Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coconut Shrimp

This is my last post from my thanksgiving feast :)  About a month ago, my parents made this recipe and recommended it to me so I decided it would be a good thanksgiving appetizer to make.  This recipe is from The Neely's, and it's really good!  The dipping sauce really makes this recipe so definitely make it along with the shrimp.  My grocery store had colossal shrimp on sale this week, and I think this recipe works best with the really big shrimp so that you don't have to do the breading process on way too many shrimp since it can be a little time consuming.  I will only be using this recipe from now on whenever I make coconut shrimp.


Peanut oil, for frying
1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
4 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic powder

Zesty Dipping Sauce-
1 (6-ounce) jar orange marmalade
1/4 cup sweet Asian chili sauce
1 lime, juiced


Make your dipping sauce just by mixing the ingredients together in a small bowl, and store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to eat.

Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees F (I decided to just pan-fry these so I heated a little oil in a large skillet over medium high heat).

Butterfly shrimp and set aside.

In medium bowl mix together panko and coconut (I first put the coconut in the food processor and pulsed a few times to get the flakes a little smaller so that they would stick better to the shrimp). In another medium bowl beat eggs and dash of salt and pepper. In a third bowl mix flour, onion and garlic powder together. Dredge shrimp in flour, then eggs, then the bread crumbs.

Place in preheated deep-fryer (or in my case, a large skillet) and fry, in batches, until crisp and golden brown; 2 to 3 minutes (my shrimp were huge so they needed 3-5 minutes, but be careful not to overcook the shrimp). Drain on a paper towel-lined sheet tray. Serve hot with Zesty Dipping Sauce on the side.

Baked Brie

Cheese is one of my favorite foods, so I knew I needed some type of cheesy appetizer to add to our thanksgiving menu.  I decided to do baked brie served with crackers, green apples, and red grapes because I thought that would be really yummy and make my platter look nice and colorful.  This is an easy basic appetizer that is super quick to make and looks really pretty.


1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed (I buy the frozen pepperidge farm puff pastry sheets)
1 wheel of brie cheese (I think I used an 8 oz. wheel)
1 egg, whisked
Dippers to serve with the brie (such as crackers, apples, and grapes)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a baking dish (I use a pie pan).

At this time, I like to cut the rind off the brie because I really don't like the weird flavor of the rind.  This is a personal preference and it is easier to leave the rind on, but I always cut it off.

Wrap the puff pastry sheet around the wheel of brie and place it in the baking dish with the seam side down.  Brush the top and sides of the pastry with an egg and bake until golden brown (about 20-25 minutes).

Lana's Salad

The reason this salad is called Lana's Salad is because my Aunt Lana has been bringing this salad for years and years to family dinners.  I think this is probably my favorite salad, or at least my favorite salad that I actually make.  The dressing is sweet and flavorful, and any salad topped with cheese and bacon has to be good, right?  Anyways, this salad is great for any occasion, and I highly recommend trying it!  This is the salad that added the green to our thanksgiving menu :)


1 bag Fresh baby spinach
1 bag Spring Mix Salad
1 1/2 Cups Dry Large Curd Cottage Cheese (Dry curd cottage cheese can be very hard to find....if you can't find dry curd cottage cheese, you can use regular cottage cheese that you drain as much liquid as you can with a cheese cloth or strainer.  Another option is to use feta cheese instead, but it has a much stronger flavor so I would cut the amount of cheese in half)
3/4 lb. bacon fryed and crumbled

1/4 Cup Sugar
1tsp Salt
1tsp Dry Mustard
1 Tblsp. Poppyseed
2-3 Tblsp. Finely Chopped Red Onion
1/3 Cup Cider Vinegar
1 Cup Olive Oil


Mix all of the dressing ingredients together. Let the dressing stand at least 1 hour before serving in the refrigerator (I usually make the dressing in the morning so it has a long time to sit).

Mix together spinach and spring mix in a large salad bowl.  Add the bacon crumbles and the cottage cheese on top of the salad. Pour on dressing and toss all together.

