Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Meet Ribeye and T-Bone + Beef and Sweet Potato Stew

Since Monday was a vegetarian recipe, today here's one for the carnivores.  Remember when I said I'd be partaking in a cow share?

Meet Ribeye and T-Bone.

Ribeye (left) and T-Bone (right) as babies.
The email I received about them from their owner said "Ribeye and T-Bone Say 'Hi We're Tasty!'".  When I saw their baby picture, it made me sad to think that in a few short months, they'd be food.  I thought you weren't supposed to name the animals that you eat but what do I know.  My friend Amy said she visited the farm herself and saw how they were raised.  She assured me they had a really good life and quite well taken care of while alive.  They were grass fed cows that were raised using organic methods by her co-worker on his personal land.  Amy bought 1/4 of T-Bone and of that, we purchased 1/4 of that for a total of 1/16th of a cow share for our personal consumption.  It was a hot, dry Summer here in Ohio which resulted in less grass for T-Bone and Ribeye to graze upon.  Thus, they ended up smaller than anticipated.  Just about 1000 pounds.  After all the processing, our total yield was just roughly 20 pounds of meat.  A lot of time and effort goes into such a small amount of meat and now I understand why it is better for our planet if we would reduce our consumption of it.

In all, our part of the share included:
  • 1.2 lb stew meat
  • ~2 lb round steak
  • 2.58 lb flat iron steak
  • 1.27 lb sirloin strip steak
  • 1.10 lb filet mignon
  • 1.5 lb brisket
  • 1.58 lb soup beef bones
  • 3.33 lb beef chuck steak
  • 1.04 lb ribeye steak
  • 8 lb ground beef
  • 1 ox tail
Our 1/16th cow share in our side-by-side freezer.
We needed surprisingly less room needed than we anticipated.
Now here's where the story gets a little bit sad.  We stored our beef in our spare refrigerator which is kept the basement.  Sometime over Christmas, the circuit broke on that outlet along with 3 others in the house.  While we noticed our outdoor Christmas lights mysteriously stopped working, it never occurred to us that other outlets could also have been affected.  It wasn't until 2 or 3 days later that my husband went to the basement and to his horror, saw a bloody puddle forming underneath the refrigerator.  We felt the beef and though it felt cool to the touch, it clearly had thawed almost completely.  We deemed it too risky to try to eat or save and with a heavy heart, threw away nearly all our precious cow share.  I had only used the tail (mom made a great soup out of it), the stew meat, and the round steak.  The brisket is safe at Amy's house because it's a part of a giant chunk of meat which we could not divide as it was frozen.  We had plans to grill the steaks when the summer got warmer.  I felt so guilty that T-Bone had died in vain...

So this brings me to the meat that we DID get to enjoy.  This stew was sweet and salty and comforting.  I enjoyed the use of sweet potatoes instead of the regular run of the mill potatoes.  The flavor contrast was lovely.  It was by far the most tender, rich beefy tasting meat I have ever had.  Given this wasn't even that premium of a cut, it makes me lament the more prime cuts that will never be tasted.

RIP T-Bone.  You were a good cow.

Two Years Ago:  Cookies and Cream Oreo Look-Alike Cake and Stovetop Mac and Cheese
Three Years Ago: Vegetable Soup (with Optional Sausage for the Men)

Beef and Sweet Potato Stew

Yields: 6 servings

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour with a big pinch of salt and pepper 
  • 1 1/4 pound stew beef, cut into 1-inch chunks 
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely diced 
  • 2 cups peeled and thickly sliced carrots 
  • 3/4 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half 
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced 
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste 
  • 1/2 cup light beer (I used red wine)
  • 1 pound sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1-inch chunks 
  • 4 cups beef broth (more if you’d like it more soupy) 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar 
  • salt and pepper to taste 
  • couscous, rice, or pasta and parsley to serve 

  1. In a large ziplock bag, place flour, salt, and pepper. Add diced beef. Close the bag. Hold it tight and shake, ensuring that all of the beef is lightly coated in flour and seasoning.  Set aside. 
  2. In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add as much beef as will fit along the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Cook, browning on all sides. The beef doesn’t need to be cooked through, just browned. Once all of the beef is cooked, remove from the pan and place on a plate. Set aside. 
  3. In the same dutch oven, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add onions and carrots and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic, and cook for another 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and heat through. Deglaze the pan with the beer or wine, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan as the beer steams. 
  4. Add the sweet potatoes, and cover with beef broth. Add bay leaf, thyme, and Worcestershire sauce. 
  5. Add beef. Turn heat to low and let gently simmer for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through. Taste and add sugar (this helps the acidity), salt, and pepper as necessary.  Remove the bay leaf. 
  6. Serve stew over couscous, rice, or pasta with fresh parsley if desired.

