Saturday, September 14, 2013

Chocolate Pudding with Peanut Butter Whipped Cream

Martha Stewart and Pinterest get all of the credit for this recipe! I really wanted homemade chocolate pudding (the stuff from the box just isn't the same). That's when I decided to look at Pinterest for recipes. I came across this recipe for peanut butter chocolate parfaits. I was sold when I read the recipe and saw that the whipped cream had 1/4 cup of peanut butter added to it! The original recipe was written to make mini-desserts. I don't eat dessert very often, so a mini-dessert wasn't happening! I got out my big Irish coffee mugs and filled them with the homemade pudding and peanut butter whipped cream. I didn't have the peanut butter sandwich cookies the recipe called for, so I used a few pieces from a bar of chocolate instead. I stand behind that decision. This is a great recipe. The whole family loved it. This would be easy to double or triple and put in a trifle dish and take to a pot luck. You could even add a layer of brownies or chocolate cake if you needed to. This is definitely on my "must make again soon" list.

Recipe for parfaits:

Recipe for chocolate pudding:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Pork Shoulder (Double-Duty Dinners, Part 3)

BBQ pork sliders

One of my best friends in the kitchen is a nice, big Boston butt (pork shoulder) roast. Cooking one large roast in the crock pot for 8 hours leaves me with enough food for 4-6 meals. You can't beat that! The hardest part of this recipe is cutting all the big pieces of fat off of the roast before you put it in the crock pot. Just make sure you have a big cutting board if you buy a big roast. I've been  buying 8 pound roasts lately and using my large, oval crock pot.
Pork tacos
My family's two favorite ways to enjoy pork are BBQ pulled pork and pulled pork tacos. Both of these freeze really well. A quart-sized freezer bag doesn't take up much space in the freezer and it holds enough pork to feed all 4 of us. I usually make one big roast, then shred it. I put half of the pork back into a crock pot for 3 hours with bbq sauce to make pulled pork sandwiches. I freeze any leftover bbq pork that night. Then, the next night, I put the remaining shredded pork into a crock pot with taco seasoning and water and cook on low for 3 hours. Taco pork is great for tacos, burritos. taco salads, etc. Tonight I'm turning some  into nachos! I also freeze the leftover taco pork the same night. If you have more than 1 crock pot, go ahead and make both on the same day and stock your freezer with easy meals.
Taco pork lettuce wraps

Pulled Pork

1 Boston butt roast (any size that fits your crock pot), visible fat trimmed
2 cups water
2 onions, sliced
4 cloves

1) Place half of the onions in the bottom of a crock pot. Place pork and water on top. Add remaining onions. Cook on low for 8-12 hours, or until pork easily shreds.
2) Shred the pork, discarding any excess fat.

For BBQ pork: Add your favorite BBQ sauce and cook on low for 3 hours. I love my Grandma Louie's recipe.  Use as little or as much sauce as your family likes. We like a ton of sauce on ours.

For taco pork: Add 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning per pound of shredded pork. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and stir well.  I used about 3/4 cups of taco seasoning on half of an 8 pound roast. If you want to make your own taco seasoning, I recommend making a huge batch of my favorite recipe. Cook on low for 2-3 hours.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Pizza

I had just enough pizza dough the other night to make a pizza for two, so I decided to make something a little less kid-friendly than my normal pizza. My husband and I enjoyed this after the kids went to bed. Ah, a peaceful, fancy meal...the kind of things dreams are made of! This pizza was wonderful. The flavors worked together really well. The roasted garlic I used as the "sauce" and the caramelized onions added a nice sweet flavor to balance out the saltiness of the Gruyere and bacon. One warning: this is a more time consuming recipe than a basic cheese or pepperoni pizza. If you are short on time, use some alfredo sauce instead of roasted garlic for the sauce, and take care of making the onions and bacon the day before, or earlier in the day. That way you just have to assemble and bake. This is definitely worth the time and effort to make the pizza. If Gruyere cheese is not in the budget (I found a good price at a local produce market), feel free to use provolone, swiss, or even white cheddar cheese instead.

