Saturday, April 9, 2011

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream



Before anything else, I have to give a shout out to my older brother, Greg, down on Long Island in NY who is celebrating his birthday today! Love & miss you bro!

My future daughter in law, Jenn is visiting this weekend from college. She goes to Perdue in Ft Wayne, IN and is taking a breather as she finishes up her senior year in a few weeks and graduates. She heard through the grapevine that we got an ice cream maker and I had to promise to make her some ice cream the next time she was here. One of her most favorite things is cheesecake...strawberry cheesecake to be exact, so I set out to make an ice cream with those flavors. I made sure to have a whole cheesecake and extra homemade strawberry sauce for her too.

Please note that you really should make the strawberry sauce the day before you make the ice cream so that it has enough time to cool and thicken up...I actually did, but not intentionally, so it's a good thing that I just happened to so that I could share this wisdom with you. Here's the recipe:

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Ingredients:

Strawberry Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen Strawberries
  • the juice and zest of one lemon
Graham Cracker Mixture:
  • 2 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
Ice Cream:
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant cheesecake or vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions:

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch.
Gradually stir in water until smooth.
Stir in strawberries, lemon zest and lemon juice.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

In a large bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, sugar and cinnamon.
Stir in butter.
Pat into an ungreased 15-in. x 10-in.x 1-in. baking pan.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cool completely on a wire rack.
Crumble the cooled mixture and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the ice cream ingredients.
Fill ice cream freezer cylinder; freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

In a large container, layer the ice cream, graham cracker mixture and strawberry sauce three times; swirl. Freeze.

Here is Jenn enjoying her ice cream OVER a piece of cheesecake with extra strawberry sauce!



And here she is with her fiance, my younger son, Nick. (aren't they gorgeous?!?)



This ice cream is soooo good! I hope you'll make it!

Enjoy!
Christina

Friday, April 8, 2011

Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup



Spring has finally arrived here in New England! My Daffodils are blooming, all the snow has melted, and the thermometer is getting above 50 F! This doesn't mean I'm going to stop hauling out the crock pot and making warm and spicy soups, stews and chili! This one is a recipe I adapted from one I found on allrecipes.com. Here's my version:

Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound shredded, cooked chicken
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
  • 1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chili peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • tortilla chips
  • shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chilies, and garlic into a slow cooker.

Pour in chicken broth, and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and bay leaf.

Stir in corn and cilantro.

Cover, and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours.

Serve with tortilla chips and cheese.

Enjoy!
Christina


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

White Chocolate Cranberry Granola Bars



I was finally able to start exercising this week since I'm still recovering from surgery. It will be at least a month before I'm back up to my 2 hour dance workout, but it feels good to be up and moving again, even if it's just for a half hour a day. After my workout and shower I'm usually starving and love to have some kind of homemade bars around for a quick, nutritious treat. These granola bars that i found on Allrecipes are a little on the chewy side for my tastes, but they are still good. I'll work on tweaking the recipe so I like it, but in the mean time, here's the original recipe:

White Chocolate Cranberry Granola Bars:

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons reduced fat peanut butter
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 cups crisp rice cereal
  • 1/3 cup vanilla or white chips
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts


Directions
In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients; mix well.
Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and allspice; add to the sugar mixture.
Stir in the remaining ingredients.
Press into a 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking pan coated with nonstick cooking spray.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Score the surface with shallow cuts, making rectangular bars.
Cool completely on a wire rack.
Cut along score lines.

Enjoy!
Christina

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Apple and Spice Pork Roast



Nothing makes a rainy day a little better than something delicious smelling cooking in the crock pot all day! Yesterday (and today for that matter) have been so dreary outside, but such is early spring in New England. I went outside to fill the bird feeders this morning and noticed that the first of my daffodils have started to bloom, so spring is really here, despite the chill in the air. This pork roast tastes as good as it smells and looks, so it was a great dinner last night. I love cooking roasts in the crock pot! They get fall apart tender!
Here's how I made it:


Apple and Spice Pork Roast

Ingredients:
  • 1 (4 pound) boneless pork roast
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Directions:

Trim all visible fat from the pork roast and place in the crock pot.
Stir together applesauce, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard and cloves in small bowl.
Combine flour, salt, sugar, garlic powder and pepper in another small bowl.
Rub flour mixture evenly over entire surface of pork.
Pour applesauce mixture over roast.
Cook in slow cooker on low for 6 or more hours.

