Friday, December 16, 2011

Peanut Butter Balls (Buckeyes)

Chocolate and peanut butter...need I say more? This recipe gets lumped in with my Christmas cookie recipes...perfect for holiday gatherings and gift-giving! Sooo yummy. This recipe will make about 3 dozen buckeyes.

1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners' sugar
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla and confectioners' sugar. The dough will look dry. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet.

Press a toothpick into the top of each ball (to be used later as the handle for dipping) and chill in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.

Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until smooth.               

Dip frozen peanut butter balls in chocolate holding onto the toothpick. Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top to make them look like Buckeyes.  Remove toothpicks and put back on the cookie sheet and refrigerate until the chocolate is set. Store in a air-tight container in the refrigerator until serving.

Beef & Broccoli Stir-Fry

Stir-fry is a quick and simple dinner that is a complete meal in itself (meat, starch & veggie)! This is one of our favorite stir-fry recipes and a staple in our house. I found this recipe on

3 Tbsp. cornstarch, divided
1/2 cup water plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 lb. boneless round steak or 1 lb. charcoal chuck steak , cut into thin 3-inch strips
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
4 cups broccoli florets
1 small onion, cut into wedges
1/3 cup soy sauce (we use low-sodium)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
Hot cooked rice

In a bowl, combine 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, 2 Tbsp. water and garlic powder until smooth. Add beef and toss.

In a large skillet or wok over medium high heat, stir-fry beef in 1 Tbsp. oil until beef reaches desired doneness; remove and keep warm.

Stir-fry broccoli and onion in remaining oil for 4-5 minutes.

Return beef to pan. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and remaining cornstarch and water until smooth; add to the pan. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Serve over rice.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sausage and Apples

First of all, I apologize for the lack of recipes lately. The months of November and December have been extremely busy and I have been neglecting my blog :( In the next week, I hope to post several Christmas cookie recipes. This yummy recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks: 'Simply in Season' by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert, commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee. I had the priviledge of meeting Mary Beth Lind at a workshop while I was attending Messiah College. This recipe - Sausage and Apples - is featured in the 'Winter' section of the cookbook. I served this over noodles and added a vegetable as a side. Enjoy!

4-6 links sausage, pierced in serveral places
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup apple jelly
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 medium onion, cut in slices
3 firm apples, cored & sliced in thick wedges
1 tsp. basil
pinch of pepper

In a large skillet lightly coated with oil, brown sausage on all sides over medium-high heat, turning often, 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan; keep warm.

Mix together the apple juice, apple jelly and mustard. Set aside.

Add onion to the same skillet used for the sausage. Place on medium heat and stir often until starting to brown. Add more oil if needed.

Add apples and stir until starting to brown. Then stir in juice mixture (from above).

Sprinkle the basil and pepper on top. Return sausages to pan, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until sausages are completely cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tarragon-Cream Chicken and Polenta Pot Pies

It's a rainy day here...I think that calls for some comfort food! Here's a Rachael Ray spin on chicken pot pie. Top these babies with polenta instead of dough for a delicious surprise! I'll say it again...YUM-O!

2 tablespoons EVOO
1 1/2 pounds chicken, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery with the greens, chopped
Freshly ground pepper
3 cups chicken stock, divided
1 cup cream, divided
1/2 cup quick cooking polenta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
6 sprigs fresh tarragon, stripped and chopped, 3 to 4 tablespoons
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated

In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and lightly brown, 3 minutes. Add carrots, onions, and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook 10 to 12 minutes to soften.

Preheat broiler. Set rack in middle of oven.

Bring 1 cup chicken stock and 1/2 cup cream to a boil, stir in polenta and whisk, 3 minutes. Turn heat to low, stir in Gruyere cheese and reserve.

Scoot meat and veggies off to side, melt butter and combine with flour. Whisk in 2 cups stock. Stir in 1/2 cup cream and bring to a bubble. Stir in Dijon, tarragon, peas, adjust salt and pepper and transfer to soup bowls. Set soup bowls on baking dish. Form tops to your pot pies with the polenta and cheese mixture. Set under broiler and brown 2 to 3 minutes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Slow-Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

Chicken enchiladas = one of our favorite meals! So when I saw this recipe,  I had to try it! The taste reminded me of a combination of chili and taco soup. I couldn't find cojita cheese at the store, so I substituted feta. Serve with crusty bread and a nice green salad...yum :)

3 cups chicken stock
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
4 jalapeno peppers, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen corn
1/2 cup tomato paste
8 oz cotija cheese, crumbled (I used feta)
8 oz pepper jack cheese, divided
1 cup cilantro, chopped
Tortilla chips

Cook and chop the chicken. Add to slow-cooker and combine with all other ingredients except cheeses, cilantro and chips. Cook on high for 4-5 hours.

