Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2010 Turkey Day Replay


We definitely had a white Thanksgiving this year. This time last year, we didn’t have any snow yet, so I have a feeling this winter is going to be quite white.


It was a busy day of prep in the kitchen. Obviously somebody didn’t want to partake in helping, but instead needed a few more hours of beauty sleep. ^^


And dad decided to stay out of the kitchen and instead worked in his workshop all morning.


I always love cooking in the kitchen I grew up in. It’s where my love of all things food began!

The Menu:







Ingredients for the Lean Green Bean Casserole



Homemade mashed potatoes. This is the recipe I used, but instead of using red potatoes this time, I opted for Yukon Gold’s.


And may I present to you the greatest turkey recipe that has ever existed…

Alton Brown’s Famous Roasted Turkey




My grandpa made this recipe per my request and everyone agreed this is our family’s new go-to turkey!


My plate minus a garden salad!!!


And save the best for last…



Mini Cherry Cheesecake Pies


  • 1 package of Keebler mini pie crusts (6 pack)
  • 1-8oz block of cream cheese, I used fat-free
  • 2 cups milk, skim works perfect
  • 1 (4 serving) cheesecake pudding, I used sugar free


  • Beat cream cheese with electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  • Add in 1/2 c milk and pudding mix—beat until well combined and not lumpy.
  • Add in remaining milk.
  • Spoon into mini pie crusts, top with cherry pie filling, about 3 Tbsp each.
  • Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.

This is my last week of my fall semester as a Junior in college—so bear with me and the sporadic posts due to the fact that I am buried in homework up to my ears!!! :-/

Do you have your Christmas menu planned?? 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Picnik collage

And of course, I am thankful for all my wonderful readers, because if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here!


Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving to you and your family!

..And to readers who aren’t in the US, I hope you have a fabulous Thursday! :-)

See you tomorrow for 2010 Turkey Day Replay!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Cup of Comfort

Hope everyone is having a great Tuesday—I spent yesterday watching about 7 inches of snow fall from the sky, and more to come, which is why I found it necessary to buy new boots to add to my collection of about 15 pairs..I know, crazy a little excessive.




Last week on Tuesday I taught my monthly cooking class to the community as you might remember me saying. I had such a fun group of people show up! They were eager to learn and loved participating and interacting. I usually have one person help out with each recipe to keep everyone feeling as if they contributed to the end results!

This month’s class was called “A Cup of Comfort” due to the fact that Minnesota winters can chill to the bone, and soup is a mainstay November-March! And who doesn’t want to add fun and fresh new recipes to their line up of soups?

Here’s the recipe books I prepared for the students…


The menu:

  • Farm Rich Mini Philly Cheesesteak Appetizers
  • Homemade bread bowls
  • Homemade tortilla bowls
  • Pumpkin bowls
  • Taco Soup
  • Minestrone with Pesto
  • Ginger-Pumpkin Soup
  • Roasted Vegetable Chicken-Rosemary Soup

Setting up all the tasting bowls…


I teach in the Home-Ec room, so I have the convenience of using up to 7 kitchens, but I only used 2 this time around! 


First up were the appetizers courtesy (for free) of Farm Rich. It’s their newest line of frozen appetizers, the Mini Philly Cheese Steaks: "Savory steak, grilled onions, and 100% real, white American cheese in a crispy crust makes for a yummy snack or quick meal any time.”



Review: I really enjoyed the ease of just opening the bag, taking the sandwiches out, and baking for about 18 minutes. Everyone asked if they were homemade, so if you’re looking for a convenience item with a homemade charm, this is it!

Soup #1


Taco Soup


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans pinto beans
  • 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can pink kidney beans
  • 1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomatoes with chiles
  • 2 (4 1/2-ounce) cans diced green chiles
  • 1 (4.6-ounce) can black olives, drained and sliced, optional
  • 1/2 cup green olives, sliced, optional
  • 1 (1 1/4-ounce) package taco seasoning mix
  • 1 (1-ounce) package ranch salad dressing mix 
  • Sour cream, for garnish
  • Grated cheese, for garnish
  • Chopped green onions, for garnish
  • Directions:

    • Brown the ground beef and onions in a large skillet; drain the excess fat, then transfer the browned beef and onions to a stockpot.
    • Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, green chiles, black olives, green olives, taco seasoning, and ranch dressing mix, and simmer over low heat for about 1 hour in a pot on the stove.
    • To serve, top with sour cream, cheese, and green onions.

