Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year's Eve!

Happy New Year's Eve to everyone!

Another year has come and went!  I hope that everyone had a fantastic year full of love and happiness!  

I wish you a fabulous 2014!

{Santa Monica Ferris Wheel}

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

~C.S. Lewis

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Cheeseburger Casserole

Sometimes, the weirdest sounding dishes become favorites.  I created this recipe a few weeks ago because my hubby requested cheeseburgers, and well, it was below freezing outside.  So I crafted this, and he loved it!  He requested again for the night he finished finals (he made all A's by the way!  So proud of him!!!).

{Cheeseburger Casserole}

{Just a few simple ingredients}

{Brown beef--you want a fattier beef because you'll be making a roux}

{Add evaporated milk to make the sauce}

{Yes--you add ketchup, mustard, and relish/pickles}

{Can't forget the cheese!}

{Top with French fries}

{Then top with more cheese!}

Cheeseburger Casserole

Serves 6

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (80/20 works best)
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoons steak seasoning
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 can evaporated milk
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
6 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons relish (if you like pickles on your burger)
2 cups cheddar cheese, divided
32 oz bag of crinkle cut fries
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Brown beef, onions, and garlic in a skillet until cooked through.
  3. Add steak seasoning and flour to make a roux.
  4. Add milk and stir to combine.
  5. Heat sauce until thickened then add mustard, ketchup, relish and 1 1/2 cups cheese stirring until melted.
  6. Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.
  7. Pour cheeseburger filling into casserole dish.
  8. Place frozen fries on top of cheeseburger filling.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until fries are cooked through and slightly crispy.
  10. Top with remaining cheese and allow to melt.
  11. Serve.
Since it's the end of the year, I've been doing some reflecting, thinking, and dreaming.  I have tried to stray away from making resolutions, focusing more on making goals I'd like to achieve by the end of the year.  I break it down month by month so that way I stay on track, and big goals don't seem so unachievable!  I also have the goals in front of me every day so that I don't forget them by March (I was guilty of it too!)!

Do you have any end-of-the-year rituals like goal-setting?

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Food for Thought

I had an epiphany the other day to buy those space saver bags (you know--the ones you vacuum out the air) to put all of our big comforters and extra pillows in to save space in our closet.  It went downhill from there because now I have empty closet space.... Which led me to getting "the itch".  My itch?  Pulling everything out of the closets, shelves, nooks, etc and reorganizing, rearranging, and getting rid of items that we do not use/wear/need/want.  Then I deep clean those spaces.  I have informed Ben, and he's already rolling his eyes.

It's almost a new year, so that's a great time to do it!  Right?  So this weekend will be spent at home scratching my itch with plenty of food, music and fun!

{Barrels being cleared out of the warehouse at Woodford Reserve}

Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.

~John Rohn

Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Grown-Up Mac and Cheese

I hope that everyone had a fantastic Christmas!  I know I did!  We made some wonderful memories, and I got to make a Christmas goose!  Most of my family loved it.  I would definitely make and eat it again!  Anyway, on to today's post!

Not that I need an excuse to make plain mac and cheese, but when you add bacon, veggies, Dijon, and thyme, you get something a little more grown-up and worthy of making a few nights a month without guilt.

{Grown-Up Mac and Cheese}

{Crisping the bacon}

{Creating the sauce}

{Adding broccoli and steam for a few minutes}

{Add cooked pasta to absorb some sauce}

{Add the cheese!}

One year ago:  German Breakfast Bread

Grown-Up Mac and Cheese

Serves 4

1 pound bacon, cut into chunks
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups veggies (any that go great with cheese like cauliflower or broccoli)
2 cups shredded cheese (your choice!)
8 oz pasta, cooked (your choice!)
  1. Cook bacon in a skillet on high until crispy.
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent.
  3. Add milk, thyme, mustard, and Worcestershire, stirring until combined.
  4. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes or reduced by 1/4.
  5. Add veggies and cover for another 10 minutes.
  6. Add cheese and stir to melt.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Add pasta and stir to combine.
  8. Serve.
Do you add anything to your mac and cheese either because you love it that way or to make it more wholesome and nutritious?

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone!  

I will be off Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but I will be back on Thursday.  I hope everyone has a safe holiday filled with joy, laughter, and family!!!  I would like to leave you with one of my favorite songs from my favorite Christmas movie, A Muppet Christmas Carol.