In the last several minutes, add the cojita or feta cheese and half of the pepper jack cheese. Also add most of the cilantro. When the cheese is melted, the soup is ready to serve!

Top with the remaining pepper jack cheese, cilantro and tortilla chips.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Patch Stuffed Shells

I'll be honest...I was skeptical about this recipe. I love pumpkin...but pumpkin pasta sauce? Well, these shells were absolutely DELICOUS! And, not to mention, my husband loved them, too! Plus, they are packed with good-for-you ingredients like spinach and pumpkin. A yummy and festive Halloween dinner that you MUST try. Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray.

Salt and pepper
20 jumbo pasta shells
1 lb. baby spinach
4 Tbsp. butter
1 large onion
1 lb. extra-lean ground beef
1 1/3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin puree
Parsley leaves

Add 2 tsp. salt, a splash of EVOO and 20 jumbo pasta shells to a large pot of boiling water. Cook according to package directions. Drain and rinse until cool. Cover with damp paper towels.

 Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in the same pot. Add half of 1 lb. baby spinach. Let wilt before adding the rest; stir to wilt. Rinse with cold water; squeeze to get the spinach as dry as possible. Place the spinach on a cutting board and chop.

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. butter. Add 1 large onion, chopped; add 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until tender, 6 to 7 minutes.

Add 1 lb. extra-lean ground beef; cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the chopped spinach until well mixed. Stir in 1/3 cup shredded cheddar. Let cool.

Heat 2 cups milk in a microwave. In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tbsp. butter. Whisk in 1/4 cup flour; cook 1 minute. Whisk in 1/2 cup hot milk, then the rest. When it boils, whisk 1 minute.

Remove from the heat; season with 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Whisk in 3/4 cup pure pumpkin puree. Stir in 1 cup shredded cheddar.

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Smear the bottom with 1/2 cup of the pumpkin sauce. Hold a pasta shell in one hand and stuff with a large spoonful of the beef-spinach mixture (about a 1-inch ball). Arrange the stuffed shells in the prepared pan with the openings face-down.

Spoon more sauce on top. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce is bubbling hot, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before decorating with parsley leaves.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chicken, Rice & Ritz Casserole

Well, it's October...and SNOWING in Pennsylvania! Here's a good comfort-food casserole recipe to whip up on this snowy day. Use fat-free soup and sour cream to lighten up this heavy dish!

3 medium-size boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked & chopped
1 can 98% fat-free cream of chicken soup
1-16 oz. container fat-free sour cream
1 cup cooked rice
salt & pepper, to taste

Ingredients: Topping
1 sleeve Ritz crackers
1/2 stick melted margarine

Mix all ingredients together (except topping ingredients) and place in a baking dish. Top with Ritz crackers. Pour melted margarine over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mini Caramel-Apple Cheesecakes

This recipe took some time to prepare, but ended up being totally worth it! Fall yumminess :) Makes 6 mini cheesecakes. Recipe slightly adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine.

5 small to medium gala apples (2 lbs. total)
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
8 graham cracker squares, finely chopped
1/8 tsp. salt
11 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Whipped cream, for topping

Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut each quarter into 3 lengthwise slices. In a large nonstick skillet, melt 3 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat. Add the apples, 6 Tbsp. sugar and the lemon juice. Cook, turning occasionally, until the apples begin to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Lower the heat to low, add 1 Tbsp. butter and cook until the apples are tender, about 5 minutes. Cool.

Line 6 cups of a jumbo muffin pan with jumbo liners and preheat the oven to 325°. In a small pan, melt 2 Tbsp. butter, then place in a medium bowl. Mix in the graham crackers and salt. Divide the mixture among the muffin cups. Press into the bottoms with a narrow drinking glass. Transfer to the freezer to set.

