23 January 2016

It's time for this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.  

This month's ingredients were chocolate and pastry or bread dough.  I had a refrigerated pie crust leftover from Thanksgiving that had one more week left before its expiration date.  Perfect!  And with Valentine's Day quickly approaching, my mind immediately went to one of my favorite flavor combos: chocolate and raspberry.  Mmm.  I kept things super simple.  In fact, I made these while talking on the phone with my mom, and I am NOT a good multi-tasker!  So that tells you just how easy these are.

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Mini Hand Pies

9" refrigerated pie crust (or homemade rolled out thinly)
Dark chocolate chips
Seedless raspberry jam
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350.  Remove the pie crust from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Carefully unroll.  Using a cookie cutter or a glass tumbler, cut uniform shapes out of the dough.  Place a few chocolate chips and about a 1/2 tsp of raspberry jam in the center of half of the dough pieces.  Brush a bit of beaten egg around the edges.  Place another dough piece on top, lining up the edges.  Press down all along the edges to seal.  Cut a small slit in the center of the top piece.  Brush the tops with a little more egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about 24 minutes, or until dough is golden brown.  Remove and cool slightly before serving.

Makes about 6 mini pies.

 Here are the ingredients I used (minus the egg and sugar).  The chocolate chips were bigger than the usual. I used three in each pie, but if you are using regular chocolate chips, you might fit more in there.  

Look at that chocolate raspberry gooey goodness!  I only tried one bite, as I eat low carb and it was not my cheat day (I timed that horribly!), but it was heavenly.  My little sweethearts (my daughters) enjoyed the rest.

Please check out the other yummy chocolate and pastry creations below and come back next month to see what I make with tea and honey.

19 November 2015

It's time for this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it. 

This month's assigned ingredients were squash and sage. Lovely fall ingredients.  It didn't take me long to decide what to make.  There was a sausage and butternut squash skillet recipe in an issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray that I had been wanting to try for a while.  Sausage, squash, and sage seems like a fantastic combo.  This was the perfect opportunity to try this dish.  I changed it up a little bit (of course!), the biggest change being the addition of goat cheese.  It just seemed to fit.  Here's how I made it.

Sausage, Squash, and Goat Cheese Skillet

2 lbs. ground sausage
4 cups butternut squash, ½” cubes (1 lb.)
2 tsp dried sage
½ cup beef broth
½ cup goat cheese crumbles

Heat large skillet over medium heat.  Add sausage and break up with a spoon.  Cook until sausage is browned and fat has rendered.  Add butternut squash and dried sage.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the beef broth, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until squash is tender.  Uncover, stir, and let cook for just another minute or two.  Remove from heat and top with goat cheese crumbles.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition Info
Per Serving
Calories:  444
Fat: 34
Sat. Fat: 12
Cholesterol: 112
Sodium: 906
Potassium: 282
Carbs (net): 8
Protein: 25
Vitamin A: 170%
Vitamin C: 28%
Calcium: 4%
Iron: 10%

Oh man, this was so yummy!  And besides cutting up the squash (which I always hate!), pretty easy. I wanted to buy the pre-cut squash in a bag, but my store didn't have it. I bought the smallest butternut squash they had, and it ended up being the exact perfect amount for this recipe.  Love it when that happens!

Any of you who are fans of the sweet and salty combo will love this dish.  The sweetness of the squash is so perfect with the saltiness of the sausage and the creaminess of the goat cheese.  Mmm.

I used dried sage because I can never chop fresh sage small enough so that I don't feel like I'm eating bits of leaves.  Not palatable for me. I only use fresh sage for stuffing in a turkey cavity. :) But the dried was perfect for this recipe.  I know you can buy a sage variety of sausage; if you do that, you might want to cut down on the dried sage you add.  

I used beef broth because I happened to have an open container in the fridge. You can certainly use chicken or veggie broth instead. Water would even be fine if you didn't have any kind of broth.

My husband and I have been low carbing for a while now, and I have not allowed myself butternut squash yet this fall. :( So sad, I know! I love butternut squash, but it is a little carby.  But I was glad when this came out to 8 carbs per serving, because that is totally doable.  I consider any main dish recipe under 10 carbs/serving to be low carb, so this counts for me.  This dish kind of reminds me of one of my favorite pasta dishes: Roasted Squash and Sausage Pasta.  This is kind of the low carb version of that!