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Pizza
Adapted from How Sweet it Is

8 oz ball of pizza dough
4 slices thick bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
2 onions, sliced
1 head of garlic, roasted (if you are short on time, feel free to use alfredo sauce or olive oil as your "sauce")
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided, or 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon bacon fat
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese
1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese

1) Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil or bacon fat in a heavy skillet over medium low-heat. Add onions and butter. Saute over medium low heat for 30-40 minutes, until onions are light brown, stirring occasionally.
2) If making roasted garlic sauce: Squeeze roasted garlic into a bowl. Add remaining olive oil and mash together.
3) Preheat oven to 400. Roll out pizza dough into a 9-inch circle.
4) Spread roasted garlic and olive oil on the crust of the pizza and top with grated parmesan/romano cheese. Add 1/2 of the mozzarella and Gruyere cheese.  Add the bacon and caramelized onions. Top with remaining cheese.
5) Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is done and cheese is bubbly and brown.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Roast Beef (Double-Duty Dinners, Part 2)

As promised, I'm posting a second double-duty dinner idea. I apologize for the really quick post today...This was the first week back to school for us, so finding time to cook was pretty hard...finding time to blog was even harder. I made this roast on Tuesday afternoon, using the oven. I like to use the crock pot for roasts, too,but I wanted to be able to slice leftovers for sandwiches, and crock pot roasts usually are so tender, they fall apart when you slice them. Sirloin tip roast was on sale this week, so that's what I ended up using. The first night, the roast was served with mashed potatoes and carrots that were roasted in beef broth and the drippings from the roast. Two nights later, we enjoyed roast beef sandwiches for dinner. Another good use for leftover roast beef is shepherd's pie, which my family loves. To make the shepherd's pie even easier, you could double the mashed potatoes from the first night and use them to top the pie the second night.
I highly recommend a meat thermometer for making oven roasts. I've found that cooking times vary widely from roast to roast. This one cooked much faster than anticipated. Other times, they seem to take twice as long!

Roast Beef

1 3-5 pound oven roast
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 cup beef broth

1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) Place beef broth in the bottom of a roasting pan. If your pan has a rack, place the rack on top of the broth, then place the roast on top of the rack. If you are just using a baking pan, put the roast on top of the broth.
3) Rub down all parts of the roast with the seasoned salt and Italian seasoning.
4) Set a meat thermometer in the fattest part of the roast. Cook until the center reaches medium. It took my 4 pound roast, about 1 hour and 45 minutes...but the label on the meat said to allow up to 2 1/2 hours.
5 Allow roast to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Ideas for leftovers:
*Roast beef sandwiches
*Cheesesteak sandwiches: Heat up roast beef, saute onions and peppers in a skillet. Put peppers, onions, and beef on a steak roll and top with cheese.
*Shepherd's pie: Pour 1/2 cup of beef broth to the bottom of a pie plate. Add about 2 cups of chopped roast beef. Add 1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables. Spread mashed potatoes on top of the veggies. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Top with cheese for the last 5 minutes, if desired.
*Roast beef hash. Cook frozen hash browns according to package directions. Add leftover sliced roast beef, and heat until warm. Top with a fried egg.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Turkey Breast (Double-Duty Dinners, Part 1)

Roasted turkey with veggies

We all have those weeks where life is just crazy! There is something that either begins or ends close to dinner time, 3 or 4 days of the week. I really don't like those weeks. But, they happen. And this month seems to be full of those weeks for my family. There are nights where it's pretty much impossible to avoid eating out (example: a swimming lesson that ends at 6:00 and a meeting at church that begins at 7:00), but I've been working hard on feeding us at home whenever possible. The easiest way to do that has been through double-duty (or even triple-duty) meals. These are wonderful meals where you cook one thing, usually in the crock pot, then use the leftovers for different, quick, easy meals.I know that side dishes on busy evening can be hard, so I'll try to include easy side dishes, even if the ones pictured aren't so easy.

