Monday, December 30, 2013


Now I know this isn't exactly a recipe of sorts...but it is a recipe for organizing. I am in the process of trying to organize my life. I am tired of the disarray. It is becoming way to much for me. Step by step, piece by piece, I am taking one small section of my house and trying to put it in some sort of order. I started with my spices. I used to have one of those carousels for know the ones I am talking about? I found these small spice jars on Amazon and fell in love! I purchased some stickers and chalk ink was almost giddy with excitement when I started filling these jars with my spices. I just love how they turned out! Don't you?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lamb, Mint and Feta Ravioli

Well, friends, it was that time of year again. The Valente/Young Christmas Eve tradition. Our good friend came over for wine and yummy ravioli's! This year, I came up with something a bit Greek inspired. I absolutely adore the Greek "lasagna" pastitsio and D and J love lamb. I decided to combine the two. I used the pastitisio sauce and created a lamb filling. The ravs turned out heavenly. I hope one day soon, you all will attempt to make homemade ravioli. It is definitely a labor of love, but oh soooo worth it. Last year, D and I actually hosted a ravioli swap with neighbors and friends and this year, I plan on hosting two. It is akin to hosting a cookie swap. I provided the dough and the sauce, and everyone brought their own filling. We then split the raviolis and was able to bring home the different types (sausage, meatball and three cheese). So much fun I tell ya!! Well here is my lamb ravioli! Enjoy!

3 lb leg of lamb, preferably boneless

Marinade for the lamb:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 4 lemons)
4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leave parsley
1 tablespoon each chopped fresh oregano, rosemary, thyme, and basil
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Filling for the raviolis:

2 onions, sliced
2 pks frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
3 pks feta cheese (3 oz)
3 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
Leg of lamb above, minced in the food processor
For the marinade, stir together the lemon juice, garlic, parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and basil in a bowl. Whisk in the oil. Use right away. Make sure the lamb is completely covered. If not, add more lemon juice and olive oil. Marinade for up to 24 hours. Pour the marinade into a slow cooker. Bring a large pan up to medium high heat and sear the lamb on all sides. Place the lamb into the slow cooker. Deglaze the pan with a dry white wine and pour the scrapings into the slow cooker. Cook on medium for 7 hours. Separate out the lamb from the marinade.

Heat up about 2 – 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Add all of your sliced onions. Let sauté for about 45 minutes on medium heat, until they become a nice golden brown. This is known as caramelizing.  In the food processor, add the lamb and pulse until, the consistency pretty much looks like ground meat. Move to a large mixing bowl. Put the carmelized onions, spinach mint and feta cheese, pulse until well blended and minced together. Add mixture to the lamb. Combine very well and add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Shrimp Ceviche

For my birthday this year, we went to this Mexican restaurant that served a fantastic ceviche sampler. I just LOVE ceviche. For those of you who aren't familiar with ceviche, you typically make this dish with raw fish and let it marinate in citrus juices for some time. The citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured, giving the appearance of actually being cooked. You typically will actually marinate the seafood for 1 – 3 hours…but the longer the better (in my opinion). I use shrimp as one of my ingredients, and I actually chose to par-boil the shrimp for about one minute, just to remove the “rawness of the fish” and then let it finish marinating in the citric juices. You can do this as well. The end result is a very fresh low fat dish that goes well with crackers, on top of bibb lettuce or just in a little dish with a spoon.

¼ lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ bay scallops (the small ones)
½ red onion, minced
10 grape tomatoes, chopped
3 mini orange peppers, chopped
4 radishes, chopped
2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp chipotle powder
3 Meyer lemons, juiced (if you can’t find Meyer lemons, regular will do just fine)
2 limes, juiced
2 oranges, juiced
Salt to taste

Par-boil the shrimp for 1 minute, remove and immediately put into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Cut each shrimp into thirds. Combine all ingredients into a bowl and let marinade for at least an hour before serving.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Plum Upside Down Cake

Went to Sam’s Club yesterday and on a whim, bought a large plastic package of plums. Not sure why, I love plums, but not a fruit I usually will purchase 15 of at a time, unless I am in my preserving mode. Our next door neighbors had a baby about a month ago, and after giving them time to adjust to a newborn, Dave and I went over for a visit. I wanted to bring something over and was thinking about an Upside Down cake using plums instead of pineapple. I found an extremely easy version and low and behold I had all of the ingredients in my pantry. Taste of Home had this recipe on their website and the baker in me got excited! Now this is the first time I have made an upside down cake, so the resulting photos show my plums don’t look quite as pretty as a professional, but Dave got to sample a little bit of the plums (the lil ones that remained in the pan after I turned it over) and he said it was fantastic!!!