    Soup #2


    Ginger-Pumpkin Soup


    • 2 can(s) (15-ounce) pumpkin puree
    • 3 can(s) (14 1/2-ounce) chicken broth
    • 1 can(s) (11 1/2-ounce) pear nectar, I used 11 1/2 oz pear juice 
    • 1/3 cup(s) creamy peanut butter, we all agreed chunky would be great too
    • 2 clove(s) garlic, finely chopped
    • 2 tablespoon(s) grated fresh ginger root
    • 2 tablespoon(s) finely chopped green onion
    • 1 tablespoon(s) fresh lime juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon(s) ground cayenne pepper
    • Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
    • Chopped chives (optional)


    1. In a 6-quart saucepan, combine pumpkin puree, chicken broth, and pear nectar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes.
    2. In a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with chopping blade, process 1 cup pumpkin mixture with peanut butter until smooth. Return to saucepan with the remaining pumpkin mixture. Add garlic, ginger root, green onion, lime juice, salt, and cayenne pepper; cook 10 minutes over medium heat.
    3. Divide soup among soup plates and garnish with pumpkin seeds and chives, if desired. Serve immediately.

    Soup #3


    Minestrone With Pesto


    • 8 ounce(s) dried Great Northern beans, about 1 1/3 cups
    • 2 tablespoon(s) olive oil
    • 3 medium carrots, sliced
    • 2 stalk(s) celery, sliced
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 2 ounce(s) pancetta or bacon, sliced, diced
    • 1 pound(s) redpotatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    • 2 medium (8 ounces each) zucchini, each cut lengthwise into quarters, then crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
    • 1/2 medium (1 pound) head savoy cabbage, sliced to equal 4 cups
    • 1 large garlic clove, crushed with garlic press
    • 2 can(s) (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth, (or 3 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth)
    • 1 can(s) (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes
    • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
    • Pesto


  • Rinse beans under cold water and discard any stones or shriveled beans. In large bowl, place beans and 6 cups water. Allow to stand at room temperature overnight. (Or, in 4-quart saucepan over high heat, heat beans and 6 cups water to boiling; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour.) Drain and rinse beans.
  • In 4-quart saucepan over high heat, heat beans and enough water to cover by 2 inches to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 40 minutes to 1 hour until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Drain beans.
  • While beans are cooking, in 5-quart Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, and pancetta; cook 10 minutes or until onions begin to brown, stirring occasionally.
  • Add potatoes, zucchini, cabbage, and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until cabbage wilts.
  • Add chicken broth, tomatoes with their juice, and 1 cup water; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  • In blender or food processor with knife blade attached, blend 1/2 cup beans with 1 cup soup until pureed. Stir salt, bean puree, and remaining beans into soup; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes.
  • Serve soup with Pesto
  • Soup #4


    Roasted Vegetable-Rosemary Chicken Soup


    • 1  cup  (1-inch) cubed carrot
    • 1  cup  (1-inch) cubed onion
    • 1  cup  coarsely chopped mushrooms
    • 1  cup  (1-inch) pieces celery
    • 1  cup  (1-inch) pieces red bell pepper
    • 2  tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil
    • 1  cup  water
    • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh rosemary
    • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
    • 4  (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
    • 2  garlic cloves, minced
    • 1  pound  skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 2  cups  uncooked whole wheat rotini pasta


    • Preheat oven to 375°.
    • Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; drizzle with oil, and toss well to coat. Arrange vegetable mixture in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan lined with foil. Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.
    • Combine water and next 5 ingredients (through chicken) in a large Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Add roasted vegetables; simmer 30 minutes. Bring soup to a boil. Add pasta; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.


    Homemade Bread Bowls


    • 1 Loaf Rhodes ™ Bread Dough or 12 Rhodes™ Dinner Rolls, thawed but still cold
    • 1 egg


    • Cut loaf into thirds. Form each third into a ball. If using rolls combine 4 rolls to make a ball. Repeat with remaining rolls.

    • Place on a large sprayed baking sheet. Brush with egg.

    • Cover with sprayed plastic wrap. Let rise until double in size. Remove wrap and bake at 350°F 25 minutes or until golden brown.