Bless Us All (watch on YouTube)

"Life is full of sweet surprises
Every day's a gift
The sun comes up and I can feel it lift my spirit
Fills me up with laughter, fills me up with song
I look into the eyes of love and know that I belong

Bless us all, who gather here
The loving family I hold dear
No place on earth, compares with home
And every path will bring me back from where I roam
Bless us all, that as we live
We always comfort and forgive
We have so much, that we can share
With those in need we see around us everywhere

Let us always love each other
Lead us to the light
Let us hear the voice of reason, singing in the night
Let us run from anger and catch us when we fall
Teach us in our dreams and please, yes please
Bless us one and all

Bless us all with playful years
With noisy games and joyful tears
We reach for You and we stand tall
And in our prayers and dreams
We ask You bless us all

We reach for You and we stand tall
And in our prayers and dreams we ask you
Bless us all"

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Food for Thought

{Zen garden given to me by my co-workers}

What's going to happen is going to happen. You can do what you can about it, but compulsive thoughts will only make it worse. Why not let it go?

~Steve Ross, Happy Yoga

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower with Brown Butter Crumbs

It's no small secret that I love roasted cauliflower (as evidenced by the salad, gratin, rice, and garlic roasted I've made) so when my favorite food blogger posted this recipe I almost died to make it that day.  For the record, I waited about 4 days (miserably I might add).  It was worth the wait though!!!  I love this not only for it's simplicity but also because it can be made ahead and with steamed cauliflower instead! Yay!

{Roasted Cauliflower with Brown Butter Crumbs}

{Roasting cauliflower}

{Browning butter}

{Add bread crumbs}

{Mix remaining ingredients}

{Browned bread crumbs}

{Place cauliflower on plate and cover with bread crumbs}

Roasted Cauliflower with Brown Butter Crumbs
from smitten kitchen

Serves 4 (or one person who really, REALLY loves it!)

2 pounds cauliflower florets
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 small onion OR 2 green onions, finely minced
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs found in most grocery stores)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 green onion, diced (optional--for garnish)
  1. Preheat oven to 400.  If you prefer steamed cauliflower, you can do that with this recipe too!
  2. Place cauliflower on a greased baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, turning cauliflower halfway through cooking to ensure even roasting.
  3. When cauliflower is ALMOST done, melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat.
  4. Brown the butter (should smell nutty).
  5. Stir in the onions and let them cook for about 1 minute.
  6. Add garlic, breadcrumbs, and lemon juice and cook together, stirring frequently, until crumbs are a shade darker (about 5-10 minutes).
  7. Season bread crumb mixture to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve roasted cauliflower on a plate and top with breadcrumbs.  Scatter green onions on top for garnish.
It's safe to say that cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables.  What's yours?

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seared Steak with Braised Leeks and Kale

Here lately, I've been on a caramelization kick (browning all edges on food).  I just happened to come across this recipe last week, and I knew immediately that I wanted to make it.  The only problem--I couldn't find raw Swiss Chard at my local grocery store.  Not one to panic, I substituted kale instead and all was well. 

{Seared Steak with Braised Leeks and Kale}

{Cutting leeks.  You only want to cut the white and light green parts--the dark green parts are bitter and tough!}

{Searing steak--these were pork steaks.  My hubby didn't label the bags he put the meat in so I've gotten plenty of surprises!}

{Caramelizing the leeks}

{Add white wine and broth}

{Add the kale and wilt}

{Place steaks on a plate and serve braised leeks and kale on top}

{Served with Roasted Cauliflower with Brown Butter Crumbs (coming tomorrow!)}

Seared Steak with Braised Leeks and Kale
adapted from My Recipes

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 beef tenderloin steaks
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
2 cups leeks, thinly sliced
1/4 cups dry white wine
3/4 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups kale, cleaned and de-ribbed
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Season steaks with salt and pepper.
  3. In a cast iron skillet, heat olive oil until hot.
  4. Add steaks and sear on each side until browned.
  5. Place steaks in a greased baking dish and place in the oven to cook until desired temperature is reached (or turn the oven to 150 to keep them warm).
  6. Add butter to cast iron skillet and heat until melted; then add whole grain mustard and heat until seeds begin to pop in the pan.
  7. Add leeks and cook 5 minutes or until browned on the edges.
  8. Add wine and cook about 1 minutes (de-glaze pan).
  9. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce and cook until liquid reduced in half.
  10. Add kale and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.
  11. Season leek mixture with salt and pepper.
  12. Serve steak topped with braised leeks and kale.
I love this dish especially since I had extra braised leeks and kale which has been going into my wraps for lunch this week!

