad had three dad rarely has more than one serving of anything...I knew at that point I had a winner!

So whether it's a special holiday morning or just a cold day of shoveling snow, this dish is sure to satisfy the hungriest appetite. And it makes great leftovers!

Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole

3/4 Bag of Tater Tots (32 oz Bag)
1 tsp Olive Oil
1 Small Onion, Chopped
3/4 Bag of Frozen Broccoli Cuts (16 oz Bag)
Salt and Pepper For Seasoning
1/4 cup Water
1 lb Bacon
1 Dozen Eggs
1 1/2 cups Milk
8 oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Shredded

1) Bake tater tots according to package instructions. Remove from oven when crispy and place in the bottom of your 13 x 9 casserole dish. Season the tater tots with salt and pepper, then set aside.

2) In a medium sized saute pan, heat up the olive oil. Add the onion and saute for about 2 minutes over medium heat then add the broccoli. Season with salt and pepper. Add the water and cover the pan to let the broccoli soften. Cook for about 5 minutes then remove cover and let water cook off the rest of the way over medium-high heat. Once water is gone remove onions and broccoli to a bowl and set aside.

3) Cook the bacon either in the oven or a frying pan. I like to bake mine since it eliminates some mess. I bake mine on two sheet trays in a 425 degree F oven until crispy. Once the bacon is crispy drain on a paper towel then crumble when cool enough to touch. Set aside.

4) In a large bowl crack the dozen eggs and add milk. Whisk until well combined like you're making scrambled eggs. Add the cheese to the eggs and whisk together. Set aside and begin the assembly of the casserole.

 -Add the broccoli and onion mixture on top of the tater tots. 

 -Next sprinkle the bacon on top of the broccoli and onion mixture.

-Last pour the egg and cheese mixture over the top of everything. The cheese will settle on the top of the casserole.

5) Cover the casserole with foil and bake at 350 degree F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for an additional 10 minutes uncovered. 

The cool thing about this is you can't even tell that it's tater tots. Everything cooks together and makes for a hearty, belly warming dish. I recommend making more that one casserole if serving a this house that one pan only serves four! But in an "average" household it could probably serve at least 6. Like I said though, it makes amazing leftovers so even if you made too much it will get eaten!

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Snowy Night and Beef Empanadas

We are getting our first real snow of the season and I'm loving it. Snowy weather makes me want to stay in and be cozy and warm. It also makes me wants to cook. 

It's snowing!
 One thing you should know, my boyfriend is Puerto Rican and since we began dating I've had to learn a whole new world of foods and cooking. He loves his mama's cooking, so I had to make sure I got the key essentials down..rice (still working on that), pork chops, and empanadas. The empanadas I learned first and mastered quickly. They are something he wants pretty often...and honestly I do too. They are such a good meal or appetizer or can eat them for breakfast even. What? Don't judge me.

I love making these empanadas, they are seriously so easy. If you can make tacos then you can make these. The beef mixture basically cooks up the same as taco meat would and the only slightly time consuming part is putting the emapandas together with the meat and dough. Then you fry them and enjoy! The key when frying though is to have your oil hot enough. Today while shopping for some pre-snowstorm goodies I stumbled upon a candy / fry thermometer for $3.99..I figured since it was so cheap I would give it a shot. What a difference it made! I use to wing it and hope for the best when frying. This time everything came out perfect since I was able to see that the oil was actually hot. 

This recipe is not a traditional recipe, but more my version of it. There are certain seasonings that I can't eat due to there being MSG in them, so I have created my own version. Don't worry though this is Early Bird Baker tested, boyfriend APPROVED!

 Beef Empanadas

1 tsp Olive Oil
1/2 Small Onion, finely diced
3/4 lb Ground Beef
1 1/4 T Goya Adobo Seasoning
1/2 cup Goya Tomato Sauce
1 Pack Goya Discos (Not the orange ones)
Oil For Frying

1) Using a medium sized saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions until translucent, about 2 minutes. Remove onions from pan and set aside. Turn the heat up to medium-high and brown the ground beef. Season the browned beef with the Adobo seasoning and tomato sauce, mix together well then let simmer about 5 minutes. Drain the meat mixture then combine with the onions, set aside to let cool a little.

