Monday, December 26, 2011

Ham Stock

One of my favorite parts about having a ham for the holidays isn't the ham itself, but using the bone for stock. Ham stock is very rich and flavorful, and adds a smokey-salty element to soups, stews, and other recipes. It's perfect for soups like:

Kale and Potato
Black Bean

Carve off as much meat from the ham bone as possible. Put the bone in a large stock pot with:
1 onion, rough chopped
1 stalk celery, rough chopped with leafy tops if available
1 carrot, rough chopped
10 peppercorns
2 bay leafs
1 tsp dill seeds
1 tsp pickling spice

Bring to a boil and reduce to low heat. Let simmer about 8 hours until the bone is clean. Pour through a strainer lined with paper towels and refrigerate. Once cooled, skim off any fat that collects on the top. Freeze or use immediately for soup.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quick Christmasy Pasta

I whipped this up for my family on short notice and hardly ANY effort. Its a meal you can feel good about with healthy carbs, lean meat, and some veggies. Start to finish, it was done in less than 30 minutes.
1-1 1/2 lbs seasoned chicken breast (I use MDP's Seasoning before I freeze)
3 bell peppers
1 TBSP olive oil
salt and pepper
8-10 oz dried pasta (shown is a mix of vermicelli and angel hair leftovers)
2 TBSP jarred pesto sauce
1/2 cup half and half, milk, or cream
shredded/shaved Parmesan

Preheat grill and cook chicken until slightly charred and cooked through.

Slice peppers into strips and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Pour onto roasting pan and broil about 10-15 minutes, turning once they get charred spots.

Prepare pasta according to package directions. I used my awesome Tupperware Microwave Pasta Maker, which took about 9 minutes for al dente and was done in this one device (less dishes!!!).

In a small saucepan, heat pesto sauce and milk or cream until it just starts to bubble, stirring frequently.

In the bowl you tossed peppers in, toss pasta, peppers, and pesto sauce. Slice chicken and arrange over pasta sprinkled with grated Parmesan and red pepper flakes if you like it spicy.

** Just as a side note, roasted peppers are great in all kinds of dishes and snacks. You may want to make double and save some for later **

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quick Stuffed Pork Chop Casserole

This is one of my family's favorite way to have pork chops and so easy that you (or your teen) can whip it up in no time.

1 pound boneless pork chops (I prefer extra-thin sliced for this)
1 can cream of mushroom or celery
1/4 cup milk
1 box instant stuffing mix (like Stove-Top)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray and lay chops on the bottom. Do not overlap.

Mix milk and cream soup and pour over chops. Prepare stuffing according to package directions. Spread over the chops and soup.

Bake about 40 minutes-1 hour (depending on how thick the chops are). Soup should bubble while cooking and stuffing should be crunchy on top when casserole is done.

Serve along with steamed veggies or salads.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Egg and Tortilla Bake

8 corn tortillas, cut in half and then into strips (the opposite way)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 cups shredded cheddar or Colby jack cheese
12 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 TBSP taco sauce
1 packet ranch seasoning
dash hot sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13X8" glass baking dish with cooking spray and spread tortillas  strips across the bottom. Layer chopped onion, tomatoes, and shredded cheese.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, milk, taco sauce, ranch seasoning and hot sauce. Pour egg mixture over the pan and bake for 40 minutes until the top is browned and set in the middle.

Set with sour cream, hot sauce, and/or jalapeno rings.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Potato Bread

The things I have done to get rid of my turkey day leftovers this year .... but this bread was amazing and I will probably be making extra mashed potatoes on purpose now just to make more bread.

1 cup milk
2 TBSP butter
1 TBSP raw sugar
1/2 TBSP salt
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp yeast
2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
4-6 cups flour

In a small saucepan, melt butter, sugar and salt into milk over low temperature. Let cool to room temperature.

Mix yeast and warm water in mixer bowl and add milk mixture. Stir to combine, and add potatoes and 2 cups flour. Mix with dough hook (or hands) until combined, adding in 1/2 cup remaining flour at a time until dough is smooth and elastic and clings to itself.

Spray bowl with cooking spray or lightly oil and set in a warm place, covered with a towel, until doubled in bulk.

Knead in mixer bowl or with hands on a floured surface, shape into a loaf, and let rise in lightly greased loaf pan until doubled.

Bake 1 hour at 350 until well browned. Serve as is, toasted, or in grilled panini sandwiches.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turkey Pot Pie

1 cup leftover turkey
2 cups chopped veggies(carrots, celery, onion, potatoes, asparagus, corn, green beans, asparagus, broccoli)
1 cup leftover gravy
1 pie crust

Mix turkey, veggies, and gravy together and spoon into ramekins, single serving dishes, or into a casserole dish (to make 1 pie).

Roll dough to about 1/8" thick and cut to fit top(s) or if using a pre-made store crust just lay it over the top.
Cut slits into the tops. Bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees.

Slop Sloppy Joes

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp MDP's Seasoning
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste

In a skillet, cook meat until browned. Drain as well as possible to remove the grease and add brown sugar and seasoning. Stir until combined well, and add onion, pepper, and bay leaf. Cook about 5 minutes until vegetables are soft. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until bubbling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook another 10 minutes. If this is for a crowd, you can easily double or triple the recipe and scoop it into a crock pot to keep warm.