In a bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar. Using a mixer, beat at high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl twice, until blended. Mix in the vanilla.

Arrange 5 apple slices in a single layer on the crust in each muffin cup. Reserve the remaining apples with their juices at room temperature in a covered bowl. Divide the cream cheese mixture evenly among the cups; bake until set but slightly jiggly, about 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly and let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight.

In a small skillet, melt the remaining 2 Tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add the walnuts and 2 tbsp. sugar and cook, stirring, until toasted, 4 to 5 minutes. Cool on paper towels, then break up the candied nuts.

Arrange the reserved apples with their juices on top of the cakes. Top the cakes with whipped cream and the candied nuts.

Perfect Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Icing

I found this recipe on a blog called 'My Baking Addiction.' So glad I did! Really enjoyed making and eating these delicious fall treats! Not to mention, I received many compliments! Makes about 4 dozen medium-size cookies. Note: These cookies should be refrigerated because of the cream cheese in the icing (which does not harden, by the way!)

Ingredients - Cookies
1 cup butter-flavored shortening
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
2 cups canned pumpkin (solid; not pie mix)
2 eggs
2 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
4 cups all-purpose-flour

Directions - Cookies
Cream together: shortening, butter, white sugar and pumpkin. Add eggs and mix well.

Sift together: baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, salt and flour. Add to pumpkin mixture and mix well.

Drop batter from spoon to lightly greased cookie sheet (about 2 rounded tablespoons of batter per cookie...2 inches apart). Bake 13-15 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool on baking sheets for 1 minute, then move to cooling racks.

Ingredients - Icing
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. milk

Directions - Icing
In a bowl, mix the cream cheese with the butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and milk. Using a butter knife, spread the icing on cooled cookies. Decorate with festive fall or Halloween sprinkles!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Who doesn't love homemade chicken noodle soup? Especially during cold and flu season!! (Or, just to warm you up on a cold, rainy day.) This is a really great recipe...and some serious comfort food.

**You can also make this soup in your slow-cooker (I did!) Combine all of the ingredients in your slow-cooker (except for the noodles) and cook on low heat for 3-4 hours to blend flavors. In the last 20 minutes, add the noodles. Yum!

1 rotisserie chicken or 2 (bone-in) roasted chicken breasts, meat shredded or chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
48 oz. chicken broth (1-1/2 boxes)
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
8 oz. uncooked noodles (I used egg noodles)

Heat a large, heavy bottom pan over medium heat and drizzle bottom with olive oil. Add chopped celery, onions and carrots. Cook for approximately 6-8 minutes.

Add thyme and cook another 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, add noodles and cook according to package directions.  Add the chicken in the last several minutes.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Homemade Applesauce

For those of you who don't know, I am working with preschoolers again! We have a class of 14 busy 4-year-olds, and our school year is off to a great start! Our first field trip was to Brown's Orchards in Loganville, PA. After a fun tour, each of the children had the opportunity to pick their own apple and tasted some homemade apple cider. Brown's also has an awesome country store, where they sell all of their different products. I left their store with Smokehouse apples to make sauce, a gallon of apple cider, apple dumplings, and 2 quarts of pumpkin pie ice cream! I could have spent lots and lots of money's a dangerous place :) Brown's also gave us apples to make sauce, as a preschool class. The kids had so much fun with it!!

This past Thursday was applesauce-making day at home with my mom and grandma. It was a fun day, for sure! And now, our freezers are full :) We used two different apples: Smokehouse (our favorite) and Golden Supreme. If you have any question about what kind of apples to buy or how many, just ask at your local farmer's market. This is how we make our applesauce...

20 medium-sized apples (about 1/2 a peck...our favorite variety is Smokehouse)
1-3/4 cups water
1 cup sugar (for tart apples) or 1/2 cup sugar (for sweet apples)
Desired amount of cinnamon (I use about 1 tsp.)

**Note: 1/2 a peck of apples will only make a few quarts of applesauce. Double/triple/quadruple this recipe, if desired! 20 apples will fill a large pot, so make your applesauce in batches of 20 apples.

Wash, core and quarter each apple. Place apple wedges in a large pot. You don't have to peel the apples if you are using an applesauce cone/strainer (you can also use a food mill or kitchen-aid attachment). If you prefer a more chunky applesauce, you can use a potato masher or cook the sauce in your crockpot (but you will have to peel the apples).

