Thursday, October 30, 2008

Swedish Meatballs

Oooh, I love swedish meatballs. So easy to prepare and perfect as an appetizer or as a whole meal. I made these in a joint effort with my husband and my mother-in-law. We had them at my son's first birthday party and all had fun helping. My husband mixed up the meat, my mother-in-law formed the meatballs, and I cooked them all up.

Let me tell you the best thing about this recipe. It freezes fantastically! In a moment of craziness, I decided we needed to quadruple this recipe for the party. Each batch makes about 25 meatballs. I clearly didn't take into account the ton of other food I was making and grossly overestimated the hunger of our guests, because we had a lot left over. So they were shoved in the freezer the next day. When I later defrosted them and served them over egg noodles, they were just as good as the day I made them.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Swedish Meatballs
(adapted from

1 and 2/3 cups evaporated milk
2/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. allspice
dash of pepper
1 pound ground round
2 tsp. butter
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1. Combine 2/3 cup evaporated milk, onion, crumbs, salt, allspice, pepper, and meat; mix well. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. Shape meat mixture into 1 inch balls. In large skillet, brown meatballs in butter. Dissolve bouillon cubes in boiling water; pour over meatballs and bring to boil over medium heat. Cover; simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, blend together cold water and flour. Remove meatballs from skillet, skim fat from pan juices and reserve juices. Stir 1 cup evaporated milk and flour/water mixture into pan juices in skillet; cook, uncovered, over low heat, stirring until sauce thickens. Return meatballs to skillet. Stir in lemon juice.

Makes approximately 10-15 servings.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

Clara of IHeartFood4Thought chose this week's recipe - chocolate chocolate cupcakes. Go to her blog to get the complete recipe. And if you haven't heard, this Friday is the last day the TWD group is accepting new members. So join now or you'll miss your chance!

This week we're baking chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing. They're fantastic! I had high hopes for decorating these for Halloween.... uh, it didn't happen. But, my sister had her baby over the weekend! She had a precious little boy she named Cole. 7 pounds, 11 oz., and 20 inches of pure sweetness and joy. Life sure is good! So as you can imagine, I was a tad bit preoccupied and short on time. So in an effort to just get these made, my creativity took a backseat and I stuck with the recipe. I usually like to fiddle around a bit, but I'm rather glad I didn't. They're perfect just the way Dorie created them. The woman knows how to make a cupcake.

Some people complained of having dry cupcakes or ended up filling their muffin tins with too much batter. I didn't have those problems. Mine came out just perfect. Boringly perfect! But I think that's a good thing.

The batter was so amazing. I'm not usually a big batter eater, but I took a taste and then couldn't stop. And then once the cupcakes were done, I devoured one as soon as I iced it. My willpower is usually better than that, but I just couldn't help myself. Oh my, these are yummy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pizza Spaghetti Casserole

Why is it that when the weather gets cold, all I crave is heavy food? Casseroles, pasta, hearty soups. They just make ya feel all warm and cozy inside.

But let's get straight to the point here - this recipe is NOT light and NOT healthy. Hey, I never promised all health food here. But I did use whole wheat spaghetti. It was kinda like ordering a Big Mac and large fries with a Diet Coke. Every little bit helps, I guess. But at any rate, it was darn greasy and good! Just what I was in the mood for.

If you reeeeally insist on being boring and lightening it up, you could use turkey pepperoni and low-fat cheese. And the recipe fills a 9x13-inch pan, but unless you're feeding an army, you could cut it back and bake it in a 8x8-inch square pan or even a bread loaf pan. But... who really wants to be that boring?


Pizza Spaghetti Casserole
(adapted from Southern Living)

12 oz. uncooked spaghetti
1/2 tsp. salt
1 pound package of mild ground pork sausage
2 oz. pepperoni slices (about 30)
26-oz. jar tomato and basil pasta sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. package shredded Italian three-cheese blend

1. Cook spaghetti with 1/2 tsp. salt according to package directions. Drain well, and place in a lightly greased 13x9-inch baking dish.