Serve on whole wheat buns, or on thick toast for an open faced sandwich. I love mine with some crunchy dill pickles!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Real Strawberry Milkshakes

These milkshakes have everything that the traditional ice cream version does, only they are made with real strawberries and all natural ingredients!

2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1-2 cups milk
1-2 TBSP honey or raw sugar

Combine berries, cream, 1 cup milk and honey/sugar in blender. Slowly stream in milk as needed until smooth and creamy.

Makes 4 servings.  

Flaky Cinnamon Biscuit Rolls

2 1/4 c white flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
5 TBSP unsalted butter
1 c buttermilk
1/2 TBSP honey

4 TBSP granulated sugar
1 TBSP cinnamon
4 TBSP softened butter

1/8 cup milk
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2-1 cup powdered sugar

Add flour, salt, and baking powder to a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Cut butter into small pieces and add to bowl. Use a fork (and/or your fingers if needed) to mash the butter into the flour until the dough forms pea-sized crumbles. Mix milk and honey in a measuring cup. Add milk to flour mixture and lightly knead, just until moistened. Form a ball and put in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill.

Heat oven to 450 degrees and spray a metal pie pan with cooking spray.  On a floured cutting board, lightly roll dough out into a rectangle about 12"x18". Mix cinnamon and granulated sugar together. Spread butter over the rectangle and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Roll dough to form an 18" log. Cut into 8 pieces, a little over 2" each.   
Place pieces in pie pan spread apart with the cut side up. Bake 10-12 minutes until the tops are well-browned.
Mix milk, syrup and powdered sugar until smooth. Pour over rolls and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bestest Turkey Ever

(makes enough for about a 15lb turkey)
1 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 TBSP peppercorns
1 bay leaf
5 fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup granulated garlic or 1/8 cup garlic powder
2+2 quarts water
6 cups ice

Mix seasonings and 2 quarts of the water in a stock pot. Heat to boiling and cool. Add 2 quarts cold water and ice. Let stand until cooled.

Rinse thawed turkey and remove neck and giblet pouch. Place in a brining bag inside a large bowl (to prevent spills). Pour liquid over turkey and let stand 12-24 hours.Drain turkey and rinse well. Set in a roaster.

1 stick butter
1 "poultry pack" from the fresh herb section (has about 10 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs rosemary, 1 bunch sage)
2 cloves garlic
zest of 1 lemon (save the rest for later)

Combine butter with herbs and seasoning in a food processor. Pulse until smooth and combined. Rub butter all over the turkey, under the skin and in the cavity. Set aside 4-12 hours.

2 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 small onion
1 small apple
2 clementines or 1/2 an orange
1 lemon (saved from earlier zesting)
bay leaf

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut carrots, celery, onion, apple, and clementine/orange into chunks (about 1" pieces). Place loosely in cavity and around bird in the roasting pan. Squeeze lemon juice over bird and into cavity and place bay leaf inside. Roast 1 hour uncovered.

Reduce temp to 325. Remove turkey and baste with the juices. Continue to baste every hour and roast for about another 3-4 hours until internal temp reads 170 degrees (You may need 4-5 hours for a larger turkey, and 2-3 hours more for a smaller). Once skin becomes brown and crispy, tent with foil or put roaster cover on. Remove from oven and pour (if possible) or spoon the drippings from the pan. Let turkey and drippings stand about 20 minutes.

turkey or chicken stock
salt and pepper

Once the drippings have separated, spoon the fat off the top and into a saucepan. Heat over medium until fat starts to fizzle and add about 1 TBSP flour for each TBSP fat, whisking constantly to make a smooth paste.  Add the rest of the juices whisking to combine, and slowly add broth until gravy reaches desired thinness. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Carve turkey into slices and remove drums and wings. Serve with gravy on the side.

salt and pepper
noodles or pasta

Following dinner, remove any remaining desired meat from the bones and place bones in a large stock pot. Cover with water, add 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to low-medium heat and cook overnight. Refrigerate leftover turkey.

Line a strainer with paper towels and pour stock through. If strained stock is still greasy, repeat straining through a paper towel. Separate stock into 2 halves and refrigerate one for other uses.  Throw bones and debris away.

To remaining stock, add sliced carrots, celery, onions, chopped garlic, 1 tsp coriander, 1/2 tsp curry and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cook until vegetables are tender on medium heat.  Add 1-2 cups leftover turkey (we use the dark meat) and 1-2 cups noodles or pasta.  Turn off from heat and let stand about 20 minutes until noodles are cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once refrigerated stock has cooled, skim any additional fat off the top. Portion into containers and freeze.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk

2 cups baking mix
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Whisk pumpkin, vanilla, eggs, and buttermilk. Add baking mix and pumpkin pie spice and whisk to combine. Batter should be lumpy.

Drop by 1/4 cup onto a hot griddle. Flip once bubbles form.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract
2 eggs

1 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line 48 mini muffin tins. Beat first six (wet) ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth. Mix second 8 (dry) ingredients in separate bowl and add into the wet. Beat on medium speed about 1 minute until smooth. For mini cupcakes, scoop batter into a quart or gallon storage bag and squeeze the air out. Cut one of the bottom corners off about 1/4" in to create a piping bag and squeeze batter into muffin tins (its too hard to do with a spoon!).
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean,  6-8 minutes. Remove from tins and let cool on a baking rack.

