Saturday, March 30, 2013

Roast Duck Stuffed With Apples

We had roast duck stuffed with apples tonight, and although it was a pretty good success with my family, it needed improvement.  We gave it an 8, except for Noah who gave the duck a perfect 10.  We also gave the potatoes all 8's except for Owen who gave them a 9.  This was a simple recipe, but in my quest to expand my family's tastes in meat (mostly hamburger and chicken breasts, two of my least favorite cuts of meats but their favorites), I will try again to better the duck I make next time, so stay tuned for Cook's Illustrated's take on how to roast a duck.  I'm excited to try it :)  I first had duck in Germany for Christmas there, and I was delighted.  It was so rich and flavorful, and my host-mother knew just how to prepare it.  I did not succeed in cutting out enough fat, so I'll have to do better at that next time.  Anyway, here's the recipe for what I did make, and the only changes I made to the recipe is to add potatoes to the roasting pan, to cook the duck on a rack, and to make a roux for the gravy rather than use cornstarch.  I'm not a big fan of cornstarch in my gravy.  With the gravy, for six servings, each serving had 497 calories, and that includes the potatoes and eating the apples if you want to.


1 young duckling

salt, pepper, paprika

1 onion, chopped into wedges

5 potatoes, chopped

 4 T butter, melted

 1.5 c water

some chicken broth  for basting

5-6 medium sized tart apples (i.e. Granny Smith)


Thaw the duckling over night in the fridge. Next day remove the giblets pack from the inside of the duck. Rinse duck with cold water inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut off the neck skin and the tail section, where most of the fat is stored. Make a cut in the skin on the breast side towards the tail. Remove any fat from under the skin if necessary. Season duck inside and outside with salt, pepper and a little paprika.  Preheat oven to 400.

Wash and peel the apples, remove core. Cut in wedges and fill the duck as necessary, do not overfill because the duck could fall apart during roasting.  Place duck in a roasting pan, breast down.
Add onion and potato to the bottom of the roasting pan with a little hot water,  pour butter evenly over the duck. Roast uncovered in a pre-heated oven for 1.5 - 2 hours. When the back of the duck is browned turn duck breast side up. Baste duck several times during roasting and in the last 10 minutes baste the duck with the beer or salty water and increase the temperature to 450° F. This will create a nice crusty skin.

Remove duck from roasting pan, remove ties and apples and let duck rest covered with tin foil. Remove the onions from the pan, loosen drippings, remove fat from sauce (optional) by transferring it into a Gravy Separator or if you make the duck a day ahead, you can finish the gravy the next day. Transfer the gravy strained into a small pot and place in the fridge over night. The next day you can scrape off the hardened fat from top with a spoon. Finish the sauce: Make a roux, then heat the gravy  and season to taste.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Passion Fruit Juice

This is Aaron's recipe, not mine, and hopefully he will get on and update this, so it will be more of a complete recipe.  If you like passion fruit, and you can buy it cheaper than I can, this is totally worth it.  The boys gave this a perfect 10, and I gave it a 7, because Aaron usually makes great juice, and this was only good, not great in my opinion :)  Next time we'll try it with pineapple as well I think.

Ok. this is Aaron writing now....

I learned how to make this and other tropical juices when I lived in the Caribbean. Because they use different  varieties of the same fruits we use here, the preparation methods vary from our methods here in the USA. In the Dominican Republic, passion fruits are called chinolas. Other latin countries call them Maracuyas.

Start with about 6 passion fruits. They will either be yellow and smooth on the outside or purple and wrinkly depending on the breed, age, and transport method. Get out your  blender and, while holding the fruit above the blender, cut it in half so that any juices will drip into the blender pitcher. Use a spoon to scoop out the black seeds and yellow membranes into the pitcher also.

It is the yellow membrane that holds the flavor of the passion fruit, so we will use the blender to separate the membrane from the Seeds. To do this, add an additional 2 cups of water to the blender. Pulse the blender several times until you see some of the black seeds beginning to break.  The black seeds release a bitter flavor when broken, so don't blend any further. Next pour the blended solution through a small sieve to strain out the seeds and membrane chunks. The flavor will pass through in the water.

Pour the strained liquid into a pitcher and add 1/2 Cup Sugar and fill to the 1/2 quart line on the pitcher. Add more sugar or water to taste.

In the D.R. we added a single drop of vanilla for extra flavor.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chickpea Pancakes with Ginger Apple Compote

 We had chickpea pancakes with ginger apple compote for a breakfast for dinner meal the other night, and I like that these pancakes are a little healthy :)  Noah and I gave them an 8, Aaron and Owen gave them a 7, but everyone liked the pancakes better by themselves except for me.  I love fruit topping on my pancakes, but not the rest of the family.  Without the apples, everyone gave the pancakes a higher score.  Sigh...:)  With the fruit topping included, we made 21 pancakes and each pancake with the fruit was 103 calories.  Without the fruit topping each pancake was 93 calories.  This was an easy recipe, I just threw everything in the food processor instead of just processing the chickpeas, so the preparation was a breeze.