7 tbsp butter, softened and divided
3/4 cup sugar, divided
3 to 4 plums, pitted and thinly sliced
1 egg
1 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Place 1 tbsp butter in a 9-in. round baking pan. Put pan in the oven to melt. Remove from oven and sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar Arrange plum slices in a circular pattern over sugar. Bake for 10 minutes. While the plums are baking, cream the remaining butter with remaining sugar; beat in the egg. Combine flour, salt and baking powder. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk and vanilla, beating until smooth. Spread evenly over plums. Bake for 30 minutes or until cake tests done. Remove from the oven and immediately invert onto a large serving platter. Serve warm.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Apple Bread with an Oatmeal Crumb Topping

Hi all, can you smell it? That unmistakable scent of fall! Pumpkin, apples, cinnamon…leaves! UGH…yes…leaves. I am staring out my window looking at the yard and dreading what happens when Fall comes. Raking. Hours and hours of raking. So how do I console myself? I bake. I may not eat what I bake, but I do have people for thatJ.  Now here comes the true decision. What to bake? Cookies, Cake, Bread? I take a quick peek in the refrigerator and find some apples that really need to be used up. Off to Pinterest I go. I found this fantastic Apple Bread recipe on The New Modern Momma’s (looks like a guest post by Candice) blog and thought it would be perfect. There was nothing in the recipe that I didn't have in my pantry, but I did make a few alterations (removed the walnuts, added a touch of nutmeg). The way the recipe was written, the first thing I thought of was a dryer version of an Apple Crisp, so when I went to make this, I decided to top mine with an oatmeal crumb topping. Since I didn't have just plain Oatmeal, I used Mueslix (Bob’s Red Mill cereal), which is actually a cereal, but the result was fantastic! I hope you all enjoy!

Cooking spray
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 cups of peeled, cored, and sliced apples {your choice}
3 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg

Crumb Topping:
1 cup Mueslix
½ cup flower
½ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Prepare 1 square cake pan with cooking spray. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, walnuts, and apples in a large bowl. Whisk oil, sugar, eggs, and cinnamon together in a small bowl; add to flour mixture and mix until just moistened. For the topping, in a bowl mix the Mueslix, the flour, the brown sugar and cinnamon together. Put in the cut up butter and mix together with your hands, kneading a bit until the mixture kind of sticks together forming a crumble. Spread the batter into a square cake pan (instead of a bread, I wanted to make more of a coffee cake since I had the crumb topping). Dough will be thick. Evenly spread the crumble over the batter. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 90 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Slow Cooker Oriental Roast

 Good morning friends! This is about a week late, since we had this for dinner, but I wanted to get this posted. I am using the slow cooker again today to make Chicken Cacciatore and if it turns out as delish as it looks, will post that one tomorrow. Last week, I bought a beautiful roast at the grocery store, and knew I was going to make a pot roast. I know some of you are traditionalist and would go the route of the normal beef stew type of meal, but I am kind of getting tired of that and wanted to try something different. I decided to go oriental in flavor. I had all of the vegetables needed (your usual beef stew culprits) it was just the broth that I needed to concoct. Whenever Dave or I make an oriental dish, we will usually throw a bunch of ingredients together for the sauce and make something up instead of using just your soy sauce or teriyaki. The resulting roast was fantastic. I cooked it long enough that it fell apart and I ended up shredding it, and I served it with linguini (unfortunately I did not have any low mien). Hope you all enjoy!