1/4 stick butter
4 oz cream cheese (1/2 a block)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3 cups powdered sugar

Let butter and cream cheese soften at room temperature. Whip in a mixing bowl at high speed (I prefer the whisk attachment) until smooth. Add vanilla and whip about 30 seconds to combine. Add cinnamon and 2 cups powdered sugar and whip until sugar and wet mixture are well incorporated. If frosting isn't smooth, add water 1 tsp at a time. If frosting is too soft, add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time. Frosting should form stiff peaks. Scoop frosting into a piping bag or storage bag with the tip cut off and squeeze onto cupcakes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Whole Wheat Maple Pecan Bread

In the early Fall, I wanted to make this bread for my mom and send it up north. As usual, time got away from me until it was too late, but the recipe continued to float around in my brain space. This one is for you Mom.

1 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp yeast (or 1 packet)
2 TBSP milk (warmed to room temp)
2 TBSP vegetable oil (warmed to room temp)
3 TBSP + 1 TBSP real maple syrup
3 TBSP + 1 TBSP raw turbinado or brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup + 1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a warm mixing bowl, combine yeast and water. Add milk, oil, 3TBSP syrup and salt and stir to combine. Add flour and 1/2 cup pecans and knead with dough hook attachment about 10 minutes until dough is smooth and stretchy. Spray dough and bowl with cooking spray and roll around to coat. Set in a warm oven covered with a towel over it(I put the dough in and set 1 minute at 400 to warm the air). Let rise 45 minutes-1 hour until doubled.

Spray loaf pan with cooking spray. With the dough hook, punch down and knead dough for about 5 more minutes. On a floured cutting board, roll dough out into a rectangle, about 10"x18". Drizzle syrup over rectangle and sprinkle 1 TBSP raw sugar and 1/2 cup pecans. Avoid the outer 1" on all sides, and roll lengthwise so that you end up with a 10" loaf. Set loaf in pan and set back in a warm oven for 30-45 minutes until dough has doubled in size (if its cold in the house, give the oven another 1 minute at 400 degrees).

Turn oven to 350 and bake loaf 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Remove from loaf pan and let cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Creamy Salsa Chicken

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
1 can cream of chicken
1 cup salsa
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup black beans
1/2 cup water
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup sour cream

Place chicken in the crock pot and cover with soup, salsa, water, corn and beans. Cook on low 6-8 hours until chicken falls apart.

Right before serving, stir in cheese and sour cream. Serve over rice or noodles.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cinnamon Orange Shortbread

1 c. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 egg
1 1/2 c. white sugar
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1 tsp orange extract
2 3/4 c. white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and extracts.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder cinnamon and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture one cup at a time, mixing well in between each addition. Use at room temperature, do not refrigerate.

Divide dough into 2 halves. Using a well floured flat surface, roll one ball at a time out to 1/8" thickness. Use well floured cookie cutters to form shapes, or use a glass to make circles.

Bake on an ungreased cooke sheet for 5-8 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie. Remove from the oven as soon as the edges begin to lightly brown. Completely cool on rack before decorating or serving.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies depending on size.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grilled Chicken with Beets, Walnuts and Bleu Cheese

5 beets (about 1-2" diameter)
1 lemon
1 tsp + 2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1 grilled chicken breast
2 cups spinach or mixed greens

Peel beets and cut into 1/2" cubes.  Toss with 1 tsp olive oil and zest of the lemon and roast for about 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven until tender.

In a mixing bowl, whisk juice of the lemon and 1 tsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss beets in the dressing.

Thinly slice chicken breast and lay it over the greens. Pour beets and dressing over chicken, and top with walnuts and blue cheese.

Makes 2 side dish or 1 main dish servings.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chicken Curry Sandwiches

1 TBSP curry powder
1 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP coriander
1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
4 thin sliced chicken breasts

1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 TBSP chopped fresh mint
1 TBSP chopped fresh basil
juice of 1 lime wedge
1/2 cucumber, grated

lettuce, tomatoes, rolls

Mix spices together and sprinkle generously all over chicken breasts. Store leftover seasoning mix in an air tight container for a later use. Let stand at least 30 minutes.

Mix yogurt, herbs, cucumber and lime juice and set aside in fridge.

Heat 1 TBSP cooking oil in a large saute pan or skillet over high heat. Once oil ripples, add chicken and cook until both sides are well browned, about 5-10 minutes per side depending on thickness.

On a pita, kaiser, or thick toasted bread, stack lettuce, tomato slices, and chicken. Top with yogurt sauce. This is a great sandwich to serve with some oven fries.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mom's Mom's Favorite Chowder

As a kid, I remember my mom looking all over the market for her favorite clam chowder, the tomato-based Manhattan style. She never was a fan of thick creamed soups, so the New England style just didn't do it for her.

After a rough "this just isn't fair she is gone" day yesterday, this morning I woke up remembering that when I was an unruly teen she would always say "You think this isn't fair, LIFE isn't fair". So I dragged my hind out of bed and dusted myself off and decided to fill a crock pot with her favorite soup. My only regret is I never made a pot for her.

