Saturday, November 30, 2013

Charleston Cheese Dip

If you love cheese and bacon, this dip is for you. D and I both love dips, so it was a no brainer for us to choose this dip for our Thanksgiving appetizer. Warm, melted cheeses (Cheddar, Monterey-Jack, and cream cheese) mixed with crumbled bacon? We were sold, and it did not disappoint. This is best served warm, and immediately following baking. It smells and tastes delicious.

*Note- Do yourself a favor and grate your cheese (aka. don't use the pre-shredded cheese). Pre-shredded packaged cheese has a flour coating which prevents the shredded cheese from clumping together, which results in a really thick (read: non-creamy) dip from the excess flour. Take a block of cheese and grate it yourself. You're welcome in advance.

  • 1/2 cup mayo (we use the full-fat Hellman's mayo)
  • 8-oz package of cream cheese (we use reduced-fat), softened
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese*
  • 1/2 cup grated Monterey-Jack cheese*
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (we bake our bacon; no frying pan mess here!)
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper (we used several healthy dashes)
  • 8 butter crackers, crushed, such as Ritz
  • Bagel chips (you need something hearty and thick b/c the dip is thick)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the mayo, cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, Monterey-Jack cheese, bacon, green onions, and cayenne pepper.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a shallow baking dish, such as a 9" pie pan.
  4. Top the mixture with cracker crumbs, and bake until heated through, about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven, and serve immediately with chips.

Source: Adapted from Trisha Yearwood

Ham & Swiss Puff Pastry Pinwheels

Oh yum! These pinwheels were one of the apps I made for Thanksgiving- fast, easy and filling, and these are definitely best served warm. We had a lot leftover, and they have heated up beautifully for breakfast, snacks, or even a quick app before dinner.

  • Puff Pastry sheets (we use this brand; 2 sheets per box), thawed*
  • Dijon mustard
  • 10 slices of good quality ham, thinly sliced (get it from the deli counter, not the pre-packaged kind)
  • 8-10 thinly sliced Swiss cheese or 8 oz shredded Swiss cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or a Silpat baking mat.
  2. Unroll a thawed pastry sheet (there are 2 sheets per box), and spread a thin layer of mustard.
  3. Place your ham down the center of the puff pastry sheet.
  4. Layer with Swiss cheese (4-5 slices per pastry sheet, or use shredded Swiss).
  5. Roll up the puff pastry tightly. (Make sure to roll these tightly or else your pinwheels will be thick.) 
  6. Repeat with 2nd puff pastry sheet.
  7. Wrap it in saran wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before slicing.
  8. Slice each "log" in half, and then keep slicing each half in half until you have 16 pieces from each log. 
  9. Place the pinwheels cut-side up onto your  baking sheet, and bake for 18-20 minutes, checking on them after 14 minutes. The dough will have browned and the cheese will be bubbly inside.
* You can quick thaw it in room temperature for 30-45 minutes. I like to let it thaw in the fridge overnight for even thawing (around 4 hours).

Yield: 32 pinwheels

Source: Adapted from Mix and Match Mama

Favorite, Classic Mashed Potatoes

I know there are a lot of "classic mashed potatoes" recipes out there, but this is hands down my favorite. Minimal ingredients that are easy to find and in all grocery stores. While there is a place for Parmesan mashed potatoes, or adding roasted garlic for Garlic mashed potatoes, I wanted something classic that wouldn't overwhelm our taste buds with all the other Thanksgiving food we were preparing.

A classic mashed potatoes dish! You can't go wrong here. It also makes a ton (as in, it fit 2 Pyrex square baking dishes), so alter the recipe if needed.

  • 5# Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
  • 8-oz sour cream (we use reduced-fat)
  • 4-oz cream cheese (we use reduced-fat)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp butter (for topping)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare (2) baking dishes with cooking spray. (We use an 8" square baking dish and 2.2-L Pyrex baking dish.)
  2. In a large stockpot, place the peeled potatoes and cover with water until the potatoes are covered.
  3. Bring the water to a boil, covered; reduce heat and simmer on medium-low for 40-45 minutes or until a fork can prick the potatoes easily.
  4. Drain the water (leave the potatoes in the pot). 
  5. Add the sour cream and cream cheese, and mash with the potatoes well.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Place the potatoes into the baking dishes, top with butter and bake for 1 hour.

Cheddar Green Bean Casserole

Cheddar-topped green bean casserole? Yes, please.

This is a new version to the classic green bean casserole that's associated with Thanksgiving meals. What makes this green bean casserole different is adding some sauteed onions and topping it with Cheddar cheese. It is rich, savory, and a nice change from the original.

*Note: I omitted the fresh green beans and chicken broth and instead used (2) 15-oz cans of french-style green beans (drained) with great success, but look forward to cooking fresh green beans in chicken broth the next time (reviews have said it takes this dish to a whole other level).

