April 30, 2011

Something To Look Forward To...

We're back from our weekend B & B trip!

It was lovely.

I'll share more tomorrow. :)

April 27, 2011

Shrimp, Feta Mac and Cheese

With the pasta connoisseur that I am, I can't believe there are only four pasta recipes on this blog. I'm a failure. I must rectify this immediately!

I think the problem is, most of the time I don't follow a recipe when I'm throwing together a pasta dish. Take what we had on Monday night for example.

I cubed up what was left of our roast chicken, sauteed some asparagus, mushrooms, and tomatoes, and threw in some bacon. And of course, I grated some mozzarella cheese. Done. So simple, so easy. My favorite way to make pasta on a weekday.

But today I'm sharing with you a more involved pasta dish. For when you feel like taking the time to make a sauce from scratch and indulge in an epic creation.  

I've made this several times since discovering it on Annie's blog. It has a perfect blend of cheeses, at least, with the ones I use. Gruyere cheese is not in my budget. Sadly. I use frozen pre-cooked shrimp that I warm up quickly in a skillet, pecorino romano cheese, parmesan cheese, and half a cup of peas. I love the crunchy topping made up of panko bread crumbs and feta cheese (did I forget to mention that, there's a third cheese). I've included the original recipe below, as it is wonderful as is. I just tweak it a little bit!

Source: Annie's Eats

1 lb. pasta shapes
1 lb. raw shrimp (31-40 ct.), peeled and deveined, cut in half (if desired)
10 oz. feta cheese, crumbled and divided
Zest of 1 lemon, divided
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped, divided
5 tbsp. butter, divided
4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
2 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook the pasta until al dente according to the package directions. Drain well; set aside.  Add the raw shrimp to the warm pasta and toss together.  The heat from the pasta will partially cook the shrimp.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  In a small bowl, combine a handful of the feta, a pinch of the lemon zest, the panko, 2 teaspoons of the parsley and 1 tablespoon of the butter, melted.  Toss with a fork to combine; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour  to form a paste.  Cook 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly, until light golden brown.  Whisk in the milk.  Continue to heat the mixture, stirring frequently, until it bubbles and thickens, about 5 minutes.  As soon as the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining feta, Gruyere, remaining parsley, remaining lemon zest, dill, salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture over the pasta and shrimp; toss well to coat.

Transfer the mixture to a lightly greased 2½ or 3-quart baking dish.  Sprinkle the breadcrumb-feta mixture evenly over the top.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbling.  Remove from the oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

By the way, the hubby took his exam yesterday! Yayyyy!!! He's feeling okay about it, very glad to have gotten it out of the way. We've been spending the day together- enjoyed breakfast at a fabulous place and watched Water for Elephants (!). Love having a day off in the middle of the week! Hope you're having a wonderful Wednesday. :)

April 25, 2011

I'd Like to Make...

It's been awhile since I've done one of these posts. Even with all the food I ate yesterday, I am craving all sorts of new things.

 These remind me of the Samoa bars I made nearly every week last summer. With summer around the corner (hopefully), these bars would be a perfect thing to try.

Oh, yes. I love me some risotto. I've only made lemon risotto, I really want to try this one out!

Have I told you that I've started drinking tea?? It's a new discovery. These cookies would be perfect with a cup!

Okay seriously, when have you ever seen a creation like this! Insane, I tell you, but brilliant.

I adore the pink frosting, but this cake looks divine! I've got a birthday coming up...

Another treat I want to make in the summer. I think it would be perfect at a barbecue. 

I realize there is a lack of dinner/actual food/substance material. But what can I say, I am a sucker for sweets. My dentist hates me. What have you bookmarked lately? 

Menu Plan Monday & Our Easter Dinner

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am for this week. One more day. Just one more day and the hubby will take the Step 1 board exam. We should throw a party.

