Friday, October 29, 2010

Nutella Hot Chocolate

About a month ago, my family and I popped into a local cafe to try out their Nutella Hot Chocolate.  Oh.  YUM!  Even my husband, who isn't a huge fan of hot chocolate (and will actually make fun of you for ordering hot chocolate at a coffee shop!) really enjoyed it.  The temperature dropped a bit this week and I wanted a yummy warm drink to cozy up with last night.  How hard could it be to make my own specialized hot chocolate?  Not very.  I'm actually drinking it again for the second night in a row as I type this.  YUM!

1-1 1/2 cups milk (depending how rich you want it)
1 Tbsp. cocoa
2 Tbsp. Nutella
1/2 tsp. sugar
dash of salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Warm milk in a heat-proof mug for 2 minutes.  Add cocoa, Nutella, sugar and salt and stir vigorously until thoroughly mixed (that is, thoroughly de-chunked).  A mini frother or tiny wisk works perfectly!  Stir in the vanilla.  Sip and enjoy . . .

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Roasted Beef and Barley Soup with Roasted Carrots

This was SO delicious!  My husband and I kept saying, "Oh, this is definitely a keeper!"  It reminds me a bit of this dish, but was different enough to excite my taste buds.  The roasted carrots were the perfect "cherry on top" to this already fantastic dinner.  I found the soup recipe in Everyday Foods, but made several changes that I've included below.

1 pound sirloin steak, fat trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound whole cremini or button mushrooms, stems trimmed and caps halved
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
5-6 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
3/4 cups pearl barley
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)  
5-7 medium carrots, sliced in 1-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss together steak, mushrooms, shallots, and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and roast until beef and mushrooms are browned, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring chicken broth to boil in a large pot or dutch oven.  Once boiling, add barley.  Bring back to a boil and then simmer until the meat is finished roasting.

After meat and vegetables are done roasting, add to pot with broth and barley; simmer.  Season with salt and pepper if you'd like.  Don't clean the roasting pan and leave the oven on. 

While soup is simmering, toss carrots in no more than 1 Tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the same roasting pan you used for the meat and put in oven for 10 minutes.  Remove, stir (making sure to scrape up the now blackened bits of goodness that were left from the meat and veggies), and put back in oven for another 5-10 minutes or until they are cooked to your liking (I prefer mine to be a bit on the crunchy side instead of too soft). 

Top the soup with fresh parsley and serve with carrots and a loaf of crusty bread.  Yummy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Roasting Vegetables

I love roasted vegetables.  It's one of my most favorite things to do with the assortment of veg we have been given.  Do you like roasted veggies?  Have you ever tried?  You MUST!  I like using just a bit of olive oil, some salt and pepper and setting my oven to 450.  Most vegetables are done in about 20 minutes.  But below is a link for a more extensive introduction to roasting vegetables if you want to give it a try.  And if you are already a roasting fan, I'd love to hear some of your favorite veg combination or choices for seasoning!

Simple Bites - Roasting Vegetables 101 -

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thai- Spiced Pumpkin Soup

I've already made this twice since finding the recipe two weeks ago.  My husband is in love with this stuff!  The picture comes from the post found here.  I just used water to thin the soup the first time but liked the broth/water combo on the second batch better.  

2 acorn squash, pumpkins, or other smallish winter squash
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 teaspoon (or more) red Thai curry paste
water or broth
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt (or to taste)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the oven racks in the middle.

Carefully cut each squash/pumpkin into halves (or quarters). Slather each piece of squash with butter, sprinkle generously with salt, place on a baking sheet skin sides down, and place in the oven. Roast for about an hour or until the squash is tender throughout.

When the pumpkin/squash are cool enough to handle scoop it into a large pot over medium high heat. Add the coconut milk and curry paste and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and puree with a hand blender, you should have a very thick base at this point. Now add water a cup at a time pureeing between additions until the soup is the consistency you prefer - a light vegetable stock would work here as well. Bring up to a simmer again and add the salt (and more curry paste if you like).

Serves six.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

African Chicken Treat

I think the name of this recipe from Fix It and Forget It is a bit silly, but the dish was simple, filling, and pretty tasty.   

1 1/2 cups water
2 tsp chicken bouillon granules
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
8 chicken thighs, skinned
1/2 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
crushed chili pepper of your choice

Combine water, chicken bouillon, celery, onion, and peppers in slow cooker.

Spread peanut butter over both sides of chicken pieces. Sprinkle with chili pepper. Place on top of ingredients in slow cooker.  Cover. Cook on Low 5-6 hours.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes

Ohhhhhhh . . . these were so yummy!