Enjoy!
Christina


Monday, April 4, 2011

Steakhouse Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza



Yesterday afternoon was the recital for the Belly Dance school I go to. Even though I couldn't dance in it since I'm still recovering from my surgery I did get all dressed up and helped out by being the DJ and getting the audience going. I also loved cheering my Belly Sisters on! When I got home I was starving and wanted something both easy and delicious, so I threw together 2 of these awesome pizzas! I'm gonna make these again and again! It's my new favorite pizza!
Check it out:

Steakhouse Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt (I used Adobo)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 (1 pound) loaves frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 1 cup KC Masterpiece Steakhouse Marinade
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 oz bacon pieces


Directions:
In a skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.
Add salt, seasoning salt and pepper; set aside.
On pizza stones, shape each dough into a 13-in. circle.
Spread half the marinade over each crust like you would sauce to within 1/2 in. of edge.
Top each pizza with half of the beef and cheese & bacon.
Bake at 475 degrees F for 18 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is melted.


PS: If you serve Tater Tots with it like I did, dip 'em into the puddles of marinade on the pizza! Seriously!

I've been stretching and drilling every morning for about a half hour & hope to work my way back up to my 2 hour a day dance workouts by the beginning of May, just in time for the Pug Rescue Fundraiser ("Shimmies for Pugs") we're dancing at!

Enjoy!
Christina

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Twice-Baked Potatoes Supreme


I've been keeping it nice & easy in the kitchen this week since I'm still healing. Tonight, at my husbands request I made those delicious Hamburger Steaks with the grilled onions. Instead of serving them with just steak fries, I made Twice Baked potatoes out of some leftover baked potatoes that we had on hand. Here's how I made them:

Twice-Baked Potatoes Supreme

Ingredients:

Ingredients

  • 8 large baking potatoes
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • Paprika

Directions

Pierce the potatoes with a fork. Bake at 400 degrees F for 60-70 minutes or until tender.
Cut potatoes in half lengthwise; scoop out the insides of the potato, leaving a thin shell.
Set shells aside.
In a large bowl, mash
the insides of the potato; add butter, garlic powder, salt, oregano, cayenne, celery salt and enough milk to make a smooth filling.
Stuff or pipe into shells; place into greased 13-in. x 9-in.x 2-in. baking pans.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and paprika if desired.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

Enjoy!
Christina

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Back in the Kitchen! Easy Fritatta



I'm finally off bed rest and my pain meds are down to about a quarter of what I started out with so I felt safe enough to be near knives and fire again. I still can't do any heavy lifting for another month, so I won't be draining any pasta pots anytime soon. I woke up this sunny Sunday morning and nobody else was up yet (well, Garrick headed to work at the restaurant at 7:30, but I knew he wouldn't be here) so I had to fend for myself as far as food goes.

I wasn't quite sure what was left since I haven't been in the kitchen for the last week & a half, but I knew my Mom went shopping for some stuff she thought we needed before she headed back to NY yesterday so I knew there would be something. There was a dozen eggs, a pound of bacon, some assorted shredded cheeses, and some bagels she brought earlier in the week so I thought a fritatta would be a good idea because I didn't have to stand at the stove and watch it like a regular omelet. I baked the bacon in the oven right along with it on a sheet pan so I didn't have to babysit that either. Here's how I made the eggs:

Easy Fritatta

Ingredients:
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbs minced onion
  • 1 Tbs Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9" pan or pie plate with cooking spray. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Pour mixture into pan and bake for 30 minutes. If your fritatta (like mine...mine always take longer than a recipe says)) isn't set at this point, take it out of the oven re-mix the mixture so the runny stuff isn't all in the middle; crank the oven up to 425 degrees F and bake the eggs an additional 5 minutes. Works every time without drying them out!!!


I served mine with bacon and a toasted, buttered poppy seed bagel YUM!)

I'm glad to be back and hope to enjoy this recipe!
Christina

Friday, March 18, 2011

Home!