Turkey dip with sweet potato fries
The first double-duty meal is actually a triple, or even quadruple-duty dinner. Turkey breast, turkey dips, turkey soup, and even easy lunches of turkey sandwiches, depending on the size of your family. I've been making turkey breast in the slow cooker since I got married. My mom made it for us year-round when I was growing up. I know there are people who see turkey as a Thanksgiving-only food, but I'm not one of them.  A friend of mine came across the recipe for turkey dips and posted it on her blog about a year ago. I quickly made it a few weeks later when I found turkey breasts on sale. The big change I made to this recipe was to have the sandwiches the second day. I did this for two reasons: the first being that I really love turkey as a meal by itself. The second was that I wanted to dip the sandwich in just the broth, and skim some of the fat off the drippings, and that's just easier if you let it sit in the fridge over night. I also changed the cheese on the sandwich to something more kid and budget-friendly.

For the turkey soup, I threw all the turkey bones into the slow cooker with carrots, celery, onions, and 12 cups of water, and cooked on low for 12 hours to get nice broth. The recipe is an old post , and is a favorite at our house. We eat it year-round, even in the summer. The soup can even be thrown together in the slow cooker in the morning and it's ready by dinner time.

As promised, I'll share some easy side dish ideas. If you have an hour to work on sides- including prep-time: roasted potatoes, rainbow veggies, mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, or roasted cauliflower. If you have less than 30 minutes: frozen vegetables, fruit salad, frozen french fries, green salad, or even chips with the sandwich (my favorite are BBQ chips).

Hopefully these turkey recipes will help if you have a busy week where just thinking about cooking stresses you out.

Roasted Turkey and Turkey Dips
Adapted from Cooking Channel 

4 tablespoons softened butter (or if you forget to set out the butter, like me, just melt it)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
note: substitute 1 tablespoon of dried Italian seasoning if you don't have the fresh herbs on hand
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 large onion, sliced
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 bone-in turkey breast

1) Spread the onions in the bottom of a slow cooker. Pour the chicken chicken broth and Worcestershire sauce over the onions.
2) Sprinkle the turkey with salt and pepper and place in the slow cooker.
3) Mix the herbs and butter together in a small glass bowl.
4) Spread the butter over the turkey breast, trying to get some of it under the skin.
5) Cook on high for 4-6 hours, or on low for 8 hours.
6) Slice and serve with sides of your choice. Save the broth and drippings from the slow cooker in a glass jar in the fridge. Use for dips with leftovers.

***If you figure out an easy way to get a turkey breast out of a crockpot without making a total mess, please let me know.

Turkey Dips
Serves 4

2-4 ounces of sliced turkey per person
4 ciabatta rolls, slices of french bread, sandwich rolls, or crusty bread of your choice.
4 slices of your favorite melting cheese- we like Gouda, double Gloucester, and Munster.
softened butter
Turkey broth/drippings from the previous night. Optional: scoop the fat off the top before heating.

1) Heat the leftover broth and drippings in a saucepan over medium heat.
2) Preheat the broiler to high.
3) Split each roll or slice of bread in half. Spread butter on cut side and broil for about 1 minute. Top with turkey and cheese, and broil another 1-2 minutes, until bread is browned, turkey is warm, and cheese is melted.
4) Place the buttery top of the bun on the side with the cheese and turkey. Serve with broth for dipping.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pinterest Shrimp

Real creative title, right? I didn't know what else to call it, and this is what I write on my menu board when I'm planning on making it. This is one of those recipes that pops up on Pinterest all the time! But it's also one of those really annoying pins that has all the directions under it, but when you click on the picture, it's just a picture. I know how to do the fancy reverse image search on Google, but decided to just play with this recipe on my own. It called for one package of "dried Italian seasoning." I assumed that meant one package of Good Seasons. This is one recipe where I'm confident using the copycat version of Good Seasons, so I'll post the recipe with both the package and homemade mix.
This is a favorite recipe for the grown-ups at my house. My kids really aren't big shrimp eaters (more for Mommy and Daddy, so I won't complain). At some point, Saturday nights turned into a night where my husband and I wait and eat after the kids go to bed. Those are the nights when I make more grown-up foods or just things my kids aren't wild about. I've made this recipe and variations on it a few times because it's easy and both my husband and I love it! When I make this, I pay the extra dollar per pound for the peeled and deveined shrimp. Peeling and cleaning shrimp is not one of my favorite jobs, so unless I'm doing cajun shrimp that really needs the shell to keep the dish from being too spicy, I use peeled shrimp. Experiment with this recipe as you see fit. If you like spicier shrimp, add a tablespoon of cajun seasoning. Add fresh garlic if you like a more scampi style shrimp.