1-½ c flour
1 T Baking Powder
¾ t Salt
1 can (16 Oz. Can) Chickpeas
1 c Applesauce, No Sugar Added
1 c Milk
1 T Honey
4 T Butter, Melted
1 t Vanilla Extract

2 whole Apples
1 t Fresh Ginger
¼ t Vanilla Extract
2 T Brown Sugar
¾ c Water

In a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt).
Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and mash. You can also use a blender or food processor but make sure not to over puree.
Add the rest of the wet ingredients (applesauce, milk, eggs, honey, butter, vanilla) to the chickpeas and mix well.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined.
Cook pancakes.
To make the ginger apple compote, peel, core and dice the apples. Peel and grate the ginger using a microplaner. If you wish, you can substitute fresh ginger for 1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger.
In a saucepan, add the apples, ginger, vanilla extract, sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to medium and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until apples are cooked, water has reduced and the consistency is thick. Pour over pancakes and serve

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Creamy Black Bean Salsa Pork

We had this Creamy Black Bean Salsa Pork the other night, but if you follow that link, you'll see it's supposed to be chicken.  Either way, this turned out really well, and everyone liked it.  I think it got 8's all around.  We made at least 16 servings out of this, and the calories are 85/serving.  I'll post the recipe the way I made it, it really is great for nachos and tacos.

Creamy Black Bean Salsa Pork

2-3 lb pork loin
2 cans kidney beans (or any beans you want)
1 can cream style corn
1 packet taco seasoning
1/2 c chicken broth
1 c salsa (I used homemade)
4 oz (a little less) cream cheese

whatever you want to serve it with

Place pork and all other ingredients except cream cheese in crockpot.  Cook most of the day on low.  1/2 hour before serving, stir in the cream cheese and let the crockpot cook on high with the lid off.  If desired, thicken the sauce with cornstarch and water and let cook on high with the lid off.  Serve.

Super easy and delicious!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cheesy Tortellini

 We had this great dinner from Giada de Laurentiis's Everyday Pasta cookbook.  This Cheesy Baked Tortellini was delicious, fast, and super easy.  The boys and Aaron gave it a 9, and I gave it an 8.  I'll have to update the calories later, I'm running behind on everything this week ;).  So to update, the calories per serving, and we made 10 servings, were 411.  Anyway, make this, you won't be sorry!

Cheesy Baked Tortellini

Olive Oil (I didn't use this, I just sprayed the pan)

2 c Marinara sauce

1/3 c mascarpone cheese ( I used ricotta and I used more than 1/3 c)

¼ c chopped parsley

2 t chopped thyme

1 lb cheese tortellini

2 oz thinly sliced smoked mozzarella

¼ c parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly oil an 8x8 baking dish.

Whisk the marinara sauce, mascarpone cheese, parsley, and thyme in a large bowl to blend.  Cook the tortellini in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just tender, about 2 minutes.  Drain.  Add the tortellini to the sauce and toss to coat.

Transfer the tortellini mixture to the prepared baking dish or dishes.  Top with the smoked mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the cheeses on top melt, about 10 minutes longer.

Monday, March 25, 2013


We had this simple nachos recipe from America's Test Kitchen's Family Cookbook, but even though it was super easy, it was delicious and worth posting about.  I love baking corn chips, it gives them such a great texture, and this didn't disappoint.   We all gave it a 9.  The calories for 8 servings were 496/serving, not including garnishes.  High, but delicious :).

Cheesy Nachos with Spicy Beef
2 t vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T chili powder
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t coriander
1/4 t dried oregano
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/8 t salt
1/2 lb ground beef
8 oz tortilla chips
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (4 c, I used some sharp cheddar, and some cheddar jack)
2 scallions, sliced thinly
avocado, salsa, beans, tomatoes, etc. for garnish

1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, spices, and salt.  Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the ground beef and cook, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon, until the beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
2. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400.  Spread half the chips in an even layer in a 9x13 pan.  Sprinkle half of the beef mixture evenly over the chips and then sprinkle with 2 c of the cheese.  Repeat.  Bake about 9 minutes.  Sprinkle with the scallions, then garnish as desired.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

General Tso's Chicken

We had this delicious General Tso's chicken from Brown Eyed Baker's blog the other night, another one of Aaron's favorite kinds of food.  I am not going to repost the recipe here, because it is long and involved, and I followed the recipe exactly, or I tried to.  I will call your attention to the coating the chicken part, where the cornstarch flour mixture is made using the rest of the marinade.  I threw my marinade remains out before that part, and then I had to just dump a few ingredients in and hope it would turn out okay.  It did, but I didn't do a good enough job reading the recipe ;)  Learn from my mistakes, right :)? 
The calories are again an estimate on this, because of the frying thing, but they are around 295/serving for 10 servings.  That doesn't include the rice.  I used the coconut rice I have featured before on this blog, and it was delicious as usual.
Anyway, although labor intensive, this recipe is definitely worth the time, it's really delicious.  Aaron and Owen gave it a 9, Noah gave it a perfect 10, and I gave it an 8.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Olive Oil Poached Halibut with Fennel, Rosemary and Garlic