I'm home from the hospital and my surgery was a success. I'm going to have to take it easy and let the rest of my family do the cooking for a while so you may not see anything new from me here for a couple of weeks. I hope you will all check back then!

Thanks for your patience!
Christina

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream



Broke out the ice cream maker again yesterday! My oldest son, Garrick, graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, Boston last year... He's cooking his way up the ladder at a seafood restaurant in Nashua, NH. I asked him yesterday "How do you feel about strawberry ice cream?" He shrugged. I said that I'm making some because the strawberries we got at the market looked amazing this week. I look over the recipe I have & gather the ingredients and it calls for fresh lemon juice...I ain't got no lemons. Hmmm...My eye lands on the bottle of balsamic vinegar. Balsamic & strawberries go together! So I call from the kitchen "How do you feel about Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream?" His reply was "Om nom nom!" *sheesh* It IS really good!
Here's how I made it:

Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups fresh, ripe strawberries, stemmed & sliced
  • 4 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Directions:

In a small bowl, combine the strawberries, vinegar, and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Stir gently and allow the strawberries to macerate in the juices for 2 hours. Strain the berries, reserving the juices. Puree half of the berries.

In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine the milk and remaining cup of sugar until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream, vanilla, reserved strawberry juice, and pureed strawberries. Turn your ice cream maker on and pour the mixture into the freezer bowl. Freeze according to the manufacturers directions. Add the remaining strawberries 5 minutes before the freezer cycle ends. Ours finished soft serve after 25 minutes and we transferred it to a sealed container in the freezer to get a firmer set for about 2 hours.

After my surgery next week I hope to bring you some creations by Garrick as he and my husband take over the cooking duties while I recover from surgery on the 16th. There may even be a dish or 2 from my Mom if she travels out from NY to lend a hand as well!

Enjoy!
Christina

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Burger on the Grill



I just couldn't take it any more! My gas grill had been buried under two feet of snow since just after Christmas and just this week I was finally able to get to it to fire it up! I didn't care that it was 18 F degrees with a wind chill of 5...I just had to cook something on an open flame! We normally grill all year long but this year it has been an extra snowy winter and the dogs were lucky we were able to plow them a path out into the yard, never mind digging out everything on the deck! There's still about two feet in the yard, and the snow drifts at the end of our dead end street are still over 5 feet, but the slow thaw has begun! The crocus and daffodil shoots are starting to appear in the raised beds. The birds have been singing their little hearts as well, so it won't be long before I'm complaining about the unending rain... Now I'm rambling, so let's get back to the burgers! No buns needed for these bad boys! I just served them up with some sauteed onions, steak fries, and a salad. They're super easy too! Here's the mix:

Hamburger Steaks with Grilled Onions

Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs ground beef (I used 85% lean)
  • 1 tsp seasoning salt (I used Goya Adobo)
  • 1 Tbs liquid marinade (I used KC Masterpiece Steakhouse Marinade)
  • 2 sweet onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • salt & pepper
Directions:

Mix seasoning salt and marinade into the ground beef. Form into 4 to 6 patties (I made 6) and cook on a pre heated grill until done to your liking. We like ours pretty pink, so I cook then about 7 minutes a side on a medium flame and let them rest for 5 minutes for med rare. If you don't have a grill (or yours is still buried) you can cook these in a skillet on medium high.

Heat oil and butter in a skillet on medium high. Add sliced onions. Season with salt & pepper. Saute for about 12 minutes until they are soft and start to caramelize.

Enjoy!
Christina

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Macaroni & Ham Casserole



Comfort food. It's what I like to cook and eat best I think. It's been a rough winter weather wise, and I've been having some medical issues (ongoing women stuff) that I need to tend too so it's been such a comfort to be able to get into the kitchen and make some feel good food for myself as well as my family. I just found out yesterday that I need to have some surgery done to try to resolve my health issues in two weeks. If it goes easy, recovery will be about 2 weeks. If it's more complicated when they get in there and have a look around, recovery could take 2 months. I'm going to try to be optimistic and plan my life as if it'll be a 2 week recovery! One of the meals I made last week while I was having a particularly rough day was this macaroni & ham dish it was super easy and so comforting that it made me feel better for a while! Here's how you make it:

Macaroni & Ham Casserole

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni pasta
  • 1 1/2 Tbs butter
  • 3/8 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 10 oz can cream of celery soup
  • 16 oz bag frozen mixed vegetables (green beans, carrots, peas & corn), thawed
  • 3 cups ham, diced (I used ham steaks)
Directions:

Boil pasta according to the package directions. Drain it and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F. Saute onion in butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Stir in the soup & milk. Heat thoroughly, stirring. Pour mixture into a greased casserole dish. Add ham, vegetables, pasta, Worcestershire, and pepper and stir to combine. Bake in oven for about 45 minutes.