This will be my go-to dish whenever the butternut squash cravings get too much to bear.  Looking forward to having the leftovers for lunch today!

Be sure to check out all the other great squash and sage recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with cranberry and orange.

06 November 2015

It's time for another All Whisked Up reveal.  The members of Wisconsin Whisk get together and secretly peruse another blog and make something fun to share.  

This month I was assigned the blog Wisconsin Fun Next Exit written by Erica.  Erica lives in Madison and considers herself a "mostly vegetarian".  

Erica has lots of great recipes on her blog.  I nearly chose her baked cheesy eggs; and I still want to make those!  I am always looking for new ideas for breakfast.  But then I saw this cheeseball, and I knew I had to make it.  Like Erica's family, my family always served cheeseballs at holidays.  It was kind of a special occasion thing.  I love how this recipe is personal to Erica.  She even included a pic of the recipe card her grandmother hand-wrote.  Love it!  I had never made a cheeseball with olives in it, but I thought it sounded genius.  

Cheddar Olive Cheeseball

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tbsp toasted onion flakes (or regular onion flakes)
10 green olives stuffed with pimento
½ cup pecan chips

Place cream cheese in a mixing bowl.  Add cheddar cheese and onion flakes.  Pulse green olives in food processor until chopped, but not pureed. Add to cheese mixture and stir well.  

Lay out a piece of plastic wrap and place the pecan chips in the center.  Form cheese mixture into a ball shape and place it on the pecan chips.  Roll it around to cover with the pecans.  Close up the plastic wrap around the cheeseball and refrigerate for 4 hours.  

Remove from refrigerator and let soften a bit before serving.

Makes 6 (2.5 oz.) servings.

This is a really great cheeseball.  And it really couldn't be simpler to throw together.  I cut Erica's recipe in half; I think hers was meant to make two cheeseballs.

I used Penzeys Toasted Onion Flakes, but regular onion flakes will work fine too. 

Don't you just love the little flecks of red and green inside?  Perfect for Christmas!  

I enjoyed getting to know Erica and her blog this month.  Thanks for a great recipe, Erica!

Be sure to check out all the other great Wisconsin bloggers below.

09 October 2015

I was recently invited to join a new blogger group.  This one's all about Wisconsin.  It's called Wisconsin Whisk, and it's made up of bloggers from all over the lovely state of Wisconsin. I was flattered to be invited!

One of the fun things this group does is a monthly blog swap; pretty identical to The Secret Recipe Club that I was in for a long time.  I just love the concept of these challenges and I have discovered so many awesome recipes this way that I jumped at the chance to participate in this one.  It's called All Whisked Up.  

For this first month, I was assigned the blog Bowen Appetit.  Bowen Appetit is written by Bowen Close, who is one of the co-founders of Wisconsin Whisk.  Bowen is not just an awesome food blogger, she also teaches cooking classes.  How cool is that?  She has taught here in the Midwest and also in California.  And her experiences in cooking, teaching, and living cross-country really show through in her recipes.  Bowen loves to cook with seasonal, fresh ingredients that are put together in innovative ways.  I found so many scrumptious things in her recipe index that I wanted to try.  Since fall has most definitely arrived, her Sausage and Sauerkraut Stew with Dumplings really caught my eye.  My husband would just love me forever if I made that for him.  I also really want to try her Baked Eggs.  I love how you can use any kind of veggies in there.

But for this reveal, I had to try out her Brussels Sprout Gratin with Whole-Grain Mustard and Caramelized Onions.  Do you see what I mean about pairing ingredients in innovative ways?  I love the idea of cheese and mustard together; I did that a couple of months ago in my dipping sauce for some pretzel dogs.  But this has a completely different flavor profile with the Gruyere instead of cheddar.  It sounded so perfect for Brussels sprouts.  I happened to have some sprouts in the fridge, so I just needed the Gruyere and I was good to go.  Unfortunately, I had to leave off Bowen's beautiful bread crumb topping because my husband and I are eating low carb.  But this was so amazing that we didn't feel deprived in the least.  Here's my slight adaptation.

Creamy Gruyere & Mustard Brussels Sprout Gratin

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz. grated Gruyere cheese
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
¼ cup caramelized onion
Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 400°.

