30 January 2015


Are you hosting or attending a Super Bowl party on Sunday?  Are you still undecided on what to make or take?  I make this for dinner sometimes, but it would be an awesome Super Bowl party snack.  Super easy to make, easy to slice and serve, and feeds a crowd.  Perfect!  It's adapted from What About Pie?.

Pepperoni Rolls

Ingredients:
2 loaves frozen bread (I use Rhodes)
1 tbsp cornmeal
1 package pepperoni
2-3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp pizza seasoning (I use Penzeys Frozen Pizza Seasoning)
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
1 tsp Italian seasoning (I use Penzeys Tuscan Sunset)
Pizza sauce, for dipping

Directions:
In the morning, remove bread dough from freezer.  Spray a plate with Pam and place dough on plate.  Cut a length of plastic wrap and spray one side with Pam.  Loosely cover the dough with it, Pam side down.  Let bread sit for 6-8 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°.  Spread ½ tsp cornmeal out on a large cutting board.  Remove one loaf of dough from plate and place on cutting board.  Using a rolling pin or your fingers, roll or press out to form a large rectangle.  Shoot for 11x8”, but don’t stress if it’s not exact.  

Place pepperoni slices on dough, slightly overlapping.  Sprinkle with 1-1½ cups cheese, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1 tbsp pizza seasoning.  Starting with the long side, carefully roll the dough up, making it as tight as you can.  Bring the far edge up and pinch the edge to the roll to seal it up.  Pinch the edges of the log together to seal the ends. 

Transfer log to a baking sheet (I use stoneware), with the seam side down.  Brush top with 1 tbsp melted butter and sprinkle with 1 tbsp Parmesan and ½ tsp Italian seasoning.

Repeat with the second loaf of dough and remaining ingredients.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bread is golden brown.  Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before cutting.  Cut into 1” thick slices.  Serve with pizza sauce for dipping.

Makes 6 servings as a main dish, 12 as a party appetizer.

Note: If you don't have time the day of to let the dough thaw and rise for 6-8 hours, you can do that part the day before, then refrigerate overnight.  Let it come back to room temperature the next day before proceeding with the recipe.

Even though it's super easy, I took a few pics of the process.

 This is what my dough looked like after thawing and rising.  It got crazy big!


 I was fortunate to have a handy dandy kitchen assistant on the day I took these pics.


 Press or roll dough out to a rectangle shape.


 Have your lovely assistant place the pepperoni on.


 Don't let her sneak too many pieces of pepperoni!


 I used turkey pepperoni, so that's why they are kind of curly-looking.  Regular pepperoni will lay more flat.  If you use regular pepperoni, I suggest blotting it well with paper towels after laying it on the dough to remove some of the extra grease.  


 Layer on the cheese.  Don't be stingy!


Then top with pizza seasoning.


 I used Penzeys, of course. This stuff rocks. I use it any recipe that has pizza flavors going on.


 Roll that baby up.  Pinch the seam together.



 Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with more seasoning and Parmesan. I used Tuscan Sunset, which is a different Italian-style seasoning, but you can use the same seasoning you used inside.  You can even omit it if you want.


 This is how it looks coming out of the oven.  Isn't it gorgeous?


 Mmm.


I cut them into 1" slices when I made them for dinner.  You could slice them a bit thinner if making them for party appetizers.  Just don't get too skinny or the filling might fall out.  Serve with your favorite marinara sauce for dipping.  

These pepperoni rolls would be a huge hit at any party, let alone a Super Bowl party.  I have made them for dinner a couple of times and they are always a huge hit with my family.  Served with a nice salad, they make a great "fun" dinner.  

Secret Recipe Club resumes on Monday; come back to see what fun thing I made.  (Here's a teaser: it's perfect for the next great holiday coming up.)



