31 March 2014

Today I am sharing with you one of my husband's favorite recipes.  He loves most everything I make, but he definitely has a few favorites.  These little babies have to be in his top three.  He raves everytime I make them.  They are really easy to make and since they are packed with veggies, I  feel pretty good feeding them to my family.  Even though they are kind of a meal-in-one, I serve them with an extra veggie to round things out.  My recipe is adapted from Taste of Home.

Beef and Cabbage Pockets

16 frozen Texas-sized Rhodes rolls
½ lb. lean ground beef 
½ large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, grated
4 cups cabbage, chopped
Seasoning of your choice
2 tbsp butter, melted

Place frozen rolls on two plates.  Cover with plastic wrap and let thaw 4-5 hours.  (I do this at lunchtime.)

Preheat oven to 350°.  In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until it is completely browned, breaking into crumbles. Stir in onion, carrots, and cabbage, and seasoning.  Cook and stir until veggies are tender.

On a cutting board, flatten each dinner roll into a 5” circle. Top with a heaping 2 tbsp filling; bring edges of dough up over filling and pinch to seal.  Place on two baking sheets, seam side down.  Bake 23-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush tops with melted butter.

Makes 8 servings, 2 pockets each.

Note: These can easily be made dairy-free by omitting the melted butter.  They are still great without it.

This is the first batch I made.  They didn't have the melted butter.  I did that the second time and really liked it.  Gives them a nice "finishing touch."

 I get the rolls out around lunchtime.  This is what they look like after they thaw.  

 Flatten each one out.

 The filling.  You can use any kind of seasoning you like here.  My favorite is Penzey's Ruth Ann's Muskego Avenue.  You could use just plain salt, or a seasoned salt, or anything that sounds good to you.

 Taste of Home said to put 1/3 cup filling in each one, but I can't fit that much.  Not even close.  I can only fit 2 tbsp.  But I think that works well.

 Fold them up and set them on a baking sheet with the crimped side down.  I use my stoneware sheet.  Taste of Home said to let them rise again after filling, but I find that step completely unnecessary.  

 They're so beautiful coming out of the oven!  This is when I brush the tops with melted butter.  Mmm.

These are a huge hit with my family.  I already mentioned that my husband loves them, but my kids like them too.  They are a real crowd pleaser!  

These are also great because you can very easily change up the filling.  Use sausage instead of beef, make them vegetarian, use different veggies, anything goes!  They are absolutely perfect for packing in lunches too.

29 March 2014

It's my blogiversary!  Seven years of blogging!  Closing in on 600 recipes.  Wow!  Thanks so much for reading!

Since a blogiversary is kind of like a birthday, I thought I would share some fun cupcakes today.  These are the cupcakes I made for my daughter's birthday party earlier this month.  Lena turned six and she loves puppy dogs and often makes a game out of pretending to be a puppy with her younger sister.  So I decided to a puppy dog theme for her party this year.  I saw some puppy dog cupcakes on Pinterest, and even though there wasn't a real recipe to go along with the picture, I used some commenters' suggestions and was able to create my own with the help of my mom.  Here's how we did it.

Puppy Dog Cupcakes

24 prepared cupcakes, any flavor
White, off-white, or brown frosting
8-12 caramels
48 chocolate chips
24 brown peanut M&Ms
1 pkg Bubble Tape Gum

Frost cupcakes with frosting.  You can use an icing bag, or you can just smear the frosting on and create a "furry" effect by touching a butter knife to the frosting and pulling it up.  You can also just kind of swirl the frosting around. 

For the ears, unwrap the caramels and soften one or two at a time in the microwave.  Don't completely melt the caramels; just soften them enough so you can mold them into ear shapes.  Cut each caramel into 2 or 3 pieces and mold them with your hands into floppy ear shapes.  Attach them onto the sides of the tops of the cupcakes.