2. Brown sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain and set aside. Wipe skillet clean. Add pepperoni, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes or until slightly crisp.

3. Top spaghetti in baking dish with sausage; pour pasta sauce over sausage. Arrange half of pepperoni slices evenly over pasta sauce. Sprinkle evenly with cheeses. Arrange remaining half of pepperoni slices evenly over cheese. Cover with non-stick or slightly greased aluminum foil.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes; remove foil, and bake 10 more minutes or until cheese is melted and just begins to brown.

Makes 8 servings.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dorie's Perfectly Smashed Party Cake

Okay, so I didn't make the pumpkin muffins this week. But I swear I have a good excuse. My little guy turned one on Saturday! And that meant lots of company and a house to clean and food to prepare. So I was a tad bit busy to say the least.

I made a miniature version of Dorie's perfect party cake for my son - minus the coconut on the outside. Judging from the dent he made in it, I'd say it was very good. And okay, I just might have taken a few bites since there was a good deal left of it after he smashed it all up.

I looooved the lemony flavor and it was so moist. It was so moist that it was a tad bit hard to frost it and not have the cake end up in the frosting. But I made plenty of frosting, so there was enough for a double coating.

I may just have to make this cake for every birthday from here on out. Yummy and surprisingly easy. For the recipe, get the book! It's Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Penne A La Vodka Casserole

Let me just start by saying yum!

This meal took me what felt like forever to make. Between simmering the sauce for 40 minutes and then baking it for 45 minutes, all the waiting was pure torture. Come on Emeril, I need some instant satisfaction! But despite that loooong cooking time, it was so very worth it.

I've bought vodka sauce from the grocery store before pre-made. It's very yummy over pasta. I'd never made it from scratch, however. Good thing we had a supply of vodka in the pantry, because it needed a half cup. That must be why it's so good.

Definitely try this - it's worth the time and effort! And it's great comfort food!

Penne A La Vodka Casserole
(recipe adapted from Emeril)

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, cut crosswise into 1-inch slices
1 lb. hot Italian sausage, cut crosswise into 1-inch slices
4 cups thinly sliced onions
1 and 3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 cup vodka
Two 16-oz. cans whole tomatoes, crushed in their juices
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pound penne pasta
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1 and 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

1. Heat 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan over high heat. Add the sausages and cook, stirring, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, 3/4 tsp. salt, and the black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are just soft, about 4 minutes. Add the basil and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the vodka and tomatoes, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes. Add the garlic powder and heavy cream, stir to mix, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

2. To cook the pasta, combine 4 quarts water, the olive oil, and the remaining tsp. salt in a large pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain well. Combine half of the ricotta cheese and half of the Parmesan-Reggiano with the remining 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Add the pasta and toss to coat evenly. Add the sausage mixture and mix well. Add the remaining ricotta cheese and the remaining Parmesan-Reggiano and mix well.

3. Transfer the mixture to a 9x13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. Bake until bubbly and golden, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven. Serve with warm crusty bread.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Lemon Biscotti

Gretchen of Canela and Comino chose this week's recipe for biscotti. The complete recipe is on her blog, which has gorgeous photos and great food - be sure to check it out. And for those who haven't heard, the Tuesdays with Dorie group will no longer be accepting new members after October 31st. So if you want to join in all the baking fun, you better join soon. Trust me, you won't be sorry! It's a blast!

I was so excited to make this biscotti. In the words of Dorie, I decided to "play around" and make a plain lemon version by adding lemon zest to the mixture. Making biscotti was a first for me and as I was making it I thought, hmmph... this is easy! I still can't get over how quick it was and how smoothly the whole process went.

Here's my marching band fresh out of the oven:

Sadly enough, when I told my husband that I was making biscotti, he said "you're making WHAT?" Apparently biscotti is not a man thing because he totally had no clue what I was talking about despite my attempts to explain it. He only seemed interested when I told him he could eat some for breakfast with his coffee. Hey, whatever works.