I think this might qualify as the most expensive meal I have ever made.  Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough to make up for the exorbitant price I paid for the meal :(  Oh well.  This was good, just not worth the amount of money I paid to make it.  I found this recipe in Michael Symon's Live To Cook cookbook, and like all his recipes, it was good, flavorful, and everyone enjoyed it.  The boys gave it an 8, and I gave it a 7.  I love halibut, but it's hard to justify the price.  It's hard for me to assign calories per serving on this, since I can never figure out how much of the poaching liquid is used, and how many calories I need to count, but this is my rough estimate--255 for 3 servings.  This may be a little low, but it won't be more than 300 per serving.

1 quart extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 fennel bulb, quartered
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 shallot, quartered
2 T kosher salt
1 T crushed red pepper flakes
4 (I used 3) 3-oz skinless halibut fillets

Combine the olive oil, garlic, fennel, rosemary, shallot, salt, and red pepper flakes in a 2 quart pan and bring the oil to a temperature of 140.  Pull the pan mostly off the heat, maintain that temperature for about 20 minutes.  You want to infuse the oil with the aromatics and red pepper flakes without really cooking them by letting the oil get too hot.
Submerge the halibut in the oil and poach until the fish reaches an internal temperature of 110, 15-20 minutes.  Remove the fillets to paper towels before serving.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Easy Chicken with Black Beans

We had Easy Chicken with Black Beans, and this was such an easy great recipe, perfect for lunch for us on a Saturday.  I found the recipe on tasty kitchen, Aaron gave it an 8, and Owen, Noah and I gave it a 9.  I love how simple, healthy and fresh this was.  I had to change just a few things, so I'll post the recipe the way I made it, but click the above link for the original. The calories for 4 servings were 200 per serving.

 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast tenders
1 T Olive Oil
½ t Ground Black Pepper
½ t Garlic Salt
¼ t Red Pepper Flakes
¼ t Ground Cumin
¼ t Salt
1 can Black Beans (15 Ounce Size)
1/2 c drained canned diced tomatoes
¼ c Diced Jalapeno Pepper
3 dashes Onion Powder
2 dashes Cumin
Grated Cheese
1 whole Lime
¼ c Chopped green onions
1 avocado, chopped

For the chicken:
Cut the chicken into bite size pieces.
Heat a skillet on medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the pieces of chicken to the skillet with the hot oil. Next add the ground black pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, cumin and salt. Stir the spices in with the pieces of chicken.
Continue to stir chicken. It should start to brown fairly quickly. It may take about 8 to 10 minutes for the chicken to cook.
For the beans:
While the chicken is cooking, add the beans and tomatoes to a microwave-safe bowl.  Then, add the chopped jalapeno, a few dashes of onion powder and a couple dashes of cumin.
Stir the beans and cook them until they are hot (about 3 minutes).
Toppings and assembly of dish:
Add the beans into four dishes. Then split the cheese between the dishes.
Next, add the chicken and squeeze the juice from the lime over the chicken (1/2 a lime per serving). Top with the remaining cheese.
Lastly, garnish with chopped green onions and chopped avocado30+.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ricotta Cinnamon and Sugar Danish

We had a yummy Danish called Ricotta Cinnamon and Sugar Danish, recipe found here, and we really enjoyed it.  The boys and I cut the recipe in half, since we were the only ones eating it, but we ended up eating all of it.  Owen and I gave it a 9, and Noah gave it a perfect 10.  I didn't love the orange, I think when I make it again I will try a different flavor with it, but the boys thought it was wonderful :)  We had 6 servings and the calories per serving were 171.

2 T Ground Cinnamon
2 T White Granulated Sugar
Dash of Salt
1 1/2 t  Fresh Orange Zest
2 1/2 T Ricotta
1/2 box Frozen Puff Pastry, 14-17 Ounce Box
1 whole Large Egg, Beaten (I obviously didn't use all the egg, it was too much, but I still brushed the top with the egg)
3/4 c Confectioners Sugar
1 T Brewed Coffee, Room Temperature (or milk if you don't use coffee)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. In a medium bowl, place cinnamon, sugar, salt and orange zest; mix until combined. Add the ricotta and using an electric mixer, mix until mixture is smooth. Alternatively, in case you don’t own a mixer, you can use a fork to combine everything together. It might take a little longer but will definitely work. Set aside.
3. Carefully unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry and roll it out slightly with a floured rolling pin until it’s about 1/8-inch in thickness. Since mine was a circle, I cut it into an 11″ x 8″ rectangle.
4. Slice 1-inch strips diagonally down both sides of the puff pastry, leaving the center uncut. Try to cut the same amount of strips on both sides. I had about 8 strips per side.
5. Add the ricotta filling, spreading it evenly down the center of the puff pastry. Fold in the bottom and top flaps. Braid the puff pastry, by folding the strips over the filing, alternating sides, until you’ve worked your way down the puff pastry. Using your knife, trim off any leftover strips or extra dough.
6. Transfer the danish to a parchment lined baking sheet, and brush the top with egg wash. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Then transfer baking sheet to the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until puffed up and golden brown.
7. While baking, mix confectioners’ sugar with the coffee in a small bowl. When the danish comes out of the oven, drizzle the top with the icing and serve warm.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Penne with Sausage, Peppers and Onions

We made this dish the other night, because Aaron's favorite dish at Olive Garden is Sausage and Peppers Rustica, and this is very similar to that, so I thought he would enjoy it.  And he did.  I used turkey sausage like the recipe said, so for 10 servings, each serving was only 291 calories without the Parmesan cheese on top.  This came together quickly, and we all enjoyed it, all of us gave it an 8.  I found the recipe in Giada de Laurentiis's Everyday Pasta cookbook.
Rigatoni with Sausage, Peppers, and Onions
¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausages
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and sliced
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 t salt
1 t pepper
4 garlic cloves, chopped
½ t dried oregano
½ c chopped fresh basil
2 T tomato paste
1 c Marsala wine
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
¼ t crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 lb rigatoni pasta
Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the sausages and cook until brown on all sides, 7-10 minutes.  Remove the sausages from the pan.
Keeping the pan over medium heat, add the bell peppers, onions, salt and pepper and cook until golden, 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, oregano, and basil and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and stir until incorporated, then add the wine, tomatoes with their juice, and red pepper flakes, if using.  Stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the brown bits.  Bring to a simmer.  Cut the sausages into 4 to 6 pieces each.  Return the sausages to the pan.  Simmer uncovered until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.
While the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain the pasta and add to the thickened sauce; toss to combine.  Spoon into individual bowls and sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Vanilla Cream Pie

Happy St. Patrick's Day yesterday!  We had a green pie, which was a little greener than I had planned, but my kids really liked it, so that's great :)  I used my favorite vanilla cream pie recipe from Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe Cookbook, and as usual, their recipes turned out great.  I didn't make a homemade crust this time, I just didn't want to make that much effort, so I used a store bought crust, which gives a poorer product, but still the pie was great.  Aaron and Owen gave it a 7, I gave it an 8, and Noah gave it a perfect 10.  There are 8 servings in the pie, and the calories per serving with the whipped cream were 429.  Good thing it's a holiday treat, right?

Cream Filling
1/2 c plus 2 T sugar
1/4 c cornstarch
1/8 t salt
5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 c 2 % or whole milk (I used whole)
1/2 c evaporated milk
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 t vanilla extract
2 T unsalted butter
1-2 t brandy (if you don't use alcohol, you could use another 1-2 t vanilla extract, like I did)

1 Prebaked pie crust, baked and cooled

Whipped Cream Topping
1 c chilled heavy cream
1 T sugar
1 t vanilla

1. For the filling: Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a medium saucepan.  Add the yolks, then immediately but gradually whisk in the milk and evaporated milk.  Drop in the vanilla bean (if using).  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently at first, then constantly as the mixture starts to thicken and begins to simmer, 8-10 minutes.  Once the mixture simmers, continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute longer.  Remove the pan from the heat; whisk in the butter, vanilla extract (if using), and brandy (if using).  Remove the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds, and whisk them back into the filling.
2. Pour the filling into a shallow pan (I didn't do this part).  Cover with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming on the top, and cool for 20-30 minutes until warm.  Pour the warm filling into the pie shell, and the cover again with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, then top with the whipped cream and serve.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Peanut Butter Cup and Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

These are some great cookie bars, and they aren't too difficult.  I made them to take to someone's house, and everyone liked them.  The boys and I gave them a 9, and Aaron gave them an 8.  When cut into 20 bars, each bar is 279 calories.  I didn't have enough peanut butter cups, so I made up the weight with peanut butter chips and chocolate chips.  These are delicious, creamy, and full of flavor.  Yum!

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup & Chocolate Cheesecake Bars


  • 7 whole Graham Crackers, Broken Into 1-inch Pieces
  • 6 Tablespoons (3/4 Stick) Unsalted Butter, Melted And Cooled
  • 3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
  • ⅛ teaspoons Salt
  • 2 packages (8 Oz. Each) Cream Cheese, Softened
  • ⅔ cups Granulated Sugar
  • 2 whole Large Eggs
  • ¼ cups Sour Cream
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 12 whole (0.75 Oz Each) Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Divided, Cut Into 6 Pieces Each
  • 2 ounces, weight Bittersweet Chocolate, Chopped

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Prepare an 8-inch square baking pan by lining the pan with aluminum foil, leaving 3-4 inches of foil draping over the sides of the pan.
The crust:
Place graham crackers into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the crackers form fine crumbs, about 30 seconds. To the crumbs, add butter, brown sugar, flour, and salt. Pulse until the ingredients are fully combined. Using the bottom of a measuring cup or your fingers, press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan.
Bake until the crust is beginning to brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Let the crust cool on a cooling rack for about 30 minutes.
The filling:
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until it is very smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape the beaters and sides of bowl frequently. Gradually beat in granulated sugar until the mixture is combined, about 1 minute. Beat in eggs, one a time, making sure that each is fully incorporated. Beat in sour cream and vanilla extract until fully combined, about 30 seconds.
Unwrap and cut 9 Reese’s peanut butter cups (0.75 ounce each) into 6 pieces. Gently fold into the cream cheese mixture. Scrape the cream cheese mixture into the baking pan, over the top of the cooled crust. Spread evenly.
Bake until the edges are set but the middle still jiggles slightly when the pan is shaken slightly, about 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
Place the pan on a cooling rack and allow the bars to cool for 2 hours. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, and up to 24 hours.
Using the overhanging foil, lift the bars from the pan. Gently remove the foil and cut into 16 bars.
Place bittersweet chocolate in a small bowl. Microwave on 50% power until melted, stirring every 15 seconds. Drizzle the chocolate over the bars, top each with a small chunk of a Reese’s peanut butter cup and serve.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Anne Burrell's Killer Mac & Cheese with Bacon

This was a disappointment.  I thought this couldn't get any better, bacon and macaroni and cheese, but there just wasn't enough cheese flavor.  Everyone loved the bacon, but the mac and cheese was uninspired.  Oh well.  We gave this a 5, and we cut the recipe in half, which are the amounts I'm typing in here.  This recipe was found in Anne Burrell's Cook Like A Rock Star cookbook, and the calories for a serving were 442 for 6 servings.

1 T extra virgin olive oil
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 1/2 T butter
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 c flour
2 c whole milk, plus more if needed (I added another 1/3 c in)
1/2 pound short pasta
1 c (3 oz) extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 c (3 oz) Fontina cheese, grated
1/2 c (1.5 oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
1 T Dijon mustard
Dash of sriracha (Anne suggests Tabasco or other hot sauce, I used the sriracha)

Cook olive oil and bacon in a pan.  Cook until crispy, then remove bacon to a paper towel.  Add the butter and onion to the bacon fat, season with salt, and cook until onion is soft.  Add the four and cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the milk, season with salt, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes, until the mixture is slightly thicker than heavy cream.  Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente; drain and reserve.
Add the cheeses to the milk mixture and whisk to combine, then add the mustard and hot sauce and taste to check seasoning.  Add a little more milk if the mixture is too thick, then stir in the bacon and pasta.  Serve immediately or transfer to a baking dish and reheat in the oven at 375.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Herbed Chicken with Sauce

We used a back of the can recipe for this chicken, Campbell's Healthy Request Cream of Chicken Soup, and it was uninspiring, not surprising.  It was also super duper easy, which we love around here :).  We all gave it a 6, and the calories for 1 chicken tender were 106.  Here's the recipe the way I made it:

12 oz chicken breast tenders
cooking spray
salt and pepper
1 can healthy request Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup
1/2 c water
1 bullion cube
2 cloves garlic, minced
onion powder

Spray pan with cooking spray.  Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper, sage, thyme, and onion powder.  Cook chicken until done, then remove from the pan.  Put garlic in the pan and cook for about 30 seconds, then add in the water, bullion cube, and soup.  Stir and scrape up any browned bits, then let boil until thickened.  Add chicken back in and serve. 

We served this with potatoes, but it would be good with rice, which is how the recipe suggests serving it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Curried Chicken and Apple Pita

We had this chicken and apple pita for lunch, and it was a good lunch, but we found the recipe had to many apples in it for our taste.  The original recipe says to chop the apples, and then later it says use the apples grated.  I wish I had grated the apples instead of chopping them, and only used one apple instead of two.  Aaron gave this a 5, and the rest of us gave it a 7.  The calories for 1 pita were 258, and the recipe made six pitas for us.  For the original recipe, follow the link above, but here is the way I made the recipe:

1 T olive oil
5 chicken tenders (seasoned)
1/2 onion chopped
2 t coriander
2 whole granny smith apples chopped
1 t curry powder
1 t garam masala
1/2 c ricotta
1 T milk
1 T sour cream
salt and pepper
6 pitas

Heat olive oil in a pan, then add the seasoned chicken tenders.  Cook until done, then add in onion and cook until softened.  Remove to cool.  Mix all the ingredients together except for pitas.  Serve with warmed pitas immediately, or cool for a little while in the fridge.

Like I said, this would've been better with less apples and with the apples grated, but still it was really good.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cocoa-nana Bread

We had this Cocoa-nana Bread from Dorie Greenspan's Baking cookbook the other morning, and it was yummy!  The calories per slice for 12 slices are 327 and we gave this a 9.  I like how easy it is, and the boys love the flavor.  It is more cocoa than banana, but it's still yummy!  Here's the recipe:
2 c flour
1 c cocoa powder
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 c buttermilk
1/2 c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter a 9x5 loaf pan and place it on an insulated baking sheet.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
Working with a stand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed for about 1 minute, until softened.  Add the sugars and beat for 2 minutes more.  Add the eggs, beating after each addition.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and add in the mashed bananas.  Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing only until they disappear into the batter.  Add the buttermilk, mixing until it is incorporated.  Add in the chocolate chips with a spoon.  Scrape batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Cover loosely with foil to keep the top from getting too dark, then bake for another 40-45 minutes (I had to cook mine for 15 minutes longer than that, so 90 minutes in all) until inserted knife comes out cleanly.  Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 20 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool completely.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Salmon with Garlic and Rosemary

This is a very simple, healthy and good weeknight meal.  I like this a lot because it takes so little time and tastes great.  I can't remember where I found this recipe, but it is so good and easy.  I added some lemon juice to it this time, and we liked it.  The calories are 186/serving, or about 190 if adding lemon juice.  I also have to cook this longer than it says, at least 20 minutes.  Aaron gave it a 7, so did Owen, and Noah and I gave it an 8.
Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Salmon
  • 3 cloves Garlic (I used a little more)
  • 2 sprigs Rosemary, About 1 Tablespoon Chopped   
  • 2 pounds Salmon Fillet (167/4oz)
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 pinches Sea Salt
  • 1 pinch Ground Pepper

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 425°.
Peel and chop garlic. Set aside.
Chop the rosemary. Set aside.
Place salmon on a baking sheet covered with foil.
Evenly distribute olive oil on salmon. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the fillet. Next, add the rosemary and garlic and lightly press into the salmon.
Place in the oven for 10 minutes or until the salmon is tender and flaky. Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Farfalle with Broccoli Rabe Pesto and Sausage

This was an epic failure :)  We despised this.  It is called Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe Pesto and Sausage from Anne Burrell's cookbook Cook Like A Rock Star.  So far, we have really enjoyed all the recipes from Anne Burrell that we have tried, but this one we did not.  I will post the recipe in the cookbook, not with the modifications I made, because maybe it would've been better if I hadn't made any alterations (mine were minor) but I doubt it, since I think the broccoli rabe was the problem.  We had never tried that vegetable before, and it was so bitter it was unpalatable for us.  The calories for 8 servings the way I made it were 457/serving and Noah gave this a 2, Owen gave it a 3, and I gave it a 4 because I was having wishful thinking since it was new and healthy.  Here's the recipe from the cookbook:

For the Pesto

2 bunches of broccolini (broccoli rabe), tough lower stems removed, coarsely chopped
1/2 c chopped pistachios
3/4 c freshly grated parmesan
1/4 c mascarpone
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (if needed)

For the Pasta

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
1 lb orecchiette
Olive Oil

1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.  Drop the rabe into the water, give it a swish, and remove it immediately, saving the water to cook your pasta in later.
2. Reserve 1 c of the rabe.  Toss the rest in a food processor and pulse until you have a coarse paste.  Add the pistachios and Parmesan and puree until smooth.  If it seems dry, drizzle in a little olive oil while the machine is running (I didn't need this).  Add the mascarpone and pulse until combined; taste for seasoning.  It should be slightly bitter, nutty, and creamy at the same time.  Reserve.
3. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat.  Add the sausage, using a spoon to break it up, and cook until brown and crumbly, 8-10 minutes.
4. Bring your broccolini water back to a boil and toss in the pasta.  Cook til al dente and drain, reserving 1/2 c pasta water.  Add to the sausage pan with the water, the reserved broccoli rabe, and 2/3 of the pesto.  Stir to combine and cook until the water evaporates and the pesto is clinging to the pasta.  Remove from the heat, drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle with more parmesan, and stir vigorously to combine.  Serve immediately.

Maybe our broccolini was super bitter, but we'll never have this again :)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Cannoli French Toast

We had some yummy French toast the other night for breakfast for dinner, and it was a hit, although Aaron prefers our regular French toast.  I found the original recipe here, but I didn't follow it exactly.  I made the filling like it said, but I made my French toast the way I like it, not according to their recipe.  The calories for 1 stuffed French toast are 758!!!  Oh man, that is high, but it's a fun treat.  Aaron gave it a 7, Owen and I gave it an 8, and Noah gave it a 9.

Cannoli French Toast

1 c ricotta cheese (I used whole milk, skim would be less calories :))
1/4 c powdered sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1/3 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

8 slices bread
1 egg
2 T butter, melted and cooled
1 t vanilla
3/4 c cream (milk would be way less calories, I used the cream because I had some I needed to use)
dash of salt

Mix together the first four ingredients, then spread on 1 slice of bread and top with another slice of bread.  Repeat for the other pieces of bread.  Mix together the egg, butter, vanilla, cream and salt, then dip the bread in the mixture.  Cook until both sides of the bread are cooked well, then serve. 

You can add syrup and butter if you want, but I don't think it's necessary.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Italian Pot Roast with Root Vegetables

We had the recipe Italian Braised Beef with Root Vegetables the other night, and it had amazing flavor.  I loved how it tasted, and so did everyone else.  The one problem we had with the recipe, and why it didn't, score any higher, was the beef needed to cook longer so it could shred.  It didn't shred at all, and so it didn't work on pasta as well as I had hoped.  For 1/12 of the total, not including the pasta, the calories were 289, and Aaron gave it a 7, because of the way the meat was, and the boys and I gave it an 8.  The recipe uses Michael Symon's Yia Yia's Sunday Sauce, which I made and used, but didn't get a picture of, so use your favorite red sauce or better yet buy your own Michael Symon's Live to Cook cookbook ;)

3 lb rump roast
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped (Michael Symon says to use celery root, I prefer just celery)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 c wine (I used beef broth)
2 c Yia Yia's Sunday Sauce
1 c water
2 bay leaves

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or other large oven safe pan.  Heat oven to 300.  Salt and pepper roast, and brown on all sides.  Throw carrot, onion, and celery in the pot, and cook for a few minutes, then add garlic.  Add the wine and deglaze the pan, then add the water and red sauce and bay leaves, bring to a simmer, then cook for 3 hours at least in the oven (I only did 3 hours, and our roast needed longer cooking), basting as needed.  Shred and serve with more sauce and pasta.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Crab and Ricotta Manicotti

We had Crab and Ricotta Manicotti the other night, and I found the recipe in Giada de Laurentiis's cookbook Everyday Pasta.  This was an easy recipe, and pretty tasty, and I like that the flavor was mild enough not to overwhelm the crab.  Aaron and Owen gave it a 7, Noah and I gave it an 8, and the calories for 1 roll were 236.  Also, béchamel sauce is just a white sauce, butter and flour to make a roux, and milk to make the sauce.  I used 4 T butter, 4 T flour, 4 c milk, and salt and pepper and I added a little onion powder.  Stir until thick, pour over rolls.
Here's the recipe:

Crab and Ricotta Manicotti

1 box manicotti pasta (about 12 shells), or an 8 oz box of cannelloni

1 c whole-milk ricotta cheese

¾ c grated Parmesan cheese, plus ¼ c for sprinkling

1 egg yolk

½ c chopped fresh basil

1 lb lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage

¼ t salt

¼ t pepper

Grease pan

Béchamel sauce

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, ¾ c of the Parmesan, the egg yolk, basil, crab, salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter a 9x13 inch glass baking dish.

Fill the manicotti with the crab mixture and place in the prepared baking dish.  Top the filled manicotti with the béchamel sauce and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ c of Parmesan.  Bake until bubbly and the top is golden brown, 15-20 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Slow Cooker Chocolate and Caramel Cake

I tried baking for the first time in the crockpot!  That is always an adventure, one I'm glad I tried.  I followed the recipe for Moist Chocolate and Caramel Cake exactly, and the only criticism I have of this recipe is that mine was a tiny bit overcooked, and I cooked it for the least amount of time listed.  Oh well, it was a big hit with the boys and myself, and I like the cream cheese flavor it had.  Aaron gave it a 7, Owen gave it an 8, I gave it a 9, and Noah gave it a perfect 10, big surprise there :)  That kid loves his desserts.  This was fun to make with the kids, and again, I like that I could make it in the crockpot.  We got at least 16 servings out of the cake, and the calories/serving were 388.  Here's the recipe:

4 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup milk or cream
1 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream--I used sour cream)
1 egg
1 (16.5 oz) yellow cake mix, unprepared
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used 1/2 c)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T butter
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup evaporated milk 
In small microwave safe bowl, combine cream cheese and milk. Microwave on 50% power for 1 minute; remove and stir. Continue microwaving for 30 second intervals until cream cheese melts; stir with wire whisk to blend.
Place in large bowl; stir in yogurt, cocoa powder, chocolate chips and egg. Mix well. Add cake mix and stir just until combined.
Spray a 6 quart slow cooker with nonstick baking spray. Spread batter evenly in slow cooker.
In small saucepan, combine butter, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk; heat to boiling, stirring until blended. Carefully pour over batter in slow cooker.
Cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Uncover, turn off slow cooker, top loosely with foil, and let stand for 30 minutes.
Gently run a sharp knife around the edges of the cake and invert over serving plate until cake drops out. If any sauce remains in slow cooker, spoon over cake. Cool for 30-45 minutes before serving.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cheesy Taco Pasta

I have Owen help out with dinner sometimes so he can learn about cooking, and he's great about helping although he really doesn't like cooking :).  He helped me make this easy dish, called Cheesy Taco Pasta, and although it wasn't a super hit here at the house, it was fast and easy, so we like that!
The link above is to the original recipe, and I made a few changes based on what I had in the house.  For six servings, the calories per serving are 406, and Aaron gave it a 5, Owen and I gave it a 7, and Noah gave it an 8.  Here's the recipe the way I prepared it.