Southern Cornbread Stuffing

I was in charge of the stuffing this year, so I made this recipe (from Paula Deen).  This is my second time making this recipe, and I think it's a great thanksgiving stuffing with really good flavor.  Kevin wants me to make a different stuffing next time that has sausage in it so I next time I'll probably try to find a new recipe with sausage and maybe apples in it.  Whenever I want to go back to a more basic stuffing though, this recipe will be the one I use. 


Cornbread (I made 2 boxes of Jiffy cornbread or you can use Paula's recipe here)
7 slices oven-dried white bread
1 sleeve saltine crackers
8 tablespoons butter
2 cups celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
7 cups chicken stock (I only used 6 and I thought that was plenty)
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sage (optional) - didn't use this
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning (optional) - did use this and I love the flavor it gives the stuffing
5 eggs, beaten


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine crumbled cornbread, dried white bread slices, and saltines; set aside.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and cook until transparent, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the vegetable mixture over cornbread mixture. Add the stock, mix well, taste, and add salt, pepper to taste, sage, and poultry seasoning. Add beaten eggs and mix well.  Pour mixture into a greased pan and bake until dressing is cooked through, about 45 minutes (I ended up cooking mine for about an hour). Serve with turkey as a side dish.

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

This year, my sister wanted to bring an appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner.  I don't want her to get mad for me saying this (because she reads this blog), but a couple of years ago, Kristen brought an appetizer to some dinner we had and it tasted not so good....actually it was pretty bad.....BUT....she totally redeemed her appetizer making skills with this one.  Even though I'm not a huge mushroom fan, I was totally impressed with this dish!  It's a great little appetizer to bring to a party because you can make it ahead of time, and just stick it in the oven whenever you are ready to bake it.  The crab filling had a really good flavor.  She used this recipe from Paula Deen and changed it just a little bit.


1 cup crabmeat (she bought fresh crab and steamed it and used about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
4 tablespoons Parmesan
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
2 portobello mushroom caps, or 10 white mushrooms caps (I think she used maybe 12-15 baby portobellos)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Nonstick cooking spray


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the crabmeat, cream cheese, parsley, green onions, shredded cheddar, lemon zest, and Parmesan. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Stuff the mushroom caps with the mixture and top with bread crumbs. Spray the tops with nonstick spray to help them brown. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the filling is hot and melted.

Thanks Kristen!  What a great thanksgiving appetizer :)

Ice Box Cake

For dessert, my sister's boyfriend, Tom, was nice enough to bring over this ice box cake.  Now I have never heard of this cake before, but it was great!  It's one of those recipes (like another favorite, oreo truffles) that has only a few ingredients, but really makes a good impression when people try it!  I give Tom props for making this for us since he knows I love to cook and he was making it for my whole family!  But anyways, this recipe is super good and definitely one that I'll make sometime.  Since I didn't actually make this dessert, I'm going to post the recipe in his words:


1 pint of heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons of sugar (the more, the better)
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
2 boxes of Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers
1 chocolate bar


First, a must for this is homemade whipped cream – no Ready-Whip, Cool-Whip, etc. Start by putting a bowl and the beaters in the freezer for around 15 minutes to get them really cold. Then take them out and pour the pint of heavy whipping cream in the bowl, and add around 4 tablespoons of sugar. You can’t really put too much sugar in, only too little, so be generous. Begin beating on high speed and continue doing so until the cream starts to form a more solid substance. At the first signs of this, add in the tablespoon of vanilla extract. Then continue beating the cream until it appears to be the right consistency. You can check on it by pulling the beaters out and some whipped cream should stay caught in the beaters, as opposed to being too liquid and running off of them. As soon as you reach this point, you want to stop beating it because if you go too long it will turn into butter.

After making the whipped cream, begin simply spreading it on the Famous Chocolate Wafers, and continue doing this so it looks like you are making a stack of little oreo sandwiches. Once you have put about 5 or 6 cookies together you should be able to turn them on their side and get them to stand on the plate. Continue spreading the whipped cream between each cookie, as you form a circular formation around the serving plate. For the last piece, you will have to spread whipped cream on both sides of the cookie and place in the last slot to finalize the ring.