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21 January 2015


Can you believe it's the second half of January already? Time flies when you're busy!  We have been super busy since the kids finally went back to school (after Christmas break and multiple snow days).  Weeknights have changed a lot around here in the last year with me working part-time (today is my one year anniversary!) and with my oldest daughter having homework every night.  I used to be able to cook pretty much whatever dinner I wanted on whatever night I wanted to, but not anymore.  I really need quick-cooking dinners on weeknights that are easy enough that my husband can throw them together if I get bogged down helping Lena with her homework.  He's not inept in the kitchen by any means, but simple is always best on these busy nights.  I recently created this awesome recipe that is perfect for these nights.  Not only is it ready in about half an hour, with pockets of time when you are able to leave it and go do something else while it cooks, but since it cooks all in one pan, you have only one pan to clean up afterwards.  I love that!  

The lovely folks at Red Gold sent me an nifty little package of tomatoes, lasagna noodles. an apron, and a coupon for Laura's Lean Beef and invited me to participate in their "Red Gold Simple Gourmet Lasagna Party".  Do you love lasagna?  Lasagna isn't something I have mastered, so I looked forward to an opportunity to work on my lasagna skills. I have two main lasagna hang-ups: 1. I don't like ricotta cheese, and 2. it is a complicated dish with lots of prep work, then a really long baking time.  Ain't nobody got time for dat!  Well, maybe somebody does, but I don't!  The lasagna recipe that I came up with fixes both of those issues.  I replaced the ricotta with a mixture of cream cheese, parmesan, and garlic powder.  Yum.  And I cooked the entire thing on the stovetop.  It was ready, from start to finish, in half an hour or less (I didn't time it exactly.)  It's not layered like traditional lasagna, but the taste is the same and you really feel like you're getting the whole "lasagna experience".  
Skillet Lasagna

Ingredients:
1 tsp olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
1 lb. lean ground beef
2 (14.5 oz.) cans Red Gold Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic, and Oregano
2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
⅔ cup water
1 tbsp Italian seasoning (I use Penzeys Tuscan Sunset)
11 lasagna noodles, broken into pieces
½ cup cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp Parmesan
½ tsp garlic powder
2 oz. mozzarella pearls

Directions:
Heat oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet.  Add the onion and sauté until tender.  Add the ground beef and cook until browned.  Drain off grease if necessary.  Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, and Italian seasoning.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Add noodles, stir, and replace cover.  Cook for 10 minutes, or until noodles are al dente.  Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese, Parmesan, and garlic powder.  Drop by spoonfuls into the pan and gently fold inside.  Place mozzarella pearls on top and cook for another 5-10 minutes, covered, to melt. Top with freshly grated Parmesan or Fontina, if desired.  Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.


This is how I broke up the lasagna pieces.  I assumed that you would have to use no-boil noodles for something like this, but I was wrong!  Regular lasagna noodles work perfectly.  If you happen to have some no-boil (aka oven-ready) noodles or you want to speed up the cooking even more, I think that you could use them as well.  They are thinner and more delicate than regular, so be gentle with your stirring.

If you can't find mozzarella pearls at your store, you can buy a mozzarella ball and just cut little pieces off of it.  Of course, you can always use shredded instead, but I like the looks of the pearls.  Makes it seem fancier somehow.

My family loved this!  While it was cooking I steamed some green beans in the microwave and threw some garlic bread under the broiler and dinner was done.  Easy peasy. Both of my girls made a point to tell me how much they loved it.  We had just a little bit leftover and it was quickly gobbled up for lunch the next day.

Give this a try the next time you get hungry for lasagna but don't have all day to devote to making it.  And be sure to head over to Red Gold's Facebook page to enter for your chance to win one of 750 aprons or one of 6 Gourmet Lasagna Party Prize Packs which include a Le Creuset Lasagna pan.  It ends February 3rd, so go enter now before you forget!




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15 January 2015


It's Improv time again!