1 2lb beef roast
3 carrots, sliced
1 onion, sliced
3 celery ribs, sliced
½ cup white whine
½ cup soy sauce
¼ rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp garlic chili sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp ponzu sauce
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp sesame oil

Set the slow cooker to medium and 9 hour cooking time. In a large pan, bring 1 tbsp olive oil up to heat. Sear the roast on all sides until browned. Place the roast in the slow cooker. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. In the slow cooker, put in the carrots, onion and celery. In a mixing bowl, mix together the wine, and remaining ingredients and mix together well. Pour over the roast and vegetables. With about 1 hour left I knocked the slow cooker down to low, took the cover off and quickly shredded the roast. Replaced the lid and just let it cook on low for the remaining hour. I served this over linguini noodles but it would have been excellent over rice as well. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Shepherd's Pie

Now I am not one to usually eat “comfort food” but sometimes the day, weekend, week you are having just calls for it. It seems I get into a rut every now and then with the food I make and I long (yearn even) for something different. My mum used to make shepherd’s pie way back when we lived in St. Petersburg and I absolutely adored it. Granted, she just used ground beef when she made it and I am pretty sure she used cream corn and I only used regular corn, but either way, this dish took me back to my childhood. My two men that I fed adored it…so I had four thumbs up when I served it. Once in a while, diet be gone with ye…and just eat what you feel like. This is the dish for you. I apologize in advance for the picture too, by the time I got the camera, the dish was ¾ of the way gone, and so I didn't have a good photo opportunity. That isn't saying much either, since I am not much of a photographer

Mashed Potato topping:
2 pounds potatoes, such as russet, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 cup cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
1 3/4 pounds ground sirloin
1 lb cubed stew meat, tenderized and cut into small pieces
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
½ pound green beans, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 can golden mushroom soup
1 cup homemade beef stock (or boxed low sodium)
1/2 cup frozen corn, a couple of handfuls
Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain potatoes and pour them into a bowl. Combine sour cream and cream. Add the cream mixture into potatoes and mash until potatoes are almost smooth.

While potatoes boil, preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to hot pan. Saute the onions until translucent about 3 – 5 minutes. Add the carrots and the green beans and cook until just tender, about 7 – 10 minutes. Add the ground sirloin and the stew meat and cook till browned.  Season everything with salt and pepper.  Add the butter and flour and mix together, making sure to cook about 3 – 5 minutes. This will be the beginning of your roux. You want to make sure the flour cooks a bit so you don’t have that raw flour taste. Stir in the stock and the golden mushroom soup. Add a bit more stock if it becomes too thick. Stir in the corn.

Preheat broiler to high. Fill a small rectangular casserole with meat and vegetable mixture. Spoon potatoes over meat evenly. Top potatoes with cheese and cook for about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Top casserole dish with chopped parsley and serve.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Andouille Sausage, Kale and Orecchiette Pasta

Hi friends. It has been a while! The hubs and I went to the farmers market yesterday and I was feeling a little bit inspired. Not to mention, a friend at work and I have been talking food lately and I found a fellow foodie at heart!!! We bought two beautiful bunches of kale at the farmers market and I just knew I had to make something for dinner with it. If you have never tried kale before, for some it may take a bit of getting used to, but I just love the flavor and the texture. No matter what you put it into, kale holds its own!! i looked in the freezer for sausage, and the first one I came across was Andouille. Now for this dish, you could use almost any type, Chorizo, Italian, Kielbasa, just the flavor of the dish will be altered slightly. It was a very simple dish, with minimal ingredients and it ended up being very flavorful. I hope you all enjoy!

2 Andouille Sausage links, sliced
2 Kale bunches, chopped
1 small red onion, diced
1 pk Crimini mushrooms, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp crushed red pepper
1 cup White wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb orecchiette pasta

The andouille sausage I had was already precooked, so I didn’t have to brown it prior to cooking all of the vegetables. In a large pan, sauté the onions in some extra virgin olive oil, until tender about 4 – 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Stir in the garlic (I usually add this a bit later because I don’t want it to burn). Stir in the sausage and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes until the sausage begins to brown. Deglaze the pan with the 1 cup of wine. Stir in the chicken stock, thyme and crushed red pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes. When you have about 5 minutes left, stir in the kale, this will give the kale enough time to wilt. Stir in the heavy whipping cream and let the cream heat up. Serve over the orecchiette pasta. Top with grated parmigiana cheese.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chicken with a Herb Cream Cheese Sauce

I was experimenting with herbs the other day. My herbs are taking over my garden. I wanted to try something a bit different. I had a package of cream cheese in the fridge and thought I would play around with a spin-off of stuffed chicken. This actually turned out excellent and was quite pleased with the results. I hope you all enjoy as well.