After getting a complete ring on the plate, spread the excess whipped cream around the entire cake, covering every inch of it. Using a cheese grater and the chocolate bar, cover the entire top of the ring with chocolate shavings. Cover the entire cake loosely in aluminum foil, and place in the fridge (commonly referred to as an “ice box” back in the day, thus the name of the cake). After about a half a day, the cookies will have softened up with the whipped cream while in the fridge, and the ice box cake is ready to be served.

Thanks Tom!  This dessert was a winner :)

Thanksgiving Recap

Well, it took me a couple of days of rest to recover from Thanksgiving, but I'm ready to post my blog updates from our big meal :)  Overall, I think it was definitely a successful thanksgiving.  My parents arrived in Chicago around lunchtime on Wednesday, and then they came over to our condo with my sister, Kristen, after stopping by her place.  Then once Kevin got off work, we started the weekend off with a couple of beers at The Map Room.  This place has a really great variety of beers, and my dad has been wanting to go there for awhile so we stopped off there for an hour or so.

Later that night, we all went out to dinner (which was nice because I didn't have to cook the night before thanksgiving!).  We went to a restaurant called Folklore, and at dinner it was Kevin and I, my parents, Kristen, and Kristen's boyfriend, Tom.  My steak was cooked perfectly rare, and the portion sizes were huge so we had plenty to bring home as leftovers!  Definitely a good night before thanksgiving :)  We brined the turkey when we got home from dinner, and then went to bed.

The next morning, we all began cooking away.  In this post, I'll just post pictures of the things that I'm not going to do a seperate blog post for.  Around noon or one o'clock, we started with the appetizers.  For appetizers, we had some crab stuffed mushrooms that Kristen made, baked brie, and coconut shrimp.  It was nice eating our appetizers around lunchtime because then we were plenty hungry by the time dinner rolled around.

We ate around 5:30ish.  Here's a couple of pictures of my table (which I was excited to use our fine china for!) and some of the food:

Great thanksgiving, and I had a great time with everyone!  The only thing I didn't get a picture of was the pumpkin pie (I used this recipe).  Afterwards, we had a game night and played Taboo and Catchphrase which is always fun.  I'm going to call my first year hosting thanksgiving a success :)  The thing that surprised me the most is how many dishes we went through during the day while cooking!  Every time one load from the dishwasher finished, we were ready to start another load!  Well, now it's time to start getting ready for Christmas :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shrimp Scampi Linguini

When I first moved to Chicago a little over 5 years ago, I was a pretty picky eater.  So picky, in fact, that I didn't like any seafood whatsoever (I was crazy, I know).  My favorites foods included those of a 12-year-old child (nachos, chicken fingers, grilled cheese, pizza, etc.), but I am happy to say that these 5 years in Chicago have opened my eyes to liking all sorts of different food.  Now, there isn't much that I don't like, and I absolutely love shellfish.  When I hear people tell me now that they don't like seafood, I encourage them to give it a try again because tastes change a lot from the time we're kids!  The first seafood I ever liked was fried calamari, then I moved up to shrimp, then king crab legs (my absolute favorite), then scallops and mussels.  Moral of the story - even if you were a picky eater when you were younger, you should try new things because you could be missing out on finding your new favorite food!

Anyways, this recipe is one that I've been making for a few years when I'm in the mood for some shrimp pasta.  I got the original recipe from Ina Garten, who is one of my favorite Food Network Chefs, and I have adapted the recipe just a bit to fit what we like.  This pasta is delicious, garlicky, and not too heavy at all.  This made a great Sunday meal served with a green salad and some cheesy garlic toast.


Vegetable oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 1 1/2 teaspoons
3/4 pound linguine
4-5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3-4 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 of a yellow or white onion, thinly sliced
2-3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I also went ahead and took the tails off mine before cooking)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 lemon, zest grated
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine (I used Savignon Blanc)
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese


Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.