Source: Joy the Baker

Monday, January 28, 2013

Meatless Monday: Chickpea, Spinach, and Tomato Curry

Did anyone make a New Years Resolution to eat more vegetables, eat less meat, eat healthier  and/or to save money?  One way to do this is to plan at least one meal each week that is vegetarian.  It's better for your health, the Earth, and your wallet!  And, to help you in your journey to a better healthier you, I'll try to feature as many Meatless Monday posts whenever possible.

I found this recipe through my friend and old college roommate Rebecca.  It looked easy enough and had great reviews.  I added spinach for extra color and nutrition.  Feel free to substitute your favorite on-hand veggies to make this meal your own.  It turned out spicier than I was expecting (maybe my curry powder which is authentic from India) and surprisingly delicious!  I didn't miss the meat at all in this recipe :).

Two Years Ago: Football Snackadium, Buffalo Chicken Casserole, and Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf
Three Years Ago: Ham and Potato Soup

Chickpea, Spinach, and Tomato Curry

Yields: 6 Servings


  • 1 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup) 
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder 
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) chick peas, drained, rinsed 
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained 
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro 
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea salt) 
  • Hot cooked rice
  • Plain yogurt, if desired


  1. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.  Cook onion, garlic, ginger, and curry powder in the oil about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is tender.
  2. Stir in the chickpeas and tomatoes.  Heat to boiling.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat then stir in the spinach and allow the latent heat to make it wilt.  Stir in the cilantro, lemon juice, and salt.
  3. Serve over rice; top each serving with yogurt, if desired.

Source: Barely modified from Betty Crocker

  • Per Serving: Calories 270
    • (Calories from Fat 50),
  • Total Fat 6g
    • (Saturated Fat 1/2g,
    • Trans Fat 0g),
  • Cholesterol 0mg;
  • Sodium 380mg;
  • Total Carbohydrate 42g
    • (Dietary Fiber 10g,
    • Sugars 5g),
  • Protein 12g

Friday, January 25, 2013

Guest Post: Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bottom Cheesecake

Happy day after National Peanut Butter Day!  In retrospect, I should have shared this post yesterday but it wasn't until it was too late that we realized this day even existed.  How in the world my peanut butter loving husband missed the "celebration" of his favorite food beats me!

Regardless, here's a recipe in honor of that special day.  It's a guest post by my husband and there's both photo documentation and me vouching for the fact that he indeed made this cake ALL BY HIMSELF.  Yes, even the decoration of the cake!

Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bottom Cheesecake

Chocolate chips and peanut butter chips and Reese cups, oh my!
One of my Facebook fans asked if he cleaned up his own mess, too.  And the answer is YES!  In fact, my husband is so sweet he often cleans up after me while I'm cooking up a storm in the kitchen.  Am I a lucky gal or what?  Sorry ladies, he's taken ;).

I followed the original directions to the ganache which yielded wayyy more
drizzle than was needed.  And hey, you can't let good ganache go to waste!

Here's Chris' post and review.  He's pretty excited to be in charge of desserts now because it means he gets to make what  HE likes.  Which...of course is all things peanut butter and chocolate!

My two favorite flavors are: peanut butter and chocolate. Combine them - and it becomes exponentially better! That's also what makes Reese's my favorite candy. Combine Reese's with chocolate brownies, peanut butter cheesecake - that's what I call a dessert! I found this recipe and decided to venture into baking some of my favorite desserts since at some point Christine might get sick of making them! I made this for our friend's Christmas get-together. There was a dessert competition and I won "Best Presentation"! Everyone also agreed that it was very good tasting as well. It was quite a bit of work but it was worth it!

For those that are wondering, you don't actually want to know how many calories are in this thing.  Just close your eyes, eat, and ENJOY!  But then again, did you REALLY think it would be remotely healthy given the name and ingredients?  Yeah didn't think so.

Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bottom Cheesecake

Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bottom Cheesecake Slice

For the Brownie Crust
  • 6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted + Extra for greasing
  • 1-¼ cup Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons Flour
  • ⅓ cups Unsweetened Cocoa
  • ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup Peanut Butter Chips
  • 6 whole Peanut Butter Cups, Cut Into Quarters
For the Cheesecake Filling
  • 2 pounds Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 5 whole Eggs, Room Temperature
  • 1-½ cup Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
  • 1 cup Smooth Peanut Butter
  • ½ cups Whipping Cream
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
For the Decoration
  • 1/4 cups Whipping Cream
  • 1/2 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 cup Peanut Butter Chips
  • 7 Peanut Butter Cups, Cut In Half
For the Brownie Crust:
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a deep 9-inch Springform pan with extra butter. (We use this one from Wilton.  It is 9" diameter and nearly 3" tall.  If you use one any smaller, you'll need to reduce the cheesecake filling or it will overflow!  It's a tight fit to begin with...ours barely fit!)
  2. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with spoon or wire whisk. Add eggs; stir until well blended. Stir in flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; blend well. Spread in prepared pan.
  3. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until brownie begins to pull away from side of pan. Meanwhile make cheesecake layer (see step #1 below).
  4. Immediately after removing brownie from oven, sprinkle milk chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and peanut butter cups over brownie surface. Spoon cheesecake mixture over chips. Turn down oven 325° and continue with cheesecake filling step #2 below.
For the Cheesecake Filling:
  1. Beat cream cheese in bowl of electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sugar, peanut butter and cream; mix until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour filling into prepared crust.
  2. Double-wrap Springform pan with aluminum foil to prevent water seeping in. To do this, cut a large square of foil and place the pan in the center.  Wrap the foil up the sides so that the seam of the pan bottom and springform side is covered.  Leave the top uncovered. Place Springform pan into a larger baking pan. Pour hot water into the larger pan so that the water comes 1 inch up the sides of the Springform pan.
  3. Bake at 325 degrees 1-1/2 hours, or until firm and lightly browned.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for one hour. Run a knife along the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan somewhat. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before decorating. I tend to make cheesecakes a day ahead to let things set.
  5. Remove cake from pan and put on a pretty plate.
Chris' Cheesecake tip: to get the cake off you just need to heat up the bottom of the pan a bit and the cake should come off easily. I remove the sides, then hold the pan over a burner on my stove – set to LOW – for about 15 or so seconds. Then run a long cake spatula under the cake and it should slip easily off the pan. Just be careful – the bottom of the cake is now very slippery.

For the Decoration:
  1. Bring whipping cream to boil in a small saucepan.
  2. Remove from heat and add semi-sweet and peanut butter chips. Stir, stir, stir until melted and smooth.
  3. Drizzle over cake and then add peanut butter cup halves around the edge of the cake.
Chris' Decoration tip: I dipped the cut edge of the peanut butter cups into the ganache before placing it on the cake.  This served as a sort of "glue" to hold the decorations in place!

Source: Slightly modified from Erika at Tasty Kitchen

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Homemade Cinnamon Swirl Bread

One of my favorite things to do on a lazy day is to make homemade bread.  For those of you that are afraid of dealing with yeast, don't be.  Everything will be fine as long as you don't add the yeast to an overly hot liquid (which kills them) and allow it a warm place to rise and grow (my kitchen counter is usually fine except on cold Winter days I will sometimes heat my oven to the "keep warm" setting and then keep it propped open slightly with a wooden spoon so it doesn't get too hot and start baking prematurely).  A good way to know if your yeast is alive and active is by seeing if it gets foamy during the initial proofing period.  If it doesn't, then throw it out and start over.  Your yeast may be too old (check the "best by" date), you liquid may be too hot (it should be lukewarm to the touch), or your environment is not warm enough for the yeast to get happy and begin multiplying.

Each time I have cinnamon swirl bread, I think of my Dad because he loves this stuff.  I feel great knowing that the bread I'm making is preservative free and I often will substitute up to half the total flour content with whole wheat flour to up the nutritional content.  To make things easier, I provided options for doing a slow rise in the refrigerator overnight so that you can have freshly baked bread first thing in the morning.  The overnight rise also allows the proteins in the whole wheat flour to soften which makes it taste just like white bread!

We enjoyed ours in Microwave Streusel Topped French Toast in a Mug and I ate it toasted with butter or peanut butter throughout the week.  Just lovely!

Homemade Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Homemade Cinnamon Swirl Bread


  • 1 cup Milk 
  • 6 Tablespoons Salted Butter 
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast 
  • 2 whole Eggs 
  • 2/3 cup Sugar, divided 
  • 3-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour (I used 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon Salt 
  • 2 Tablespoons Cinnamon 
  • Egg And Milk, Mixed Together, For Brushing 
  • Softened Butter, For Smearing And Greasing 