These are absolutely delicious and have such a great lemon flavor. Why haven't I made these before?!?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

White Bean and Turkey Chili

We recently designated a day as our gardening and yardwork day. It ended up being a cool, gloomy and overcast day. But it worked out well that way - we got a lot done and didn't have to worry about the sun blazing down on us. And after our day of hard work, a bowl of chili really hit the spot.

I really enjoy classic chili, but I'm an even bigger fan of white chili. It's a lot lighter, but still makes you feel really warm and cozy inside. And it's so flavorful! This version I found in Cooking Light - it has only 285 calories per serving and it's really tasty. I love it! I think this might become a regular this fall and winter. And it's oh so cute with a little shredded cheese and onions sprinkled on top.

White Bean and Turkey Chili
(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 cup diced yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 and 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 (15.8 oz.) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
2 lbs. ground turkey (or chicken)
1/2 cup diced seeded plum tomato (about 1)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. In a skillet, cook ground turkey over medium-high heat until browned. Drain any excess fat and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, saute 10 minutes or until tender and golden. Add chili powder, garlic, and cumin, saute for 2 minutes. Add oregano and beans; cook for 30 seconds. Add broth; bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes.

3. Place 2 cups of bean mixture in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Return pureed mixture to pan. Add turkey, and cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat. Add diced tomato, chopped cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper, stirring well.

Makes 8 servings.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Marmalade French Toast

I'm not usually a big breakfast person, but every once in a while I get a hankering to do something fun. I'm the type of person who usually eats a bowl of cereal - usually Raisin Bran or Fiber One or some other not-so-fun, but healthy, kind. Hey, it's my one meal where I can easily get in all of those good vitamins and fiber and a little calcium from the milk. A rather boring but good way to start the day. But that's neither here nor there... we're talking about the yummy, fattening, french toast here.

This french toast is made the night before. Yes, the night before! That means you don't have to worry about thinking straight first thing in the morning. All I had to do was make sure I set the oven at the right temp. And thankfully I managed not to screw that up.

So here's the skinny on this recipe - marmalade of your choice between slices of sourdough bread. And that's what's fun about this recipe - make it how you like it. I used orange marmalade, but pick what you like. And you can even switch out the sourdough for something you like better. Put it all in a baking dish, cover it with a milk/egg/sugar/spice mixture. Let it all meld together overnight, then pop it in the oven and you've got a savory breakfast!

Marmalade French Toast

2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
16 oz. loaf of sourdough, or other favorite bread
12 oz. jar fruit marmalade
1 and 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 large eggs

1. Spread butter or margarine on one side of each bread slice. In a lightly greased 13x9 inch baking dish, arrange as many of the bread slices as you can fit, buttered side down, and slightly overlapping. Spread the marmalade evenly over bread, then top with the remaining bread slices, buttered side up.

2. Combine milk and next 4 ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Pour egg mixture over bread. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve with honey or syrup.

Makes 12 servings.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Caramel Peanut Topped Brownie Cake

This week's selection is a gorgeous brownie cake topped with caramel and peanuts. It was selected by Tammy of Wee Treats by Tammy. You can find the complete recipe on her blog, so go get it!

I love being a part of this group. A good deal of the recipes I've made would be ones that I probably wouldn't have ever tried. Despite my love for this group, I'm admitting that I've started trying to get creative with how I can get rid of these fun baked creations without eating them myself. The past several weeks I've given away more of the goodies than I've consumed. This week was no different.

Our friends Darren and Becky just had an adorable baby boy named Jacob. We had the pleasure of going to meet him shortly after he was born. And what did we bring along with us? A Caramel Peanut Topped Brownie Cake. Who is more deserving of a yummy cake than new parents? No one. So as gorgeous as the cake was, I parted with it so that I wouldn't consume the entire thing myself. And look how adorable this little guy is. I didn't want to put him down.