6 chicken breasts
1 pkg cream cheese
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp ground pepper
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Butterfly the chicken breasts and pound until they are thin. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, rosemary, sage and thyme. Pulse until well blended and the cream cheese is creamy (no lumps).  Your hands will be getting chicken juice on them, so my advice at this point is to get little dishes and separate out your salt, pepper and paprika.  Lay out one chicken breast. Take a bit of the cream cheese and on one side, spread it down the chicken. Roll the chicken up. Take a bit of the salt, pepper and paprika and rub it on the outside of the rolled up chicken. Lay on your cutting board with the seam side up. You will be searing the chicken seam side down. It was just easier for me to find pick up the chicken and find the seam and turn over when I was ready to begin searing. Repeat for all pieces. You should have some of the cream cheese mixture left over. This will actually be used to make a sauce. In a Dutch oven, heat up 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Making sure the seam side is down, place all chicken rolls into the Dutch oven for about 3 – 5 minutes on each side. If you have a hard time trying to turn them over, don’t!! The chicken will not “fight” you when it is ready to be turned. 

With the left over cream cheese, heat ½ cup of the chicken stock and mix together. The cream cheese will begin to melt. Once you have seared on all sides, deglaze the Dutch oven with the ½ cup chicken stock and then pour in the stock/cream cheese mixture. Stir carefully until well blended. Cover the Dutch oven with aluminum foil and place into the oven for about 35 minutes. I would at this point start checking your chicken for doneness. I originally cooked mine for 45 minutes and found the chicken to be too dry. This was of course because, it was already seared and so the cooking process had already begun. If you find it is not cooked, continue cooking for another 5 – 10 minutes.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Grilled Marinated Mushrooms

Hi friends! Wow it has been a while since I have posted. Not that I haven't been cooking, but I have kind of been in a slump and have resorted to my old stand-bys. Plus, it is summer y'all. This girl has been out as much as she can baking in the sun! My mum and dad had these mushrooms and sent the recipe over to me. They just loved them!! I thought I would give them a try. Was out at my BFF's cottage today and we were grilling chicken thighs. Now, the recipe called for dried herbs, but since I love growing fresh herbs in my garden, I substituted with fresh! I think I actually liked it better (even though I haven't tried it with the dried) only because you can see the fresh herbs in the marinade. I hope you all enjoy!!

1 tbsp dried sage
1 tbsp dried tarragon
1 tsp black pepper
1 heaping tbsp crushed garlic
½ cup olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp salt
Large button mushrooms ( stems trimmed only do not remove stems )

Combine all ingredients except mushrooms in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Clean mushrooms and place in large ziplock bag add marinade and make sure all the mushrooms are coated. Let mushrooms marinate at least a couple of hours. 

Preheat grill and place mushrooms on skewers (make sure you soak the skewers for at least an hour prior to grilling so they don't burst into flames) and grill turning for at least 10 minutes. During the grilling time, continue to baste with the extra marinade, being careful with the flames (the oil will cause the fire to flame up).

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chocolate Pudding Butterscotch Cookies

I have been trying to challenge myself to use stuff that is in my pantry instead of buying more...well a couple/few items made up some wonderful cookies (after a few searches to see what I could find to use up these wonderful ingredients.) I found the original recipe on this blog here and where she used vanilla pudding and chocolate chips, I altered the recipe a tad and used what I had! I hope you all enjoy! I know a couple of boys over here LOVED them!

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3.4 oz package instant chocolate pudding
2 eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt                   
2 cups butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together butter and sugars until creamy.  Add the pudding, eggs and vanilla and mix again.  Add the baking soda and salt and mix one more time.  Add the flour. You can start with 2 cups and add the last 1/4 cup if needed. Lastly add the butterscotch chips and mix.  

Drop by the tablespoonful full and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.  

Let them cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a cooling rack.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mediterranean Poached Fish

I love fish. Shrimp. Crab. Salmon. Cod. You name it, I love it. I wanted to do something light and healthy last night since we have kind of strayed from eating healthy and eating quite fattening foods lately. I decided to try my hand at poaching a fish this time around, because Dave usually grills fish any time we get something larger than a shrimp. We took a journey to Whole Foods, since I have found their fish to be exquisite and decided to get a few Cod filets. There are quite a few ways you can poach a fish...a few recipes to be exact. Since Whole Foods has such a wonderful olive bar, I decided to take a Mediterranean approach. Last summer I preserved multiple jars of diced tomatoes and used those as part of my broth along with wine. The result was an excellent healthy meal that I hope you all enjoy!