Enjoy!
Christina

Monday, February 28, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Dark Chocolate Chip Ice Cream


With all the snow we've been having here north of Boston this winter, our thoughts often wander to warmer times. Thinking of summer my husband and I decided we needed an ice cream maker! We settled on a Cuisinart 2 Qt so that we could make our own half gallon concoctions any time we want! I decided to start with a super easy, no egg, chocolate base and added some toffee bits and dark chocolate chips since I had only a bit more than 1/4 cup of each which wouldn't be of any use for anything other than snacking if I didn't put them into something. Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Toffee Dark Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs pure vanilla extract
  • about 3/4 cup total dark chocolate chips and toffee bits
Directions:

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the cocoa powder and sugars. Add the whole milk and blend together for about 3 minutes using a hand mixer on a low speed until the cocoa and sugars are dissolved. Stir in the vanilla and heavy cream by hand.

Turn your ice cream maker on and pour the mixture into the prepared freezer bowl and let mix until thickened according to your machine's instructions. Add the chocolate chips and toffee bits about 5 minutes before the cycle is complete. Ours finished soft serve after 25 minutes and we transferred it to a sealed container in the freezer to get a firmer set for about 2 hours.

Better than anything we can buy in a store AND we had a whole half gallon, not the 1 3/4 gallons the stores sell now at the half gallon price!

Enjoy!
Christina

Friday, February 25, 2011

Easy Granola Bars, and TAG! You're it!



My friend Kim from The Farmer's Wife blog tagged me so I'll fulfill my obligations for being "IT" first, then share this fab recipe with you! Growing up in a neighborhood that had something like 64 kids, I got quite good at a lot of the street games. Lets see how I do with this one...


Let's see...says here I've got to answers these 9 questions...fair enough. Here goes:

1.What do you refuse to eat?
Hold the Mayo! HATE mayonnaise, cottage cheese and canned tuna fish.
2. What is the most ethnic dish you have ever made?
The MOST ethnic? Damn, that's a hard one, being Italian American it would be a cop out to post something Italian, and living in a Hispanic community any of those dishes would be a cop out too...I guess it would have to be Chicken Tikka Masala. I don't like curry, but I do like other Indian dishes, and this is one I can get into!
3. Salt or Sweet?
Both! At the same time please!!!
4. What kitchen gadget can you not live without?
My Kitchen Aid stand mixer. When I get into a baking frenzy it's my best friend!
5. Last restaurant you ate at?
That wasn't fast food or a chain restaurant? I think it was the Fireside Pub in Methuen, MA...The last chain was The 99 and the last fast food was Chipotle
6. Where would you like to live if you could move anywhere in the world?
Camden, Maine. it has the wooded mountains and the ocean all in one place.
Heaven on earth to me!
7. What is your blog about?
Food. What's coming out of my kitchen and going into our bellies.
You won't see anything too fancy, but it's always delicious!
8. Do you have pets?
We have 2 dogs (Pugs from the local rescue) and two cats (adopted as kittens from a shelter)
9. What’s the last city you visited?
For work, West Greenwich, RI
For vacation, Mystic, CT

Now I have to tag 4 other bloggers:
Dionne from Try Anything Once
Kristie from Kreated by Kristie
Meghan from Butter Cream Blondi
Mina from Angel Loves Cooking
Tag!! You're it! Now it's your turn to answer these questions! :)



Now for the granola bars! You can make all kinds of substitutions to this recipe depending on what you like and what you have on hand! This is how I made them this time:

Easy Granola Bars

Ingredients
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup sliced almonds (you can add a cup of whatever nuts you want here)
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips (you can add a cup of peanut butter, cinnamon, or butterscotch chips here if you want)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries, apricots and raisins (you can add a half cup of whatever dried fruit you want here)
Directions
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch pan.