Meanwhile, in another large (12-inch), heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat, and add the onions. Saute about 4 minutes or until onion is softened.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute for 1 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Remove shrimp from the pan so that they don't overcook and reserve on the side.  Add in wine into the sauce and let boil for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp, parmesan cheese, and sauce, toss well, and serve.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Menu

This year, Kevin and I are hosting our first thanksgiving at our condo.  It will just be the two of us, my parents, and my sister.  I'm really excited because I love hosting!  We're dividing up the cooking, so I won't be making everything below by myself.  I think I've finalized our menu....we'll have a ton of food, but I love thanksgiving leftovers so we'll be eating up this stuff for a couple of days.

Appetizers / Lunch:
  • Baked Brie with Toasted Baguette Slices, Green Apples, and Red Grapes
  • Coconut Shrimp
  • 1 Other Appetizer (TBD, my sister is bringing an appetizer)
Main Course:
  • Roasted Turkey
  • Gravy
  • Salad
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Stuffing
  • Corn
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Gourmet Candy Tray
  • Wine
  • Beer
I will be back to blog about everything we made after thanksgiving :)

Oreo Truffles

Oreo Truffles.....Never have I found a recipe with so few ingredients that tasted so good!  If you haven't ever tried these little things, you need to make these the next time you're craving something sweet.  They're sooooo rich and addicting.  Last night was the last night for one of my graduate classes so we had a little potluck, and I decided these would be perfect to bring.  At first I was getting nervous because only a few people took one, but when somebody asked out loud who made them and I said it was me, the girl told the class how good they were and then everybody wanted to try one.  It's funny how impressed people got over these, and of course I saved a couple for Kevin to have later that night.  Here is the original recipe from, but I will give my tips at the end.


1 (16 ounce) package OREO Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, divided
1 (8 ounce) package PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
2 (8 ounce) packages BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, melted


1. Crush 9 of the cookies to fine crumbs in food processor; reserve for later use. (Cookies can also be finely crushed in a resealable plastic bag using a rolling pin.) Crush remaining 36 cookies to fine crumbs; place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter.

2. Dip balls in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. (Any leftover chocolate can be stored at room temperature for another use.) Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.

3. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover truffles, covered, in refrigerator.
My tips for making oreo truffles-
First of all, I used white chocolate to coat my truffles so that I could get the cookies and cream taste, but usually if I'm making a couple batches I will make one with white chocolate and one with semi-sweet chocolate and then use the other chocolate to decorate the tops.  Next, after I combine the cream cheese and cookie crumbs, I refrigerate the mixture for about an hour.  Then, I roll into balls and stick in the freezer for about an hour before I dip in the chocolate (this makes it much easier to dip and not fall apart).  Coating in the chocolate can be tricky and it can be hard to make them look pretty, but usually I roll the truffles in the chocolate with a teaspoon and a fork and then place on wax paper in the refrigerator to harden up.  Then I decorate the tops with semi-sweet chocolate (if I dipped the truffles in white chocolate) which helps hide the imperfections.  Next time I make these I think I'm going to place each truffle (once they're completely done and hardened up) in individual mini muffin cup liners to make it easier and less messy for people to pick them up.  Try not to let them sit out too long while you are serving them because as they get warmer the chocolate can get sticky, plus I think they taste better cold.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Chips and guacamole made the perfect appetizer / side dish for the enchiladas I made tonight.  I love avocados, and this guacamole turned out really good and flavorful.  I used to buy that store bought guacamole because I would never plan ahead and buy avocados a few days in advance so that they had time to ripen, but I will never buy packaged guac again because the homemade stuff is easy to make and so much better!  Plus, I plan all of my meals out so that I only have to go to the grocery store once a week so by planning to have this meal on a Tuesday, they avocados had time to ripen since I bought them on Sunday.  During the day on Tuesday, I put the avocados in a brown paper bag just to accelerate the ripening.  This recipe came from


3 avocados - peeled, pitted, and mashed
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup diced onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)


In a medium bowl, mash together the avocados, lime juice, and salt. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic. Stir in cayenne pepper. Refrigerate 1 hour for best flavor, or serve immediately (when storing, put plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole so that there's no space between the plastic wrap and the guacamole - that way it doesn't get brown).

