Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hamburger Noodle Bake

I have been hosting my parents for Christmas dinner for the past few years, and until this year I made a big turkey dinner.  Now, this year I thought that I would change it up a little bit.  One of my favorite meals from my "other life" was one that my former MIL would make, Hamburger Noodle Bake.  It is very similar to lasagna, but I think, more delicious. My parents both loved it, and it certainly freed up my day, so I could enjoy it with my family instead of slaving away in the kitchen all afternoon!  Also, I put it together earlier in the day, set it aside, and then just baked it off at dinner time.

So here's the deal.  You will need:

1 lb ground beef
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp sugar
2 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce
8 oz. extra wide egg noodles
1 med. onion, chopped
1 package cream cheese
1 c. ricotta
1/4 c. sour cream
1/2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper

Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees and start by browning your meat in a large saute pan over medium heat.  I used a 93/7 so I started with a touch of olive oil in the pan since it was so low in fat.  Season with salt and pepper, and once the meat is brown, drain off any fat and add the sugar, garlic, and tomato sauce.  Bring this to a simmer, cover, and leave it for 25 minutes.  

 Next start a large pot of water boiling, add a bunch of salt, and once it's rolling, add your noodles.  It's about 2/3s of a regular package.  While they are all cooking away, you can mix your other ingredients together.  Soften the cream cheese so it mixes, and add the ricotta, sour cream, and onions.  Make sure it's a pretty big mixing bowl because you need room to add the noodles as well. 

Once the noodles are cooked al dente, drain them, and add them right away to the cream cheese mixture.  Stir it all together and put half of it in the bottom of a 2 qt. casserole dish. 

Ok, now, once your sauce is finished cooking, you can add half of it on top of the layer of noodles.  Next add the rest of the noodles, and the rest of the sauce on top.  Lastly, you can sprinkle your cheese right on top, and put it in the oven. 

Sorry that we were so excited to dig into dinner that I forgot to take a picture of it all hot and bubbly out of the oven, but here is what it looked like once we had devoured it!  It was totally delicious last night, and again today for lunch.  Pair it with a green salad and some yummy bread and you have a killer, easy dinner.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Date Night Dinner

It's Friday night; date night!  Well, for me it's usually first a date with Wegmans, and then with my DVR, but that's the quiet life of a single lady.  Anyway, just because I don't have someone to cook for doesn't mean I don't enjoy a delicious dinner, and this certainly is one of my favorites.  Although I have never cooked this for a date with another person, I am fairly certain it would go over very well. I would date me if I made this...  Anyway, here we go.

This meal includes many foods that I have only as an adult discovered to be delicious (risotto, mushrooms, and brussel sprouts.)  If you aren't a fan, leave out the fungus, and sub in your favorite vegetables for the sprouts.  If you don't eat steak, I do something similar with chicken.  I will try to remember to blog about it soon!

So the meal is pan cooked, grass-fed beef tenderloin (a Wegmans favorite of mine), mushroom risotto, mushrooms in red wine sauce, and roasted brussel sprouts.  It is SO GOOD and pretty easy to make, you just can't walk away.  Never walk away from risotto!

First, take out your steak to rest and pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees (I used my toaster oven and it worked just fine!)  Start by dicing a small onion, and add it to 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. of butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Let them soften up while you prep some other ingredients.  Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add a little butter with a few turns around the pan of olive oil, then throw in your mushrooms.  I used a package of slice baby bellas, but buttons would work too.  Let them brown up before you season because the salt will draw the water out and they won't get the yummy brown color.  