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 pork and rice.  So many options!  I actually already have several pork and rice dishes on my blog: Baked Pork Chops with Brown Rice, Coconut Galangal Pork Fried Rice, Sausage, Spinach, and Brown Rice Skillet, and Smoked Sausage, Peas, and Rice Skillet,  Pork and rice is a great combo!  I searched my pins on Pinterest for something new to try and was overwhelmed by the number of pins I had that would work.  

I settled on soup.  I was going to make a slow cooker creamy sausage and wild rice soup.  But it was one of those times when you set out to create one thing, and end up with something completely different!  My intention was to cook wild rice, mushrooms, and seasonings in beef broth, with a little gravy mix for thickening, then when the rice was tender, add sausage and some heavy cream, and more broth if necessary to make it a cozy winter soup.  But when I checked on the rice to see if it was done, it was not only done, but it was amazing!  The broth and gravy had thickened up just perfectly for a really yummy rice dish.  I simply could not imagine watering it down to make it into a soup!  It was not yet time for dinner, so I added the sausage and turned the slow cooker down to warm until dinnertime.  The funny thing is, I hadn't even intended to serve this for dinner that night; I was making it a day ahead so I could get some good pics of it at lunchtime the next day, then we would eat it for dinner.  But after smelling it cook all afternoon, and seeing how amazing it tasted, I couldn't resist eating it that same night.  It worked out well because I had some unexpected errands to run right before dinner that night, so it was awesome to have dinner ready when I got home.  (The meal I originally planned for that night was easily switched to the next night.)  

Slow Cooker Sausage and Wild Rice Pot

Ingredients:
32 oz. reduced sodium beef broth
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 cup wild rice blend (I used Lundberg Wild Blend)
1 tsp dried onion flakes (I used Penzey's toasted)
1 bay leaf
½ tsp dried oregano
1 (.87 oz) packet brown gravy mix
2 tsp flour
1 lb. ground Italian sausage

Directions:
Place beef broth, mushrooms, rice, onion flakes, bay leaf, and oregano in a 3 qt. slow cooker.  In a small bowl, combine the gravy mix and flour.  Add to slow cooker, using a whisk to combine it with the beef broth.  Set slow cooker to high and cook for 3 hours.

Remove bay leaf.  Brown sausage in a medium skillet.  Drain off grease and add sausage to slow cooker.  Stir and serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.



I browned the sausage and added it at the end, but if it's more convenient for you, I'm sure you could add it to the slow cooker at the beginning so it all cooks together.  

I served this with some roasted broccoli.  While my four-year-old wasn't wild about this (pun intended), my husband and six-year-old raved about it.  Lena actually said it was a "flavor sensation that is sweeping the nation!"  She's a total goof.  My husband devoured the leftovers for lunch the next day.  He mentioned that it had great "umami".  He watches too many food shows with me!

This is just such perfect wintertime comfort food.  I have never had much luck cooking rice in the slow cooker before, so I was so excited that this turned out so perfectly.  Cooking it on high probably had a lot to do with that.  I'm not sure low would work with this recipe.  It might make the rice mushy.  I can already think of a couple of variations with this same method; chicken with chicken broth and chicken gravy mix immediately comes to mind.  Can't wait to experiment some more!

Check out all the other great pork and rice recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with coffee and cream.  Yum!


10 January 2015


Okay, this recipe is so easy that it's almost a non-recipe, and I feel silly sharing it, but I am anyway. I had been looking for a simple creamy corn recipe for a while, and tried a slow cooker one a while back that I loved, but then I lost the recipe. So I just kind of threw this together on a whim a couple of weeks ago and I loved the results.