1 can chopped clams with juice
1 8oz bottle clam juice
4 cups ham stock (veggie or chicken will do if you don't have it)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4-5 medium potatoes, diced into about 1/2" cubes
1 large carrots, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, thin sliced
1 jalapeno (ribs and seeds removed if you like it mild)
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes with juice
1 TBSP tomato paste
dash Tabasco sauce
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Throw everything in the crock pot and let cook 6-10 hours on high (depending on how hot your crock gets). Taste before serving and adjust salt and pepper.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Shephard's Pie

Bottom Layer:

1/2 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
3/4-1lb ground beef, turkey, or chicken
1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP flour
1 cup beef stock OR 1 beef bouillon cube or 1 tsp powdered bouillon with 1 cup water
dash Worcestershire
dash Dijon mustard

Middle Layer:
1 bag frozen vegetables (mixed, corn, peas)
1 cup shredded cheese
1/2 tsp dried dill

1/2 tsp dried dill
1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup and 1/4 cup shredded cheese

salt and pepper

Cover potatoes with 1" water and bring to a boil. Cook about 15-20 minutes until fork tender.

While potatoes are cooking, heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a glass casserole or baking dish.

In a skillet sprayed with cooking spray, brown onions and garlic. Add meat and cook until browned, breaking into crumbles. Add meat to the casserole dish and add butter to skillet. Once butter is melted, sprinkle flour and whisk to form a paste. Add beef stock, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and whisk constantly until it comes to a boil and thickens. Pour gravy over meat and onions.

Lay vegetables over meat and gravy.

Once potatoes are done, drain water and mash with buttermilk, 1/2 cup cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread potatoes over the vegetables and top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.

Bake about 30 minutes until the top is crusted and brown.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chicken Pesto Pizza

1 cup of warm water
2 1/4 tsp yeast
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup white bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 TBSP flax seeds

1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried basil

1 cup sliced grilled chicken (try my juicy grilled chicken)
1/2 cup pesto sauce (try my Spicy Fall Pesto)
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup shredded parmesan

Add all ingredients for the dough to a warm mixing bowl. Mix until combined and the dough is sticky and clings together (in the mixer it will all cling to the dough hook and clean the sides of the bowl). Knead for 10 minutes. Spray the ball of dough with cooking spray and turn so it is all coated. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and stick in the oven. Heat the oven to 400 degrees for 1 minute ONLY and shut the oven off. Let the dough rise for 1 hour.
Put mixer bowl back on the mixer and knead (or punch the dough down) for 2 minutes. Roll out on a floured cutting board (Flatten/shape the dough ball into circle, and roll it out to the thickness you like OR form a rectangle and place in a 13x9 baking pan, then press out on bottom to form a deep dish crust). Bake the dough in the oven for 3-5 minutes on 425 degrees, depending on how crunchy you like you crust to be (skip this altogether if you like a doughy crust).

In a blender or food processor, combine the sauce ingredients until smooth. Spread the sauce evenly over the crust.

Combine grilled chicken and pesto sauce. Distribute over sauce and top with broccoli and cheeses. Bake 15-20 minutes until cheese melted and toasty.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Margarita Chicken

Looking for something different for your salad or tacos? Try this sweet and tangy twist on everyday grilled chicken.

1 lb chicken breast or tenders
1 lime, zest and juice
1/8 cup tequila
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp coriander
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tsp honey

Whisk together all but chicken in a glass bowl or measuring cup. Rinse and dry chicken and remove any extra fat. Pour marinade over chicken and marinade at least 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours.

This is also a great marinade to pour over chicken before you are freezing. That way when you are ready to use it, it will thaw in the marinade and absorb the flavors.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Quinoa Salad

1 cup Quinoa
olive oil

1 cup pumpkin, 1/2" cubes
5 garlic cloves
1 small onion, thinly sliced (about 2" diameter)
3 sage leaves, finely chopped

salt and pepper
pinch nutmeg
1 handful chopped parsley
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup toasted pecans

Rinse quinoa well until water runs clear. Add quinoa to a rice cooker with 2 cups of water. Cook about 20 minutes until liquid absorbed and fluff quinoa with a fork. Set aside in serving bowl.

While quinoa is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. When it starts to ripple, add pumpkin and garlic cloves and saute until browned on all sides. Remove from skillet to serving bowl and add a little more oil to skillet if needed. Add onions and sage leaves and cook until onions are well browned. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add onions to quinoa and pumpkin.

Grate the orange and squeeze juice over serving bowl. Add parsley, craisins, and pecans and toss well. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving for the flavors to combine.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spicy Fall Pesto

2  large handfuls cinnamon basil
1/4 cup walnuts
1/8-1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 clove garlic, grated
grated nutmeg (pinch to taste)
salt and pepper
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Add basil, walnuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese to food processor and rough chop. Begin to slowly stream in oil while running processor at low speed until pesto blends together. Adjust salt and pepper as needed.

This is great with chicken, fish, vegetables, or on pasta.

Harvest Soup

This soup is thick and rich without the butter or cream. A blend of my favorite fall vegetables makes this a warm, hearty, yet healthy choice.