We'll have weekends back, which really means we'll have ample time to sit on the couch, watch movies, and eat ice cream. Yes. We really are that boring. However, this weekend is going to be action packed! We might head over to Lake Michigan and spend the day there. Not that we'll be going in the water or anything. It's freezing. But it will be great to get out of the house and do some exploring. And eating. :)

Anywho, how was your Easter/weekend? Ours was lovely. Partied on Saturday (really, our friend had a party!) and stayed home yesterday. All the windows were open we spent time out on the patio. It was a beautiful day. Apparently Michigan does understand it is Spring. On occasion. For our Easter dinner (also known as the best dinner ever)

I roasted a chicken (!!), made scalloped potatoes, and asparagus. It's on the menu for the week as we have plenty of leftovers. Here's the rest of our menu: 

Roast Chicken with Scalloped Potatoes & Lemon Asparagus
Penne with Chicken, Asparagus, and Bacon
Slow Cooker Orange Chicken/Pulled Pork Sandwiches (whichever we're in the mood for)
Marsala Burgers

Have a fantastic week!

April 24, 2011

Best. Dinner. Ever.

That is all.

Slow Cooker Orange Chicken

I'm having a love affair with our crock pot.

I think the hubby is too.

Is it possible to have an affair with the same object... because we are. 

I didn't register for a crock pot when we got married. I didn't think I'd ever use it. Until I moved to Michigan. Suddenly it seemed like a necessity. There's something about cooking up a huge pot of soup in the crock pot on a cold winter day. So I asked for one last Christmas and my parents got me one. I was excited, dreaming about pork roasts and chicken tortilla soup. But there is so much more to it than that.

I'm still a crock pot newbie and don't use it very often, but when I do, the results are amazing (as you can see here and here). The crock pot saves you time, money, effort, sanity...all at the turn of a knob. That's pretty freaking impressive. I wish it could do the dishes.

And here we have orange chicken- a new favorite in our house. Grab a jar of orange marmalade and some barbecue sauce. Got some soy sauce? You're going to need that too. And some flour, gingerroot, and 4-6 chicken thighs. Dump it all into your crock pot. You're good to go. 

Source: Kraft Food & Family

4-6 small boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 Tbsp. flour
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp grated fresh gingerroot (I used dried)

Toss chicken with flour in slow cooker. Stir in all remaining ingredients; cover with lid. Cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours. Dinner is served.

Share with me your crock pot recipes. I want to try more!

April 21, 2011

Delightfully Chewy Brownies + Giveaway Winner!!!!

I've shared two dinners with you this week, now it's time for dessert!

My love for the classics continue. I love a good brownie, and sometimes, it's best in its simplest form. No frosting or crazy toppings. Not that I'm knocking those fancy creations- I love them too!

I'm really glad I picked this brownie recipe to try. It's my current favorite to date. They're chewy, fudgy, and have enough chocolate to satisfy any chocoholic. If I had no self control, I'd eat four in a row. They're so good.

Source: Cook's Illustrated

1/3cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso (optional)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
ounces unsweetened chocolate , finely chopped (see note and related illustration)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , melted
1/2cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 3/4cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4teaspoon table salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate , cut into 1/2-inch pieces (see note)

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Referring to directions in Making a Foil Sling (related), make sling using the following steps: Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of pan in the same manner, perpendicular to the first sheet (if using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width). Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk cocoa, espresso powder (if using), and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.


And now we've come to the real reason you're reading this post (the brownies weren't enough? :))- to announce the winner of my 1st giveaway!!!  

True Random 
Number Generator
1 30  

I couldn't figure out how to copy and paste the html code for the random generator, so I copied the result. I only counted once per commenter. Therefore, there were 30 entries in all.

Congratulations Meghan from Cupcakes with Sprinkles!!!!
You've won a batch of chocolate chip cookies!! Please contact me with your mailing address so I can send you your cookies right away!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered my giveaway and for becoming a follower (if you did!). I hope to have plenty more giveaways in the future! I have never been so excited about my blog before, it is such an amazing feeling!! I hope you will continue to come back and we can all be good blog friends! :) Cheers!

April 20, 2011

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

It seems to be a pork-y kind of week. Do you remember when I shared the secret of how to get your man to do whatever you wanted?