Easy Creamy Corn

Ingredients:
1-2 oz. cream cheese
1 (15 oz.) can corn, drained well
1 tsp Fox Point (or Mrs. Dash Onion & Herb Seasoning)

Directions:
Place cream cheese in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 15-30 seconds at 50% power to soften. Add corn and Fox Point (or Mrs. Dash) and stir well.  Microwave for another minute or until corn is warmed through. Garnish with additional seasoning, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

See how easy it is? And it's so yummy. I love serving corn with any main dish involving barbecue sauce: pulled pork sandwiches, Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas, Barbecue Chicken Pizza, Barbecue Beef and Bean Cups, etc.  Barbecue and corn just go so well together. We love fresh corn on the cob in the summertime, but the rest of the year we have to make do with canned or frozen. I personally prefer canned, as I find the frozen can get chewy sometimes. But this recipe could be made with either. And you can use fresh corn cut off the cob in the summertime, although we love it so much just the way it is that I can't imagine adding extra stuff to it.  If you want to use frozen, I would suggest thawing it thoroughly, then patting it dry before adding it to the cream cheese. You don't want it to get too runny.

I put "1-2 oz." as the quantity for cream cheese because I used 2 and I think it might have been a little too creamy for some people. I will probably try 1.5 oz. next time. I know that's an awkward amount to measure out though.  (I love my digital scale, so no problem for me.)  The picture above is with 2 oz., so if that looks good to you, go for it.  This is easy to customize to your preferences.

The first time I made this, I simply dumped all the ingredients into a Little Dipper (2 cup slow cooker).  That was okay, but it causes more liquid to release from the corn and it was considerably waterier than the microwave method. And since the microwave method takes 5 minutes or less, I don't see the advantage to using a slow cooker.

In case you are not familiar, Fox Point is one of Penzey's most amazing blends. It consists of salt, freeze-dried shallots, chives, garlic, onion, and green peppercorns. It is so good.  It is absolutely perfect in this corn, but if you don't have a Penzey's nearby and haven't yet made an online order, I think the onion and garlic variety of Mrs. Dash would work well too and that is found in the regular grocery store. I haven't tried it that way, but I think it would be good.

Corn is quite popular at my house; my four-year-old would probably eat a whole can if I let her.  While my kids love it plain, it is fun to "jazz" it up every once in a while.





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07 January 2015


I know you are probably seeing lots of healthy recipes on your food blog list, on Facebook, on Pinterest, and maybe even in your email this time of year.  I find it really commendable that people use January as a time to start eating healthier, but I just can't do it.  It is currently 2:00 pm here in Wisconsin and we have just "warmed up" to 0 degrees.  Zero degrees.  All the schools in my county closed today due to windchills reaching -30 (lots of kids walk to school in my city).  How in the heck anybody can eat salad for a meal in this kind of weather boggles my mind.  If you are able to do that, I commend you!  But you might not be too interested in my blog during these cold winter months.  For those of you who, like me, can only make it through winter by cozying up to warm comfort foods, I've got what you need.

This is kind of a comfort food-type meal.  Ground beef mixed with baked beans and barbecue sauce stuffed inside buttery biscuits and topped with melty cheese.  Mmm.  I have made these a few times before, and I was going to make them again for dinner on Sunday, but we ended up stuffing our faces at Olive Garden for lunch and none of us was hungry enough for a real meal when dinnertime came around.  The girls had the rest of their little personal kiddie pizzas, and Jim and I just snacked a little after they went to bed.  So I had an extra meal on my meal plan.  Jim was a little sad because he loves this recipe.  When we heard yesterday that there was a good chance that school would be cancelled today, I told him that if it was, I would make these beef and bean cups for lunch.  While I was making them today, I remembered that I had taken pics of them a while back but had never gotten around to sharing the recipe here.  It is slightly adapted from Rachael Ray.

Barbecued Beef and Bean Cups

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
1 (14 oz.) can baked beans
½ cup barbecue sauce
1 (16 oz.) pkg Grands biscuits (8 ct.)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat a jumbo muffin tin with baking spray.  If you have two jumbo muffin tins, spray 2 cups of the second tin.

In a large skillet, brown ground beef.  Drain off grease.  Pour in baked beans (with their liquid) and the barbecue sauce.  Stir well.  Remove from heat.