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (about 1")
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 1")
1 small pie pumpkin, peeled and cubed (about 1")
1 small onion, peeled and cubed (about 1")
1 apple, peeled and sliced
1 orange, zest and juice
3 parnsips, peeled and sliced  (or carrots if they are too pricey)
3 celery stalks, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
6 sage leave leaves, chopped
1" piece ginger root, grated (or 1 tsp dried ginger)
1/2 whole nutmeg nut, grated (or 1/2 tsp dried)
2 cups cloudy apple cider
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Add all ingredients to a crock pot and cook 6-10 hours on high (depending on how fast your crock cooks). Puree until smooth and creamy with an immersion blender and taste to adjust spices. Makes about 12-14 side dish servings.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cranberry Orange Muffins

1 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 TBSP baking powder
1 orange zest grated, juiced
2 egg whites
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup fresh/frozen cranberries

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 6- 3" muffin cups with cooking spray for large muffins, or 12- 2 1/2" cups for small.

In large bowl mix flours, sugar, baking powder and orange rind. Make a hole in the center of the dry mix.

In a small bowl, whip whites until foamy, then add in buttermilk, applesauce, orange juice and vanilla and mix until blended.

Add wet mix into the well in the middle of the dry mix and gently stir until just moistened. Fold in cranberries.

Spoon the batter into cups and bake 22-25 minutes for large, 18-20 minutes for small. Use a toothpick in the center of the muffin to make sure they are done and cool 5 minutes on a wire rack before eating.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Yankee Girl's Pot Roast

Today is our first cool Fall day here in North Texas-woohoo! I made this meal a couple Sundays ago and it is the ideal Fall Family Dinner. If you don't have a couple hours to braise a roast during the week, you can also do it the night before and have it reheated the next night. Believe it or not, the leftovers are even better than the first time.

2-3 lb beef roast
MDP's seasoning
vegetable oil
1 large onion (about 3")
3 large celery stalks (about 10" long w/ leafy tops)
3 large garlic cloves (about 1")
3 large carrots (about 1" diameter, 8" long)
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef broth
1 cup red wine
1 TBSP dijon mustard
2 large potatoes (about 2" diameter, 4" long)
1 cup butternut squash, cut into 1/2" cubes)

Sprinkle roast with MDP's seasoning and rub into all surfaces. Heat a roasting pan or large dutch oven (that can go in oven) on high heat. Add 1 TBSP oil to pan and add roast once oil begins to ripple. Let meat sit about 5 minutes until deep brown and carmelized. If pan gets too hot, reduce heat to medium. Repeat until all sides are browned. Remove meat from pan.

Add another TBSP of oil to pan if needed to cook vegetables. Add vegetables and bay leaf and cook about 5 minutes until brown and translucent. Remove vegetables from pan.

Add beef broth, wine, and mustard. Whisk well to deglaze the pan (remove all the brown bits off the bottom). Add the meat back to the pan and cover with vegetables.

Cover tightly and cook 90 minutes at 325 degrees. Remove from oven and spoon juices over meat and vegetables, then take out as much of the juices as you can.Thin slice potatoes (I use a mandoline) and spread around the meat. Scatter butternut squash cubes over the potatoes. Pour juices over everything. Recover and cook another 90 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit at least 15 minutes. Remove meat from pan and cut into 1/4" slices. Return to pan and spoon juices over the meat. Serve with vegetables and a roll, biscuit, or crusty bread to sop the juices.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Make a Better (for you) Grilled Cheese

There is something wonderful about a warm melty grilled cheese sandwich. While they have a bad wrap for not being that great for you, they don't have to be.

Per 2 sandwiches:

4 slices whole grain/whole wheat bread
2-4 slices of your favorite cheese (thin sliced if possible), or 1/4 cup shredded/crumbled
2 thin slices tomato or about 1/4 cup roasted red peppers (drained)
1 egg
1/2 tsp mustard
optional: 2 slices low-sodium ham or turkey, torn into thin strips

Beat egg and mustard in a small bowl. Assemble sandwiches (bread, cheese, veggies, meat, bread) and dip in the beaten egg mixture. Don't let them sit too long or they will be soggy. If you really need butter in your grilled cheese, spray or spread a little on the INSIDES of the sandwich.

Heat an indoor electric grill (like a George Forman) sprayed with cooking spray and cook sandwich until golden brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes.

By dipping the sandwich in egg instead of smearing butter on both outer sides of bread, your sandwich has a little protein instead of just fat. The mustard gives it a nice little kick too.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Creamy Buffalo Chicken Dip

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup hot sauce
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
1 cup shredded chicken
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/2 cup thin sliced celerry
1/4 cup shredded carrot

Corn or tortilla chips
Thinly sliced green onions, optional

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, hot pepper sauce and salad dressing. Stir in chicken.

Spread into an ungreased glass pie dish. Sprinkle with blue cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20-22 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with celery and carrots. Serve with chips or crackers.