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday Tip: Christmas Cookie Recap

I know that we all have our specific traditions every year.  My family makes the following cookie recipes every year, and I look forward to it!  So maybe this isn't a tip exactly, but some people don't have a cookie-making tradition!  So I am sharing our cookie recipes! 

The hazelnut cookies are so easy to make which is perfect for the non-bakers.  The gingerbread are a bit more involved since they are made from scratch, but nothing a only-every-once-in-a-while baker can't handle.

Unfortunately, we haven't been able to get together to make cookies.  Our schedules just didn't lend to it this year.  My waistline is happy, but it doesn't feel like Christmas to me until you make Christmas cookies!  Right?  Maybe I can convince my family to make cookies on Christmas.... 

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Monday, December 16, 2013

BBQ Ribs (Crock-pot)

I am not a big rib fan, but I made this because we had ribs from a pig my hubby helped slaughter which needed to be made somehow.  What better way to make BBQ ribs?  However, with our below-freezing temperatures, grilling was not an option so I looked around online to see if and how it could be made in a crock-pot.

Lo and behold, it's as easy as stick them in the crock-pot covered in your favorite BBQ sauce!

{BBQ Ribs in a crock-pot}

{Very important to spray non-stick first!}

{Bathe the ribs in beautiful BBQ sauce!}

{No--don't add liquid!  They'll be fine, I promise!}

{After 12 hours--see what I mean?}

{The ribs were so tender, you could just pull the bone straight out!}

BBQ Ribs (Crock-pot)

Serves 4 (or 1 wife and 1 very hungry hubby)

2 racks of pork ribs
2/3 bottle Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce
  1. Spray inside of crock-pot with non stick spray.
  2. Place on rack of ribs in the crock-pot and coat with BBQ sauce (both sides).
  3. Place the second rack on top of the first and coat with BBQ sauce (both sides).
  4. Cook on low for 10-12 hours.
  5. Serve.
I loved these ribs!  Definitely making these again!  By now, I am fairly well convinced that a crock-pot can handle and do just about anything! 

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Food for Thought

{Dunes at Indian Rocks Beach in Florida}

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

~J.R.R. Tolkien

It’s a dangerous business, going out your front door.

~J.R.R. Tolkien

I am channeling Tolkien today since the hubby and I will be seeing the Hobbit this weekend (sooo excited!!!).  It's funny how quotes people have said 50, 100, or 1000 years ago can have such relevance today.  I am guilty sometimes of valuing gold over food, cheer and family--then the hubby brings me back down to reality (which I love him for!).  Personally, I think "your front door" is not only literal but also figurative because you are never the same person once you leave your comfort zone, and that is indeed dangerous  ;o)

I hope that you have a lovely and beautiful weekend!
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Jam Cake

My in-laws gave me 4 jars of homemade jam a few weeks before Thanksgiving!  The hubby and I don't eat jam too often so I was stumped on what to do with it.  Then an epiphany--make jam cake as a dessert for Thanksgiving!

{Jam Cake made with apple butter}

{Two apple butters and one blackberry preserves}

{Creaming butter and sugar then adding eggs}

{Yes this looks like it separated, but it'll work--promise!}

{Add nuts and raisins}

{This batter makes a bunt cake and at least 8 cupcakes!  Side by side comparison of the blackberry cake batter to the apple}

{An outtake--I was seriously impatient to make my second cake so I only waited 15 minutes....  It was delicious anyway!}

Jam Cake

Makes 1 bunt cake and 12 cupcakes (it's a large amount of batter!)

1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
8 eggs, room temperature
2 cups jam, blackberry or apple are best
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional but recommended)
1 cup raisins (optional but recommended)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until very light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, blending well in between.
  4. Add jam to batter when all the eggs are incorporate and mix until combined, about 2 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk all the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.
  6. Add 1/3 of flour mixture and incorporate it in followed by 1/2 cup of buttermilk, repeat ending with flour mixture. 
  7. Mix until just combined!
  8. Fold nuts and raisins into the batter.
  9. Grease a bunt pan and line cupcake pan.
  10. Pour batter until almost full in the bunt pan and cupcake pan.
  11. Bake cake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cupcakes will take 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  12. Cool before trying to get out of the pan (major mistake I made--patience is a virtue!).
  13. Serve. 
My co-workers and I are still eating the cupcakes for breakfast (hey--it's made with jam which is completely acceptable breakfast food), and they are as delicious, if not more so, as when I first made them.  They are really good with peanut butter!

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