Now you can add the Arborio rice to your onions and let them brown up a bit.  While that's all going, take a small sauce pan and heat your 1.5 cups of chicken stock over medium low heat.  This is what you will add to your rice.  
 Now get your sprouts groovin' by rough chopping 4 cloves of garlic, and then toss your halved and quartered brussel sprouts (I just eye-balled a serving, and Wegmans sells them this time of year all ready clean and cut, so that was awesome!  I used about half of that package) with olive oil, salt and pepper.  I just threw it all in a tupperware container and tossed them around to coat, then laid it all out in a single layer on my foil lined baking sheet and put them in the oven. my friend, Holland taught me this way, so thanks, Holland!  
Once that's in the oven, leave it be, and get back to the stove.  It's time to add about a third of the hot chicken stock to the rice and stir, stir, stir.  The stirring is what makes the rice creamy, so whenever you think of it, give it a few turns around the pan.  Your mushrooms are probably ready for salt and pepper, and a good stirring, also.  Once they are nice and brown, move them to the sides of the pan, turn up the heat, put down a little bit more olive oil, and add your steaks.  Make sure they have been salt and peppered on both sides, and are room temperature.  Let it sear on one side, then give them a flip, add about a third of a cup of good red wine, and let it simmer.

Once the stock has been absorbed by the rice, add another third of the stock, and stir some more.  Once that's been absorbed, add in half of the mushrooms, and the last of the stock, stirring some more.  Also, add some pepper, but no salt because the stock has plenty.  

When your steak is done (probably about 3 minutes on each side for medium rare) remove it from the pan and let it rest before you cut it.  When your risotto is creamy and when you taste a little it still has a tiny bite to it, but isn't crunchy or mush, take it off the heat, add a tsp. of good butter and a quarter cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. You can probably take the sprouts out now and check if they are tender. If so, leave them out, if not, give them a few more minutes. 

OH!  I almost forgot one of my favorite parts.  Now, this is absolutely not necessary, but since I had some tasty garlicky Italian bread left over from the other night, I made something my friends and I call "meat bread."  It was born at one of those restaurants where you cook your own meat, and we always throw our buttered bread down on the grill after all the meat has been cooking, and vala!  Meat bread was born.  So, for this meal, after I take the steak off, I put my mushrooms and what's left of the reduced wine and transfer them into my now empty chicken stock pan until I'm ready with them, add a little butted to the meat pan, and toast off some good bread on both sides.  

It is so good, but if you don't have bread around, trust me, it's just a bonus, you won't need it.  Now you just have to plate it all up, pour some wine and enjoy!  Whether you have a date with the person of your dreams, or your DVR, you will love this meal.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chicken Divan

This is another recipe I pulled out from my "other life."  My former MIL used to make this one all the time and it was one of my favorites.  I made a few weeks ago and it was as good as I remembered!  I only changed a few little things, and I think I would change one more next time, so I'll share those with you as well.  Here is the original recipe:

2 10 oz broccoli spears
1/4 cup butter
6 Tbs flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup milk or cream
2 Tbs dry sherry or white wine or curry
3 chicken breasts (both sides)
American cheese, grated or slices
1/4 cup grated parmesan

Cook broccoli. Melt butter; blend in other dry ingredients with pepper. Add broth. Cook and stir until sauce thickens and bubbles. Stir in wine and milk. Place broccoli in dish. Add half of the sauce. Top with cooked chicken. Cover with slices of American cheese or shredded cheese. Pour remaining sauce over the cheese. Sprinkle with parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

So, my changes are:  I used fresh broccoli instead of frozen (3 heads) and I cooked it for just a few minutes before putting it in the dish.  Next time I won't cook it first, I don't think it is necessary.  The other time saving change I made was not pre-cooking the chicken.  It cooked through just fine in the over, no worries and a big time saver if you don't have a bunch of cooked chicken hanging around.  Below are some photos of the process and final product.  I used the curry powder, but I'm sure the wine would be delicious and light!
Add the broccoli
Make a rue and add the seasonings
Add the milk, I used 1%, and let it thicken up


Assembled: Before cooking

Serve over extra wide egg noodles, and enjoy!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mack and Cheese

This post goes out to my friends, the Mackeys.  When I asked for feedback, they answered back looking for a version of mac and cheese.  Now, mac and cheese is one of my most favorite comfort foods, but to be totally honest, I often turn to it in a time crunch, and it usually comes in a box...  