4 cod filets
1 small fennel bulb, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, sliced paper thin
1 cup marinated olives, sliced in half
2 tbsp capers
2 small cans of diced tomatoes (or jars of freshly canned diced tomatoes)
1 ½ cups of dry white wine
1 tsp thyme
2 tbsp fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven, saute the fennel until wilted. Add the garlic and continue sauteing for about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pot with the white wine and bring to a simmer. Add the two cans of tomatoes, thyme and salt and pepper.  Gently stir in the olives and capers. Bring to a slow boil (medium to low heat). Gently submerge the each of the fillets into the broth making sure not to stir too roughly. Cover and let cook for about 10 – 15 minutes.  Very gently sprinkle the parsley over the broth and push into the broth to submerge the parsley trying not to disturb the fish (otherwise it will break). Serve whole filets over a bed of rice or quinoa with a good portion of the broth ladled over it. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Lil Smokie Stuffed Jalapeno

This past Superbowl Sunday, I didn't really feel like doing much in the way of cooking a large meal. We just recently purchased a deep fryer and with the homemade raviolis I made last Christmas, we decided to just do appetizers. We made deep fried raviolis with marinara sauce, Italian sausage stuffed mushrooms, and these lil babies, Lil Smokie Stuffed Jalapeno's wrapped with bacon. Of course found the inspiration on Pinterest, and changed the recipe up a bit, but they turned out pretty good. We used a whole piece of bacon which we found to be way to much so for the recipe I cut it back to half a piece of bacon. Dave also has a built in smoker in his grill and used hickory chips as his smoke. You can spice it up and use mesquite, applewood or what ever other kind of chip you prefer. All in all, they turned out quite yummy.

12 large jalapenos, halved and seeded
6 bacon strips, cut into half
8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1 small shallot, minced finely
½ cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded
24 lil smokies

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, Monterey jack cheese and shallots until well blended. Take about a tablespoon of the filling, maybe a bit more and spoon into a halved jalapeno. Take a lil smokie and place on top of the cream cheese mixture. Wrap a half piece of bacon around the jalapeno and place on a cookie sheet. Repeat until all jalapenos are wrapped. We placed on a rack and our grill has a built in smoker. We smoked them for about 2 hours at about 245 degrees or until the bacon was crispy. You could also do this in the oven, but I find that the bacon never gets crisp enough for me. You could try it at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Basil Pesto Panko Crusted Pork Chops

My BFF and I have made this a weekly ritual. Aside from the occasional tired meal...where we used boxed items, we try to make a meal from scratch and go all out completely enjoying each others company, drinking wine and just having a good night in general. This past week, we purchased some pork chops from Sams digress just a bit, have you seen the meat from Sam's Club? These pork chops were about 2 inches thick!! Gorgeous to say the least. But back on point. Last fall, at the end of the harvest, we pulled up all of the basil and made basil pesto and froze it. We pulled basil pesto out and decided to use that as our "egg wash" and coat the chops in panko. We whipped up a mushroom alfredo and with the pesto that was not contaminated with the raw pork, we mixed it into the pasta and served that as a side. They were excellent and I hope you all enjoy!

Basil Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
4 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pork chops
5 or 6 thick cup boneless pork chops
1 – 2 cups panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

For the pesto, combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. Add the garlic, pulse a few times more. Slowly drizzle the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  In two separate bowls, place the pesto in one and the bread crumbs in another. Coat each chop with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Take one chop and coat in the pesto on all sides, transfer to the dish with the panko bread crumbs. Make sure all areas are coated. Place on a cooking sheet. Repeat until all pork chops are covered. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pork chops for about an hour or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Brandy Street Chicken

I love trying to make up new recipes to see if they will even taste half as good as I envision them to taste in my head. This one did!!! I took some pork chops out to thaw and noticed how thick they were and decided to stuff them. I wanted to do something completely different and went for a Cajun theme since we are close to the Superbowl and of course they are gonna be in New Orleans!! This recipe turned out fantastic! Hope you all enjoy!