2.In a large bowl, mix together the oats, sweetened condensed milk, butter, coconut, nuts, chocolate chips and dried fruit with your hands until well blended. Press flat into the prepared pan.

3.Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, depending on how crunchy you want them. Lightly browned just around the edges will give you moist, chewy bars. Let cool for 5 minutes, cut into squares then let cool completely before serving.

Enjoy!
Christina

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Southwest Chicken Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing



Any way I can get more veggies into my carnivorous boys is good in my book. This tasty salad with it's bold southwestern flavors and a "dressed up" salad dressing was a big hit! I cooked extra chicken breasts earlier in the week when I was baking chicken breasts for another meal and saved them in the fridge for this night which made it extra quick and easy!

Southwest Chicken Salad

Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 3 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
  • 10 oz frozen kernel corn, thawed
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 bag mixed salad greens
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Directions:
Heat non stick skillet on med-high. Add oil, onion, cumin and garlic salt and cook a few minutes until onions are tender. Add corn and saute until corn is lightly roasted. Add chicken to heat through. Divide lettuce, tomatoes and roasted peppers among each of 4 plates. Top with warm chicken mixture, cheese, and *salad dressing. Serve with tortilla chips.

Cilantro Lime Dressing

Mix one cup of ranch dressing with the juice of 1 lime and 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro.

Enjoy!
Christina

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Monte Cristos with Baked Apple Slices



Monday night is dance class night, so I need to make quick dinners that will fill everyone up without being too heavy for me so I can move through class. Sandwiches are perfect to fit this meal time need. I sliced the apples before baking them so that they would cook faster. I just sprinkled them with some brown sugar and cinnamon and dotted the top with butter and baked at 350 F while making the sandwiches. Here's my quick and easy version of the Monte Cristos:

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

Ingredients:
  • 12 slices sandwich bread
  • butter
  • 4 Tbs sour cream(you can use mayo here, but I don't like it) mixed with 2 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • 6 slices Swiss or Gruyere cheese
  • 24 thin slices of deli turkey
  • 6 Tbs flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
Directions:

Heat a skillet or griddle and spray with cooking spray.

Spread each of the slices of bread with some butter, then some of the mustard mixture. Place 4 slices of turkey and 1 slice of cheese on 6 of the prepared bread slices. Top each sandwich with one of the other bread slices each.

Blend flour, baking powder, eggs and milk. Dip each side of the sandwiches in the egg mixture and place on the griddle/skillet. brown both sides.

Serve with apples and maple syrup if you like.

Enjoy!
Christina

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tortellini & Sausage Soup



The cold weather is back, and probably will be for some time. This means that we get to have more delicious comfort foods. Nothing warms me up like a great bowl of soup. If there is pasta in it, that's just a bonus! Here's how I made this one:

Tortellini & Sausage Soup

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb ground sausage
  • 9oz refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 14oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 10oz package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 4 cups beef broth
Directions:
In large soup pot, brown and drain sausage. Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and broth. heat to boiling. Add spinach and tortellini. Turn heat down to a simmer and simmer about 10 minutes or until pasta is done.

Enjoy!
Christina

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chocolate Chunk and Cinnamon Coffee Cake



One of the amazing truffles in the box of Godiva chocolates that my husband gave me for Valentines Day was chocolate with cinnamon. This was such a fantastic combination that I just had to make something with it. I thought it would be a great flavor combo in a coffee cake, so here you go:

Chocolate Chunk and Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Ingredients
  • 1 12 ounce package Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks
  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix chocolate, pecans, 2/3 cup of the sugar and the cinnamon; set aside. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Beat butter and remaining 1-1/3 cups sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, beating after each addition until well blended. Spoon half of the batter into greased 13x9-inch baking pan; top with half of the chocolate mixture. Repeat layers.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares to serve.