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 2 cups sliced green beans*
  • 3 cups chicken broth*
  • 10.75-oz can of cream of mushroom soup (used 98% fat free)
  • 2.8-oz can French-fried onion rings
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt (we use Lawry's garlic salt)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 1-1/2 qt baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Saute the onions in the butter until soft- 10-15 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Boil green beans in chicken broth for 10 minutes and drain. 
  4. Add the green beans, mushroom soup, onion rings, and seasonings (salt, black pepper, and garlic powder) to the onion mixture. Stir well.
  5. Pour into the prepared baking dish, and bake for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the Cheddar cheese, and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and cheese is melted.
Source: Adapted from Paula Deen

Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings

This was supposed to be our dessert for Thanksgiving, but alas, we were too full to eat another bite. However, after watching Catching Fire and grabbing some Mexican food for date night tonight, I decided that something sweet was in order.

I scrambled to the kitchen and made this quickly. Got to love Pioneer Woman for her easy and delicious recipes! They were like little apple pies, and we both loved them. There definitely was a lot of liquid leftover (which was great for spooning, but kind of excessive)- next time, I will try adjusting the butter/sugar and pop amounts*. I still want enough to top these dumplings with the "special sweet sauce" but cut back a bit on unnecessary calories and fat.

I was nervous the apples weren't going to be cooked all the way, but they were soft but not too mushy. The crescent rolls baked up nicely and had a nice cinnamon-sugar crust. We paired this with vanilla frozen yogurt, and sat down to be entertained by Lady Gaga and the Muppets Thanksgiving special.

  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, and cored
  • (2) 8-oz cans of crescent rolls (I used the reduced-fat, perforated kind)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter*
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar*
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12-oz can (1-1/2 cups) Mt. Dew* (I used Diet 7-Up)
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • Vanilla ice cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9 pan with cooking spray.
  2. Slice the apples into 16 slices per apple (you should have 32 slices total).
  3. Roll 2 apple slices into a crescent roll triangle, and place into the 13x9 pan. Repeat with remaining apples and crescent rolls.
  4. Melt the butter, then add the sugar; barely stir.
  5. Add the vanilla and stir; pour the mixture over the apples.
  6. Pour the soda around the edges of the pan.
  7. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and bake for 40 minutes.
  8. Serve with ice cream, and spoon some of the sweet sauce from the pan over the top.
Source: Pioneer Woman

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Cups

There is something to be said about a 2-ingredient cookie recipe-
Especially for a lazy Sunday.

If you're looking for something utterly sweet and ridiculously easy, look no further. All you need is a refrigerated cookie dough (peanut butter or chocolate chip would work great here) and a bag of Reese's mini  pb cups. That is it. 15 minute from start to finish. Can't beat that for a lazy but yummy treat.

Side note- this is also a great cookie for cookie swaps or potluck lunches since they're already individual-sized! Next time, I'll definitely use mini muffin liners as I couldn't remove these cookie cups right out of the oven without them breaking apart.

  • 16.5-oz package refrigerated cookie dough (peanut butter or chocolate chip)
  • 1 bag of 24 miniature Reese's peanut butter cups

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini muffin pan with liners or spray with cooking spray.
  2. Slice the cookie dough into 6 equal slices. Each slice should be approximately 1.25".
  3. Slice each slice into fourths.
  4. Place one quarter into each muffin well (should have 24 quarters total).
  5. Bake for 9-11 minutes (I baked mine for 10 minutes. They'll look slightly undone but will continue cooking in the pan once removed from the oven.)
  6. While the dough is still warm, push a peanut butter cup into each muffin cup and let cool in the pan.
  7. When the cookies are cool, use a spoon to remove them. (If you try to remove them while they are still warm, they will break apart.)
Yield: 24 cookie cups

Source: Pioneer Woman

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Turkey Meatloaf with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Despite the numerous positive reviews and having had this recipe printed since 2012, this meatloaf never made it into my rotation until this past week. And OMG, I was so pleasantly surprised how much I loved this dish.

We have our favorite meatloaf recipe- It's awesome, and no other meatloaf has been able to take it out of its #1 spot. But this meatloaf by Giada- it's right up there. It's a toss-up which one I would say would be my favorite.

The meatloaf is moist and packed with flavorful. I could go on and on, but really- you need to make this. A big thanks to D who made this meal for my birthday :)

  • 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup dried parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 4 Tbsp milk (we used skim)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1-3/4 lb ground turkey (we use 93% lean)

  1. Place rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, dried  parsley, chopped tomatoes, garlic, eggs, milk, feta, kosher salt, and pepper. 
  3. Add the turkey, and gently stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat.
  4. Carefully pack the meat mixture into a loaf on your parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees (about 45 minutes.)
  5. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. 
Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

Happy Birthday to me- and a Gooey Chocolate Caramel Cake!

Every year, D offers to bake me a cake. We were just talking about the infamous German Chocolate cake D had made for me one year (one of the best cakes I've ever eaten , by the way), but since it is the 2 of us, we rarely are able to get through a full cake before it goes bad. I was going back and forth about whether I wanted a cake this year, but D kept insisting that he wanted to bake a cake for my birthday.