1/2 lb pasta
1/2 lb ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning
1 1/2 c enchilada sauce
1/2 c water
2 c cheese
1/4 c cream

Prepare pasta and set aside.  Cook ground beef, then drain of all fat.  Add water and taco seasoning packet, then add the enchilada sauce.  Cook together, then add cheese and cream.  Serve immediately.

Like I said, this is fast and easy, and although not super popular, it's worth it for an easy dinner.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork

We found this recipe for Spicy Pulled Pork in the Pioneer Woman's 2nd cookbook, and it is also on her website.  I cooked it in the crockpot, so the directions I posted are just a little different, but if you want to make it on the stove, just click on the link.  We all gave this a 9, it's great, has some kick, and sweetness too, and it tasted great.  The calories for 1/10 of the total are 222.

1 whole Large Onion
1 whole Pork Shoulder ("pork Butt") - 5 To 7 Pounds
Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 can (7 oz) Chipotle Peppers In Adobo Sauce
2 12 oz cans Dr. Pepper
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

Peel the onion and cut it into wedges. Lay them in the bottom of a large crockpot.
Generously salt and pepper the pork roast, then set it on top of the onions in the pan.
Pour the can of chipotle peppers over the pork (include the sauce.) Pour in both cans of Dr Pepper. Add brown sugar to the juice and stir in.
Place lid tightly on pot, then cook all day. Cook for at least six hours, turning roast two or three times during the cooking process. Check meat after six hours; it should be absolutely falling apart (use two forks to test.) If it's not falling apart, continue cooking.
Shred the meat and return it to the sauce.  Serve. 

We made burritos out of this and they were awesome.  We are now done with pork for the time being :)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Pork Milanese

This has been a pork week because I bought big pork loins when they were on sale, and didn't cut them into family sized portions like I usually do, so we have been eating a lot of pork to use up the big pork loin.  The recipes have been really good though, and I'm glad that I have convinced Aaron pork can be good :).  This one was probably his favorite of the pork recipes this week, he gave it a perfect 10, as did Noah, I gave it a 9, and Owen gave it a 6.5 because he said it was too crispy.  Silly kid.  We all gave the salad only a 7 because the escarole was too bitter for us, but it was nice and fresh, and even though the pork was fried, it was still a light meal.  Soooo good :).  The recipe for Pork Milanese was found in Anne Burrell's cookbook Cook Like A Rock Star.  We have really enjoyed everything that has come out of this book, it's a definite one to try.  The calories for the pork chop are approximately 359, but it's hard to know since I can never exactly figure out how much the frying oil adds to the chop.  The salad was huge, so we didn't eat all of it, but it came out to approximately 117/serving for 10 servings.  Here's the recipe with the amounts I used:

For the Onions:
3/4 c red wine vinegar
1 T kosher salt
1 1/2 t sugar
2-3 shots of Tabasco (I didn't use this, I didn't have any, I used some cayenne pepper, they would've been better with the Tabasco :))
1 red onion, sliced very thinly

For the Pork:
1/4 c flour
1 large egg beaten with 1/2 T water
1/2 c Panko
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan
4 boneless pork chops, pounded lightly
Kosher Salt
Oil (Anne says olive oil, I used canola) for frying

For the Salad:
1/2 c Romano cheese
1/2 c toasted hazelnuts
2 T parsley
1 head escarole, cut into bite-size pieces
Pickled Onions
Extra-Virgin Olive oil (I used about 2 T)

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar with 1/2 c cold water.  Add the salt, sugar, and Tabasco and stir.  Add the sliced onions and let sit for at least 1 hour.
Set up your breading procedure, 1 bowl for flour, 1 bowl for egg and water, and 1 bowl for Panko and Parmesan.
Salt the pork, then dredge pork in flour, then egg, then Panko mixture.  Place on a dish to sit in the fridge for an hour.
Pour 1/2 inch of oil in a big sauté pan.  cook the pork on both sides until cooked through and crispy and brown on the outside.
Put the Romano cheese, the hazelnuts, and the parsley in a food processor and blend until coarsely chopped.
Combine the escarole, the hazelnut mix, and the pickled red onions.  Dress this with the olive oil and some of the pickling liquid.  Serve with the pork.

I was so surprised how well breading an hour before cooking worked for these pork chops.  The breading stayed on the pork better than I've ever seen, and it was so crispy and even.  We really liked this.