Add water, sugar, and cinnamon to the apples in the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook apples until very soft and mushy (about 20 minutes), stirring often.

Cool mixture slightly. Set up your applesauce cone/strainer over a large bowl. Using a large soup ladle, add apple mixture to the cone, a little at a time, using the wooden pestle to push the sauce through the tiny holes. Discard apple skins if your cone begins to clog.

Ladle the strained applesauce into freezer containers. Remember to label the lids. Enjoy your homemade applesauce all year round!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Apple-Brined Chicken

With fall, comes apples! Lots and lots of fresh, crisp, delicious apples! Because of the brining process, this chicken is extra moist and flavorful. You definitely want to try this one. Recipe lightly adapted from Taste of Home.

3 cups apple cider or juice (I used a combination of both)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium lemon, sliced
4 fresh rosemary sprigs
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. whole peppercorns
2 cups cold water
3-4 lb. chicken pieces (I used boneless, skinless breasts...only 1 1/2 lb. for the two of us)
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
3 medium tart apples, cut into wedges
1 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. pepper

In a Dutch oven or medium pot, combine the cider/juice, onion, lemon, rosemary sprigs, salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from the heat; stir in water. Cool brine to room temperature.

Place chicken in a 2-gallon resealable plastic bag or large, shallow container. Carefully pour cooled brine into bag/container. Squeeze out as much air as possible; seal bag and turn to coat. Place in a roasting pan. Refrigerate for 2 hours, turning occasionally (I refrigerated for 6 hours).

Place beans and apples in a greased roasting pan. Drain chicken; place in prepared pan. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 40 minutes.

Combine the minced rosemary, oil, pepper and remaining brown sugar; sprinkle over chicken. Bake 15-25 minutes longer or until a meat thermometer reads 180° and beans are tender. Yield: 5 servings.

Friday, September 30, 2011

No-Peeking Peking Chicken (Slow-Cooker)

'Tis the season for slow-cooker recipes! I have already posted quite a few :) This recipe is also from the October issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray. For the two of us, I used 3 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breast (the recipe calls for bone-in chicken thighs). I served the chicken with rice (to soak up the sauce!) and a side of edamame. Rachael also recommends pulling the chicken off the bone and wrapping it in soft tortillas with hoisin sauce and strips of crunchy cucumber and scallions.

8 bone-in chicken thighs (about 4 lbs.), skin discarded --> I used boneless, skinless chicken breast
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup chopped scallions (about 6)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. sesame oil

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place in a greased 6- to 7-qt. slow cooker.

In a small bowl, combine scallions, garlic, soy sauce, honey, ginger and sesame oil. Pour the mixture over the chicken, cover and cook on low heat until the chicken is tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh away from the bone reads 165°, about 4 hours. Serve with the pan juices, sprinkled with additional chopped scallions. Serves 4.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stuffed Summer Squash

A great way to use up any left-over squash and zucchini from your garden! I cut this recipe in half and only used one large summer squash. It was plenty of food for the two of us...very filling and so, so yummy! Recipe courtesy of All You magazine.

1 large yellow summer squash
1 large zucchini
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 lb. lean ground turkey or beef 
1 cup chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
1/2 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup dry Italian-style bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan

Fill a bowl with ice water. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cut squash and zucchini in half lengthwise; place in boiling water. Bring back to a boil; cook until slightly softened, 5 minutes. Transfer squash to ice water. Cool for 2 minutes. Remove; pat dry.

Scrape out seeds and stringy pulp from each squash half, leaving a large cavity for stuffing. Arrange snugly in a large, lightly oiled ovenproof baking dish.

Warm 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add turkey or beef and cook, stirring to break up until crumbly, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, broth and thyme. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring often, until turkey is thoroughly cooked and some of liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place equal amounts of filling in each squash half, piling it high in center. Mix bread crumbs with Parmesan, then sprinkle mixture over squash and drizzle with 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Bake until golden brown on top, about 20 minutes. Serves 4.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pumpkin-Spice Cupcakes

The blog, Gina's Skinny Recipes is fantastic. Loving all things pumpkin and fall, I had to try this recipe. The cupcakes are super moist and have great flavor and the pumpkin cream cheese icing is sooo yummy. A perfect fall-time treat!

