Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Home for the Holidays!

It goes without question, that most of us enjoy some of the best food of the year around the holidays.  For Christmas this year, my mother definitely out did herself in the kitchen. We enjoyed ham, shrimp, mussels, crab legs, lobster tail, and prime rib while I was home! 

I wanted to share some simple things my mom added to our prime rib sides that were very simple but added a lot to the meal.
First, she added pomegranate seeds to our spinach, apple, walnut, and blue cheese salad. Pomegranate is a very festive additive for the holidays and not just for cocktails. We even added them to roasted carrots for Thanksgiving! 
Next, she roasted pine nuts and added them to our green beans. I think pine nuts are good on pretty much everything but I really enjoyed the added texture and flavor to sautéed green beans. I am going to make these soon but sub haricot verts for the traditional wide wax green beans. 

Lastly, she decided to add equal parts of olive oil, Dijon mustard and parmesan cheese to our roasted potatoes. Mustard is always a good flavor to pair with prime rib and adding it to the potatoes was a great way to add flavor to the meal without taking anything away from the meat. 
Thanks for the delicious food and good company, Mom! We love you!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Thai Basil Chicken

Santa was very good to my cooking blog this year. I couldn’t even get all my new cookware home in my luggage! However, I was sure to fit in an item that I have been anxious to get in my kitchen for some time now – an Asian wok!

I think I was anxious to get back in my kitchen this morning because I found myself grocery shopping at 6 am! I came to find that shopping that early is actually really wonderful and made my Sunday seem extra long.

The recipe below is from the William Sonoma cookbook titled “Chicken”. I will be trying many stir-fry recipes in the next few weeks so check back for more posts! This dish was very light, easy, and delicious. The only critique I would make is if you like vegetables, then add more than 1 red pepper to the mix. Personally, I didn’t think just one was enough.

If you find yourself inspired to take up stir-fry like myself, I encourage you skip your typical grocery store and instead look up a local Chinese food market to purchase sauce ingredients. I bought about 8 different sauces at a store in Madison next to Imperial Garden for $13, which was a great deal!

Hope you enjoy :)











Thai Basil Chicken Stir-Fry

Ingredients:
6 tbsp chicken stock
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
½ tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper
1 or 2 Thai or jalapeño chilies
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb of boneless chicken cut into thin strips
¾ cup fresh Thai basil leaves
3 green onions
1 cup jasmine rice

Directions:

In small bowl, whisk together chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar, and cornstarch until fully dissolved. Set aside.

In large wok, heat oil over high heat. Add bell pepper and sauté for 1 minute. Add chilies to taste then garlic and stir-fry until fragrant. Add chicken and cook until the meat loses pink color. Stir in basil and green onions.

Whisk sauce mixture again then pour into wok. Cook until the liquid comes to a boil.

Serve with jasmine rice.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Turkey Kale Quinoa Meatballs



Ingredients:

1 lb. ground turkey
¾ cup diced yellow onion
1 cup kale
2 eggs
½ cup quinoa
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup crushed croutons or breadcrumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan or mozzarella cheese
¼ cup tomato paste
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons basil
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

1. Finely chop onion and kale
2. Cook quinoa as directed by normal instructions then sauté in butter for 10 minutes for a little extra crunch
3. Add raw turkey and ingredients into large bowl and mix well with your hands
4. Roll mixture into golf ball sized meatballs and place on baking sheet
5. Spray pan in EVOO and bake on 350 degrees F for 20 minutes (turning your meatballs half way through) or fry in a sauté pan if you like your meatballs more brown
6. Serve with orzo and your favorite marinara - Buon Appetito! ;)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Don't Cry Over Chopped Onions



Chopping is hands down my least favorite part of cooking. Onions are the worst! To give my eyes a break from the burning sensation onions emit, I usually have to stop midway though. A few weeks ago, my mom and I went to demo day at our favorite cooking store in Baraboo, WI called Bekah Kate’s and I found the ultimate solution for dicing onions tear free!

The VeggiChop by Chef’n is a hand-powered tool that quickly dices fruits, veggies, herbs and nuts without the use of a cutting board or knife. To operate, you simply hold the handle and pull similar to a manual start lawn mower. The more you pull the handle, the finer the texture becomes. This kitchen tool has become my new go-to for onion dicing and the perfect partner for homemade salsa or basil creations. Chopping has never been so fun or easy!


For recipes that call for a specific quantity of orange, lemon or lime zest, I love the Chef’n PalmZester. The device slides on your palm for easy movement and stores your zest in compartment which detaches after use. Finally, a mess free zest which can provide you precise measurement!