Uhg, I know, right?!  But when someone mentioned it again, it triggered a memory of an old recipe I had from my former MIL.  She made some really tasty casseroles, and I decided to take an old standby and spice it up a little bit.  Literally.  So, I will just go ahead and say, I think this is going to have a kick to it, so if you are making it for the kids, or you just can't take the heat, I'll make some suggestions for substitutions ;) I also tried to make some healthy choices, but again, feel free to use whatever version of these ingredients you have on hand.


2 c. whole wheat macaroni (or regular)
4 Tbsp. butter
4Tbsp. wheat flour (I will use white next time, I didn't love the texture of wheat)
1/2 an onion diced
1 tsp. dry mustard
pepper to taste
2 c. milk (I had 1%)
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. cubed chicken with jalapeno sausage (2 links) or substitute cubed, cooked ham
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. shredded havarti with horseradish and chives (or whatever cheese you like)
parmesan cheese for the top

Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees and get a large pot of salted water boiling.  Once it's boiling, add the pasta and cook about 2 minutes less than recommended on the box.  While that is cooking, heat a medium saute pan over medium heat and add the butter and your onions.  Once they are soft, whisk in the flour.  
Then stir in the mustard, pepper, milk, and 
cheese. Stir this all together and let it thicken up.  
While the sauce is thickening, chop up your sausage, and I like to brown it a little before adding it all together.  
Just saute it over med/high heat in a tiny bit of butter.  

Drain your pasta, toss in the peas, and then pour the sausage, pasta, and peas into your cheese sauce.  (This makes clean up much easier, because the saucey pan is the messiest already :)

Pour everything into a casserole dish and shave parmesan cheese over the top and bake with the lid on for 15 minutes.  Then remove the lid and cook for an additional 15 minutes and enjoy!

Side notes.  This meal is really tasty, but using the whole wheat pasta and flour definitely makes it taste a little healthier.  If you don't usually like the taste/texture of the whole wheat, don't use it!  This won't hide it like a heavy tomato sauce might.  I will probably stick to white flour next time.  Oh, and after eating it, it's not nearly as spicy as I imagined...  Maybe next time I'll add a little more heat :) I also might double the sausage next time, I found myself searching for it a little too much.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Hi all!  So, this week and next are really busy for me, as I spend a great many hours at the theater polishing up our community theater's production of Alice in Wonderland.  I've been taking this opportunity to eat sushi and breakfast for dinner, both of which are delicious, but don't lead to great blog posts!  Which leads to my next few questions:

What do you make when time is short?

What are your favorite go to recipes?

and my biggest question:

What kinds of recipes/post would you like to see me post next?!

Looking forward to seeing all of your great ideas and the challenge of trying to meet your culinary needs :)


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sweet Potato and Chorizo Sausage Soup

I went out to dinner with my parents last week and had some delicious Sweet Potato and Sausage soup, and my dad and I ate it so quickly that my mom didn't even get to taste it.  So I decided I am going to try and figure out how to make it myself!

I started by roasting three good sized sweet potatoes (about 2 lbs) in the oven on a baking sheet for an hour on 400 degrees.  I meant to drizzle a little olive oil on them first, but I forgot, but I would do that next time!  Take them out, let them cool and then scoop all the good stuff out of the peel and set it aside. I actually found that once I cut them open, the peel basically just fell off and I slid them into a bowl. 

Next heat a good sized pot over medium heat (note, my pot was way bigger than it needed to be!)  Add about a tbsp of olive oil and then crumble 4 Chorizo Sausage links (out of the casings) into the hot pan and let them brown.

Once they are brown, use a slotted spoon to scoop out the sausage and set it aside on a paper towel on a plate so it can drain a bit.  To the oil, I added one medium onion and a garlic clove, both grated.  I grated them because I hate chomping down on a chunk of onion or garlic in a soup like this.  I used the large sized grater for the onion, and the small side for the garlic.  The moisture from these will help release all the good flavor crystals that are stuck to the bottom of the pan, which is awesome!  Once they have cooked down and are soft, add salt, pepper, and a small pinch of Cayenne pepper. (I did a little more like 2 pinches and it was pretty spicy!) Once that is combined, add in about 2 cups of chicken stock and then your sweet potato.  Mush it all up, stir, and add a pinch each of nutmeg and cinnamon.  