Place two chocolate chips on each cupcake for eyes.  Place an M&M for the nose.  For the tongues, break off a 2" piece of Bubble Tape Gum and with a paring knife, round off one end into a tongue shape.  Stick the square end of the tongue up into the frosting at the bottom of the dog's face.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Aren't they adorable?  I was really impressed with how they turned out.  I have to give my mom most of the credit for these as she did the frosting and molded all of the ears.  She's more creative and artistic than I am.  I made the tongues and put on the eyes and noses.

 I love how they each turn out looking just slightly different.  Like real puppies, they are all unique!

We didn't have enough M&Ms for the noses (I forgot to get them at the store and we relied on a stash that Mom just happened to have in her car to snack on during the trip up here), so Mom got creative again and made the rest into dalmatian cupcakes using regular chocolate chips and mini chocolate chips.  They are super cute too!

The birthday girl blowing out her candle.  She loved her cupcakes.

24 March 2014

How about a veggie recipe today?  This is a super simple recipe; almost not even a recipe at all, but a good method to know.  I love roasted veggies.  They are my all-time favorite.  But sometimes roasting veggies doesn't work so well if the main dish is hogging the oven.  I haven't had great luck with putting two different things in the oven together, especially if they cook at different temperatures.  So if my main dish uses the oven, I will try to choose a veggie that I can make on the stove top.  One day I was making dinner and realized I had some cauliflower that needed to be used up.  Problem was, I always roast cauliflower, but my main dish was baking away in the oven at a lower temperature.  A light bulb went off, and I decided to try roasting the cauliflower in the skillet.  I thought it would probably take forever for the cauliflower to cook through in the skillet, so I parcooked it in the microwave first.  Then I sautéed it in some butter in the skillet until it got golden brown and delicious.

Skillet Roasted Cauliflower

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp butter
Seasoning of choice

Cook cauliflower in large microcooker in salted water for 6 mins.  Drain well.  

Melt butter in large skillet.  When it starts getting foamy, add cauliflower.  Cook on medium-high heat until browned.  Season to taste.

Makes 4-6 servings.

I use the Pampered Chef Micro-Cooker for this, but if you don't have one, you can use a microwave-safe bowl covered with plastic wrap.

Like I said, this is super simple.  But it has really come in handy for me several times.  It has that great roasted taste with all the convenience of stove top cooking.  This method would also work with broccoli.  Maybe even Brussels sprouts.  I'll have to give that a try soon.

Here's what my three-year-old daughter, Eva, said when she tried it: "It is yummy in my tummy, it is yummy in my tummy!”  So nice, she said it twice!

20 March 2014

It's time for the 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 sausage and mushrooms.  What a great combo!  It's so great that I already have a couple of sausage and mushroom recipes on my blog: Sausage Pizza Joes and my all-time favorite sausage and mushroom dish Sausage and Mushroom Ragu over Polenta.  When I was preparing for this month's Improv Challenge, I realized that I had made two different recipes recently with sausage and mushrooms.  One was a sausage and mushroom alfredo rigatoni and then there's this one from Hillshire Farm.

Honey Mustard Smoked Sausage and Veggies

⅓ cup honey
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 tbsp soy sauce
¼ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp olive oil
4 medium carrots (about 12 oz.), peeled and sliced diagonally
½ large onion, chopped
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
13-16 oz. smoked sausage, sliced diagonally
Hot cooked rice or egg noodles

In a small bowl, combine the honey, mustard, soy sauce, garlic powder, ginger, and cornstarch.  Whisk until smooth.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the carrots and sauté a few minutes.  Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until the veggies are softened a bit.  Add the sausage and cook until carrots reach desired tenderness.  Pour in the sauce, reduce heat to low, and cook a few more minutes, until sauce is heated through and thickened slightly.

Serve over cooked rice or egg noodles.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: This recipe is gluten-free if served over rice instead of noodles.

This dish is always a big hit at my house.  My kids love smoked sausage.  And while they're not crazy about mushrooms, they like the carrots and the noodles too, so I don't feel like they're missing out on too much.  

This is the sausage I used this last time I made it.  Much better than the original version.  Johnsonville has several different varieties of lower fat turkey and chicken smoked sausage.  I tried the chicken apple one in a different recipe and it was really yummy.  Any variety of smoked sausage would be good in this recipe.  (No, this isn't a sponsored post for Johnsonville; I just like their smoked sausage.)