Take each Grands biscuit and roll or flatten it out.  Line each cup of the jumbo muffin tin with a flattened biscuit, so that it covers the bottom and sides and forms a cup shape.  Fill each biscuit with the beef and bean mixture.  Sprinkle cheese on top.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown.  You will have to do this in batches if you only have one jumbo muffin tin. Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings, two cups each.


This is a super easy-peasy meal, but I took a few pics of the process anyway.

 Flatten out some Grands biscuits and put them in a jumbo muffin tin,  For a long time I only had one jumbo tin, so in order to make 8 cups, I had to bake 6, then remove them from the pan, and make another two.  Since I didn't want the first 6 to get cold, I went ahead and served them, and we ate while the other 2 were baking.  But my lovely mother-in-law got me another jumbo muffin tin for Christmas, so now I can bake them all at once!


 Brown some ground beef, drain, and add a can of baked beans and your favorite barbecue sauce (I love Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Chipotle).


 Fill the cups with the beef and bean mixture.  Don't be shy; load 'em up!


 Top with cheese.  I used Kraft's Mexican blend, but cheddar is good too. (I left one cheese-less because one of my daughters is allergic to dairy.)


 Bake until golden brown and delicious.


Cross-section showing all the yumminess going on inside.

I like to serve these with some creamy corn.  I made some today and took pics, so I'll share that recipe soon.

You may remember last year when I shared my Chicken Broccoli Cups.  This is basically the same idea, just with a different filling.  If you have a jumbo muffin tin and a can of biscuits, the possibilities are endless!


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03 January 2015



Happy New Year!

I hope you all enjoyed the Christmas holiday.  We had a lovely Christmas.  We had family visit on Christmas Day for the first time since we've been married. So I was excited that I got to make an actual Christmas dinner.  (We usually travel on Christmas, so I don't bother cooking a big meal.)  I made an Orange Cardamom Glazed Ham in the slow cooker, Sweet Potato Casserole, Cheesy Broccoli and Cauliflower (also slow cooker), bread, cranberry sauce, and U.S.S. Missouri Buttermilk Pie for dessert.  It was lovely.

Then I had a cooking break for a week because my in-laws took our kids off our hands for four days, so my husband and I used some of the restaurant gift cards we got for Christmas and did a lot of snacking, and the rest of the week we were visiting family in Indiana.  

I enjoyed my cooking break, but now I'm ready to get back in the kitchen!  This is one of the recipes I added to my meal plan for next week.  I have made it a couple of times and love it.  My family loves it and it so incredibly easy.  When things get busy and weeknights are rushed, my go-to dinner is throwing some kind of meat in the slow cooker.  Drumsticks and thighs are favorites of mine because they are super duper cheap, they don't dry out easily, and they're very versatile.  This is one of my favorite ways to cook them.  
{I cannot link to the blog where I got this recipe, because it has been removed.}

Slow Cooker Orange Hoisin Chicken

Directions:
8 chicken drumsticks or thighs, skin removed
½ cup frozen pulp-free orange juice concentrate, thawed
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp hoisin sauce

Directions:
Place chicken in a slow cooker.  In a medium bowl, combine all remaining ingredients.  Whisk well to remove all cornstarch lumps.  Pour sauce over chicken in slow cooker.  Turn drumsticks, ensuring they are all covered in the sauce.

Cook on low for 5-6 hours or until chicken is tender.  Remove the lid while you make rice and other sides so the sauce will thicken just a bit more.

Serve chicken over rice and drizzle with sauce.

Makes 4 servings, 2 drumsticks each.

Easy and delicious!  The orange and hoisin work very well together.  The vinegar really makes the flavor pop.  If anyone in your family is picky about eating meat off the bone, you can easily remove it before serving because it comes out so tender.

Did you make any cooking-related New Year's resolutions?  If so, I want to hear them!


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