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

Last night, I made some very cheesy chicken enchiladas.  Not the healthiest of meals with all of the cheese, but everything in moderation.  I'm starting a new work out plan (something I never had to do when I was younger because I could eat anything without gaining a pound, but that's a whole other story) so that I can keep making (and eating) the foods that I like.  I once tried to only cook healthy meals, but that only lasted about a week because I got upset when my meals didn't taste as good as they normally do!  Anyways, I have a weakness for cheese and these enchiladas satisfied my cheese craving.  This is by no means an authentic Mexican enchilada recipe, but it is very good.


1 roasted whole chicken, shredded (I usually just buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but I had a whole chicken in the freezer so I used this recipe to make my own roasted chicken)
8 medium sized flour tortillas
2 (14 oz) cans enchilada sauce
1/4 cup diced green chilis
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
4 cups shredded cheese (this time I used a mixture of 3 cups cheddar and 1 cup queso fresco)
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream to serve with enchiladas


1.  In a 9x13 baking dish, pour in 2/3 of one can of enchilada sauce to coat the bottom.

2.  In a large bowl, mix together the remaining 1/3 of the can of enchilada sauce, cream cheese (I usually mix these first 2 ingredients first to make the cream cheese a little easier to work with), green chilis, scallions, shredded chicken, half of the shredded cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.

3.  Divide the chicken mixture amongst the 8 flour tortillas, and roll into enchiladas.  Place seam side down in the baking dish and top with 1 can of enchilada sauce and the remaining half of the shredded cheese.

4.  Cover with foil and bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes or long enough for enchiladas to be heated through and the cheese on top melted.  Let cool for 10 minutes or so before serving.  Serve with sour cream if you like.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Potato Soup

Potato soup is definitely one of those comfort meals that I crave on a cold day.  Since I was able to buy a 10 pound bag of potatoes on sale today for $1.99 at my grocery store, I decided to make a big pot of potato soup.  This soup is so creamy and good, and now I have enough to freeze some for a later date and have some for lunch during this week.  I first started making this after I had some of my mom's so my version is almost the same as hers.  Just a word of warning, for some of the ingredients I add until it tastes right so I'll try to estimate my quantities, but it may not be exactly how much I use so I'll talk about that in the recipe.  The quantities in the recipe below are enough to make a big stockpot full so if you don't want that much you should cut in half.


5-6 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into bitesize pieces
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 stalks celery, chopped
4 tablespoons garlic
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 stick butter
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup heavy cream
milk (this is where I'm not exactly sure on the measurements because I just add a little at a time until the soup reaches the consistancy that I want, but I'm guessing I use around 4 cups or so)
salt, pepper, and garlic pepper to taste (again I don't know how much I use because I keep adding and tasting, but I use a lot for a big pot!)
2-3 tablespoons chopped chives


1.  In a large stockpot, combine potatoes, onion, celery, and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add enough water to just cover the vegetables, and bring to a boil. 

2.  Boil until potatoes easily come apart when you try to cut with a fork (about 20-30 minutes).  Drain off a little water, but leave enough so that it comes midway up the potato mixture. 

3.  At this time use an immersion blender to blend everything all together until smooth (you could also do this in batches in a blender, but I love immersion blenders so I think it's a good appliance to invest in if you make creamy soups a lot).

4.  Stir in butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, and heavy cream.  Then start slowly adding milk and stirring together until everything is combined.  Add as much milk as you need to so that the soup is at the consistancy you want. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic pepper to taste (again the best way is to keep adding a little at a time and tasting until it tastes right)

5.  Stir in your chopped chives and serve.

Dinner Rolls - Test Run for Thanksgiving

This year, Kevin and I are hosting thanksgiving at our condo for my parents and my sister which I'm really excited for!  I want to try and make homemade dinner rolls from scratch (usually we just make the Rhode's frozen rolls) so I decided to do a test run today to see what would happen since I've never actually made rolls from scratch before.  Well, I'm glad that I did a test run because I made a few mistakes on these so I'm glad I didn't just wing it on thanksgiving. 