2) In a medium to large sized pot, something you normally would fry in, fill it with about 1 1/2 inches of frying oil (I use canola). These fry one side at a time. Over medium heat bring the oil to 350 degrees F. 

3) While waiting for the oil to heat, begin to assemble your empanadas. Take one disco and lay it flat on a cutting board or counter. Place 1 1/2 -2 tablespoons of beef filling onto one half of the disco, fold the dough in half and crimp the edges with a fork. This will ensure that no filling gets out while frying.

4) Once the oil is hot you can begin to fry the empanadas. I fry no more than three at a time, you don't want your oil to cool down too much. When they are frying you are looking for a golden brown color and tiny, crispy bubbles on the dough. This means your oil is hot enough and they are ready to flip to the second side. Once the second side is golden brown with tiny bubbles, remove to a paper towel lined plate and let drain. 

You can eat these with sour cream or just as is. I suggest making a double batch of these as they go quickly and it's hard to only eat one or two. They also make a good pot luck dish or tailgating item. Really they are just good any time for anything!

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Spinach Stuffed Shells

Merry Christmas Eve everyone! I hope you are all enjoying your time with loved ones whatever your plans this evening may be. Tonight I am cooking dinner for our family. We've never been big Christmas Eve celebrators, we always did everything on Christmas day. However since I've gotten older I felt like it was important to do something nice on Christmas Eve, like having a delicious dinner. 

 Stuffed shells are one of those easy go-to dishes that you can cook and people can eat as they like. I love them. I had never really made them before this year, something about them daunted me, but I decided to give them a shot this fall and was very happy with how they came out. I bump up my recipe with onion and garlic and spinach. Then coat them in a meat sauce so they are hearty and filling. Perfect dinner for a cold winter night, especially Christmas Eve.

 We are expected to get a couple of inches of snow tomorrow. I am hoping and praying for a white Christmas. I can't tell you the last time we had one here. It would just make my entire year! I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and receives all the goodies they wished for. I personally would love world peace and for a gift on the smaller side I asked "Santa" for a KitchenAid stand mixer. I enjoy imagining all that I could make with a stand mixer...oh the possibilities!

Spinach Stuffed Shells With Meat Sauce

1 Box Jumbo Shells
1 T Olive Oil
1 Small Onion, Diced Small
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Cups Fresh Baby Spinach
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
32oz Ricotta Cheese
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper To Taste
1 lb. Ground Beef
1 1/2 Jars, Tomato Sauce of Choice
1 1/2 Cups Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded

1) Cook jumbo shells according to instructions on box. Boil for about 10 minutes or until al dente (slightly firm). Drain, separate any shells that are stuck together, set aside.

2) In a medium sized saute pan heat olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the spinach mixture to a strainer or colander and squeeze the water out of it. Place on a cutting board and chop up with a knife. This will ensure that there are no big stem pieces and every thing will distribute evenly in the ricotta.

3) Using the same pan that you used for the spinach mixture brown your ground beef on medium-high heat. Once all the way browned, drain the meat and place back in pan. Add the full jar of tomato sauce to it. Leave on low on the burner.

4) In a large bowl place the ricotta cheese, spinach mixture, eggs, and Parmesan cheese. Stir until very well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

5) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a large casserole or lasagna pan, coat the bottom of the pan with the other half of the jar of tomato sauce. Fill your shells with about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture and lay them in the pan. Once the pan is full, cover the shells with the meat sauce and then the shredded mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and turn heat up to 385 degrees and cook for 15 minutes more to let the edges brown and get a little crispy. Enjoy!

*When I make these it doesn't use every single shell from the box, but I find it easier to cook the whole thing rather than guess how much I might need. Also you may need to over flow into a second pan of shells, I always do, so make sure to spread out your sauce and cheese accordingly. 

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