Enjoy!
Christina

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Shrimp with Linguine



Just in case you thought all I fed my honey for Valentines Day was chocolate treats, I wanted to show you what I made for dinner. I'm not a big fan of fish, but I do like shellfish, so every once in a while I'll make a seafood dish. The original recipe I had for this dish called for mushrooms, but I am deathly allergic to them so I substituted diced tomatoes for them. Feel free to put them in if you want them, just don't serve them to me without a side of epinephrine! I served this with a salad of mixed baby lettuces and sliced strawberries with a vinaigrette.

Shrimp with Linguine

Ingredients:Bulleted List
  • 16 oz uncooked linguine
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into slices
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Directions:
Cook pasta to al dente according to the package directions, adding the shrimp to the boiling salted pasta water for the last 3 minutes of cooking, then drain.

While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the tomatoes and bell pepper; season with salt & pepper, saute about 4 minutes, then add the garlic.

Stir in the cream & heat to just boiling; reduce heat to low and add thyme, basil and parsley. Stir.

Dump the drained pasta and shrimp into the skillet and toss to combine. Serve hot.

Enjoy!
Christina

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cookie Bark



While I was in the festive treat making mood yesterday, I waded through all the wonderful ideas that I saw on all my fellow food blogers to see what else I could whip up with what I had in my pantry. We're still down to one car since my husband's accident so I can only get to the market on Saturday or Sunday but I tried to anticipate what I might need. I came upon this recipe on Amy's Cooking Adventures and had almost everything I needed to replicate it. Oreos are my husband's favorite commercial cookie, so I knew he would excuse all the frilly pink and enjoy them anyway. I love salty and sweet together, so the pretzels make this perfect for me too! My boys are fresh out of college, so they'll eat just about anything! You can see her recipe on the link I provided, and here are the changes I made:

Cookie Bark

Ingredients:

24 oz white chocolate chips
4 cups pretzel sticks, broken in half
21 Double Stuff Oreo Cookies
6 oz semi sweet chocolate chips (we ate all the M&Ms...)
candy sprinkles



Line 2 cookie sheets with waxed paper. Spread half the broken cookies and half of the pretzel sticks onto each cookie sheet. Sprinkle the semisweet chocolate chips equally onto the cookies and pretzels.

Place the white chocolate in a microwave safe dish. Microwave for 90 seconds and stir. Continue microwaving for 20 second increments and stirring until it is is completely melted and smooth.

Using a spoon, drizzle the melted almond bark over the cookie and pretzel mix. While the candy is still wet, add the candy sprinkles over the two sheets.

Allow to set for about 20 minutes, then gently break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Thank you, Amy, for the inspiration!

Enjoy!
Christina

Monday, February 14, 2011

Conversation Heart Bark



Happy Valentines Day! I hope you're all spending it with someone you love. Valentines Day has been a sad day at our house for the past 8 years because my husband and I lost a baby we were expecting on Feb 14, 2003, and I really wanted to break this funk and try to spend it being thankful for all the blessings that we do have.



I made a table full of treats this morning and I'd like to share one of the recipes with you today. I saw a conversation heart bark on Bake at 350 (Thank you for the inspiration!) and just knew I had to make my own version of this! Here is the original, and here is mine:

Conversation Heart Bark

Ingredients:

2 12oz bags white chocolate chips
2 12oz bags semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups Cocoa Krispies cereal
3 cups mini marshmallows
2 Tbs butter
conversation hearts
sprinkles

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray. Melt the butter and marshmallows in a large bowl in the microwave on high 1 to 1 1/2 minutes (check it every 30 seconds). Stir in the cereal and mix until well coated. Dump out onto the waxed paper, and using the sprayed plastic wrap, press the mix out into a thin layer. Put tray in the refrigerator to set.
In a glass bowl, melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave. Pour the melted chocolate over the cereal mixture. Put the tray back into the refrigerator to set.
In another glass bowl, melt the semi sweet chocolate in the microwave. Pour the melted chocolate over the cereal mixture. Cover with candy sprinkles, and dot with some candy conversation hearts. Put the tray back into the refrigerator to set.
When the mixture is set, break into pieces.