Fortunately I did get to taste a piece of this as we were visiting. It was the only reason I put the child down... his mother was probably thankful! And the cake not only looked good, but it tasted good as well. I think it would be extraordinary with a scoop of ice cream. Maybe I'll make a mini one sometime so I can enjoy it myself. But for now, my hips are thanking me that I gave them a break this week.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Stovetop Sausage Mac And Cheese

You know those meals that just make you feel like a kid again? The ones that are rich and delicious and make you feel all warm and satisfied inside? This is one of those meals for me.

But here's the shocking part - it's light! It's not loaded with an astounding amount of calories! I couldn't believe it either the first time I took a bite, but it's true!

And not only is it light, it's a perfect weeknight meal, taking just about 15 or so minutes to get onto the table. We've had a lot of craziness and business at our house lately. But somewhere between planning for my son's first birthday party, my husband's traveling, a couple of our friends having babies that we just need to go visit and dote on - I can remain sane by making fast meals like this that actually taste good!

So here's how you make this just perfect. First, pick up some healthy chicken sausage from your grocer. And chop it all up into little bite-sized pieces and brown it up in a skillet. Here's what it looks like so you know what to get:

Then make a little roux of milk and flour and pour it into the pan with the sausage. Then, stir in reduced-fat cheddar cheese and cream cheese, and some Monterey Jack cheese, along with some spices. Lastly, stir in the pasta and it's done. Voila! Could it be any easier? This is so quick and easy, you'll never believe it.


Stovetop Sausage Mac And Cheese
(from Cooking Light magazine)

4 oz. chicken and sun-dried tomato sausage, chopped
1 and 1/4 cups fat-free milk
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (3 oz.) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup (about 1 and 1/3 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup (2 oz.) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
5 cups hot cooked elbow macaroni (about 8 oz. uncooked pasta)

1. Heat a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sausage; saute 4 minutes or until browned.

2. Combine milk and flour in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in cheeses, onion powder, and garlic salt; cook 3 minutes or until cheeses melt, stirring constantly. Stir in pasta. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bacon Appetizers

These adorable little appetizers I made a few weeks ago for a baby shower. I found the recipe on one of my favorite cooking blogs - The Pioneer Woman. The Pioneer Woman is incredibly witty and smart. She has some awesome recipes and I love her step by step guides and hearing her stories. These bacon appetizers just sounded so good and looked so cute.

So, I tried them! They call for very popular, yet basic ingredients. I mean, what could be more delicious than crackers, cheese, and bacon? And that's really all there is to these.

I set out to make these and found them to be quite a bit more time consuming than I predicted. Don't get me wrong, they were easy, but it took so long to wrap each piece of bacon around each piece of cracker. But hey, greatness does not always come easy, right?

You seriously should have smelled my house as these were cooking. My entire house smelled like bacon. They cook in the oven on low heat for about an hour and a half and they will permeate through your walls and into every room. If you live in an apartment and have close neighbors, you might just get a few knocks on your door from people wondering what's for dinner and if they're invited.

These little appetizers were really tasty, but I also must warn that they were seriously greasy! I guess that's what you should expect when you're cooking bacon. The crackers in the center shrivel and become gooey from grease. But I guess no one ever claimed these were healthy, so what else did I expect? After I had a few I decided these would be more fitting to be served to men watching some sort of sporting event. But oh well, the folks at the baby shower did enjoy them!

Bacon Appetizers
(from The Pioneer Woman)

Club crackers
Thin-sliced bacon
Grated Parmesan cheese

Optional Alternatives:
Brown sugar instead of Parmesan cheese

1. Lay crackers (as many as you want) face up on a cookie sheet.

2. Scoop about 1 tsp. of grated Parmesan cheese onto each cracker. Cut your package of bacon in half (or cut pieces individually) and, carefully so the cheese doesn't fall off, wrap each cheese covered cracker in one half piece of bacon, completely covering the cracker. It should fit snugly around the cracker.

3. Place the bacon wrapped crackers onto a baking sheet that has a rack on it.

4. Place in a 250 degree F. oven for about 1.5 to 2 hours.