  1. Melt butter with milk. Heat until very warm, but don't boil. Allow to cool until still warm to the touch, but not hot. Sprinkle yeast over the top, stir gently, and allow to sit for 10 minutes. 
  2. Combine flour and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix 1/3 cup sugar and eggs with the paddle attachment until combined. Pour in milk/butter/yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add half the flour and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the other half and beat until combined. 
  3. Switch to the dough hook attachment and beat/knead dough on medium speed for ten minutes. If dough is overly sticky, add 1/4 cup flour and beat again for 5 minutes. 
  4. Heat a metal or glass mixing bowl so it's warm. Drizzle in a little canola oil, then toss the dough in the oil to coat. Cover bowl with a clean damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set it in a warm place for at least 2 hours. 
  5. Turn dough out onto the work surface. Roll into a neat rectangle no wider than the loaf pan you're going to use, and about 18 to 24 inches long. Smear with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Mix remaining 1/3 cup sugar and cinnamon together, then sprinkle evenly over the butter-smeared dough. Starting at the far end, roll dough toward you, keeping it tight and contained. Pinch seam to seal. 
  6. Smear loaf pan with softened butter. Place dough, seam down, in the pan. Cover with a clean damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for 2 hours in a warm place.  Alternatively, you can allow it to do a slow rise overnight in the refrigerator.
  7. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix a little egg with milk, and smear over the top. Bake for 40 minutes on a middle/lower rack in the oven. 
  8. Remove from the pan and allow bread to cool. Slice and serve, or make cinnamon toast or French toast with it. 
Source: Pioneer Woman

Monday, January 21, 2013

SRC: Microwave Streusel Topped French Toast in a Mug

Ah the microwave.  What did people do before they had this easy, quick cooking wonder?  Suddenly people that have no idea how to cook are enabled and empowered with this tool.  And sometimes, even more advanced chefs can use it to take the easy way out...kind of like how I did with this month's Secret Recipe Club pick from Alli 'N Son's.

Alli's blog includes a bit about baking, motherhood, and life with her boys.  I was touched when I read her PCOS story because it reminded me of my own struggle from last year when I had my miscarriage.  It's inspiring to read her story and see the success that she's had raising beautiful children.

As for the food, since she's a busy mama, a lot of the recipes that you'll find on her blog are kid friendly and quick along with a lot of sweets. Having just come off of the Holiday sugar high, I considered but then ultimately avoided decadent recipes like Peanut Butter Cup S'mores BarApple Pie Cinnamon Rolls, and Cookie Dough Ice Cream Cake.  Instead, I tried to find something that I'd be able to fold into our regular dinner rotation.  I considered Grilled Cheese Waffle Sandwich and Peanut Sesame Noodles with Szechuan Style Tofu.  In the end, I had  recently made a  homemade Cinnamon Swirl Bread (recipe to be shared) which inspired the choice of Streusel Topped French Toast in a Mug.  Sweet but not overly so and still quite simple.  Hello brinner.

I've seen and pinned  many microwave recipes in the past but this was my first time actually *trying* it.  And wow was it delightfully good, fast, and simple!  The entire recipe was done in about 5 minutes and had the yummy french toast flavor covered in a sinful streusel topping.  The only thing I missed was the slight crispness that comes with real french toast.  But in a pinch or when you just want enough for a single serving (or two), this would definitely do.

Thank you to April of the blog Angel's Homestead SRC ring leader and Debbi of the blog Debbi Does Dinner, our Group C Hostess!  Please also check the blog hop to see what everyone else in Group C made this month!

One Year Ago: 2011 Recap: Reader Favorites
Two Years Ago: French Dip Sandwiches and Football Snackadium 
Three Years Ago: Chinese Bolo Bao with Nai Wong Filling (Pineapple Custard Buns) and Copycat Chipotle Burrito Bols

Microwave Streusel Topped French Toast in a Mug

Microwave Streusel Topped French Toast in a Mug


For the French Toast
  • 3-4 slices cinnamon swirl bread, depending on the size and thickness of your bread 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 3 tablespoons milk 
  • dash cinnamon 
  • drop or two vanilla extract or almond extract 
For the Streusel Topping
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter, cold 
  • 1 tablespoons flour 
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
  1. Spray a large mug or small bowl with nonstick spray. Set aside. Cube the bread into 1-inch pieces. Place in the prepared mug. 
  2. In a small bowl beat together the egg, milk, cinnamon and vanilla or almond extract with a fork. Pour over the bread. Stir together until all of the egg mixture has been absorbed by the bread. 
  3. To make the struesel topping: In a small bowl combine the butter, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Use your fingers to everything together. The mixture will resemble coarse sand. Sprinkle evenly on top of the bread mixture. 
  4. Microwave for 1 minute on high. Check and microwave in 10 second increments until the eggs are no longer runny. Let cool before enjoying.
Source: Alli 'N Sons

Secret Recipe Club

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Balsamic-Honey Glazed Roast Beef Sandwiches with French Dip

Oh my god this is without a doubt the best sandwich I have EVER eaten!!!  And it's a crockpot recipe so dinner was on the table in under 15 minutes which was perfect since my husband had to eat early in order to digest before his running group training session.