18.25 oz Betty Crocker Golden Vanilla Super Moist Cake Mix
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
1 cup water

For the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz Philadelphia 1/3 fat cream cheese
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (canned is fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
5 tbsp packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a cupcake tin with cupcake wrappers.

Combine cake mix and pumpkin spice in a large bowl. Add pumpkin puree and water, mix about 2 minutes.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake about 20 - 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

For the frosting, combine the cream cheese, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and brown sugar until smooth. You can use a spatula to ice the cupcakes or pipe them which may require making more frosting. Makes 18-24 cupcakes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

(Un)stuffed Peppers

What a great idea! This dish was ready in LESS than 30-minutes! Same flavors as stuffed peppers, but ready in half the time! Thanks again, Rach :)

1 cup long-grain rice
1 pound mild italian sausage, casings discarded
2 green bell peppers, chopped
One 10-ounce package white mushrooms, sliced
1 red onion, chopped

In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups water, the rice and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil. Cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes; fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat, until browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the rice.

Return the skillet to the heat and add 1 more tablespoon olive oil, the bell peppers, mushrooms and onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the veggies to the sausage and rice and toss.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tuna Croquettes

This recipe is courtesy of Alton Brown (Food Network). Instead of using these as an appetizer, I divided the mixture into 4 rounds (instead of 8) and served them like a crab or salmon cake for a main dish. They were delicious! Alton never lets me down :) Serve with a remoulade or tartar sauce. They would taste great as the protein on a salad, too.

1 (12-ounce) can albacore tuna, drained well and chunked
2 green onions, chopped fine
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs, divided
Olive oil, for sauteing

Place the tuna, onions, mustard, eggs, lemon juice, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs into a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine. Divide the mixture into 8 rounds and set aside on a parchment lined half sheet pan. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Place the remaining bread crumbs into a pie plate. One at a time, coat each round in the panko on all sides.

Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a 12-inch saute pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the croquettes and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack set over a half sheet pan lined with paper towels. Allow to cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

5-Bean Chili

For those of you who don't know, Nick and I lived in Cookeville, Tenneseee for the first year and a half after we were married. If not for both of our families living in Pennsylvania, we would still be there (we enjoyed it very much!) We especially miss our friends. This chili brings back fond memories of fall in Tennessee...carving pumpkins, having campfires, and sharing a pot of chili with our good friends, Caleb & Laura (who introduced us to this recipe). We all agree that this is one of the best chili recipes out there.

The ingredient list looks long, but the recipe is super easy! The only chopping you have to do is onion, green bell pepper and garlic. Then comes a mixture of 7 common spices, and the remaining ingredients are canned tomatoes and beans!

I open each can of beans and dump them into a colander to drain them. I then rinse them (this eliminates a lot of excess sodium). I also add about 1 1/2 cups canned or frozen sweet corn (as suggested by the Thurmans :) When the chili is done cooking, top it with your favorite garnishes. We all agree that the best toppings are fritos, freshly grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, and LOTS of cilantro! This recipe is courtesy of Emeril Lagasse (and the Thurmans!)

1 lb. ground chuck
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup diced green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, broken up with your hands
3 cups beef stock or canned, low-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 cups great northern beans
1 1/2 cups cooked and drained pinto beans
1 1/2 cups cooked and drained kidney beans
1 1/2 cups cooked and drained black beans
1 1/2 cups cooked and drained navy beans
Chopped cilantro, sour cream, grated cheddar cheese & fritos or corn chips (for garnish)

In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook the meat until well browned, stirring occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, salt, cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper, coriander, and cinnamon, and cook until vegetables are soft, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the bay leaves, tomatoes, and stock; bring the mixture to a simmer, partially cover, and cook for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add all of the beans, stir to combine, and continue to cook for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until flavors have come together and the chili has a nice, thick consistency.

Serve hot, garnished with cilantro, sour cream, grated cheese, and chips, if desired.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Tarragon Chicken (Slow Cooker)

This recipe is from the October 2011 issue of 'Everyday with Rachael Ray' - my favorite magazine. I made a few changes. I used boneless skinless chicken breast instead of bone-in chicken pieces. I also doubled the stove-top sauce ingredients (with the exception of the lemon juice), so there would be enough to ladle over a side of noodles. I would recommend using the juice from only half of a lemon (even if you double the sauce recipe). The sauce was delicious, but a little too tart for my taste. A perfect dinner for a cool, rainy day!