This recipe is also great because you can use whatever veggies your family likes or you happen to have on hand.  Celery, bell peppers, green beans, peas, zucchini, and lima beans would all work well I think.

Be sure to check out all the great sausage and mushroom recipes below and come back next month to see what I come up with for "ebony and ivory"!


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15 March 2014

Here's another great recipe that is good to have for St. Patrick's Day.  I am not much of a baker, and haven't mastered homemade bread yet, but last year I decided to try soda bread on St. Patrick's Day.  We were having friends over for a feast so I thought it was the perfect time to try it.  I wanted to do a traditional soda bread recipe, not one that added a bunch of stuff like raisins and whatnot.  I got a great sounding recipe in my email from Fine Cooking and it seemed perfect.  Four ingredients and no kneading?  That sounded like a bread recipe I could handle.  

Irish Soda Bread

1 lb. (3½ cups) all-purpose flour; more as needed
¾ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp dried herbs (optional)
1½ to 1¾ cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400°. 

Place all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in 1½ cups of the buttermilk. Stir the buttermilk into the dry ingredients. If necessary, add more buttermilk 1 tbsp at a time until the dough just barely comes together. The dough should be soft; don’t overwork it.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat into a round about 6¾” in diameter and 1½” high in the center.  Invert the round so the floured side is on top. With a thin, sharp knife, score a cross on the dough about ¼” deep and extending fully from one side to the other.  

Transfer the dough to a stoneware baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes or until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cool to room temperature on a rack, about 2 hours, before slicing and serving.

Makes 4 servings.

I was so amazed at how well this bread turned out the first time I made it.  It was gorgeous!  I was very shocked that I could make such beautiful bread with so little effort.  It was a huge hit with our friends and I have since made it several times.  I made five or six loaves of it for our church's bake sale last fall and they sold for $6 each.

While this bread is awesome with just the four basic ingredients, I will sometimes add some dried herbs to it to change it up a little bit.  So far my favorite add-ins have been: Mural of Flavor, dried dill, Toasted Onion, Tuscan Sunset, and lemon pepper.  The possibilities are endless.

I only made two slight changes to the original recipe.  It called for half as much salt but some reviewers said it needed more.  I think it's perfect with the 1 tsp.  If you are adding extra seasonings, make sure they are salt-free, or reduce the amount of plain salt you use.

I also had to adjust the cooking temperature a bit.  The original called for baking it at 450 for 15 minutes, then reducing to 400.  But I had problems with that; the crust was hard and crunchy on the outside, but the inside was a little underdone.  So I have much better results baking it at 400 the entire time.  I still get a nice crunchy outside, but this way the inside is cooked through too.

This recipe is so handy to know.  It doesn't require a lot of pre-planning or prep time.  It's easy peasy and a total crowd pleaser.  I'm making it again tomorrow for this year's St. Patty's Day feast!

13 March 2014

It's been a rough couple of weeks around here.  I had grand plans for sharing several St. Patrick's Day recipes with you, but sickness has been running through our house for a week and a half now and we're just starting to feel kind of normal again.  Blah.  No fun!  I haven't cooked for a week!

But I thought I should be able to eke out at least one St. Patty's Day recipe for you.  Last year I made two bundt cakes for our church's women's Bible study just a few days before St. Patrick's Day.  I shared one of them last year, my Chocolate Mint Bundt Cake.  Now here is the other one.  It is a simple bundt cake made with a yellow cake mix and some instant pudding mix.  Very moist and delicious.  Irish cream is baked into the cake, and made the star of the yummy glaze.  You can use the real deal Irish cream, or you can use Irish cream flavored coffee creamer.  Great either way.  It's adapted from one I found at Allrecipes.

Irish Cream Bundt Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
1 (3.4 oz.) box instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
½ cup water, divided
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup Irish cream liqueur or Irish cream coffee creamer, divided
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a 10” Bundt pan. (I used Pam for Baking.)