5 pork chops, boneless about 1 to 2 inches thick
4 andouille sausage links, casings removed and diced
2 shallots, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 cup French bread, diced
¼ cup cotija cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp white wine
Parsley for garnish

Creamy Cajun Mushroom Sauce

8oz package crimini mushrooms, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup brandy
¼ cup beef stock
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp Cajun spice
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp water
For the pork chops, I started out with frozen chops. When they were almost thawed, but still a bit hard, I cut a little pouch into them (coming in from the side) so that I could stuff them…being careful not to slice them in half. I let them continue to thaw the rest of the way. For the stuffing, in a Dutch Oven or a large cast iron skillet, add extra virgin olive oil, sauté the shallots until wilted. Add the celery and sauté until wilted as well. Add the andouille sausage. Most of the sausages I found were already cooked through so this was just pretty much a browning process for me. However, if you find andouille sausage that is not fully cooked, make sure you do cook it all the way through.  Stir in the French bread and deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up the bits and wilting the bread. You don’t want any liquid in the stuffing so you want to make sure the wine has evaporated before you begin stuffing your pork chops. Remove the pan from the heat momentarily. Stir in the cotija cheese. If you can’t find this cheese, you can substitute feta. Eyeball your stuffing. If you think you are going to have any leftover…portion out a bit into a bowl so you don’t cross contaminate because you will be touching raw pork. Scoop a good size portion of the stuffing into your pork chop. I kind of pushed it in and made sure the pork chop was nice and filled. I repeated the process with each chop and then to make sure none of the stuffing fell out, I wrapped the chops with string. Preheat your oven to 350. In the empty Dutch oven, or cast iron skillet bring back up to heat. Sear the pork chops on both sides for about 5 minutes until nice and brown. Place the Dutch oven/cast iron skillet into the oven and continue to cook the chops have an internal temp of 160 degrees.

For the sauce, pull your pork chops out and immediately put the pan onto the stove and turn the heating element on. Remove your chops to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Add a touch of olive oil, because you should have some grease from the pork chops. Add your mushrooms and sauté until wilted. Add in the garlic and continue to cook until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the brandy making sure to scrape up all of the pork bits. Add the beef stock and bring up to a simmer. In a cup, mix together the corn starch and water until there are no lumps and add mixture to the mushrooms. Stir until it starts to thicken slightly. Add your Cajun spice and heavy whipping cream. Bring up to a simmer and cook for about 5 – 7 more minutes. Serve over the pork chops. Garnish with parsley.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nutella Muffins

Do you ever open something up, food wise, you have every intention of eating it....but then it gets shoved to the back and you forget about it? Well, that is what happened to our poor jar of Nutella. I happened upon it this morning and went on a quest to find a recipe using up the Nutella. I happened upon a Natasha in Oz's blog that had a recipe for Nutella muffins, and they looked so yummy, I thought I would give them a try. They turned out fantastic. They aren't very sweet, and have a hint of the Nutella flavor that we all love. Hope you all enjoy!

2/3 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 c. white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. of vanilla
1-3/4 c. of all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
16 tsps. of Nutella

Preheat the oven to 325F.  The batter, including the Nutella , is much easier to work with if ALL of the ingredients are at room temperature.  So make sure they are before you start making the batter.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture. Continue to mix the batter together, until your batter is smooth.  The batter is quite heavy in order for you to be able to “marbleize” the Nutella into the batter without it falling through. Fill your muffin tins with paper muffin cups. Since it is quite cold up here, even room temperature, I found the batter to be a bit stiff. In a small cup, I took a heaping spoonful of the batter and added 1 tsp of the Nutella. I swirled the two together then transferred to the muffin tin. I continued until I ran out of batter. The muffin cups should be about ¾ of the way full.   Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bacon Cheese Bread

OK...who doesn't love Pinterest!!! I was poking around Saturday morning and found this just yummy beautiful recipe for bacon cheese bread and decided I had to try it. Now, I am not a big fan of bacon...I don't eat it regularly, but the two boys I cook for on a regular basis ADORE it!!! My hubby and my BFF. So I though why the heck not! I mean, who can go wrong with bacon and cheese? Now, grant it, I am not a photographer, so the picture is by all means not the prettiest, and the one thing I would definitely do different is add the cheese probably during the last 15 minutes of baking instead of putting it on throughout the whole 30 minutes of baking, but the bread turned out scrumptious. I found by baking the cheese for the full 30 minutes, the cheese ended up burning a little. Now there are those of you who absolutely adore burnt cheese, BUT, it doesn't make for pretty bread. I found the recipe on this blog Happy Home Baking and converted the metric measurements for you. I hope you all enjoy! If you actually read her blog, she had a hard time with the rising...I have to agree with her. It took a while for the bread to rise and it still isn't the size I think it should be. But grant it, the weather right now is a warm 5 degrees when I was trying to bake this...and inside our house it was a balmy 62 that may have had something to do with it!! I also agree with her recommendation to use a bread machine. I did that and saved myself a lot of elbow work!! Now if you do happen to visit the HHBs site, please don't compare her pictures to mine :) I never said I was a professional photographer!! (giggling)