1/3 C pumpkin, canned or homemade
1/4 - 1/2 C milk
1/4 t vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon
1/16 t cloves (just use a 1/8 t measure and fill it half way, or do a pinch)
1/16 t nutmeg
2 T brown sugar
2 C vanilla ice cream
1-2 graham crackers

Pop everything but graham crackers in a blender. Start with 1/4 C milk and then slowly add more if needed to make the blender process it all.

A note about blenders (if you don't have a VitaMix!): Here's the problem with making thick, diner style milkshakes at home: A lot of times you have to add so much milk to the thing to get the blender to process that it turns into a milk-slushy instead. Or you have to blend and plunge, blend and plunge, etc. You know the drill, right? So if you have any trouble with your blender, I would recommend blending everything but the ice cream first and then mashing it into the ice cream by hand (well, with a hand. Holding a fork or spoon :) If your scooped ice cream sits out at room temp while you measure the other things and get them all ready, then by the time you mash it all together it should be a good consistency.
Sprinkle with crushed graham cracker crumbs before serving. It reminds me of DQ's Pumkin Pie Blizzard!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Meatless Monday - Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

This picture is from the same place I got the recipe.  It was pretty good, but not great.  The cheese, sour cream, and chips at the end really helped. 
1 cup dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
1 (15-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
4 whole serrano chiles
baby spinach (to add later, optional)

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Put the presoaked beans into your slow cooker. If you don't have time to soak the beans overnight, you can quick soak them by boiling rapidly on the stove for 10 minutes, and then letting the beans sit in the closed pot of hot water for 1 hour. Drain and then put into the cooker.

Add the entire can of tomatoes, the onion, and the garlic. Follow with all the spices and then pour in the broth and water. Wash and float the uncut peppers on top.

Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or on high for 4 to 5. Remove the chiles before serving. If desired, drop in a few handfuls of baby spinach into the pot and stir. The spinach will wilt quickly! If you'd like, garnish with shredded cheese or sour cream (or both!)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Carrot Cake Cheesecake

We celebrated my husband's birthday this past week.  His most favorite dessert is carrot cake and he requested a carrot cake cheesecake for his big day this year.  I managed to get this picture before we gobbled up the last piece after sharing the rest of the cake with our community group.  If you like carrot cake at all, you will love this!

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon flour
3 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 1/2 ounces can crushed pineapple, packed in juice, drained well, reserve juice
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon reserved pineapple juice


In large bowl of electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Beat in flour, eggs and vanilla extract until smooth. Set aside. Meanwhile prepare Carrot Cake.

Carrot Cake:

In large bowl, combine oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract; mix well. Stir in dry ingredients; mixing well. Stir in drained pineapple, carrots, coconut and walnuts.

Spread 1 1/2 c. carrot cake batter over bottom of greased 9- or 9 1/2" springform pan. Drop cream cheese batter over carrot cake batter by spoonfuls; top with large spoonfuls of remaining carrot cake batter. Repeat with remaining cream cheese batter, spreading evenly with a knife. Do not marble with a knife. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven for 50 to 65 minutes or until cake is set and cooked through. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. When cake is cold, prepare Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting.

Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting:

In a bowl of electric mixer, combine cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and reserved pineapple juice. Beat until smooth and of spreading consistency. Frost top of cheesecake. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours before serving.

Note: Don't skimp on the ingredients (and don't use store brands or generic). Use regular cream cheese, real butter, and pineapple packed in juice, not sugar syrup. You will be glad you did.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pumpkin and Feta Muffins

Let the fun begin!  This is officially my first pumpkin treat of the season.  How did I wait so long, you ask?  I have no idea.  If you weren't around last year, get ready for a LOT of pumpkin to show up over the next month or so.   I just can't get enough of it!  These muffins are like nothing I've ever had before, but my kids and I really liked them!  Maybe a pinch more salt next time.  

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups cubed pumpkin or butternut squash, 1/2-inch cubes
salt and pepper to taste
1 large handful of baby spinach, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds kernels
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
 1/2 cup cubed feta
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
Preheat oven to 405F / 200C, with rack in the top third. Use the butter to grease a 12-hole muffin pan and set aside.

Sprinkle the olive oil and some salt and pepper over the squash. Toss well and turn onto a baking sheet or roasting pan. Arrange in a single layer and bake for 15 - 25 minutes or until cooked through entirely. Set aside to cool.

Transfer two-thirds of the squash to a large mixing bowl along with the spinach, parsley, sunflower seeds, Parmesan, two-thirds of the feta, and all of the mustard. Gently fold together. In a separate bowl beat the eggs and milk together and add to the squash mix. Sift the flour and baking powder onto the squash mix, top with the salt and a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper and fold together just until the batter comes together, be careful not to over mix.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, filling each hole 3/4 full, top each muffin with a bit of the remaining squash and feta (see photo up above). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops and sides of the muffins are golden, and the muffins have set up completely. Let cool for a couple minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack. I like these muffins cooled a bit, served just warmer than room temperature.