The most important part of this recipe is bread! Either make or buy a nice, crusty loaf of french bread and warm it up right before you eat the shrimp. It does a great job of mopping up the garlicky, buttery sauce that goes with the shrimp.

Pinterest Shrimp
Serves 4

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (if your pan holds more, you can do 2 pounds)
1 stick salted butter
1 lemon, cut in half and sliced
1 package of Good Seasons Italian dressing mix or 2 tablespoons homemade mix (recipe below)
Crusty bread

1) Preheat oven to 350.

2) Once the oven is preheated, place a large baking sheet  and stick of butter in the oven. Allow the butter to melt. Check after 2 minutes, then continue checking every minute.

3) Place the lemon slices on top of the butter. Top with shrimp, then sprinkle the shrimp with the Good Seasons.

4) Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and curl.

5) Serve in bowls with warm bread on the side.

Good Seasons Copycat
Makes 1/2 cup

1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon white sugar
4 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1 tablespoon coarse salt

Combine in a jar and shake to mix. Store in an airtight jar.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Greek Chicken with Tzatziki

I've been making this dish quite a bit lately. Some variation of it has appeared on our table at least twice a month since March.  I've served it with rice pilaf and salad. We've had it on pita bread and made chicken gyros. It makes a great lettuce wrap with some sauteed peppers and onions on the side. My favorite way to enjoy this is with some roasted potatoes that have just a little bit of Greek seasoning on them and some crisp-tender red bell peppers. And lots of tzatziki. The tzatziki recipe I use with this is amazing. When I first started making it, I only made a half recipe. Those days are long gone. A full recipe doesn't last long in my house. We love to dip chicken, veggies, pita chips, and tortilla chips in the tzatziki.
For many years, chicken marinated in Italian dressing was a staple in my cooking (starting in college). But at some point I just got tired of it. Then I found this recipe...and it's turned into our new go-to chicken dish at the house. If you are looking for something different to do with chicken breasts, I highly recommend this recipe.

Greek Chicken
Serves 4
Adapted from One Perfect Bite

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for pan
zest of one lemon (I use 1/2 teaspoon of lemon pepper)
1 tablespoons (6 cloves) minced garlic, or more to taste
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika

1) Mix the olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, salt, black pepper, and paprika in a shallow dish.
2) Place the chicken in a large glass bowl or baking dish. Cover in marinade.
3) Allow chicken to marinate in refrigerator for at least two hours.
4) Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
5) Add chicken and saute for 5 minute, turn, and saute 5 minutes longer. Depending on how thick your chicken is, it may be done at this point, or you may need to continue cooking an additional 5 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink inside.
6) Serve with tzatziki.

Note: For some reason, I almost never have fresh lemons on hand. I buy a bag, never use them, and they go bad. So, I've started using lemon pepper instead of lemon zest in this recipe.

This is great with rice, on a salad, in a pita, with potatoes, any way you want to enjoy it! My next experiment will be combining it with orzo, feta, red peppers, and olives.

serves 8-12
Adapted from Food Network

2 cups Greek yogurt
2 cucumbers, unpeeled and seeded (if using a large, hothouse cucumber, just use one)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or any white vinegar)
1 teaspoon dried dill
3 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2-2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1) Grate the cucumber on a box grater and squeeze the water out of the cucumber shreds using a paper towel.
2) Place the yogurt in a bowl and stir in the cucumber. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
3) Chill for 30 minutes before serving.