Tomatoes and strawberries are my two favorite red fruits and are usually bought every time I visit the grocery store. Not only are the Chef’n StemGem Strawberry Huller and Hullster Tomato Corer adorable but they are perfect for getting rid of unwanted stems while saving as much fruit as possible for consumption! And with the Christmas season around the counter they are the perfect stocking stuffer, too! 


Another Chef’n product I recently purchased is the PinPair silicone and French rolling pin. This tool is two rolling pins in one. It comes standard as a rolling pin with silicone skin and with a simple twist you can reveal a traditional wood rolling pin underneath. Versatile and perfect for Christmas cookie cutouts. Tis the season!


For demos of the VeggiChop, PalmZester, StemGem, Hullster Tomato Corer, PinPair and other Chef’n products click here:
Or for directions to Bekah Kate’s and information about the store and upcoming demo days click here:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Friends with Benefits...


I was born and raised in Wisconsin so liking cheese is pretty much a requirement.

But I don’t just like cheese, I LOVE cheese! Lucky for me, my best friend’s family owns Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain, WI. So after a recent trip home I happily accepted a variety of cheese straight from the factory to experiment with in my cooking.

Cedar Grove Cheese is well known for their high quality traditional and specialty cheeses. The milk for their cheese comes from Wisconsin farmers who do not treat their cows with synthetic growth hormones, some of which are certified organic. In addition, much of their cheese is made without artificial growth hormones (rBGH) or genetically modified ingredients (GMOs). Impressed yet?

If not, you will be after trying this recipe…

For my first experiment, I decided to attempt my very own cheesy broccoli soup using Cedar Grove’s traditional medium cheddar. My desired result was a soup that came in a close second to Panera Bread’s cheesy goodness they call soup. I can honestly say, this recipe surpassed Panera’s broccoli cheddar by long shot! Give it a try by ordering your Cedar Grove cheese here: http://www.cedargrovecheese.com/index.html

Ingredients:

4 cups broccoli
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 yellow onion
1 ½ cups of chicken stock
3 cups of Cedar Grove cheddar cheese
¾ heavy whipping cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
-Begin by shredding the cheese and finely chopping the broccoli and onion. Set aside.
-In a large pot, on medium heat stir together chicken stock, onion, broccoli, and garlic for about 5 minutes. Once it comes to a boil, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
-Stir in heavy whipping cream and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes.
-Once the whipping cream starts bubbling, slowly add cheese until smooth.
-Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.




Thursday, November 27, 2014

Counting My Blessings

Thanksgiving: the biggest cooking day of the whole year! This year I was on a quest to make a stuffing that beats my dad and brothers favorite Stove Top from a box. I have to say that this Williams-Sonoma recipe was pretty tasty and I think I accomplished my goal! The only change I decided to make was sub out the chestnuts for water chestnuts. More mild flavor with the same crunch. Not only was is a great recipe but it is also quick and easy. You could even whip it up to pair with your week of turkey leftovers. (And I hope you do!)

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter 
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped 
  • 8 oz. assorted fresh mushrooms, such as
      cremini, oyster and shiitake, brushed clean
      and sliced 
  • 1 1/2 cups steamed chestnuts, halved 
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 12 oz. mild Italian sausage, casings removed 
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme 
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh sage 
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 
  • 1 box focaccia stuffing 
  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups turkey or chicken stock 

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and sauté until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms are soft and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chestnuts and sauté for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mushroom mixture to a large bowl.

Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring and crumbling with a fork, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir in the thyme, sage and parsley and transfer to the bowl with the mushroom mixture.

Add the focaccia stuffing to the bowl and stir to combine. Stir in 1 3/4 cups of the stock. The dressing should be moist but not soggy. Add more stock if needed.

Spoon the dressing into the prepared baking dish and bake until the dressing is browned on top and heated through, about 1 hour. If the dressing begins to brown too quickly, cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil. 
Serves 12.








Sunday, November 23, 2014

Easy Hot Cocoa Mix


Looking for cute Christmas gift ideas? 

These hot cocoa mason jars only take a few minutes, a few dollars, and a bit of creativity, and you will have some fun handmade gifts to give to your friends and family!

Ingredients:
2 cups nonfat dry milk powder 
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

Directions:
Combine all the ingredients into a large bowl and seperate into an airtight container. Add the instructions below to the top of the container. Then make your containers cute by adding ribbon, bells, a Christmas ornament, candy, marshmallows, and/or some Baileys, Kahlua, and Rum Chata to add in like me! 

<Stir 1/3 cup mix with 1 cup hot water. Enjoy!>

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Homemade Croutons

Nothing is better than being home for the holidays…especially since I get an entire week to cook alongside my mom in her beautiful kitchen! 