1st Step:
3 slices of bacon; finely chopped
1/2 tsp black pepper

2nd Step:
1 cup bread flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1 cup water, lukewarm
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter

3rd Step:
3 tbsp grated mozzarella cheese
1/8 tsp black pepper
some dried parsley

Pan-fry finely chopped bacon over low heat, until brown and crisp. Drain off any excess oil and mix in the black pepper. Set aside to cool. Place all ingredients in the second step, except the butter, in the pan of the bread machine (according to the sequence as stated in the instruction manual of your bread machine). Let the machine knead the dough for you. I let it go through the entire kneading process. About mid way through, add in the bacon and black pepper mixture and the butter, and let the kneading process continue until it has completed. Stop the machine and remove dough from the bread pan. Shape the dough into a smooth round and place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, cover bowl with a towel and let dough rise till double in volume for about 80 - 90 mins. Remove dough and give a few light kneading on a lightly floured work surface. Press out the trapped air as your knead. Shape into a round dough and cover with cling wrap, let the dough rest for about 15 minutes. It will expand slightly. Flatten and roll out the dough into a rectangular shape, the size of your loaf pan. Roll up swiss roll style and pinch the seam in place. Place dough in a loaf pan, lined with parchment paper, both bottom and sides, seam-side down. The parchment paper is important!! This will enable you to just lift the bread out of the pan when it has completed baking. Cover with a towel and let dough proof for 50 - 60 mins or until the dough reaches about 90% of the height of the pan. Sprinkle top with grated cheese, black pepper and some dried parsley. Bake at preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 30 mins until the bread is golden brown all over. Remove from oven and unmold immediately. Let cool completely before slicing.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie

Have you ever had this overwhelming need to make something...something that for the life of you, you never remember having? But you just have a craving for it? I felt that way about my latest dish. Chicken Pot Pie. I have no idea why, I found out my father can't stand it so I know he never made it for me growing up...but for some reason, I wanted to make it.To cut down on carbs and calories, I have these cute little ramekins that I used instead of making a huge pie and using pie crust as the base and topping. Also to cut down on time, I purchased a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, instead of actually cooking a chicken. But the results were quite yummy. I looked up a couple of recipes online and most of them had some kind of liquor in the broth, brandy, cognac, sherry, but if you choose you can omit that part of the recipe and I am sure it will turn out just as tasty! I also used milk, but if you want a more creamier sauce, you could use heavy whipping cream. The combinations are endless!!!!

I hope you all enjoy!!

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 leek, chopped
2  potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 medium carrots, cubed
10-12 oz. mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup dry brandy
1 cup white wine
2 tsps dried parsley
2 tsps dried thyme
2 tsps dried sage
3 tsps salt
1 tsps black pepper
3 tbsps butter
3 tbsps all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
5 cups chicken, cooked (roasted or poached) I used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, and shredded the chicken instead of cubing it.
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
4 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk egg wash
extra salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F. In a stock pot or Dutch oven, add the olive oil. Add the leeks, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and a few pinches of salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender; about 10-12 minutes. Deglaze the pot with the brandy and add the wine. Let simmer for about 5 – 7 more minutes and stir in all of the spices. In a cup, smash the butter in with the flour and combine well. Pour the flour butter mixture into the vegetables and let cook together for about 2 – 3 minutes so you cook out the “raw” taste of the flour. You will almost create a paste. Add chicken stock and milk. Combine well and bring to a simmer for about 2-minutes, stirring until mixture thickens. Stir in the chicken and the peas and combine well. Transfer to the ramekins. 

Cut thawed puff pastry 1" larger in diameter than the ramekin. Center cut puff pastry over dish and crimp down around edge of dish to seal. Brush top of pastry with “scrambled” egg. Bake in 425°F oven on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then cover lightly with aluminum foil and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes.