Saturday, January 30, 2016

Dad's Breakfast Potatoes

As you may or may not know, I'm a lover of breakfast.

I confess, grudgingly, that I tend to lean toward the sweets such as muffins, pancakes, waffles, quick breads, and such. BUT, I do love a hearty savory meal full of eggs, and toast, and potatoes.

Growing up with parents from Oklahoma, where the biscuits and gravy ran deep, we had many a meal of eggs, potatoes, toast or biscuits, and sausage (or bacon)!  Some of my memories of breakfast surround the family time spent together in the kitchen and at the table sharing this wonderful meal.

Today I want to talk about my dad.  Although he wasn't the cook in the family, that was my mom's forte, my dad was no slouch in the kitchen.  He knew he way around a skillet that's for sure!  Some of the dishes I still make today come from my dad, and his cooking 101 lessons he would give me growing up.

Breakfast Potatoes is one of my favorite things he's taught me.  He had this unique way of cutting the potatoes so they looked like half moons.  I always that that was so cool when I was young and loved the shape of them.  They felt special. Little did I know then that it was just small potatoes cut in half and then sliced.  Small enough to make half moon shapes! Oh well, I'll stick with my fantasy thoughts of dad's half moon slices.  I like the sentimental memories it brings.

These potatoes are quite simple to make, and have to be the best breakfast potatoes around!  You can serve them for breakfast lunch or dinner cause they go with everything. Everything is done in a nice cast iron skillet.  Nothing special, just good ingredients, a little patience, and a dish worth savoring!

I hope you enjoy my Dad's Breakfast Potatoes as much as I do.

Dad's Breakfast Potatoes

serves 4

3 Tablespoons canola oil
1 small onion, diced
1 lb. red potatoes, cut into 1" pieces - skins left on
salt & pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp parsley

In a large cast iron skillet over medium low add canola oil to heat.  Add the diced onion and potatoes and cook covered for 20-25 minutes, or until tender on the inside but crispy on the outside, stirring occasionally.  

Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the paprika and parsley, stirring to coat. Serve.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Apple Crostata

Boy, do I have a dessert that is going to make you cheat on your diet!  I know, I know, most of us have a resolution that involves eating healthy, me included, but you will want to stray from the healthy bites for just a moment.

For New Year's Eve I made an Apple Crostata from the Ina Garten's cookbook "Barefoot Contessa Parties! and I noticed that I forgot to post it so that you can see for yourself how outstanding this dessert is.  It's heaven!

A crostata is a rustic pie.  It only has a bottom crust.  How easy is that?  Can't you just smell the scent of baked apples with gooey cinnamon?  Oh, it just fills your house with warm homey smells that remind me of my mom's baking.  I just love quick desserts that are easy to make.  This variation of a down home classic is a winner!

What drew me to this recipe was the method.  This is more of a "french crumble" apple pie.  Ina takes all the spices, flour, sugar, and butter and makes a crumb out of it, then just spreads it over the top of the apples.  So being completely different than most apple tarts, and pies, it was calling my name.   

Wow! Was this apple crostata good!  You just have to forgo the dieting and make this right now...I tell you it is worth cheating for.

Now, I did make a few adjustments from Ina's original recipe. Mainly the apples I used, which were Granny Smith.  I also left out the allspice (don't care too much for it) and I added just a touch of boiled apple cider.  This is completely optional, and it just provides you with a little more apple flavor, but you certainly don't have to have it.  Just so you know, you can purchase it here.

Take some time out to enjoy this scrumptious treat.  You can diet next week!

Apple Crostata (Serves 6)

slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten,

1 pre-made pie crust
1 1/2 pounds Macintosh, Macoun, or Empire apples (3 large) (I used Granny Smith)
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 Tablespoon boiled cider
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet.

For the filling, peel, core, and cut the apples into eighths. Cut each wedge into 3 chunks. Toss the chunks with the orange zest and boiled cider. Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle.

Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

source: Copyright 2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten

Friday, January 22, 2016

Winter Comfort Food: Chicken Noodle Casserole

Winter nights call for comfort food.

And comfort food reminds me of my mom's homemade egg noodles.  We had them every holiday and they really say "comfort".  Even better than this dish was her addition of leftover turkey to the noodles for an all in one comfort food meal.  It was sort of like a chicken pot pie filling without the veggies...noodles, turkey, and a thick chicken broth.  I can just see it, and my mouth is watering!