Boil or steam Brussels sprouts  until they are slightly tender.  Drain well in a colander.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the flour and cook a minute or so.  Slowly whisk in the heavy cream.  Increase heat; when it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and stir in the Gruyere and mustard.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary. 

Combine the Brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, and Gruyere sauce.  Pour into a small baking dish.  Cover dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.

Let cool slightly before serving.  Garnish with additional grated Gruyere if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

Wow, this was so amazing.  My mom was visiting for the weekend when I made it, so she got to enjoy it too. I actually made a separate veggie for my daughters, because I have not gotten them to appreciate Brussels sprouts just yet.  I usually roast them, and they are just not into it.  So I made them something else, but when I set the dish on the table, they were seriously enamored by the looks of it!  They both asked for some, and ate it, and loved it!  I was totally counting on having some leftovers, but nope!  The five of us scraped that dish clean!  

The Gruyere and the whole grain mustard were such an inspired combination.  I started with 1 tbsp of the mustard, and then added another half, but next time I will make it 2 tbsp.  It just really gives a great depth of flavor to the cheese sauce. 

You seriously need to try this deliciousness.  It would be awesome for Thanksgiving if you feel like trying something new this year. If you have no carb issues, hop over to Bowen's blog and get the details for making the breadcrumb topping.  While you're there, be sure to check out all the other great recipes she has to share with you.

Thank you, Bowen, for a great recipe!

Please take the time to visit my other Wisconsin blogger friends listed below!

17 September 2015

It's time for this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.  

This month's assigned ingredients were apples and oats.  Is it that time of year already?  Yes, it is!  The kids are in their third week of school and I have been on the lookout for easy, convenient breakfast recipes for them. I saw this recipe for overnight oats and a light bulb went off! I have seen this all over blogland for a while now, but for some reason had not gotten around to trying it. This challenge gave me the perfect opportunity.  The inspiration came from a great blog called Super Healthy Kids.  I changed up just a couple of things; here's my version.

Peanut Butter Apple Overnight Oats

1½ cups milk
½ cup vanilla yogurt
2 cups old-fashioned or rolled oats
½ cup peanut butter
1 cup grated apple
½ tsp apple pie spice

Stir milk and yogurt together.  Add oats.  Stir in peanut butter until evenly mixed.  Add apple and apple pie spice.  Pour into a container with a lid.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Enjoy the next morning, garnishing with an extra sprinkle of apple pie spice if you like.

Makes 5-6 (1-cup) servings.

If you are not familiar with overnight oats, it's all kinds of awesome. Instead of cooking the oats, you are soaking them overnight.  They keep their shape, but soften by morning.  You eat them cold, which sounds weird until you try it.  You can add all kinds of things and make any flavor you like.  Yummy.  I thought peanut butter and apple would be the perfect way to introduce this to my kids.  They were used to eating oatmeal warm, of course.  But throw some peanut butter in anything and a kid will try it, I swear!  Eva, my kindergartner, finished her bowl lickety-split.  Lena, my second-grader, would have too, but she bit her tongue and that was the end of breakfast for her that day. :(

Unfortunately, my husband and I are doing low carb (down 20 lbs, yay!), so I wasn't able to enjoy these as much as I would have liked.  I did sneak a few bites though and was cursing the carbs!  It is so good.  It will last in the fridge for several days, but you might need to add some milk after the first day if it looks a little dry, as the oats continue to soak up the liquid.

 This dish really has everything you or your kid needs to get going in the morning. Calcium from the milk and yogurt, protein from the peanut butter, and fiber and complex carbs from the oats.  You can feel good about sending your kids off to school with this in their tummies!

Be sure to check out all the great apples and oats recipes below and come back next month to see what kind of orange and black thing I make.  Spooky!

29 August 2015

This is a yummy dish I made earlier this week. I had already decided it would be the one I shared today, and so was pleasantly surprised to find my daily email from Punchbowl telling me that it's Chop Suey Day.

According to that definition, this recipe counts as Chop Suey!  It's basically a deconstructed pork egg roll, but also kind of like pork fried rice.  I got the idea from Mostly Homemade Mom, and switched it up a little, adding some extra veggies and seasonings.  Here's my version.