Enjoy!
Christina

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Snow Covered Crunch Bars



Everything around here is still covered in snow so I figured I should make a treat that is too. Check it out:

Snow Covered Crunch Bars

Ingredients

  • 1 (1 pound 1.5 ounce) pouch sugar cookie mix
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 (12 ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 1/2 cups peanut butter
  • 6 cups Rice Chex type cereal
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, or as needed

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 13x9-inch or 2 9'x9' square baking pans with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, 1/2 cup butter and egg until soft dough forms. Press dough in bottom of pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 15 minutes.
  2. In large bowl, melt chocolate chips and the remaining 1/2 cup butter (I used the microwave) until melted and smooth. Add peanut butter; mix until well blended.
  3. Place cereal in a plastic bag. Using your hands, gently break cereal into small pieces. Gently stir cereal into chocolate mixture until cereal is coated. Spread cereal mixture evenly over cookie crust; gently press. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Refrigerate about 1 hour or until bars are set. Cut into bars to serve.
Enjoy!
Christina

Friday, February 11, 2011

Peanut Butter Granola



I love making my own granola mixes and bars. This week I made a peanut butter version that I really like! It's been my mid morning snack along with some fresh fruit. It's really easy. I hope you'll give it a try!

Peanut Butter Granola

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 cups uncooked rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 1/2 cup dried figs, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine peanut butter, honey and cinnamon; heat through. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Place oats in a large, shallow roasting pan or a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan. Pour warm peanut butter mixture over oats and stir gently until oats are coated. Spread evenly in pan.
  3. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off oven.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, cover raisins in boiling water. Let stand for 10 minutes; drain well. Stir raisins, nuts and figs into baked mixture. Return to oven and let dry 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Store in covered containers.
Enjoy!
Christina

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Baked Swirl French Toast



Breakfast is, hands down, my favorite meal of the day. When my husband and I first met we had a long distance relationship. I lived in NY and he in MA. The first time I went to visit him over the weekend, he asked me where I'd like to go for dinner. I told him to cook me dinner, but take me out for breakfast. It's a long standing tradition for us on special occasions to celebrate by going out for breakfast!

I love to make special breakfasts at home too, and here is one that is always a big hit!

Ingredient:
  • 1 loaf (16 oz) Cinnamon Swirl Bread or Cinnamon Raisin Bread, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon sugar or confectioners' sugar
  • Whipped butter
  • Pure maple syrup
Directions
Place the bread cubes and cranberries/raisins in a greased 3-quart shallow baking dish. Beat the eggs, half-and-half and vanilla in a medium bowl with a fork or whisk. Pour over the bread cubes. Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, uncover the dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until golden brown and set in the center.

Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Serve with the butter and syrup.

Enjoy!
Christina

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Apples in Puff Pastry with Gingered Cranberry Caramel Sauce



I'm having technical issues with my netbook, so I'm posting today from my old dinosaur of a lap top. They don't make 'em like they used too!

I don't always bake from scratch. As a matter of fact, I'm a huge fan of the "Semi Homemade" school of thought when it comes to making tasty things in my kitchen. This recipe is chock full of short cuts, but it's not short on flavor! I thought they were good enough for my Nana's good dishes! Take a look:

Apples in Puff Pastry with Gingered Cranberry Caramel Sauce

Ingredients
  • 2 packages Puff Pastry Shells
  • 1 can apple pie filling
  • 1 jar prepared caramel sauce
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized (candied) ginger
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
Directions
1. Bake and cool the pastry shells according to the package directions. Remove the lids and discard (or save for something else)

2. Fill each shell with some of the apple pie filling

3. Heat the caramel sauce, ginger and cranberries in a small saucepan over low heat until the mixture is hot. Serve the turnovers with the sauce.

What's your favorite kitchen shortcut ingredient?

Enjoy!
Christina

Friday, February 4, 2011

Banana Wake-Up Bars



Being an artist I have the luxury of strolling into the studio mid afternoon to start working. I can keep strange hours and nobody would bat an eyelash. I am also a belly dancer, so I actually wake up & get out of bed at 6am every morning during the week with my husband, have breakfast with him & send him off to work so I can stretch, drill and dance for 2 hours before I start the rest of my day. Crazy, eh?!? I really love it, so I make the effort.

Now as I said, I eat breakfast with my husband, but after 2 hours of dancing & then a shower I'm usually starving again! This is when I do my "coffee break" so I make myself a mug of half hot chocolate, half decaf coffee and like to have a good keep your energy up snack. Granola bars, power bars, cereal bars...even a well made biscotti will work here! I found this recipe for Wake up bars on allrecipes and tweaked it a bit to fit what I had in my pantry. They are really good & got me through to lunch!