In a large bowl, combine cake mix and pudding mix. Mix in eggs, ¼ cup water, oil and ¾ cup Irish cream. Beat for 5 minutes at high speed. Pour batter into pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. 

When cake is nearly done baking, make the glaze.  In a saucepan, combine butter, remaining ¼ cup water and sugar. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ¼ cup Irish cream.

When cake is done, allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto the serving dish. Prick top and sides of cake with a toothpick. Place about ⅔ of the glaze in the bottom of the bundt pan.  Carefully place cake back into the pan while still warm to soak up the glaze.  Spoon remaining ⅓ of glaze onto the bottom of the cake.  Let sit for a few minutes.  Then remove from pan and place back onto the serving dish.  Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Makes about 12 servings.

This cake is really delicious and was a big hit with the ladies at Bible study.  It is very moist.  The glaze is just the perfect consistency and lends just the right touch of Irish cream flavor.  

I have to spend most of the day tomorrow catching up on work in the church office that got put on hold earlier this week while being sick, but maybe I will be able to share another recipe perfect for St. Patrick's Day on Saturday.

09 March 2014

It's time for this month's Secret Recipe Club! The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before.

Secret Recipe Club

This month I was assigned Nicole's blog Daily Dish Recipes.  I was well-acquainted with Nicole's blog and have actually made one of her recipes before, Avocado Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad.  Nicole has an amazing collection of recipes! In fact the recipe that I chose for this month's challenge was her 1,000th post.  Wow!  That is so impressive.  While I could have happily made any one of those 1,000 recipes, I chose to make her Saucy Ham and Cheese Breakfast Sliders.  I love those little ham and cheese sliders made with King's Hawaiian rolls, and I've made a beef and bleu cheese version too, but I never would have thought to do a breakfast sandwich that way.  Pure genius!  My stint as a purely stay-at-home-mom has ended as I have taken a part-time job.  So the mornings when we all have to be ready and get out the door at the same time are a little hectic.  So the thought of making 12 breakfast sandwiches all at once really appealed to me.

Ham, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Sliders

1 stick butter
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
12 Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
6 slices ham
8 eggs, scrambled
6 slices cheddar or provolone cheese
1-2 tbsp poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat an 11x7” baking dish with baking spray.

In a small saucepan, combine the butter, Worcestershire sauce, and maple syrup.  Heat over low heat until butter melts, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

Slice the rolls in half and put the bottom halves in the baking dish.  Brush them with about half of the butter mixture.  Lay the ham slices on, overlapping a little.  Put the scrambled eggs on top the ham, spreading them out evenly.  Top the eggs with slices of cheese, overlapping this as well.

Put the top halves of the buns on.  Brush the remaining butter mixture all over the tops.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Cover dish loosely with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese has melted.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.  Using a sharp knife, cut rolls apart and serve warm.

Makes 12 sliders.

These would be great for serving at any type of a brunch function (bridal or baby shower, etc), but they are also perfect for every day breakfast at home.  I assembled and baked these one afternoon, then popped individual sandwiches in the microwave every morning for the rest of the week.  Awesome!  They are not only cheaper than any kind of frozen breakfast sandwich you can buy, but so much tastier too!  They were a big hit with my husband and six-year-old daughter.

I made one small addition to Nicole's awesome recipe.  The thing we love most about those ham and cheese sliders is the sweet glaze that they are baked in.  It's a combo of butter, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and a little Dijon.  Nicole's glaze didn't call for any sweetness, but I knew my husband and daughter would like it better with some, so I added a bit of real maple syrup.  I felt the syrup gave it a more 'breafast-y' taste than brown sugar would.  And the results were awesome.  Just the right amount of sweetness to go along with the salty.

Nicole used cheddar cheese, and I think that is probably the best cheese for these sandwiches, but I was out of sliced cheddar and really, really wanted to make these that day, so I used provolone instead.  They were still good that way.  I really think you could use any cheese you like.

My family loved these sandwiches so much, I know they are going to become a breakfast staple at our house.  I am so happy to have found a recipe that makes my life so much easier on super busy mornings.  Thanks Nicole!


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