Ingredients: Slow Cooker
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. chicken broth
4 Tbsp. dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
4 lbs. bone-in chicken pieces (breasts, drumsticks and thighs), skin discarded
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon

Ingredients: Stove-Top
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 lemon, finely zested & juiced
1 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon

Pour the broth into a 6- to 7-qt. slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the mustard, 1 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper; rub the chicken with the mustard mixture. Place the chicken in the slow cooker and top with the garlic and 2 Tbsp. tarragon. Cover and cook on low heat until the chicken is tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh away from the bone registers 165 degrees, about 5 hours.

Transfer the chicken to a serving plate and cover to keep warm. Strain the pan juices into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over high heat. In a small bowl, combine the cream and cornstarch. Whisk the mixture into the saucepan and cook until the sauce is thickened; stir in the lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the chicken.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, parsley, and 1 Tbsp. tarragon. Top the chicken with the zest-herb mixture.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

This recipe is courtesy of Gina's Skinny Recipe's at She has TONS of great recipes that are good for you, too! And yes, these muffins are as delicious as they look.

2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
3 1/2 ripe medium bananas, mashed
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a muffin tin with 12 liners or use non-stick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add egg whites, bananas, apple sauce and vanilla and beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of the bowl.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk.

Add flour mixture to bananas, then blend at low speed until combined; do not over mix. Fold in chocolate chips and pour batter into muffin tins.

Bake on the center rack for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For the glaze, combine the confectioner's sugar with 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. water. Drizzle over each muffin.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mini Meat Loaves

Meat loaf is one of my ultimate comfort foods. And now, as the weather is turning colder - not to mention rainy(er) - it seems like the perfect weeknight dinner. Mini meat loaves is such a great idea, too. Quicker cooking time = quicker to the table! This recipe has GREAT flavor. Pair the meat loaves with some mashed potatoes and green beans, and yourself have a hearty, homemade meal. Recipe lightly adapted from Better Homes & Gardens.

1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl combine egg, 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce, bread crumbs, 2 Tbsp. of the basil, and salt. Add beef and 1/2 cup of the cheese; mix well.

Divide beef mixture in four equal portions. Shape each portion in a  5 1/2 x 2-inch oval. Place on 15x10x1-inch baking pan.

Spoon on remaining pasta sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 30 minutes or until internal temperature registers 160 degrees. Sprinkle meat loaves with remaining basil leaves.

Banana Pudding

I'm not a huge fan of bananas. Banana bread...yes. Anything else...nah. BUT, when I tried this banana pudding at a small group gathering, I fell in love and had to try it for myself! It makes a great dessert for a covered dish or potluck dinner. And, it tastes even better the next day after the vanilla wafers have time to soften up.

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
5 oz. package instant vanilla pudding mix
3 cups cold milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed
4 bananas, sliced
1/2 (12 oz.) package vanilla wafers

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy (I use my Kitchen Aid). Beat in condensed milk, pudding mix, cold milk and vanilla until smooth. Fold in 1/2 of the whipped topping.

Line the bottom of a 9x13 inch dish with vanilla wafers. Arrange sliced bananas evenly over wafers. Spread with pudding mixture. Top with remaining whipped topping. Chill.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Green Chile Quiche

This recipe is from the National Park Cookbook. It was a huge hit with my hubby...yum!

1 uncooked pastry shell
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 4 oz. can chopped green chiles, drained
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash garlic powder

Prick bottom of pastry shell and bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Cool.

Cook beef and onion until clear; drain. Sprinkle into pastry. Top with green chiles and cheese. Combine last 4 ingredients and pour into pie.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until set.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cracker-and-Parmesan-Crusted Fish Fillets

Another tasty fish recipe from Rachael Ray. Any white fish will do - I used flounder. I nixed the oyster crackers in this recipe and used all Ritz instead. I also used regular parmesan instead of parmigiano-reggiano. If you don't have the fresh herbs, don't fret - dried herbs will do! The ratio for using dried herbs to fresh is 1:3. There are 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon :)

1 cup oyster crackers
1/3 cup Ritz crackers
3/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
Flour, for coating
2 large eggs, beaten
Splash heavy cream or half-and-half
EVOO, for frying
4 sole or tilapia fillets, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving

Using a food processor, grind the oyster crackers, Ritz crackers, parmigiano-reggiano, parsley, chives, thyme, Old Bay seasoning and garlic powder. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Place the flour in another shallow bowl. In a third shallow bowl, beat the eggs and cream.