I found this recipe on, and with a 5 star rating and over 1,000 reviews I figured it must be pretty good.  The flavor of the rolls were really good, but the texture was a little off.  They were pretty dense instead of light and fluffy, and what do you know......I checked the expiration on my yeast and it said best by August 2009.  Soooo...glad I found that out now so that I can buy some new yeast.  Also, they weren't really browning pretty on top so I checked the recipe and realized I should have been baking them at 400 instead of 350 like I assumed.  Lesson learned - for next time I will be using fresh yeast and cooking at a higher temperature which I think will make them successful thanksgiving dinner rolls. 


1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1/2 cup warm milk
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup butter, softened


1.Place water, milk, egg, 1/3 cup butter, sugar, salt, flour and yeast in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select Dough/Knead and First Rise Cycle; press Start.

2.When cycle finishes, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 16 balls and place in a muffin pan. Brush some melted butter over the top of each roll.  Cover with clean kitchen towel and put in a warm place, let rise 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

3.Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden.

A Trader Joe's Lunch

Sorry that there's a bite taken out of my sandwich in the picture, but this looked and smelled so good coming out of the oven that I took a quick bite before deciding that I wanted to take a picture!  I went to Trader Joe's the other day to pick up some wine and ended up getting a couple other things.  They have such great stuff there and the prices are really good so I need to stop by there more often. 

I made two sandwiches after my trip there (one for me and one for Kevin) using their famous pretzel rolls that I've heard so much about.  All I did to make these sandwiches was to split the pretzel roll in half, spread a little honey mustard on the bottom, add 2 slices of roast beef and 1 slice of muenster cheese on each sandwich, wrapped in foil, and baked in a 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes.  So good :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


For dinner Friday night, my mom showed me how she makes her Cioppino, which is basically an Italian seafood stew.  Most recipes I've seen use a variety of different fish and shellfish, but we only used shellfish because I'm not a huge fan of salmon or cod (which is usually the fish my mom adds in I think).  This is definitely a dish for a special occasion since the seafood can make this an expensive meal, but this turned out really good and the broth was to die for!  The broth was just so flavorful that I think next time I decide to make mussels mariniere I'm going to use this broth with it.


1 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 cup shallots, diced
1 bunch scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons minced garlic
salt, pepper, and italian seasoning to taste
3 cans italian flavored diced tomatoes
1 can beef broth
1 jar of clam juice
1 cup white wine (we used a Savignon Blanc)
2 sweet italian sausages
3/4 - 1 lb mussels
3/4 - 1 lb bottleneck clams
3/4 - 1 lb shrimp, peeled with tail removed
3/4 - 1 lb sea scallops


1.  Steam and brown the italian sausages until almost cooked through.  Slice up and set aside.

2.  Sautee onions, green peppers, shallots, scallions, and garlic until translucent.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and italian seasoning (be generous with your seasoning).  Add the white wine and let cook down a bit.

3.  In a large stockpot, heat up italian diced tomatoes, beef broth, claim juice, and slice italian sausage.

4.  Transfer the sauteed onion and pepper mix to the stockpot and heat over medium heat for 45 minutes to an hour.  At this time taste the broth and season as needed.

5.  Sautee the shrimp and scallops (seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic) in a little EVOO.  Be very careful not to overcook.  It's best to pull them off the head when they are just slightly underdone.

6.  When almost ready to eat add the bottleneck clams first, then mussels about 2 minutes later.  After clams and mussels open, stir the shrimp and scallops in the pot for just a minute and serve immediately.

We served the cioppino with crusty toasted bread on the side so we could use it to soak up all the yummy broth!

This was a great meal!  Just make sure the broth is seasoned the way you like it before you add any seafood in and be really careful not to overcook the seafood.

Apple Bread Pudding

This past weekend, we visited Kansas City (which is where I grew up) to celebrate my Grandpa Frank's 80th birthday.  For dessert on Friday night, my mom and I decided to make one of our favorite fall desserts - apple bread pudding.  It may not look very pretty in picures, but I am telling you.....this is SOOOO GOOD!  It's a great cold weather dessert that's easy to put together, and this one is definitely one of my favorites.  My mom got this recipe years and years ago when her and my dad visited New Orleans.