Well, my friends, I've found another way.

I'm very proud, you see, because this was my first time making pulled pork. I searched high and low for a good recipe. I found hundreds; there is definitely no shortage in the blog world, but I am SO glad I choose this one. I can't imagine making it any better (but if you've got one, tell me, I wanna try it)!

The hubbs could not stop talking about these sandwiches. He told everyone he knew about them, his mom, his dad, his grandma, his friends... He fell in love. With a sandwich.

Normally he isn't one to over stuff himself. Not in this case. He was so full, I practically had to carry him to the couch. I was only able to eat one despite its deliciousness. They are so filling!

So if you're looking for some favors, I'd suggest making these. No man will be able to say no. :)

Source: Delish.com

1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cups ketchup
1/3 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cups tomato paste
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 pounds boneless pork shoulder blade roast (fresh pork butt), cut into 4 pieces
12  soft sandwich buns or ciabatta rolls, warmed

In 4 1/2- to 6-quart slow-cooker pot, stir onion, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, tomato paste, paprika, Worcestershire, mustard, salt, and pepper until combined. Add pork to sauce mixture and turn to coat well with sauce. Cover slow cooker with lid and cook pork mixture on low setting as manufacturer directs, 8 to 10 hours or until pork is very tender.

With tongs, transfer pork to large bowl (I didn't have to do this, as soon as I picked it up the meat fell apart!). Turn setting on slow cooker to high; cover and heat sauce to boiling to thicken and reduce slightly.While sauce boils, with 2 forks, pull pork into shreds. Return shredded pork to slow cooker and toss with sauce to combine. Cover slow cooker and heat through on high setting if necessary. Spoon pork mixture onto bottom of sandwich buns; replace tops of buns. Eat immediately!

Thanks to all who've entered my giveaway!! If you haven't entered yet, there's still time, today's the last day!  Good luck!!

April 18, 2011

Menu Plan Monday + My 1st Giveaway!!!

I've surpassed 100 posts without even realizing it! I was going to do the whole giveaway thing when I reached my 100th post, but since I have a huge back load of posts from my Spring Break endeavors I lost track of the number of posts. This post is the 103rd! So I'm calling this The Giveaway of the 103rd Post!


So what are you getting?

You may have your choice of:

These cookies are will remind you of the ones your grandmother used to make.

The perfect spring cookie- super buttery, sugary, and lemony.

A classic that will never go out of style.

One lucky winner will receive a batch of cookies of their choosing. 
Here's how to enter: 

1. Leave me a comment telling me which cookies you'd like to try!

2. I'd also love it if you'd follow this blog (if you don't already), and follow me on Twitter (I just got one!). But its not a requirement, it just might be easier for you to know if you've won the giveaway... :)

3. Tell all your friends about me! Yeah!

The last day to enter the giveaway will be on Wednesday, April 20th. The winner will be chosen using random.org and will be announced on Thursday, April 21st. I will bake the cookies and send them to you asap! Yayy, good luck!! Happy commenting!

Oh yes and it is Menu Plan Monday. Let's get down to business here, shall we?

Tomato & Sausage Pasta Bake
BBQ Chicken Pizza
Orange Marmalade Chicken & Lemon Risotto
Turkey Burgers
Broiled Salmon with Garlic, Mustard, and Herbs
Chicken Lemon Alfredo

Have a great week! Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

April 17, 2011

Buttermilk Parmesan Pork Chops

I don't have words to tell you how amazing these pork chops are. I don't even really like pork chops. They always come out dry. Or hard. Or tasteless. I've tried to make them in many different ways, but never like this. I can't stop thinking about them. I want to have them for dinner every day.

I'm not alone in my obsession. The hubbs has lost his mind as well. We've got a serious case of porkchopitis. 

Can't you see why?!! They have a crispy coating. There is cheese in the coating. There is cheese on top of the coating. They are moist. Flavorful. Powerful. The ruler of all pork chops.