I'm a fan of French Dip Sandwiches but this juice and the balsamic-honey glaze brings this particular version to a whole new freaking level.  I mean it is phenomenal!  I literally inhaled my dinner and had to refrain from eating a second sandwich.  Then, I rushed to my computer to blog about it because keeping this recipe from you would be a crime.

The au jus dip juice is full of yummy beefy and slightly acidic flavor (from the balsamic vinegar).  The beef is incredibly tender and sopping in the flavored juices.  The cheese is perfectly melty and the glaze just puts everything over the top with its syrupy sweet sour perfection.  I used rye hoagie rolls as my bread and wish I had used something a little more substantial because the tender bread wanted to fall apart under the weight of the beefy goodness as I drenched it with dip juices.  The cheese acted a bit like glue as it precariously held the sandwich together!

Yep.  My mouth is still watering a bit as I write this post.  I cannot wait to eat the leftovers for lunch  tomorrow!

PS:  Happy Birthday, Mom!  I love you!

Two Years Ago: Cheddar Cauliflower Soup
Three Years Ago: Sushi, Zuppa Toscana, and Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil, and Parmesan Muffins

Balsamic-Honey Glazed Roast Beef Sandwiches with French Dip

I was so eager to eat this sandwich that I smooshed my two halves together
before I realized  the photo would look way better if I kept it open...
hence the onions and some beef stuck to the cheesy side.  Oops!

For the Sandwiches

  • 6 sub rolls (I love rye!)
  • 1 recipe Balsamic Slow Cooker Beef with Onions (recipe below)
  • 6 slices provolone cheese
  • Mayonnaise (optional)
  • Balsamic Honey Glaze (recipe below)
For the Balsamic Slow Cooker Roast Beef
  • 1 3-4 pound boneless roast beef (chuck or round roast)
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
For the Balsamic Honey Glaze
  • 2 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp honey
  1. Place onions in the bottom of your slow cooker.  Then add the roast beef.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together  the remaining roast beef ingredients.  Pour over the beef and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.  (I'd recommend the latter for the most tender beef!  Cook it low and slow!)
  3. Once the roast beef has cooked, remove it from your slow cooker and transfer to a serving dish.  Shred the beef lightly with two forks.
  4. Transfer the juice and onions to a fat separator (I have and recommend this one from Oxo).  Put the strained onions into a bowl and set aside.  Then pour about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the juice over the roast beef.  Reserve the rest of the au jus juice for dipping.  Throw out the fat.
  5. Make the glaze by combining the ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan.  Bring to a boil then lower heat to low and allow to simmer while stirring constantly. The glaze is done when it is thick enough to coat your spoon.
  6. Turn on your oven broiler.  Open a bun on a baking sheet and if desired, smear a bit of mayonnaise on the top half then add a slice of cheese.  Place meat and some onions on the other half of the bun.  Put the baking sheet under the broiler and heat until the cheese begins to bubble and get slightly browned.  Remove the sandwiches from the oven then drizzle with balsamic-honey glaze.  It's strong so start light and add more as desired.
  7. Serve sandwich with au jus for dipping.  Close your eyes and be amazed by how delicious it is.  Try not to eat more than one!
Source: Barely adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody as modified from Add a Pinch

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lasagna Soup

Did you know that January is National Soup Month?  Yeah, me neither.  But I'm a bit of a soup addict and eat mine year round so I don't need a special month to celebrate.  Of course, nothing really hits the spot quite like a steaming hot bowl of soup on a cold Winter day.

When I saw this soup, I knew it would be amazing.  It's essentially a simple, healthier alternative to a comforting family favorite.  All the flavor of lasagna but with a mere 270 calories in a (1.5 cup) serving plus not having to assemble it into layers or bake for an hour?  Yes, yes, YES!  The whole family will be happy :).  What makes this soup outstanding and true to the lasagna flavor is the cheesy mixture of low-fat ricotta and mozzarella.  It melts into the hot soup creating a perfect lasagna flavor and texture.

What's your favorite soup?  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!

Two Years Ago: Blooming Onion with Dipping Sauce and Peanut Butter Fudge Brownie with Salted Peanuts
Three Years Ago: Baked Sausage Ziti

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup


For the Soup
  • 2 tsp olive oil 
  • 12 oz turkey Italian sausage, casings removed 
  • 1 onion, chopped 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 2 tsp dried oregano 
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes 
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste 
  • 1 (28 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth 
  • 8 oz broken up lasagna noodles or fusilli pasta 
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped 
  • black pepper, to taste
For the Cheesy Mixture
  • 8 oz low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) 2% mozzarella cheese
  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add sausage, breaking up into bite-size pieces and brown for 5-6 minutes. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute. 
  2. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves and chicken stock. Stir to combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. 
  3. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. 
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the cheesy mixture. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, salt, pepper, and mozzarella; stir to combine. 
  5. Add the basil and pepper to the soup; stir. To serve, place a dollop of the cheesy mixture in each soup bowl and ladle the hot soup over the cheese. 
Source: Originally from 300 Sensational Soups as seen on PreventionRD

Yield: 8 servings (about 1 1/2 cups each with 2 heaping tablespoons cheesy goodness) 
Nutrition Information as calculated by PreventionRD  (per serving): 270 calories; 7.8 g. fat; 38 mg. cholesterol; 465 mg. sodium; 31.9 g. carbohydrate; 3.4 g. fiber; 16.9 g. protein 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Mac and Cheese Book Review, Contest Recap, and Winners!

Book Reviews

Mac and Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin

Mac and Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin

Laura is an award-winning author of five books on cheese so it's no surprise that just a couple months ago she released a collection of  recipes featuring America's favorite comfort food.  As the Cheese Queen, it's not surprising that her mac and cheese recipes use some non-traditional cheese!

Like Ellen's book, Laura starts by breaking down the components of the mac and reviewing the options but I like the formatting of Ellen's book, better (tables).  The rest of the book again starts with the classics, veggies, proteins, a section on breakfst (interesting!), decadent, lightened up, and then "party time" (designed for large servings of 12-16!).

Perhaps my favorite feature about this book is the icons used to denote recipes that are designed to be "oven-cooked" versus "stovetop".  Of course, don't fret because Laura offers tips on how to convert any recipe to the other version, if desired!

Recipes that caught my eye in this book:

  • Wisconsin Cheese, Brats, and Onion Mac & Cheese - The rye topping looks especially delightful!
  • Kevin's Mac & Cheese (aka Valveeta, Baby!) - Ok, Valveeta isn't really cheese and it's just plain processed but you have to admit nothing beats that melty Valveeta texture!
  • Indian-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower and Spinach Mac & Cheese
  • Spicy Reuben Mac & Cheese
  • Gruyere, Caramelized Onion, Blue Cheese, and Bacon Mac & Cheese
  • Fruit and (mac &) cheese - Like a cheeseboard with figs, blue cheese, honey, and nuts!
  • Butternut Squash, Gruyere, and Brown Butter Mac & Cheese
  • Pizza Mac & Cheese with Ciabatta Crutons
  • Nacho Mac & Cheese  - Hello, game day!  (yes, this is one of those party sized "party time" recipes!)
This collection of 50 recipes has some classics but I think the real strength is in its provocative combinations, interesting cheeses and toppings.

Mac & Cheese by Ellen Brown

This book is a collection of 80 recipes that author Ellen Brown collected and adapted from restaurants all around the country such as Cafeteria and S'MAC in NYC, Nosh in Dallas, Rockit Bar and Grill in Chicago, and Straw in San Francisco.  I would have loved to have tagged along to do all the taste testing required for "research"!

It starts with a chapter on dissecting each component to the perfect mac and cheese.  From the pasta, cheese, sauce, and crunchy toppings, Ellen covers it all and in a simple to read chart format.  What type of pasta is best suited for each recipe?  What's the best cheese for melting texture and how do you keep it from getting gritty?  What type of dairy will create the perfect creaminess?  And if you are a crunchy topping lover, what type is best?  Fresh bread crumbs, crackers, panko, or other snack foods like potato chips even?  Ellen breaks it all down eloquently   She also gives great tips for modifying recipes to be gluten-free, how to do advance prep and reheating (not that you'll have leftovers...).

The rest of the book is divided into appetizer/finger food macs followed my entree-type and last but not least, sweets!  Within the entrees the chapters go from simple, classic combinations to ones with vegetables and then various meats (seafood, beef, chicken, pork).

Recipes I bookmarked (and will eventually be making since my beloved Toby ate my free copy of this cookbook "forcing me" to keep it for myself):

  • Mac and Cheese Bites (adapted from The Boundary in Chicago, IL)
  • Skillet Fried Cheddar Mac and Cheese (adapted from Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, MI) - My good friend Alton Brown crowned this one the best in the country and he has already won my heart with his Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe!
  • Big Kid Mac with Spinach, Caramelized Onions, and Truffle Oil (adapted from Nosh in Dallas, TX)
  • Spinach and Artichoke Mac and Cheese (adapted from Elbows Mac 'n' Cheese in Cerritos, CA)
  • Parisian Mac and Cheese with Shiitake Mushrooms and Figs (adapted from S'MAC in New York, NY) - I so wanted to go to this restaurant when I was in NY for the holidays so it will be nice to try an at-home version.  Hopefully I'll make it to the real restaurant on my next trip and can do a full review of how it compares!
  • Shrimp Scampi Mac and Cheese (adapted from Cheese-ology Macaroni & Cheese in St. Louis, MO)
  • New England Clam Mac and Cheese - The note claims it has the flavor of classic New England chowder...the potential combination of that and macaroni nearly blows my mind.
  • Philly Cheesesteak Mac and Cheese (adapted from Cheese-ology in St. Louis, MO)
  • Macaroni with Pecan Caramel Marscapone - It's supposed to taste like pecan praline!
Yep...this collection will keep me and the lucky recipient quite busy!

Contest Recipe Recap

It was a difficult task but someone had to do it.  Fortunately, I enlisted the help of my husband and in-laws for the taste testing :).  Here's a comparison of the seven mac and cheese recipes that were submitted for my contest.  Please keep in mind that individual tastes may vary so I'm highlighting the things that I liked about each.

  • Best Potluck Mac and Cheese as submitted by Sarah - Smooth texture and strong (onion) flavor but not cheesy enough in flavor for us.  Perhaps it was undersalted  since there were no guidelines on just how much salt to add.  I've made note of that for when I make it in the future.  It seemed to get better with age when I reheated it in the microwave so that's a plus!
Best Potluck Mac and Cheese

  • Smoked Macaroni and Cheese as submitted by Stacey - LOVED the smoked flavor from the Gouda cheese but the tradeoff of using this particular mix of cheeses was a slightly gritty sauce.
Smoked Macaroni and Cheese
  • Bonnie's Grammy's Mac and Cheese as submitted by Bonnie- With only 4 ingredients, this was so simple and a surprising taste of childhood.  Who said sliced American cheese doesn't create a smooth, creamy melt?  Add a bit of cream for extra richness.
Bonnie's Grammy's Mac and Cheese

Creamy Stove Top Mac and Cheese

  • Lighter Baked Macaroni and Cheese as submitted by Sara- Surprisingly creamy and delicious.  It's doubtful that I would have known that it was lightened up if I hadn't made it myself.  The only thing I would have changed is to reduce the amount of Buffalo sauce because I found it a little too overpowering.
Lighter Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • Spinach and Bacon Mac and Cheese as submitted by Mandy - This one started from a box.  No seriously!  Classic "fancy" mac and cheese flavors were a welcome addition for a super quick meal.
Spinach and Bacon Mac and Cheese

  • Lobster Mac and Cheese as submitted by Kristen - This used the most expensive and decadent of materials. Surprisingly what stood out most about it was probably the cheapest and simplest part, too - The crunchy topping which was created using coarse and airy Panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs!
Lobster Mac and Cheese

And now the WINNERS!

Best Mac and Cheese Recipe:
It was very difficult to pick a winner because everyone's taste may vary and each recipe seemed to have its own strength.  In fact, after the contest was over, I actually started combining components of the different recipes to see if I could create the ultimate macaroni and cheese recipe.

In the end, simplicity and nostalgia won out so I choose Bonnie's Grammy's Mac and Cheese as the winner!  Congratulations, Bonnie M!

Social Media Sharing Winner: was used to select the winner...Tamara S!

I will be emailing the winners to make arrangements to claim your prize.  Bonnie - as the Mac and Cheese Champion, you will get first pick of cookbooks!

Congratulations to the winners and thank you fans for all your sharing.  Special thanks to Running Press and Andrews McNeel Publishing for supplying the prizes for this contest!

Disclosure - This blog is a personal blog written and edited by Christine @ Christine's Kitchen Chronicles. The owner(s) of this blog was compensated with free products to provide an opinion on the products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though the owner(s) of this blog receives compensation for posts or advertisements, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers' own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Best of 2012: Blogger's Choice

I try to screen out the recipes that I share so that each one is sure to be great if you give it a try yourself.  However, some of them stick out as real winners each year so I write this particular post in order to make sure they're not missed.

Here are the top 10 best things that I made this year shown in the order in which they were posted on my blog.

#1: Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.  I have a slight obsession with  stuffed recipes (like Stuffed Crust Pizza, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Stuffed Cinnamon Buns, Stuffed Chicken Marsala, and Gruyere and Bacon Stuffed French Toast...more on that one shortly) .  This stuffed sweet potato totally did not disappoint.  I could have eaten that filling straight up with a spoon.  Delicious.

Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Photo Credit: Emily H.

#2: Chorizo and Sweet Potato Lettuce Wraps.  Guess I also have a love of sweet potatoes (and lettuce wraps).  This was one of those recipes that was so good I had to drop everything once we were done stuffing our faces so that I could immediately share it with you.