Pork Egg Roll Skillet

1½ lbs. ground pork
14 oz. package cole slaw mix
1 cup sliced mushrooms
½ cup edamame, thawed
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp powdered ginger
¼ cup soy sauce
Green onions, sliced
Sweet chili sauce, optional

Brown the ground pork in a large skillet.  Add the mushrooms, cole slaw mix, mushrooms, and edamame, and cook over medium-high heat.  Stir in the garlic powder, Bangkok, and powdered ginger.  When vegetables are beginning to soften, add the soy sauce and stir well.  Taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary.  When veggies are cooked to your preference, remove from heat and garnish with sliced green onions.  Drizzle each serving with sweet chili sauce, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.  

This is so super easy to throw together.  Love it!  And my family loved it too.  Of course, it is totally customizable to fit your family's preferences and works well with whatever you happen to have on hand at the moment.  You can chop regular cabbage instead of using the cole slaw mix, but I love the convenience of it, because it also adds carrots without having to get out your grater.

I used Penzeys Bangkok Blend, which is a salt-free Thai-style seasoning.  I happen to know that Penzeys is offering a 1/4 cup jar of it as a free gift with purchase right now on their website. (They are also offering free shipping with $30 order.)  I am not affiliated with Penzeys in any way (I wish!), and I don't benefit in any way from promoting them, I just thought I would pass that little tidbit along! I really love the Bangkok Blend. If Penzeys isn't an option for you, I found that Spice Islands has a Thai Blend.

This dish really does taste like an egg roll without the wrapper.  Perfect for my husband and I who are doing low carb.  According to my calculations, it comes out to just below 4 carbs per serving (without the chili sauce).  Very nice! Of course, that will vary depending on the veggies you choose.  I served it over brown rice for my kiddos.  If you are not low-carbing, you can just add cooked rice right into the skillet to make it like fried rice.  I splurged a little (carb-wise) and drizzled some sweet chili sauce on top of mine.  It's fine without, but that made it even better.

My whole family loved this, and I love having another super quick and easy recipe for dinner now that my kids are heading back to school next week.

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22 August 2015

I've made this coffeecake twice now. The first time I followed the directions and it came out way overdone.  Totally dry and too brown around the edges.  This time I cut way back on the baking time and it came out perfectly.  I got it from Renee's Kitchen Adventures.

Cherry Almond Coffeecake

6 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
¾ cup buttermilk
1 tsp almond extract
1½ cups flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
12 oz. package frozen cherries, thawed and drained
½ cup sliced almonds
2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw

Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat a 9” cake pan with baking spray.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in the egg, buttermilk, and almond extract.  Mix well.  Slowly fold in the flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing until just incorporated.  Pour batter into the prepared cake pan.  Place cherries on top, pressing down lightly into the batter.  Sprinkle the top with the almonds and raw sugar.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or the edges begin to brown.  Remove from oven and let cool before cutting and serving.

Makes 8 servings.

You can see that I *almost* over baked it again, as the edges were getting pretty brown.  I accidentally reset my timer when my daughter was brushing her teeth at bedtime.  Oops!  But I pulled it out just in time because it was still moist inside.

This is such a great coffeecake.  I love the almond flavor.  And it's not too sweet.  Just perfect.  And it's pretty too!  It's pretty easy to throw together as it doesn't require a crumb topping or anything like that.  If you wanted to serve it for dessert, a nice almond glaze would be lovely on top.

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20 August 2015

It's time for this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.   

This month's assigned ingredients were tomatoes and herbs.  Perfect for this time of year, when gardens are overflowing with both.  I don't garden, unfortunately, but I have a nice lady named Marge who plants some herbs in pots for me since she knows I like to cook.  The basil in the pic above came from my yard.  No tomatoes for us this year; need to make that more of a priority next year.

This is a recipe I made on a chilly evening in late June when we had some friends over for dinner.  We love grilling in the summertime, but it can get pretty boring always grilling the same things, so I like to get creative on the grill.  I put it all together and my husband mans the grill.  I have to say, he has been absolutely rocking the grill this summer.  Especially chicken.  I found some Caprese Grilled Chicken saved on my "On the Grill" Pinterest board from Add A Pinch.  It was plain chicken grilled, then topped with the mozzarella and tomato and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.  I twisted it up a bit and decided to marinate the chicken in balsamic instead of doing the reduction.  The results were fantastic.