The secret has to be in the buttermilk. The chops hang out in a marinade of buttermilk for about two hours. Overnight if you want. You know I don't have the patience for that. I never use buttermilk so instead of buying a jug I found the greatest substitution known to man for buttermilk (did you know about this, where have I been!) :a cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemon. Voila! Buttermilk. Amazing.

You might see this on the menu for quite some time...

Source: How Sweet It Is (Jessica is a genius, have you been to her blog?)

4 thin-sliced, boneless center cut pork chops
2 cups low-fat buttermilk
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese + a little more for garnish
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chicken stock

Tenderize and trim fat from pork chops if you’d like.Add pork chops to a baking dish and pour buttermilk over top. Soak for at least 2 ours, or over night. Remove pork chops from fridge 30 minutes before you plan to make them. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a bowl, combine panko, flour, salt, pepper and parmesan. Heat an over-safe skillet on medium-high heat and add olive oil. Grab a pork chop from the buttermilk, letting any excess milk run off. Dredge through panko mixture, coating completely. Lay down in skillet and repeat with remaining chops. Brown pork chops for 3 minutes on each side only! You don’t want them to toughen up. After six minutes, turn off heat and add chicken stock to pan. Sprinkle a little parmesan on pork chops and cover skillet. Bake for 20 minutes.

I did make one change to the recipe- I used a baking dish instead of a skillet to transfer the chops into the oven. I poured the chicken stock over the chops and sprinkled on the cheese after they were done. 

Do you like pork chops? What's your preferred method to make them?

April 15, 2011

Peanut Butter Snickers Cookies

I met the hubby when I was fourteen years old. At the time I wasn't allowed to date so I only saw him within the school's concrete walls. When I was finally able to officially "date" him, I was invited over to his house for a family barbecue. I met his Mom, Dad, Grandmother, Aunt and Uncle, and his two sisters. At the time his sisters were 7 and 9. This week they turned 14 and 17- they so happen to have their birthdays within the same week.

Since we weren't able to share in the celebrations, I wanted to do something special. Something involving food. Something with chocolate...

I'm glad my sister-in-laws and I share a love of sweets. I knew I wanted to make these Peanut Butter Snickers Cookies for them as soon as I laid eyes on them. And these Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies...you know I'll take any excuse to buy sprinkles.

We made a lot of cookies. I must tell you that this was a joint effort- the hubbs really wanted to help so he took a break from studying to roll up his sleeves and get busy in the kitchen. The sprinkles made him happy. As well as the Snickers.

I stuffed them as carefully as I could into their boxes, lining them with pretty tissue paper and parchment paper.

And I just had to wrap them. With a bow on top. I don't care how old you are, on your birthday, you deserve a bow. 

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2cups chopped Snickers candy bars (about 4 regular size bars)
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the milk and the vanilla extract and mix again. Add the flour mixture and beat until flour disappears. Stir in the chopped Snickers and chocolate chips.

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets. (I weighed mine out to about 2 ounces of dough per cookie.) Gently flatten each cookie ball with the palm of your hand. Bake for 10-11 minutes, or until cookies are slightly brown on the edges. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 to 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Happy Birthday Ladies!! I hope you enjoy your goodies. 

April 14, 2011

Chicken Mediterranean Salad

I've been dreaming about barbecue's. About basking in the sun poolside. Running barefoot outside, feeling the fresh grass underneath my feet. Having a picnic in our backyard. Drinking lemonade, wearing shorts and flowy skirts, painting my nails hot pink and sky blue...

Soon folks. Soon.

I can't help it- I'm a summer baby. I was born in June. I grew up in Florida. Spring's tease is getting the best of me. She's mocking me with these bright sunny days and warmer temps. Now that I live in Michigan, I can truly appreciate the magic of summer. 

This salad must be served at your first barbecue. All the flavors of summer are in this bowl. You've got peppers (green and yellow), tomatoes, zucchini, grilled chicken, red onion, and feta cheese. I didn't use any dressing- it doesn't need it. I just squeezed half a lemon over it and zest it. Magnificence! 