Friday, October 14, 2011

At-Home Takeout: General's Shrimp

Tso? Tsao? I dunno, but its good! I have been a fan of take-out Chinese for as long as I can remember but thanks to our Money Diet its off limits. Check out this dish I whipped up to cure my craving and use our veggies.
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled with tails removed
1 beaten egg
1 TBSP cornstarch (maybe a little more)

6 cups mixed vegetables, cut into bite size pieces (broccoli, squashes, onions, peppers, cabbage, carrots, etc)

1 dried mild chili
1 cup water
2 large garlic cloves
1"x1" chunk fresh ginger
4 TBSP soy sauce
4 TBSP vinegar
1 TBSP honey or agave nectar

Place chili in a small saucepan with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, finely grated.

Heat about 1" of vegetable oil on medium heat in the bottom of a large saucepan. I prefer one about 8-10" high to prevent splatter. Mix shrimp, cornstarch, and egg together. Increase cornstarch if batter seems to runny, or a little water if it seems too pasty. Once oil begins to ripple, drop one shrimp at a time into the hot oil. Be very careful for the splatter, and try not to drop one shrimp on top of another. Cook about 5 minutes until golden brown and remove to a plate lined with a paper towel (I did 3 batches).

Meanwhile, heat about 1 TBSP oil in a wok or large skillet. Add half of the veggies and saute until outside browned, but they are still crispy. Try to stir as little as possible so they don't get mushy. Remove half the veggies to a large serving bowl and  saute the other half. Add second half of veggies to serving bowl.

 Add soy and vinegar to the reconstituted chili. Puree in the blender or food processor until smooth. Add to empty wok on low heat. Add fried shrimp to sauce and toss to combine. Cook about 1 minute to let sauce soak in. Pour shrimp and sauce over the veggies.

Sugar-Free Strawberry Daquiri

2 cups frozen strawberries
2 cups ice
2 limes
1/4-1/2 cup Splenda or other 0 cal sweetener
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rum

Place all ingredients in a blender and whiz it up until its smooth and all ice chunks have melted. If its sticking, add a tad more water. Take a small taste and adjust sweetener if needed.

Makes 2 generous servings.

Zucchini Pancakes with Honey Nut Butter

1 small (about 1" diameter, 5-6"long) zucchini, shredded
1 1/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 TBSP milled flax seed
1 TBSP Splenda
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 TBSP butter or margarine, softened
1 TBSP raw honey
1 TBSP chopped walnuts or pecans

Heat a skillet or griddle on medium heat. Mix zucchini and wet ingredients together. Add in dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Spray pan with cooking spray right before pouring pancakes. Pour by 1/2 cup dropfuls onto pan. Cook until bubbly, flip and cook another 3-5 minutes until both sides are well-browned.

In a small food processor, whip butter, honey, and nuts together.
Spread 1 tsp of honey butter on each cake. Makes 6 large 1-serving cakes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spooky Snacks

Often, we have a Halloween party or at least just a few friends over for pre-trick-or-treating dinner. Check out my favorite bites for your Halloween Happenings.

These go WAY back, don't have a recipe per se. Just some cupcakes with vanilla frosting colored purple and orange, and a little candy to decorate :)
The spiders have chocolate jimmies(sprinkles) and black licorice legs. The pumpkins have green licorice bits and spearmint leaf leaves.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pumpkin Mocha Almond Coffee Creamer

3 TBSP pumpkin puree
1 TBSP cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
dash nutmeg (optional)
1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup half and half
sweetener of choice (I don't take sweetener in my coffe but prefer 1 TBSP agave. Base this on how much sugar you normally take, about 1 TBSP per tsp you would put in a coffee.)

Combine ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk well until combined and stir avoid to avoid scalding. Heat just until bubbles begin to form at the edges and remove from burner.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My Favorite Comfort Food Recipes

I'm sure there are some I am missing, but here are tons of my favorite comfort food recipes I have posted over the last year. What better time than Fall for warm, hearty homemade dishes?!? Get your sweats on and start cookin'.

Need a side dish to go with one of the entrees above, see them all in one place here:
and don't forget dessert

Friday, October 7, 2011

Monkey Bars

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup raw (turbinado) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ripe banana
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x9 inch baking pan.

In mixer bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in eggs and banana. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl and gradually add into mixing bowl until well blended. Pour into baking pan.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.

4 TBSP softened butter
1/2-2 c powdered sugar
1/4-1 c creamy peanut butter

In a medium bowl, whisk the butter and 1/2 c. sugar until it resembles..... frosting. You may need to keep adding a little sugar at a time until it comes to the right consistency, and you have to put a strong fast whisk into it (or cheat and use the Kitchenaid with the whisk attachment).

Once the butter/sugar is frostified, add in 1/4 peanut butter and whisk it in to incorporate. Keep adding until it has the taste that you want, if it gets too soft add a little sugar at a time until its stiff and holds it shape.

Frost the bars and cut into squares.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Smoothie Sailing!

If you follow my facebook page or read my sister blog about my life outside the kitchen, you have probably seen the "31 Days to Healthier Kids" tips lately. Day 3 was to feed them breakfast, like smoothies with milk, banana, and peanut butter. I could not agree with this more, and for years have been making smoothies for breakfasts and snacks. I have a single serving blender in my desk at work, or we make a full-size blender at home if we are all sharing. As you know, I am huge into making everything yourself from whole ingredients, but sometimes the pre-packaged, just-add milk variety is just plain more convenient and cheaper than the drive-thru at the local fast-food spot or Smoothie Shop.