So I was digging through my mom's recipe box the other day and came across a scribbled recipe on an old card titled "Chicken Noodle Casserole".  I not sure where this came from but I definitely know why she kept it so long.  It's a reminder of our leftover turkey and noodles! A chicken version, and without all the work of making homemade egg noodles.

The memories came flooding back as I read the recipe and I knew this was next on my list of dishes to make.  It's simple to put together using leftover shredded chicken, or you can get a rotisserie chicken to help you out.  Then just buy a wide egg noodle that you like, to compliment the dish.  The rest are creamy ingredients such as sour cream, milk, cheese, butter.  Add a little aromatics and spices and you have one yummy casserole. (Need I say more?)

So I made this and I wasn't disappointed one bit!  It was everything I thought it would be.  Creamy, tasty, hot and comforting.  The noodles combined with the chicken and all the creaminess is a combo you can't beat.  It brought me back, and now we can have that comforting feeling anytime we want!

This is a dish the whole family will love.  Enjoy this on a cold winter night!

Chicken Noodle Casserole

serves 6

2 cups wide egg noodles, uncooked
2 Tbls oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 tsp powdered garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbls flour
1 cup milk
3 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
salt & pepper
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a saucepan cook noodles according to package directions. 

Meanwhile, In a medium sauce pan add oil and heat over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until softened.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes.  Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to cook the flour slightly.  Add milk and 2 cups of cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted.  Season with salt & pepper.

Drain your noodles and place them in a bowl.  Add the chicken, sour cream to the noodles noodles.  Add the cheese mixture and stir to combine.  Pour into a 9x13 (sprayed with cooking spray) casserole dish.  Top with 1 cup of cheese. Bake 30 minutes.  Serve.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Date Night Continued: Risotto with Mushrooms and Sage


Every so often we need to put a little romance in the mix.

I thrive on the energy I get from going out, whether it may be a night out walking around the new 'Village' or trying a new restaurant, or listening to a live band.  I just love it!  MGG, not so much.  He doesn't get that same excitement level I get from a crowd.  

He likes to slow down, relax, and have a nice quiet, romantic evening in a quiet cafe or preferably at home.  This has led me to create some of our date nights, at home.  Setting the mood with candlelight, mood music, and a themed dinner helps create that intimate atmosphere.

Planning the menu if a fun part of the task in creating the event.  This night was a riff on an Italian theme that I deemed a "Night in Rome".  The menu consisted of a succulent Balsamic Steak, this decadent Risotto with Mushrooms and Sage, and some tender vegetables.  Round out the meal with a special wine we bought at a local vineyard, and some crusty bread, and you have one heck of a date night meal!  

Today, let explore the risotto.  I just love risotto.  MGG just loves risotto.  Although the steak was incredible, I will say that the star was the Risotto. Can you say comfort food? (as my Grandma would say, Oh. my. lands!)  It was creamy, earthy, and just so decadent.  We both wanted seconds...okay maybe thirds!

Now I know you are going to say risotto is involved.  It takes time, and yes, it does.  But it is so worth it.  So so worth it!   I was lucky enough to get a wonderful Breville Risotto Plus make for Christmas, which makes making risotto a snap.  So if you can splurge on this risotto/slow cookers (a multi tasking item) I would totally recommend it.  I love mine.  Just so you know, it sautes, is a rice cooker, a risotto maker, and a slow cooker all in one.  Love the double duty items!  So below I have my recipe, using my risotto maker, but I've included steps for making this on the stovetop as well.

The end result?  this was the bomb!  It came out perfect with my risotto make, just like you stood there stirring all evening. And this was the perfect, comforting side dish that made our date night even better!

Enjoy your date night!

Risotto with Mushrooms and Sage

Serves: Yields 8 side dish servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium shallots, small diced
8 oz pound fresh baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon ground sage
salt & pepper
½ cup dry white wine
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups Arborio rice
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

In a saute pan, or if you have a saute feature on your slow cooker, cook shallots along with olive oil and butter until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until softened slightly, about 3-5 minutes. Add sage and season with salt and pepper.

Add rice to toast, stirring frequently another 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook 2-3 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.

For the Risotto maker: Switch your setting from Saute to Risotto. Stir in the broth and cover with a lid. Risotto will cook about 20-30 minutes and will automatically switch to the WARM setting when complete. Remove the lid and stir through the cheese. Test for seasonings and serve.