Anyone wanna buy me a grill... I'm accepting donations. ;)

Source: adapted from Kraft Food & Family

1 bag of lettuce
2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 each green and yellow pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, sliced
1/4 red onion slices
2 tbsp. basil
1 cup feta cheese
1 lemon

Toss tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, and feta cheese in a large bowl with the lettuce. Sprinkle with basil and zest of half a lemon. Squeeze half a lemon over salad and toss dramatically with your salad tongs. Ta-da!  

April 12, 2011

Chocolate Cranberry Granola Bars

Making these babies required me to make a new tag- snacks! We don't have very many snacks in the house, unless you count the two ginormous bags of chips (they're the "healthy" kind...), but other than that, not so much.  We try our best to eat healthy. Obviously I am no health addict, as you can see here and here, but we eat lots of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and lean protein. Granted we could do less with the sweets, but then who would I be? Not me. That's who.

Homemade granola bars, who would've thought they'd be so good. I sure didn't. I felt no shame eating three of these after they cooled out of the oven. 

I will never buy granola bars from the store again.

Thick, chewy, sweet, chocolaty...nutritious! Maybe? Yes, I think so. You can change up these bars every time you make them with whatever fillings you like or have on hand. The possibilities are endless! Dried cranberries, pecans, and chocolate chips were in my pantry, hence the title of this post.

Go see what you have in yours!

Source: Stephanie Cooks

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats 
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar, depending on how sweet you want them
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 to 2 cups dried fruit and nuts
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter 
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup (I used honey)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8 X 8 pan with nonstick spray. Over low heat melt the butter. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth. Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and the nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter/peanut butter mix, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly.

Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly. Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they're brown around the edges.They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.

Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. Cut with a serrated knife and wrap each in plastic wrap.

What's your favorite healthy snack?

April 11, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

The first day back from break is always the hardest. You're sleepy, having not slept the night before since you weren't tired and couldn't fall asleep. You're hungry, since you ate whenever you felt like and snacked at all times of day. Time looms before you, ticking ever so slowly, since you've forgotten how long a work day actually is. You dream about going home, grabbing that big bag of chips, and taking a nap. Not that I would know or anything...

Slow Cooker Orange Chicken with Rice & Broccoli
Chicken Mediterranean Salad
Penne with Chicken, Feta, and Tomatoes
Buttermilk Pork Chops with Creamy Mashed Potatoes & Lemon-Parsley Asparagus
White Tomato Pizza

Seriously though, why can't we take naps in the middle of the day like Europeans? That sounds like a great idea! That's what I would implement if I were to ever become President...and free ice cream on Fridays. :)

BTW, if you haven't heard, Bloggers Bake for Hope is going on. I'm really excited about being a part of this, you can go here to see what I am donating!

Have a fantabulous week!

April 10, 2011

How I Spent My Spring Break

Alas, as with all vacations, they must eventually end. I have come to the end of my Spring Break and must go back to work tomorrow. But, that's okay, because nothing can damper my spirits today. It is absolutely gorgeous out. The most beautiful day we have had since last September, I would say. It's 83 degrees. It's sunny. It's breezy. It's warm.

Life is good.

Here's a look at what I accomplished during my break...
Food wise and other wise.
Recipes forthcoming!

I made these yummy cinnamon rolls one morning.

Shrimp, Feta Mac and Cheese for dinner one night.

The cutest homemade Oreo's.

Sweet dinner rolls.

Whole wheat blueberry muffins.

Pulled pork sandwiches, that the hubbs went absolutely ga-ga for. He won't stop talking about them!

I attempted to begin organizing all the hundreds of recipes I've pulled out from magazines. I got a good start, but then realized I'm going to need a lot more folders than 12! There are just too many categories.

Went to Toy's R Us with the hubbs to buy a nerf gun.
This was the only time he left the house, by the way.

I went to the library and checked out these guys.

I started reading these...

And finished this one!

And today I just had to get some flowers. Spring has arrived.

I sure lived it up, didn't I? ;)