    • Cool and slice off top. Hollow out bread and fill with favorite dip, chili or soup.


    Tortilla bowl recipe here.

    See you all on Thanksgiving!!!!

    What soup do you think you would like best?

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Cookie Trends


    Does everyone recall the infamous Hollywood Cookie Diet that suggests you simply eat up to four cookies a day, replacing breakfast and lunch, and eat a sensible dinner. Eat a cookie for breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch and mid-afternoon snack.


    If only life was so glorious as to eat only cookies 24/7 and still maintain a healthy body…but as for the Hollywood Cookie Diet? They “claim” it works, I beg to differ—instead I suggest fitting a cookie  into your overall healthy eating plan. Not eating all cookies and fitting one meal in—I’d be a blood sugar nightmare!

    So the next cookie trend is a bit more believable; cookies vary by region. Take a look at these regional cookie trends.

    But since when do I follow trends, especially in the kitchen. I’ve always liked to do my own thing! Which is why instead of making Wintermint Wafers of Almond Butter Buckeyes, the current cookie trend for the Midwest, I chose to go the pumpkin route (are you surprised), and boy am I glad I did. I give you permission to be a cookie rebel like me—make these cookies no matter what the trend is!



    White Chocolate Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple-Marshmallow Cream Filling

    • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme
    • 2 teaspoons maple extract
    • 3 cups all purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
    • Mini white chocolate chips
    • Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add marshmallow creme and maple extract; beat until blended and smooth. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

    • Sift first 7 ingredients into large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars in another large bowl until blended. Gradually beat in oil. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in pumpkin. Add dry ingredients in 2 additions alternately with milk in 1 addition, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Cover and chill batter 1 hour.

    • Arrange 1 rack in bottom third of oven and 1 rack in top third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment; spray lightly with nonstick spray. Spoon batter onto baking sheet to form cakes (about 3 level tablespoons each; about 12 per baking sheet), spacing apart. Let stand 10 minutes.

    • Bake cakes until tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking. Cool cakes completely on baking sheets on rack. Using metal spatula, remove cakes from parchment.

    • Line cooled baking sheets with clean parchment; spray with nonstick spray, and repeat baking with remaining batter.


    • Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling on flat side of 1 cake. Top with another cake, flat side down. Repeat with remaining cakes and filling. Roll in mini white chocolate chips.DO AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead. Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature.

    Have you tried the cookie trend for your region?

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    8 Ways

    Hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far! I teach my cooking class “Cup of Comfort” to the community tonight, so be on the lookout for a re-cap post sometime towards the end of this week!!


    So lately I’ve been trying to keep track of my spending to the exact amount. It’s mainly just so I can see where all my money is going and so I never have to ask, “Well where did all my money go?” One thing I found out is that during the week, if I eat out a lot for lunch or dinner with friends, my wallet seems to get a lot thinner versus if I spent the week eating at home. You know how it goes; $3 on soda, $2.99 on a side salad, usually around $12-14 for the main dish, $5 for dessert and of course the $4 for the tip. By the time your out the door, you’ve easily dropped around $20-30 on a meal that you could have made for half the price at home.


    But for me, and I am sure many others, you can’t justify giving up the dining-out experience. There’s just something about being in a fun/different atmosphere and not having to worry about the after-dinner dishes that we can justify and pay the price for it.

    But who says eating out has to be expensive? Certainly not me. Take a tip, or 2, out of my list of 8 ways to save while eating out!


    1. Dine like a tourist

    Contact your chamber of commerce to see if they offer coupons to any restaurants in your town. Also check out your local newspaper and other local publications for coupons.


    Recently I used the above Perkin’s coupon on my favorite meal—Grilled Chicken Omelet with a baked potato. $5 off of a $20 meal is a great savings!


    2. Cash in on your opinion

    Check the back of your dining receipt for customer surveys that can earn you a free meal. At Arby’s, you’ll receive a free roast beef sandwich, and at Burger King, you’ll get a free Whopper.

    3. Get gift certificates at half price.

    At Restaurant.com you can purchase gift certificates for more than 15,000 restaurants at a discount of at least 50%. Most go for just $10, but are worth $25 at the restaurant. And the more you spend, the more you save—a $100 gift card will only cost you $40. So there’s $60 savings on your monthly food budget.