Bread Pudding-
1 loaf of slightly stale french bread (the stale bread absorbs the liquid a little better than fresh bread)
1 quart half and half
3 eggs
3 apples, peeled and chopped
2 cups sugar
2-3 tablespoons vanilla extract (depending on how much vanilla you want)
half stick of butter, melted
Cinnamon sugar, to taste

Whiskey Sauce-
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
whiskey to taste (we used a double shot)


1.  Cut up your loaf of bread into cubes and place in a 9x13 casserole dish.

2.  Pour half and half over bread cubes and let soak.

3.  Meanwhile, mix together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and apples.

4.  Pour over your bread mixture, and mix through with your hands to make sure everything is distributed.  Then pour the melted butter over the top and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

5.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour until firm.  Here's what our's looked like after baking (again, it doesn't look that pretty but it is sooooo delicious).

6.  Make the whiskey sauce:  In a small saucepan, melt butter and sugar together.  Whip in egg very quickly.  Remove from heat and add in whiskey.  Serve sauce on top of each serving of bread pudding.

Cute Cupcakes!

Last week my sister, Kristen, and her roomate, Annie, made some really cute pig and frog cupcakes.  They gave us a couple of the pig ones so I had to take a pic and post it because I thought they were really cute.  I actually love making cupcakes, but I've never made the oversize ones (which is what these were), but next time I might try these and do something fun with the decorations :)


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

French Dip Sandwiches

Last night's dinner literally took me less than 15 minutes from the time I started slicing my onions to the time we sat down to eat.  This is a perfect weeknight meal to throw together with only 5 ingredients to buy from the grocery store.  Although I will say that I haven't bought deli meat in awhile and I didn't realize that a pound of roast beef was $11 at my grocery store (Dominicks)!  That seemed like a lot so I tried to cut a few bucks off by only getting 3/4 of a pound which worked out fine for us.  I adapted this recipe from  The things that I changed from the original recipe are:  I added some sauteed sliced onions to the sandwiches, I seasoned the beef consomme with a little fresh cracked pepper and some garlic powder, and I only used 1 slice of provolone on each sandwich because my slices were pretty big and had a strong flavor.


1 (10.5 ounce) can beef consomme
1 cup water
1 pound thinly sliced deli roast beef
8 slices provolone cheese
4 hoagie rolls, split lengthwise
1 white or yellow onion
EVOO to saute onion


1.  Slice up an onion and saute in a little olive oil until softened (about 10-12 minutes)

2.  Meanwhile, heat your beef consumme and water in a saucepan over medium head until slightly boiling (at this time I seasoned with a little pepper and garlic powder).  Reduce heat to low, place the roast beef in the broth, and warm for about 3 minutes or so.
3.  Put the cheese slices on your hoagie rolls and broil on low for a few minutes until cheese is melted and bread is toasted.

4.  Add some roast beef to each sandwich and either drizzle with some of the broth or serve the broth on the side for dipping.

This was REALLY good.  The beef consumme gave the roast beef a great flavor.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Spaghetti, Meatballs, & Italian Sausage

So this recipe came from my mom who got it from my Great Grandma Jean. Grandma Jean came over to America from Italy was she was just a baby, and she had some great Italian recipes. I can't believe I haven't actually made this recipe myself before last night, but my mom would make this a lot for us when we were growing up. I promised Kevin last week that I would make spaghetti and meatballs for our Sunday dinner so yesterday I called my mom and she talked me through the recipe. It turned out really great and we have tons of leftovers.