Grilled Caprese Chicken

½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp fresh basil, torn
4 chicken breast cutlets
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Fresh tomatoes

In a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, pour the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and torn basil.  Close bag and smoosh it around to evenly mix.  Open bag and add the chicken breast cutlets.  Close bag and refrigerate for 4 hours.

When ready to grill, remove chicken from the bag and give each cutlet a quick rinse with water to remove excess marinade.  Grill chicken over medium heat.  When you flip the chicken over to the second side, top each with a slice of mozzarella and a slice of tomato.  Grill until the chicken is cooked through and the mozzarella melts.  Remove from grill and garnish with additional basil, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

So the dark color of the chicken is not from grilling; it's from the balsamic marinade.  It's kind of the color of a cooked mushroom.  I did rinse off the excess marinade before grilling, but the chicken is kind of "stained" from it.  It didn't bother us or our guests; the marinade makes it so tender and flavorful you aren't going to give a rip what color it is.  Way better than a drizzle, in my opinion.  And topped with gooey melty mozzarella, the vibrant tomato, and fresh perfumy basil? Amazing!

This was a big hit with our friends and was so much better than the average "burgers and dogs" cookout.  And really, not that much more work!  I served it with an Italian pasta salad and my Broccoli Salad.  What a fun summer meal.

Be sure to check out all the other awesome tomato and herb recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with apples and oats.  Fall already? Oh man!

15 August 2015

This is a great chicken recipe I have made a few times now.  Yummy chicken does not get much easier than this.  Just mix a few seasonings into Dijon mustard, slather it all over your favorite cut of chicken, and throw it in the oven.  Then you have 45 minutes to do whatever you want.  Easy peasy. It's an adaptation of a recipe I saw on ifoodreal.

Dijon Baked Chicken

3 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
4-5 chicken thighs

Preheat oven to 400°.  

Combine mustard, salt, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Rub this mixture all over the chicken thighs, top and bottom.  Place chicken on a rimmed baking sheet or in a baking dish.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Makes 4-5 servings.

So easy, but so good. The mustard mixture creates a kind of "crust" on the chicken skin.  You can use any cut of chicken you like; this would work well with drumsticks or bone-in, skin-on breasts too.  You may also be able to use boneless, skinless, but since they cook a lot faster, the mustard probably won't have enough time in the oven to get that crispy goldenness to it.

I served this with fresh green beans and whole wheat stuffing, but it would be good with pretty much any side dish you like.  It's very versatile.

My five-year-old ate one and a half of these all by herself last night.

The next time thighs and drumsticks go on sale at your grocery store, stock up and give this a try.

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13 August 2015

How about another great veggie side dish?  I've made this one several times this summer and it's always a big hit.  It has all the flavors of a loaded baked potato: cheese, bacon, chives, and sour cream, but with far fewer carbs than a potato.  There are a million recipes for this around, but I decided to wing it and created this one on my own.

Loaded Cauliflower Casserole

1 medium head cauliflower
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup French onion dip (or sour cream)
4 strips microwave bacon, divided
Fresh chives
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cut cauliflower into small florets.  Place in a microwave-safe bowl, fill with water, and cover.  Microwave on high 8-10 minutes or until cauliflower is somewhat tender. (I use my large Pampered Chef Microcooker for this.)  Drain well.  It helps to spread the cooked cauliflower out on a clean dish towel while you are preparing the other ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and onion dip.  (If using sour cream instead of onion dip, you might want to add a little onion powder for flavor.)  Crumble three strips of the bacon and add that to the cream cheese mixture, along with some freshly chopped chives (I don’t measure those).  Add the drained cauliflower and mix well, coating it all evenly.  Add ¾ cup of the cheddar cheese and toss again.

Pour mixture into a 2 quart casserole dish.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining ¼ cup cheddar cheese and crumbled strip of bacon.  Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melty.  Remove from oven and garnish with additional chopped chives, if desired.  Serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Cheesy, bacony goodness.  Not your everyday veggie dish, but great for the times you want to indulge a little bit.  

This dish looks like an 8x8", but it's not. It's a bit smaller than that.  But I think this would work well in an 8x8".

I estimate this to be somewhere around 5 carbs per serving, but if you are a serious carb-counter, please calculate it yourself as ingredients may vary.

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