This morning I woke up to my favorite breakfast – poached eggs and thick sliced bacon over spinach topped with blue cheese, walnuts and sweet vinegar dressing. I washed it down with hazelnut flavored coffee from a cute store in Baraboo, WI where you can buy a variety of flavored coffee beans called Coffee Bean Connection. (http://cbeanc.com/) I highly recommend my 608 coffee drinkers to check it out. (My favorite is the snickerdoodle) 


Next came lunch and my turn to cook! It was a pretty dreary day so decided to make butternut squash soup and homemade croutons. I started by boiling about 6 cups of butternut squash with 8 cups of chicken stock. Meanwhile, I sautéed a sweet white onion and an apple to add when the squash was ready to puree. I love this soup because it’s so easy to make! When the squash was soft I added the onion and apple just used an emergent blender until the soup was smooth. I decided not to add any additional spices since I was making croutons but nutmeg, cumin, ginger or curry are great additions if you prefer to cook this soup solo! 



Don't my moms flame colored Le Creuset French oven and salt crock just scream fall? They are both perfect for soup! 




For the croutons, I cut a mixture of week-old French bread and whole grain baguette and added to a mixing bowl. (About 4 cups total) To flavor the croutons, I added 1/3 a cup of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of oregano, 1 teaspoon of basil and 1 teaspoon of thyme, salt, pepper, and 2 garlic cloves to a small sauté pan and cooked for about 5 minutes. Last, I removed the garlic cloves and drizzled the hot oil on top of the bread cubes, mixed well, then transferred to a cookie sheet and baked on 350 for about 10 minutes. 




To serve, I topped my soup with a mixture of sour cream and milk to give the soup a creamy texture! My kinda lunch for a lazy day at home sweet home :)




Thursday, November 13, 2014

Quinoa Indian Chicken Curry

Although quinoa seems to have just recently become a popular whole grain alternative, its first human consumption dates back around 4,000 years ago. The Incas are believed to be the first to discover it in regions of Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Columbia.  Today, you will find it sold in almost every grocery store. 

Quinoa seeds are coated by bitter-tasting saponins which are usually removed prior to being sold. It is best practice to wash the seeds prior to cooking to be sure that bitter taste is removed as much as possible. Quinoa is nutritionally renowned for its high protein and fiber content but it also has the perfect balance of all nine amino acids and it doesn’t contain any gluten! How’s that for a superfood?
Even though all the health benefits are there, I do I have to admit that quinoa is pretty boring without any added flavor. I have had 3 packages in my kitchen cupboard for far too long so I made it my goal this week to think of a good way to utilize it. I have wanted to create an Indian curry dish ever since I stepped into the cafeteria for lunch at my new job. My company caters in Indian food daily from a local Indian restaurant and the aroma always tempts me to try it but I refuse to spend $10+ on lunch when I can get another healthy option for half the price. 
After browsing lots of curry dishes online, I felt pretty confident this recipe was going to turn out delicious. The key to this recipe to avoid over cooking the chicken. I cooked my chicken on medium-low for about 15 minutes and it was super tender! I also would highly recommend the coconut coated cashews I found from Trader Joes. They were the perfect addition!

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa
4 cups chicken broth
2 boneless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 teaspoons curry powder
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup shredded carrots
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon fennel seed
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup sour cream
½ cup cashews 
¼ cup fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Rinse and drain 1 cup of quinoa. Add quinoa to two cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil. When the quinoa and chicken broth come to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until almost all the chicken broth has been absorbed.
2. Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes. Mix chicken to a bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of curry powder. In a separate sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook chicken until chicken it is fully cooked. Set aside. 
3. Using the same sauté pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook yellow onion and garlic for a few minutes. Then add peas, carrots, cumin, turmeric, fennel seed, and remaining 4 teaspoons of curry powder and cook for another few minutes.  
4. Add reminding 2 cups of chicken broth to veggie mix and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt, sour cream, quinoa, and chicken. 
5. Top with cashews, cilantro, salt and pepper and serve. 


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Breakfast in Bed


Making breakfast on Sunday morning before church is one of my favorite weekend activities. This week I decided to add a little fall touch to my French toast! Shout out to one of my best friends for the idea! (Carly Drumm) Enjoy!

Ingredients:
¾ cup milk
½ cup pumpkin puree
4 eggs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
Texas toast

Directions:
Preheat electric griddle to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl whisk ingredients until well combined. Dip Texas toast in mixture for a few seconds so the bread absorbs mixture. Transfer to griddle and cook both sides until golden brown. Serve with warm maple syrup and whip cream. Wash down with some pumpkin coffee :)