Meatballs -
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
3/4 cup grated romano cheese (or you could also use grated parmesan)
3 T minced garlic
1 onion, chopped very finely in the food processor
5 slices good italian bread with crust taken off and then soaked in warm water for a minute or so, then wring as much liquid out as you can once you are ready to use
2 eggs
1/4 cup fresh italian parsely, minced
salt and pepper to taste (but be generous)

Tomato Sauce -
3 (12 oz) cans tomato paste (you can adjust this amount depending on how much sauce you want and just also adjust the amount of water you add)
water (you will use a 3 to 1 ratio of water to tomato paste so since I used 3 cans of tomato paste, I used 9 cans of water)
1 onion, chopped
3 T minced garlic
1/4 cup sugar (can adjust to taste)
salt, pepper, and italian seasoning to taste (but again, be generous)

Other -
1 lb spaghetti
1 package italian sausage (we used hot, but sweet would also be really good)


1. Mix together all of your meatball ingredients with your hands and then form meatballs into about the size of golf balls.

2. In batches, brown meatballs in a little EVOO until almost cooked through. Set on paper towels to drain, but reserve the oil and meatball grease in the pan (at first, I had a little trouble with my meatballs falling apart when I tried to turn them so be gentle with them and make sure you have enough EVOO in the pan for the first batch.  Also, next time I make them I'll make a little smaller because I think that might help them hold together better.)

3. Meanwhile, cook italian sausages until almost cooked through (I boiled mine in a deep skillet for awhile, then drained the water and added some EVOO to brown on the outside). Set on paper towels to drain and then cut to desired size (I cut each sausage into thirds).

Here's what the meatballs and sausages looked like after browning:

4. In meatball skillet, saute your chopped onion, garlic, and italian seasoning until softened (about 5 minutes).

This is what my onions and garlic looked like:

5. In a large stockpot, mix together 3 cans of tomato paste and 9 cups of water and bring to a boil. Sauce will thicken a bit, but if it looks too thin or too thick you can add a little more tomato paste or water.

6. To the sauce, add the sauteed onions & garlic, sugar, and salt & pepper to taste. Keep seasoning until you are happy with the flavor of the sauce (make sure you add enough salt - when I first tasted my sauce it didn't taste good at all and then once I added quite a bit more salt it tasted amazing!).

7. Carefully add in the meatballs and italian sausages to the sauce and simmer over low heat for about an hour.

Here's what my sauce looked like:

8. Meanwhile, cook 1 lb of spaghetti according to the package directions.

9. Once you are ready to eat, serve each plate up with some spaghetti and top that with the sauce, meatballs, and italian sausage.

To serve, we grated a little parmesan on top and served with some garlic bread and a green salad. It was a perfect Sunday dinner!  The sauce was soooo good....awhile back I had made some of Giada's marinara sauce and wasn't that happy with the flavor of it so this is going to be my go-to tomato sauce.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sweet and Sour Chicken

I haven't really made too many Asian dishes (well about a month ago I made mongolian beef but it didn't turn out like I thought it would), but this one turned out great! I found this recipe on this really great blog called My Kitchen Cafe that I came across while surfing the internet, and the recipe looked really tasty with not too many ingredients so I decided to give it a try. It was a winner with my husband so I'll definitely make it again. I didn't make any changes to the original recipe, but the only thing I may do next time is to make the sauce on the stovetop and then bake the chicken seperately for a little less time and then mix together at the end (just because a whole hour in the oven dried the chicken out a tad).


Chicken -
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil

Sauce -
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt


Cut the chicken breasts into chunks. Dip chicken in cornstarch first and then in eggs.

Fry in a little oil until golden brown but not cooked through. Place in a single layer in a baking dish. Whisk up the sauce ingredients and pour over the chicken.

Bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees. Turn chicken every 15 minutes.

If you like extra sauce, make another batch of sauce and bring it to a boil on the stovetop. Stir constantly and let cook over medium heat until thickened and reduced - about 6 to 8 minutes.

I served this over jasmine rice with a side of potstickers and it turned out to be a great meal!

A Couple of Weeknight Meals

We tried to use up some leftovers we had in the freezer so we had some sloppy joes with french fries.

We also had some more of the really good bratwurst we had in the freezer! This is a prettier picture with the onions than the one I took last time. It's getting much colder here so we probably won't be grilling as often but maybe every once in awhile :)

Here are some quesadillas we made using some leftover pepperocini beef that we froze (and of course lots of shredded cheese).