My Old Standby Smoothie
Fill blender of choice half way with chunks of frozen fruit (bananas, berries, peaches, melon). Add in about 1 TBSP of fat-free plain or vanilla yogurt PER SERVING (about 4 for a full-size blender).  Pour in milk (cow, soy, unsweetened almond) to cover fruit. Blend on high until smoothified. Plain yogurt will make a more tart smoothie, vanilla will be a little sweeter. If it is too bland for you, add a little honey to sweeten.

Quick and Easy Smoothie's To Go
Recently, Yoplait sent me a free Chocolate Banana Smoothie through the My Blog Spark program hoping I might write about it.  While skeptical, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised with the product. It was much easier to bring to work than individual ingredients, and technically makes 2-1 cup servings (but I had the whole thing as a quick breakfast). It was delicious, and it will be even better next time I make it and throw in a tablespoon of peanut butter. You can also throw in a scoop of protein powder. It is also perfect to split at home between my 2 kids, and to them its just a milkshake. Wanna try one?

Comment below, on facebook, or e-mail me at by 10/15 when I will hold a drawing for a prize pack from Yoplait** including:
                 * A VIP coupon for a sample of Yoplait Chocolate Banana Smoothie
                 * Neck pillow
                 * Smoothie tumbler
                 * Lavender eye mask

Don't want to wait? You can get a coupon for a $1.00 off coupon here.  

However you choose to acquire your smoothies, it is a delicious way to get your calcium and fruit!

Want more info from Yoplait about their smoothies? Check out . You can also check them out on facebook and get coupons thru their fan page.
** Disclosure: The Yoplait® VIP Coupon, information, and giveaway have been provided by Yoplait through MyBlogSpark.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Thai Meatball Chow Mein

1 lb ground meat
dash of siracha or hot sauce
1 TBSP soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, grated
1" piece ginger root, grated
2 TBSP chopped basil
1 beaten egg
1 cup crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, finely chopped

2 onions, halved and thick sliced
5-6 stalks celery w/ tops, sliced on a diagonal
2 large carrots, shredded
1 lime
3 TBSP soy sauce

crispy Chinese noodles
sesame oil

Preheat broiler on low setting. Mix first 9 ingredients together and form into 1/2-1" meatballs ...I meant to do smaller ones, but was rushing to get dinner on the table so went with larger ones.

Heat wok or large saute pan on high heat. Add 2 TBSP cooking oil. Once oil ripples, add onions and celery. Cook about 5 minutes without stirring. Sprinkle with salt and stir. Turn meatballs over.

Once onions begin to wilt, add carrots and the zest of the lime. Stir well to incorporate vegetables together and cook another 5 minutes.  Turn broiler up to high.

Squeeze lime juice and add soy sauce to vegetables. Remove meatballs from broiler and add to vegetables. Stir well to coat meatballs and serve over noodles with a light drizzle of sesame oil.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Quick Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

2 cups cooked chicken breast, cubed
2 cups cooked broccoli, chopped
1 cup brown rice
1 can cream of something soup
1 cup shredded cheese

Mix chicken, broccoli, rice, soup and half of the cheese together and pour into a greased casserole dish.  Top with the other half of the cheese, and bake in a 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spinach Risotto

This rich creamy dish is full of vegetables and can serve as a starch and vegetable exchange.

2 TBSP butter
1 TBSP extra virgin oil oil
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup arborio rice
4 cups vegetable stock
1 box frozen spinach
4 oz feta cheese (about 1 cup crumbled)
1 oz parmesan cheese, shredded
1 tomato, diced

Heat broth in a saucepan to a gentle boil and reduce heat to low.
Defrost spinach in microwave its package for 10 minutes. Wring out in a clean kitchen towel and add to the last cup of stock. Stir in well to break spinach up.

In a skillet over high heat, melt butter and oil and add garlic and onion. Cook about 10 minutes until browned. Add rice and gently toast.

Add 2 cups of the stock to the rice mixture, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring often. As the liquid evaporates, add more stock about 1/2 cup at a time, ending with the last cup of spinach stock.

Add crumbled feta, Parmesan, diced tomato and salt and pepper to taste. I put a pinch of nutmeg into any dish with greens for added warmth. Cook until all liquid dissolved.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Goodies from the Pumpkin Patch

This time of year I find myself putting pumpkin in E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Seriously. Check out some of my favorites so far, more to come I'm sure. I stock up on canned solid pack pumpkin when its on sale so we have it all year, and during the fall I buy a few pie pumpkins that I mash up for immediate use. Either way, pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A, potassium and fiber...and who doesn't love that color.

Pumpkin Waffles
Pumpkin Spice Muffins
Fall French Toast Bake

Pumpkin Polenta
Pumpkin Ancho Chili
Pumpkin Grilled Cheese (perfect kid food)
Baked Sausage Spinach and Pumpkin Ziti
Roasted Fall Veggies
Halloween Black Bean Soup

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Bread
DIY: Pumpkin Pie Spice
Pumpkin Sesame Vinaigrette
Pumpkin Pie Latte Creamer
Pumpkin Mocha Almond Coffee Creamer

Looks like I better start cooking up some pumpkin desserts! Stay tuned ....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pizza Chicken

4 chicken breasts
MDP's Italian Spice Blend
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup pizza sauce
pepperoni slices
1 cup mozzarella cheese
grated parmesan
favorite veggie toppings: peppers**, onions**, mushrooms**, olives, chopped broccoli**, tomato slices, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, etc

** Thin sliced and precooked. I place in a glass bowl with a saucer as a lid and microwave chopped veggies about 2 minutes to soften.