I (finally) decided I wanted something chocolatey and with a touch of caramel. I saw this post on the Six Sister's Stuff blog about a month ago, and I just couldn't get it out of my head. Since my birthday falls mid-week, I wanted something that would also be easy to whip together after work.

This definitely fit the bill, and more. It was so warm, gooey, and wrapped in chocolate and caramel. It would have been over the top paired with vanilla ice cream! This cake barely lasted us through the weekend. It was divine gooeyness.

  • 1 German chocolate cake mix
  • Ingredients for the cake mix (oil, water, eggs)
  • 14-oz bag Kraft caramels (we used 11-oz bag of Kraft caramel bits)
  • 1/4 cup milk (we used skim milk)
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1-2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • Vanilla ice cream (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 cake pan.
  2. Mix together the cake mix as directed on the box. Pour half of the batter into the 13x9 pan and bake it for 20 minutes.
  3. While it bakes, unwrap the caramels, and place the caramels, milk, and butter in a saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring constantly until caramel is melted and smooth.
  4. Pour the caramel over the cake as soon as it is finished baking. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and pecans on top of the caramel. Spread the remaining half of the cake batter on top, and bake for 20 more minutes.
  5. Pair with vanilla ice cream (optional, but why wouldn't you?)

Easy and Ridiculously Good Roasted Carrots

I had anticipated making various soups & stews in the coming weeks, but with back to back unexpected travel and then catching a cold, that really derailed my cooking plans. Thus, the 10-lb bag of carrots I picked up at Costco had been untouched.

I started searching for roasted carrots recipes, but so many called for fresh dill or fresh parsley- both items I don't keep stocked regularly. I randomly came across this blog post- "easy and ridiculously good roasted carrots". When I scrolled down, I noticed that the original recipe came from Cook's Illustrated, and I knew we had a winner.

Carrots? check. Butter? check. Salt & pepper? check.
The key tip here is to make sure your carrots are in even pieces- that way, they'll cook evenly!

That's all that's needed for this super easy and ridiculously awesome carrots!

  • 1.5# carrots, peeled, halved crosswise, and cut lengthwise if necessary
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used garlic salt)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a Ziploc bag, toss together your cut carrots, melted butter, salt and pepper. Shake so that the carrots are coated evenly.
  3. Spread the carrots onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, cover it tighly with foil, and place it in the oven for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the oven, remove the foil (your carrots should be nicely steamed at this point), and return the pan to the oven for another 30-35 minutes. Stir twice during the cooking time. (I cooked mine for 35 minutes.)
  5. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Enjoy!
Source: The Frugal Girl, originally from Cook's Illustrated

Buffalo Chicken Chili

I was flipping through the morning news, and FOX had Rachael Ray as their morning guest. She was displaying the top 3 most downloaded recipes from her own talk show, and this Buffalo Chicken Chili was the #1 most downloaded recipe.

I love buffalo chicken dip, but was a bit apprehensive- would there be too much vinegary kick for a chili?

I had pretty much all the ingredients on hand, and was looking for a good weeknight meal, so this fit the bill.
And WOW- this chili was so good, and it's GOOD FOR YOU too. It is made from ground turkey, and while it is a lighter/healthier dish, it's packed with flavor. 

One reviewer said to not miss out on the blue cheese-topped tortilla chips- I am so glad I made this as it made a great topping to this chili.

If you're looking for something unique, healthy, and easy enough to make on a weeknight, look no further. Due to unexpected back to back weekends of traveling, all I wanted for my birthday was to sit and relax- and not cook! Lucky for me, I have D who offered to make whatever dishes I wanted for the week, and this was one of the meals I chose. 

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lbs ground chicken (we used 1.75# turkey)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery with leafy tops, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce (we used Frank's)
  • 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 15-oz can stewed, fire-roasted, or crushed tomatoes (we used stewed)
  • 1 sack whole grain tortilla chips, lightly crushed (we used 9-oz bag of Tostitos multigrain)
  • 3/4 lb Maytag blue cheese (we used 12-oz crumbled blue cheese)
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped (we omitted)

  1. Place a large pot over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Add the ground chicken and break it up, lightly browning it for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the carrots, onion, celery, garlic, paprika, and bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 7-8 minutes until the vegetables are pretty soft. 
  3. Add the chicken stock, and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
  4. Add the hot sauce, tomato sauce, and the tomatoes to the chili, and bring it up to a bubble. Simmer for 8-10 minutes more to let the flavors come together.
  5. While the chili is simmering, preheat the broiler. Prep a cookie sheet with foil.
  6. Spread the chips out on the cookie sheet, top with crumbled blue cheese, and transfer to the oven to melt the cheese, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
  7. Top each serving of Buffalo Chicken Chili with a few blue cheese chips.
Source: Rachael Ray
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