Makes 12 muffins.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Meatless Monday - Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Technically it's still Monday, so I can still post my Meatless Monday recipe even though no one will read it until Tuesday!  If you missed the combo in muffin form, here's an even tastier way (in my opinion) to marry bananas and peanut butter - a match made in Heaven!  From Cooking Light.

1 1/2  cups  mashed ripe banana
1/3  cup  plain fat-free yogurt
1/3  cup  creamy peanut butter
3  tablespoons  butter, melted
2  large eggs
1/2  cup  granulated sugar
1/2  cup  packed brown sugar
6.75  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4  cup  ground flaxseed (I used wheat germ)
3/4  teaspoon  baking soda
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
1/8  teaspoon  ground allspice
2  tablespoons  chopped dry-roasted peanuts
Cooking spray

1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon 1% lowfat milk
1 Tablespoon creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare bread, combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add granulated and brown sugars; beat until blended.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a small bowl. Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended. Stir in nuts. Pour batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; cool.

To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar, milk, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle glaze over bread.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pork and Cabbage-Slaw Burritos

Two meals in one!  This comes from the leftovers of yesterday's Green Chili post.  I was a bit skeptical at the cabbage and chili combo, but it totally works!  Ryan and I loved these!  Also, if you end up with too much or the cabbage mixture, add a bit of mayo and you have a nice slaw salad to go on the side!

2 cups shredded green cabbage
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
2 tsp lime juice
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
flour tortillas
shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups Slow-Cooker Green Chili, warmed and potatoes halved if large
salsa, for serving

Preheat oven to 350.  In a medium bowl, combine cabbage, cilantro, lime juice, and oil; season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.  Place tortillas on a work surface.  Place cheese, cabbage mixture, and chili down center of each tortilla, leaving room at ends.

Fold one side of each tortilla over filling, then tuck in ends and tightly roll up.  Place burritos, seam side down, on a baking sheet.  Heat in oven until tortillas are warm and cheese melts; about 7 minutes.  Serve immediately with salsa.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Slow-Cooker Green Chili

The poblano peppers added a nice little twist to what would have been a regular chili-stew thing.  Ryan said, "This one's a keeper" and I wholeheartedly agreed, especially after tasting the meal you can make with your leftovers.  Stay tuned tomorrow for a post on your 2 for 1 dinner special with this Martha Stewart recipe!

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
5 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 poblano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes (cut in half if too large)
fresh cilantro leaves and lime wedges, for serving

In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp oil over high.  Season pork with salt and pepper.  Cook pork (in batches, if necessary) until browned.  Transfer pork to a 6-quart slow cooker.

Add broth to skillet, stirring and scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon.  Pour broth into slow cooker, then add onion, garlic, cumin, carrots, chiles, and potatoes.  Cover and cook on high until meat is fork-tender, 6 hours.

Skim excess fat from top of chili.  Serve with cilantro and lime wedges.  If you'd like, with a slotted spoon, transfer 2 cups chili (leaving liquid behind) to an airtight container; let cool, uncovered, then refrigerate for burritos later in the week (I'll post that recipe tomorrow).

Thursday, October 7, 2010


My sister is great at using "methods" to cook instead of recipes.  She inspired me to "throw together" my own chili the other night.  It was delicious, if I do say so myself!

1 pound ground beef
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 ounce) tomato sauce
2 cans (15 oz) kidney beans, drained
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp pepper
3 Tbsp ketchup

Combine onion in a large pot with beef over medium heat, breaking up meat with a spoon.  Cook until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients.  Reduce heat and simmer for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve in bowls topped with grated cheddar cheese.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Meatless Monday - Orange-Ginger Baked Tofu

I used to make something similar to this in China, the land of inexpensive tofu.  We like it!

1 pound firm tofu
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup canola oil
4 teaspoons dark sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 green onions, cut into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 dried chipotle chile pepper (optional)  

Turn the tofu on its side, and cut it into 4 thin slices. Lay the tofu flat again, and cut the block diagonally to make 8 triangles. Without separating the pieces, place tofu on a cutting board. Cover, with a paper towel, and place a heavy skillet on top. Set aside for 30 minutes, allowing time for excess water to drain from the tofu.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, soy sauce, oils, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Separate the pressed tofu pieces, and arrange in a baking dish in a single layer. Cover with the marinade, and sprinkle with the green onion and cilantro. Cut the stems off the chiles, remove the seeds, and place the chiles in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 

Pour off some of the marinade, so the tofu is covered halfway. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, without turning, until the tofu is golden and most of the marinade has been absorbed.
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