Banana Wake Up Bars:

Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x9-inch baking pan.


In a mixing bowl, beat together the peanut butter, brown sugar, and butter with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy.


Beat in the egg and vanilla extract, then the banana.


Stir in the oats, flour, wheat germ, and baking soda until completely combined.


Spread in prepared baking pan.


Bake in the preheated oven until set and lightly browned, 25 to 35 minutes.


Remove from oven and cool in pan on wire rack before cutting into bars.

They are soft when they are fresh, so if you want to keep them soft wrap them in plastic. If you like to dunk (like me) then just leave them out. The edges will crisp up but the center will stay softer.

Enjoy!
Christina

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing



Totally anticipating that nobody would be going to work this morning because of the latest snow storm, I whipped up a batch of Cinnamon Rolls last night in the bread machine & let them proof on the counter overnight so that I could bake them off this morning. My guys got a nice warm mid week breakfast treat today! Here's the recipe:

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients:

Rolls:
  • 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup margarine, melted
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
Filling
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
Icing
  • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt




Directions:

Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order they are listed above (or per your machine manufacturers recommendations. Select dough cycle; press Start.

After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.

Roll dough into about a 15x20 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. (I covered them with cooking sprayed plastic and left them on the counter over night and they were fine)

When you're ready to bake them, preheat oven to 400 degrees

Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.

Enjoy!
Christina

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Black Beans and Smoked Sausage Soup



I woke up this morning to find us in the midst of yet another winter storm. There is only one thing to do in a case like this and that's load up something warm and comforting in the crock pot and pray the power doesn't go out!



I foraged through the pantry and fridge and found the ingredients to make a black bean soup with kielbasa. Here's how I put it together:

Black Bean and Smoked Sausage Soup

Ingredients:
1lb smoked kielbasa sausage, sliced thin
1 onion, finely chopped
2 Tbs garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
3 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
3 15oz cans black beans


Brown sausage & onion in a skillet over medium heat. Drain off fat


In a blender, puree one can of undrained beans.


Add the pureed beans and the other 2 cans of beans (drain one of them) into the crock pot.


Add the garlic and seasonings. Salt and pepper to taste.


Add the sausage and onions and cook (low 6-8 hours or high 4-5 hours)

I'm going to serve this over some cooked rice with a Caesar salad. The house smells amazing and I think the guys will appreciate this when they get home from work! Hope you're weather is better where you are! If not, I hope you're riding the storm out safe and warm!

Christina

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Jinxed! And Chicken Parmesan and Penne- 10 with 5 recipe #3



I told you all the other day that I was going to jinx my good stretch of days by saying something! Thursday morning my husband got into a car accident (see photo below)on his way to work. It had snowed over night and although clear the roads were still a little wet. Traffic ahead of him on the highway had stopped, so he stopped, but the car behind him (a Jeep Cherokee) didn't and hit him going about 70mph. My husband is thankfully o.k., but the car is totaled. Needless to say, we are now down to one car for the time being and it's been a mad race to try to get our schedules straight. I apologize to all my Foodbuzz buddies and fellow 10 with 5 blogers for being lax in my comments, but please know that I have been buzzing you!


What was my husband's 1998 Volvo v70 Cross Country.

On to my pasta dish! I made this last Wednesday night with every intention to share it with you all Thursday, but things got crazy here and no post happened. I am sharing it with you now though and hope you'll give it a try!

Chicken Parmesan and Penne

Ingredients:
1 to 1.5 lbs chicken breasts or tenders, cut up
29 oz of your favorite marinara sauce (I make my own)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
8 Tbs (divided) grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb penne pasta, cooked and drained



Combine sauce and 6Tbs Parmesan in a 13x9 inch baking dish


Cut up the chicken. Season with salt & pepper


Fold in uncooked chicken. Cover and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.



Uncover, and top with the mozzarella cheese and remaining 2 Tbs Parmesan. Return to the oven, uncovered to melt the cheese


Serve over cooked penne pasta with Caesar salad and garlic bread on the side.

Hoping for a better week!
Christina