Butterfly chicken breasts and pound out to make sure they are even thickness. How do I do that? Video link here :)

Drizzle olive oil over chicken breasts and toss them around to make sure they are all coated. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with a little MDP's Italian Spice Blend. Grill chicken breasts on an outdoor grill, grill pan, or under the broiler.

Preheat broiler to low.

Place cooked chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Spread chicken with pizza sauce, then top with pepperoni slices, veggies, and parmesan and mozzarella. Broil about 5 minutes until cheese has melted and browned to your liking.

This is delicious alongside caesar or garden salad for a low carb dinner, or with a side of pasta tossed in low-fat alfredo and topped with diced tomatoes and chopped flat leaf parsley if you want to live it up a little.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

1 stick softened butter
1 8oz block softened cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
zest from 1 lemon
4-6 cups powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl, whip butter, cream cheese, and extracts at high speed. Add lemon zest and combine, and then begin to add sugar 1 cup at a time, beating well in between to incorporate until frosting reaches the desired consistency.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

All About Apples

Our Last Apple Picking Trip in New England

As I get ready to celebrate Fall, I wanted to highlight all of my apple recipes up to date. Though I know being this time of year, there might be quite a few more new ones before the season is over.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
Apple Cinnamon Millet
MDP's Standby Coffee Cake
Apple Carrot Muffins
Oven French Toast
Apple Pie Muffins

Lunch or Dinner
Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole
Blue Cheese Apple Salad
Sweet Potato Soup
Leftover Bread Stuffing

Cinnamon Applesauce
Apple Crisp

Nathan eating a book about apples ;)

How did I forget Apple Pie you ask??? I don't have a specific recipe worth writing. I fill my pie crust with apples, squeeze a lemon over them and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Just a little sugar, since I'm not into things too sweet, and then I cover with either a second crust or a crumble like you would put on Apple Crisp. Then I cover with a scoop of my Walnut Spice Ice Cream. MMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Ok you got me, they are really called Popsicles. But when I first started making these, Nathan called them popstiggles and it sort of stuck in my house. They are my go-to way for using up leftover fruit or yogurt before it goes bad!

You will need some kind of Popsicle tray to make them. I actually have two, a classic old school mold that my mother-in-law gave me, and a dollar store version. Anything works.

With your overripe fruit, make a puree in the blender. Use fruit juice, a little at a time, to help make puree smooth if needed. You can either add the yogurt into the puree and blend, or layer yogurt and fruit puree in the molds. Freeze overnight.

You can use all kinds of things for the base, yogurt smoothie juice blends, pudding, jellow...I once used my leftover homemade cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving layered with fat free vanilla yogurt. Perfect combo!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rigatoni Bolognese (Meat Sauce)

1/2 box whole wheat rigatoni or ziti
2 TBSP  olive oil
bay leaf
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 lb ground meat (beef, pork, chicken, veal)
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup pureed pumpkin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
pinch allspice
salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat until it ripples. Add bay leaf, onions and garlic and saute until soft. Add celery and carrot and  cook until soft. Add meat and cook until brown throughout. Using pan lid or strainer, drain any grease and return to pan.

Add tomatoes, pumpkin, seasoning and 1/2 cup of water or stock. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Simmer 30 minutes and toss with cooked pasta. Top with grated parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pumpkin Sesame Vinaigrette

1 clove garlic 2 TBSP pureed pumpkin
2 TBSP honey
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
2 TBSP coarse ground mustard
2 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP toasted sesame oil
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch nutmeg dried or fresh grated

In a mixing bowl, grate garlic into a paste. Add pumpkin, honey, mustard and oil and whisk to emulsify. Slowly whisk in vinegar and spices.

Delicious drizzled over a salad of arugula, dried cranberries, toasted nuts and blue cheese.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cajun Chicken French Bread Pizza

1 regular size loaf French Bread (whole wheat if available)
1 boneless chicken breast (or 2 halves)
1 TBSP olive oil
2 medium onions
2 cups mozzarella
1 tomato, diced
1 cup Alfredo sauce

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut french bread in half lengthwise as if you were making a large sub and set both halves onto a baking sheet. Toast until crispy and set aside.

Thinly slice onions with a mandolin. Heat skillet on high heat, and add 1/2 TBSP of olive oil. Add onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook until deep brown and charred. Spread onions on toasted french bread.

Thinly slice chicken breast into strips and  season with MDP's Seasoning and an extra pinch of cayenne.  In a skillet, heat 1/2 TBSP of olive oil and add chicken. Saute until cooked through. Add Alfredo sauce and stir until heated through. Pour chicken mixture over each half of french bread.

Top with diced tomatoes and mozzarella. Bake another 10-15 minutes until cheese melted and golden.

** Try this with my easy low-fat Alfredo sauce!