Now, here is where I wish I had an immersion blender, but I don't, so I scooped everything into my blender and pureed it all together.

You can then add it back into your pot and stir in the cooked sausage.  Taste for seasoning, and then enjoy!  I didn't think of it when I was at the store today, but I think that my raisin bread croutons would be awesome with this!  I will make some tomorrow and add photos.  They are so awesome.

To make the croutons, take about 4-6 slices of good raisin bread (I found some apple cider golden raisin bread at Wegmans that was so very fall, I couldn't resist!), and cut them into cubes the size of croutons.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add about 1 tbsp of oil and 1-2 tbsp of butter. 

 Once that is all melted together, toss the bread in with the butter and oil until it is coated evenly.  Add a little salt and cinnamon and keep cooking and tossing until all sides are nice and golden brown.  
They will be crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  They are so good in fall soups like this sweet potato one, or any butternut squash soup (another one of my favorites!)  Top your soup with a few and enjoy!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Apple Bread Pudding and Salted Caramel Sauce

Bread Pudding is one of my favorite dessert treats, and since the make it on Chopped all the time, I figured it can't be that hard.  If they can throw one together in 30 minutes, why couldn't I?  I've made a few different variations of Bread Pudding, but I went with apples and caramel for fall because they are such classic Fall flavors.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  I started by letting a loaf of tasty bread get a little stale, and then I cubed it up.  I forget what kind it was, something I picked up at Wegmans last week.  Throw it in a large bowl, and mix all of your wet ingredients together.  I used two eggs, 2 cups of heavy cream (you could do milk, I think, but come on, this is dessert, people!) a tsp. of vanilla, a pinch of salt, and a shake or two of cinnamon.  Then pour it over the bread, mix it together, and set it aside and let it meld for like 10-15 minutes.    

While you are waiting, peel, core, and chop up an apple.  Then mix it into your bread mixture, and pour it into either a baking dish, or I like to use my cast iron pot.  (Thanks, Beth!)  Bake it in the oven with a lid or covered for about 30 minutes, and then another 10-20 without the lid to crisp up the top.  

As it's baking, you can make your caramel.  Now, I will totally admit that the only reason I attempted to make my own caramel was because I just think it is so darn delicious that it was worth a go.  So craving beat intimidation, and I now know it's really not that difficult.  It's a little like Risotto (a big time favorite of mine) in that, you just can't walk away.  

Add the sugar

Start with a medium sauce pan over medium high heat.  Add 3/4 cup of sugar, a good pinch of sea or kosher salt, and about 2 tbs. of water. 

Stir until it is dissolved
 Stir them together until the sugar dissolves and then leave it alone, but stay close by!  Watch the sugar boil for about 3-4 minutes until it turns a tan/caramelly color.  Be patient.   

When it looks like the picture to the right, you are going to add a 1/2 cup of heavy cream slowly to your sugar.  It is going to bubble up, but just stir it in, and then turn off the heat. 

bubbling cream

removed from the heat
 You can then pour it into a small pitcher or measuring cup and cool it down in the fridge, which will thicken it up, as well.  Then when your bread pudding is ready, pull it out and pour it over your dessert!

Ok, now take your dish out of the oven, spoon some bread pudding into a bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and drizzle the caramel sauce over top.  This dessert is SO yummy!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chicken and Spinach Flautas

Full disclosure.  This is not a Lindsay original recipe.  I've adapted it from this website.  I did not change a lot, but there were a few things, so I'll walk you through what I discovered.  However you decide to make this recipe, please make this recipe!  It is simple, quick, and so tasty.