Fill a large skillet with enough EVOO to reach a depth of 1/4 inch and heat over medium-high heat. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper. Coat the fish with the flour, shaking off any excess; coat with the egg mixture, then with the cracker crumbs. Working with 2 fillets at a time, fry the fish in the skillet, turning once, until deep golden, about 5 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Friday, August 26, 2011

My Recipe for Fried Rice

This is another Kipe family favorite! I have tweaked this recipe many times and now feel that it is perfect for our taste. You can use any combination of meat and/or veggies. I use the ingredients that we love - onion, garlic, chicken, bacon, eggs and peas. You better get out those chopsticks!

2 cups uncooked rice
3-4 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 eggs, beaten
6 oz. chicken breast meat
5 slices bacon
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 - 3/4 cup chicken stock
3 Tbsp. soy sauce

Cook the rice according to the package directions. Use the shortest cook time - you want the rice to be a bit crunchy. Allow the rice to cool completely. If you are in a hurry, spread it out on a baking sheet and put it in the fridge or freezer.

Cook and shred the chicken meat. Cook and cut the bacon slices into bite-size pieces.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat with 1 Tbsp. of the oil. Stir fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes. Add the eggs and scramble until cooked. Add the chicken, bacon and peas and stir fry until peas are heated through. Remove omelet mixture from wok or pan and set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat again over medium-high heat until it is very hot. Add your cold rice and stir to coat every grain.

Slowly add the chicken stock to the rice. Stir fry until the rice has soaked up all of the liquid. Then add the omelet mixture back to the pan, along with the soy sauce. Heat through and serve!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How to: prepare red beets

Red beets are an odd vegetable. Never quite sure what to do with them. So when my grandparents gave me fresh red beets from their garden, I had to do a little research. Below are a few different recipes and ways to prepare beets. Be sure to wear gloves and an apron or you will have red hands and clothes! :)

Grilled Beets
6 beets, scrubbed
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.

Coat one side of a large piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray. Place beets and butter on foil; season with salt and pepper. Wrap foil over beets.

Place packet on the grill grate. Cook 30 minutes, or until beets are very tender. Allow beets to cool about 5 minutes before serving.

Microwave Beets
Peel beets and slice into 1/4-1/2 inch slices. Add beets and 2 Tbsp. water to a microwave-safe dish. Microwave for 10 minutes until fork-tender.

Baked Beets
3 medium beets
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Rinse the beets and trim off any leafy tops. Wrap completely in aluminum foil and place in the oven. Roast until tender and easily pierced with a knife, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool.
When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel using a paring knife or by pushing the skin with your fingers. Slice the beets, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Oven-Baked Beet Chips
2 large red beets
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Peel the beets and cut as thinly as possible – trying for a uniform thickness. Toss in a bowl with olive oil and salt. Spread on baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake in oven 20 minutes. Turn all slices over and continue to bake another 20-25 minutes. Watch closely toward the end as the high sugar content makes these chips burn rather rapidly. Sprinkle with additional salt and serve immediately.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Polish Halupkie (a.k.a. Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)

If you have any Polish ancestry in your family, you definitely know about stuffed cabbage rolls. Growing up, one of my dad's favorite meals was his grandmother's halpukies. When she passed away, my mom continued to make them as a special treat for him and they became one of my favorites, too! Now, I have learned to make them and they have become one of my husband's favorite dishes. They are very simple to make and the ingredients cost little to nothing! Give them a whirl :)

1 head cabbage
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
Salt & pepper
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup rice, uncooked
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce

Gently separate cabbage leaves from the core. Scald leaves in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and cool slightly.
Saute onion and celery in oil. Mix together onion, celery, beef, rice, eggs, seasonings and tomato paste.

Place 1/2 cup of the meat mixture in the center of each cabbage leaf and roll (fold bottom first, then sides, then top).Lay prepared rolls, seam-side down, in a large pot. Add tomato sauce and any leftover tomato paste.

Cover rolls with water and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer for about one hour. Enjoy!