For Stove top directions: Reduce your heat to medium. Use a ladle to add a cup of hot broth to the rice. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon over medium heat until broth is almost fully absorbed. Add the remaining stock a ladle at a time, stirring constantly and adding more broth only after the previous addition has been absorbed, until the rice begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 16 to 20 minutes.

The risotto is done when it is creamy and the grains are plump and tender with a slight resistance to the bite. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Date Night: Balsamic Steak


Sometimes you want to have a little fancy dinner at home.

Like a date night.  Or a holiday celebration.  Or a birthday.

To me, fancy usually includes an indulgence, and really says "beef" to me.

That's what I LOVE...Steak!  I usually favor Filet Mignon, but I also love Flank, New York, and Sirloin steaks.  All cuts are juicy, cook up easily and taste great.  When I want to serve fancy slices of steak instead of a whole piece I usually go for a flank or sirloin steak.  London broil is another option that slices up nicely but is a tougher cut of meat and takes a little more prep and cooking to get it really tender.

MGG and I wanted to have a quiet date night at home.  A little cocktail time followed by a delicious dinner and mood music.  Then on to a great movie.  Everyone needs a little down time after the holidays.  (I know I sure do!)  So, tonight I chose a wonderful sirloin steak which I marinaded with some garlic, fresh cracked multicolored peppercorns, and balsamic vinegar. This marinade is a fabulous way to give the steak a lot of flavor.  A slight Italian themed meal is on the horizon!

There is about a 30 minute marinade time which you can do ahead.  The actual cooking time is about 15 minutes depending on how you like your meat cooked.

Serve this with my Risotto with Mushrooms and Sage (recipe coming up next!) and a vegetable of your choice and you have an elegant dinner at home!

Now this is what I call a fancy "Date Night" dinner at home! Date night was a complete success and will certainly be repeated in the near future.


Balsamic Steak

serves 2

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 large cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon cracked black or multi-colored peppercorns
½ cup balsamic vinegar, divided
1 - 1 ½ pounds sirloin steak
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    Combine ¼ cup of olive oil, the garlic, cracked peppercorns, and 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar in a ziploc bag. Add the steak and seal the bag, turning to coat the steak completely. Marinate on the counter for 30 minutes

    Heat a grill pan (or use and outdoor grill) over medium heat. Remove the steak from the marinade and discard. Place the steak on the grill pan and cook 3 minutes, then rotate the steak 90 degrees to create cross hatch grill marks. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Brush the top of the steak generously with the balsamic vinegar then flip the steak. Brush the other side . Turn the steak over and brush the other side generously with balsamic vinegar. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, then rotate the steak 90 degrees. Cook and additional 3-4 minutes for medium temperature. Transfer to a platter and tent loosely with foil for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain in strips. Serve with a little extra balsamic vinegar drizzled if desired.

    Monday, January 11, 2016

    Sunset Punch

    It's cocktail time!

    One of my favorite cocktails is a Madras.  The combination of cranberry and orange juice with vodka makes a wonderful fruity drink.  Sipping this makes me feel like I'm on a tropical island with my toes in the sand and a breeze in my hair. Heaven!

    So we were hosting a holiday dinner with some friends last month and I decided to make a variation of this drink.  I combined 3 fruit juices, and to make this an adult punch we topped it with some Prosecco.  

    This was the perfect cocktail.  Of course I would also say that this would be the perfect blend of fruit juices to sip on a hot day without the alcohol as well!  And to make it kid friendly for a party or holiday mocktail, you can top it with sparkling apple cider, or a little sparkling water.

    Just look at this color.  It looks like a sunset.
    It tastes like a dream.  Dreaming of a vacation on a tropical island!


    Sunset Punch

    1 pitcher

    2 cups of orange juice
    2 cups of cranberry juice
    2 6oz cans of pineapple juice
    1 bottle of Prosecco (substitute sparkling apple cider or sparkling water)

    Add the juices to a pitcher, stir to combine.  Serve over ice filling the glass 2/3 full. Top with Prosecco.

    Saturday, January 9, 2016

    Chocolate Peppermint Cocoa Drink and a Product Review: King Arthur Flour's Premium Hot Chocolate Mix

    One of MGG's favorite pass times is going to get coffee.  I tell you it's not just an addiction, it's a "thing".

    A thing like a social gathering kinda thing.  He loves his coffee and has to have it, but wants to go get coffee at a coffee house and then sits there, barely sipping his coffee. Unwinding and socializing I guess.  I tell you it really is a "thing".