    4. Take advantage of lunch time specials.

    Typically, lunch time hours 12-3pm are off-peak hours compared to dinner time, so restaurants will have great deals to try to get you in the door at that time. I like to show up at 2:30 pm, order, and then take my time eating, that way you still get the lunch special price during evening hours!


    Recently my mom and I did this at Applebee’s. We did the 2 for $22 lunch special where you get an appetizer, two main dishes, and drinks for just $22. I got the 7 oz steak with a baked potato and steamed veggies, the spinach artichoke dip, and my mom got a pasta dish. So much food for a small price!

    5. Cash in on birthday freebies.

    Yes, birthday’s only come once a year, however saving money just during your birthday month is never a bad idea! Check out your favorite restaurant websites for deals. Ben and Jerry’s and Coldstone offer up free ice cream, Red Robin will send a voucher for a free burger, and Houlihan’s will give you a coupon for a free entree good for two weeks.

    If you know me—you know I can never pass up free ice cream!


    6. Be wary of “foodie trends” and “fancy words”.

    Restaurants tend to mark up dishes with the latest trendy ingredients. For instance, Olive Garden’s new Shrimp & Crab Tortelli Romana sounds super fancy. It has shrimp, crab and smoked mozzarella-filled ravioli, topped with sautéed shrimp in a three cheese and sun-dried tomato sauce. Sounds good right? The price of $17.50? Not so much. A homemade meal similar to this could serve 4 for the price of 1 dish at Olive Garden.


    I like doing Olive Garden’s endless soup, salad, and breadstick deal..for just $6.95, it can’t be beat!

    7. Get savings in your inbox

    Sign up at Groupon.com for daily e-mails about local restaurant gift certificates about local restaurant gift certificates for up to 90% off.

    8. “Friend” your favorites

    Become a fan of restaurants on Facebook and promotions will show up in your news feed. Last deals I spotted—free ice cream from Carvel and a free entree at Panda Express.


    What is your favorite dining out tip to save money?

    Saturday, November 13, 2010




    A wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time


    Everyone has something that makes them nostalgic, whether it be related to people, places, or things. For me, it’s related to food. Not too surprising I’m sure!

    I was always in love with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches growing up. No fancy shmancy peanut butter, just good ol’ Jif and no crazy jelly, Smucker’s was all I needed! And for bread? Plain sandwich bread did the job just fine. Nowadays, there’s gourmet peanut butters like PB Co, and gourmet jelly that is organic or made with exotic fruits. And plain sandwich bread? It still exists, but is almost buried under all the other options.

    I’d come home from school and always have a giant peanut butter sandwich that never failed to hit the spot. Fast forward to present day and I can’t even tell you the last time I had a sandwich, not even peanut butter and jelly. I am just not a big fan of sandwiches anymore. Ever since I started cooking more and more complex dishes, I just think sandwiches are too easy. Silly I know, but I am not at a total loss—I can still satisfy my craving for PB & J flavored things with these glorious bars!



    Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

    1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    2 large eggs, at room temperature
    1 cup (9 ounces) chunky peanut butter (I used Jiff)
    1 cup (9 ounces) creamy peanut butter (I used Jiff)
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1 1/2 cups (18 ounces) blackberry jam or other jam (I usually add in about 1/4 cup more)
    1/2 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch cake pan. Line it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan.
    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are combined.



    3. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined.
    4. Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and spread over the bottom with a knife or offset spatula.



    Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the jam.


    Don’t worry if all the jam isn’t covered; it will spread in the oven. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and cut into squares.

    RECIPE NOTES: You can’t get any closer to a PB & J sandwich then these bars do. Plus they cut super easy and would be perfect to wrap up and give for gifts!

    RECIPE IDEA: Make a fun peanut butter and jelly themed gift basket for friends or family. First add in a basic white bread mix like this…

    Next add in some gourmet peanut butter such as this..

    A variety of mini jams…

    These are from Sweet Thing Gourmet

    Perhaps a peanut butter and jelly knife…

    This is from Broadway Pan Handler

    A sandwich keeper so there sandwich stays fresh..

    Add in some of the PB & J bars once you make them and put them all together in a nice basket..

    Simple, fun, and delicious!


    What are you nostalgic about?