You will need:
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 16 ounces Beer (or chicken broth)
  • 2 cups Water
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper, minced
  • 6 cups Baby Spinach, chopped
  • 5 burrito-size Whole Wheat Tortillas (9 inches)
  • 6 ounces Shredded Cheese (I used a combo of Cheddar, Colby Jack, and Havarti with jalapeno)
  • Cooking spray 
  • Salsa and sour cream, for serving 
I did not make this full recipe.  I made about half because that's how much chicken I had left over from Chicken Tortilla Soup and I only have 3 tortillas.  Oh, and I'm only cooking for myself and still working my way through soup, chili, and corn casserole!  So, if you followed my post about Chicken Tortilla Soup, you know how to make the chicken.  If not, here we go!

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Simmer a beer and 2 cups of water in a sauce pan and then add your chicken.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. 
 Pour off all but 1/4 cup of the poaching liquid and shred your chicken.  I use the paddle attachment on my mixer on medium speed for 45 seconds.  Presto!  Shredded chicken!  Toss in the seasoning, mix for another few seconds and then set it aside.  

Heat the poaching liquid over medium heat while you chop up a LOT of baby spinach.  I used three cups just for my half batch, so definitely make a lot!  I also added a hot pepper from my garden, I think it was a Cayenne.  Add the spinach and pepper to the pan and saute for a few minutes while you set up for assembly. 
 You will need your chicken, cheese, and tortillas that are cut in half.  You should also spray a baking tray with cooking spray.  Once the spinach cooks and the liquid is pretty much gone, you can start putting them together.  Spoon some chicken, spinach and a little cheese on the cut side of the tortilla.  Then roll it up as tightly as you can and put it seam side down on the tray. 

Spray them lightly with cooking spray and pop them in the oven for 10 minutes.  Serve them with salsa and sour cream (and corn casserole, if you have some!)  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup-Work in Progress

I have gone back and forth about whether to post this meal...  And finally I landed on, yes, but as a work in progress.  I made this soup yesterday and wasn't happy with the way it turned out from the recipe I used as my kick-off.  So I set to work fixing it, and after having it tonight for dinner, I feel like it's decent, but still not amazing.  I'm calling for help or suggestions.  

Here is what I started with:

I actually cooked the chicken according to a recipe for chicken and spinach flautas that I will make later this week.  I even cooked enough of it for that recipe to save some time.  Go me, planning ahead!  

So I took almost 2 lbs of chicken (1 lb for this recipe and the rest reserved for the flautas) and poached them for 10 minutes in a bottle of beer (I used Pale Ale) and 2 cups of water.  I then reserved 1/4 cup of the liquid for the Flautas, poured off most of it and kept maybe a half a cup for the stock.  Take the chicken and shred it.  Now pay attention because this is an awesome trick.  

Remove the chicken breasts, put them in your stand mixer, and mix for 45 seconds on medium speed with your paddle attachment.  Instant shredded chicken!  I felt like I should add this recipe mostly to pass along this trick.  I love it!

What I did then was pour 2 containers of chicken stock into the large pot I was poaching in, and then add the chicken back in.  What I would do next time is season the chicken before adding it back in.  I eventually added salt, black pepper, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and red pepper flakes.  Just a quarter sized amount on your palm of each of the spices, and s and p to taste.  

Then chop your veggies.  I used 3 Roma tomatoes, half a red onion diced (it was pretty big), 3 hot peppers from my garden with ribs and seeds, a cup of frozen corn, and 3 ribs of celery.  I think it could have used some bell pepper, too, but didn't add that.  Throw your veggies in the pot, too.

 At this point, add a can of black beans, stir it all together, and vala!  Only, I still don't feel like it's quite right...  I heated some up today, added a touch of cream, garnished with avocado, cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro, and some crumbled corn chips.  It was good, but not exactly what I expected.  I don't have a final product picture because I didn't think I was going to add this one, but if I have it again this week, I'll snap a picture and add it.  

So, I need your help!  What would you add or change to make this better?