    So his favorite haunt is Starbucks.  Well..I must confess it's not my favorite. Only because I'm not a coffee drinker, and Starbuck's doesn't offer much for non-coffee drinkers.   So I usually end up with a Chai Latte, Hot Tea, or Hot Chocolate.

    When it turns cold out I love a good hot chocolate.  I crave that chocolaty goodness which is so comforting to me, and if I can hop in my PJ's and have a cup of cocoa at home all the better!

    Premium Hot...
    (picture source: King Arthur Flour)

    Which leads me to today's product review of King Arthur Flour's Premium Hot Chocolate Mix.  I splurged recently and order this.  The word "premium" got me.  It totally did.  So like I said I splurged on a 3lb bag of hot chocolate mix in anticipation of cocoa euphoria.  (3lbs! talk about an impulse buy).  Not to worry though, they sell this in a nice 12 oz. can as well.  

    Let me tell you something.  This mix IS THE BOMB!  It is so creamy and has the best, I mean the BEST chocolate flavor. It's just incredible!  They use Guittard chocolate which in this case makes a decadent cup of hot chocolate.  I just about swooned when I had my first sip.

    All you do is mix it with some hot milk and BAM!  The BEST hot chocolate to sip on.  No more Starbuck's for me.  I'm staying home and having my King Arthur Flour's Premium Hot Chocolate!

    Then I got all fancy and created a Chocolate Peppermint Cocoa drink using the mix.  O M G !  Heaven!

    Honestly, I've been bragging about this mix all over town. Strangers and co-workers alike think I'm off my rocker, but believe me...this stuff is good.  Try've got to.

    Below is my recipe for the Chocolate Peppermint Cocoa.

    Chocolate Peppermint Cocoa

    serves 1

    1 cup 2% milk (or whole if you choose)
    3 Tablespoons Premium Hot Chocolate Mix (King Arthur Flour)
    1 Tablespoon Peppermint Crunch (chopped peppermint)
    Whipped Cream
    Peppermint Crunch for sprinkling

    Heat up the milk on the stove or 2 minutes in a mug in the microwave until the milk is nice and hot.  Add the chocolate mix and whisk to combine. Add the peppermint crunch pieces stirring until melted.  Top with shipped cream and more pepper crunch and serve.

    Friday, January 1, 2016

    Best of 2015

    Here they are!  The recipes for 2015 that were most viewed by you.  

    Taking a look back on the recipes that you gravitated to is a good way to reflect on past memories and the comfort they bring you.

    They also tell me what types of food you are drawn too. From this compilation of recipes I see that most of you like no fuss meals.  Ones that are easy to fix, comforting, and are easy weeknight meals or slow cooker meals.  There is also a bit of weekend breakfast treats and a fabulous dessert!  

    I'll keep all of this in mind during the upcoming year.

    So on to the top 10 countdown of all time favorite recipes for 2015...

    Lemon Blueberry Crescent Rolls - this was the most popular item.  A quick and easy breakfast treat that tastes like heaven.

    Baja Chicken Sliders - These are a great entertaining idea for parties. Perfect for July 4th and other grilling holidays.

    Southwest Chicken Spaghetti  - This is a fabulous slow cooker meal.  The flavors rock! 

    Chicken Taco Meat - Freezer Friendly Bulk Recipe - This is my favorite 'go to' taco meat.  It makes a ton so you can freeze portions for later.

    California Chicken Salad  - A staple recipe.  This one has the flavors of California in it!

    Slow Cooker Greek Style Chicken with Spinach and Tomato Orzo  - Another wonderful slow cooker meal.  This one has great flavors and is a complete meal.

    Quick & Easy Mini Sticky Buns  - Ohhh!  I love these little breakfast treats! Reminiscent of a true sticky bun, they are so easy to make.

    Teriyaki Beef and Sugar Snap Stir Fry  - Can't beat a stir fry for a quick weeknight meal.  This one is delicious!

    Bruschetta Chicken Rice Bowl  - One of my favorite lunch dishes.  A quick rice bowl full of garlic, chicken, and tomatoes.

    Walnut and Rosemary Oven "Fried" Chicken - A healthier way to eat fried chicken with a wonderful rosemary crust.  Love it!

    Banana Bundt Cake  - The only dessert to make the list and it is a winner! 

    It was a wonderful year full of great memories and great dishes.  I hope you take the time to enjoy some of these favorites and I'm looking forward to bringing you more exciting recipes in 2016.

    Happy New Year!


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