Chorizo and Sweet Potato Lettuce Wraps

#3: Macadamia Lemon Bars.  I FINALLY made lemon bars!  Every time I serve this recipe it's a hit and everyone wants the recipe.  Thank you so much Emily for sharing it with me!

Macadamia Lemon Bars

#4: Parmesan Crusted Goat Cheese Ball with Basil Oil.  Tangy, sharp, and plain pretty.  This appetizer will make a great first impression with guests.  Perfect served with Daelia's Biscuits for Cheese. (Read my full review of their biscuits here.  Sorry, giveaway has long ended.)

Parmesan Crusted Goat Cheese Ball with Basil Oil
Photo Credit: Emily H.

#5: Magic in the Middles.  One word to describe this cookie: irresistible.  Who can resist the temptation of a chocolate sugar cookie with a hidden peanut butter center?  Not even me, the Savory Queen.

Magic in the Middles

#6: Farro Spaghetti with Beets, Browned Butter, and Poppy Seeds.  This brought me out of my comfort zone and ultimately converted me to being a beet lover.  Seriously!

Farro Spaghetti with Beets, Browned Butter, and Poppy Seeds

#7: Gruyere and Bacon Stuffed French Toast.  There's that other stuffed recipe I was talking about.  The perfect combination of sweet and salty.  I love breakfast.

Gruyere and Bacon Stuffed French Toast

#8: Spicy Garlic and Ginger Chicken with Green Beans.  One of the best stir fry sauces that I've ever had.  Mix it up by using your favorite meats and veggies!

Spicy Garlic and Ginger Chicken with Green Beans

#9: Chicken Marsala Risotto.  Hands down my favorite entree that I made all year!

Chicken Marsala Risotto

#10: Cinnabon Caramel Corn.  And for balance, this was my favorite sweet from the year....possibly my favorite over all??  I don't know.  That's a pretty bold statement.  Either way, everywhere I brought this easy treat, it was gobbled up far too quickly!

Cinnabon Caramel Corn

Since my husband also has the honor of tasting all the food that I make, I decided to allow him to share a couple of his favorites, as well.

Chris' Savory Pick: Buca di Beppo's Spicy Chicken Rigatoni. We love pasta and all things spicy.  We love saving money by making restaurant copycat recipes at home even more ;).

Buca di Beppo's Spicy Chicken Rigatoni.

Chris' Sweet Pick: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Cake.  Does this really come as a surprise to anybody?  I didn't think so.  This is also the cake that gave me the honor of being compared to her abuelo (grandmother) by our friend's daughter.  If that's not the gold standard...the highest compliments to the chef...I don't know what is.  I was touched.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Cake
Photo Credit: Emily H.

So there are our favorites from 2012!  I hope you give them a try and let me know how you like them :).

Oh, and just in case you missed it, here are the Readers' Choice Best of 2012 Picks!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Best of 2012: Readers' Choice

Here I am sharing the best of 2012...again when it is already the following year, 2013.  When will I finally get on the ball and get this up before the year's end?  Probably never...I'm just not that organized and holiday madness gets in the way.  Surely you know how it is, right?

I love doing these posts because it allows me to see the types of foods that you enjoy best.  Because, even though I cook with the purpose of feeding my husband and myself, I do the blogging part for you all!  I also like to see how I've grown as a blogger each year.  Just looking at the photos in this roundup, I can tell I've made great improvements to my food photography this year.  This is only made more evident by the fact that several of these photos were accepted by "food porn" sites like Tasteologie and Serious Eats.  But they're still generally not good enough for the prestigious Food Gawker and I know there's room for improvement.  In 2013, I can only hope that the light box my brother bought me for Christmas will be a tool to help with that goal.  They are especially useful in the Winter when natural light is generally unavailable come dinner time.

So now, here they are, your Top 10 favorite recipes from 2012 done countdown style!

#10: Brat Burgers with Drunken Onions.  This year was the year that I joined the Secret Recipe Club and this particular recipe was an instant Summer hit due to its bold, gourmet-burger-shop-style flavors.  If there's one other thing I revealed about myself this year, it's my love for drunken foods.  But believe me, my love for alcohol stops there!

Brat Burgers with Drunken Onions

#9: Cinnamon Sugar Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts.  Another recipe swap that I participate in is the What's Cooking Recipe Swap and my favorite theme is Blogger's Choice.  This sweet treat was practically guilt-free ;).

Cinnamon Sugar Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

#8: Homemade Nutella.  The one and only international sensation of velvety smooth chocolate and hazelnut spread.  Once you make it at home with a few simple, pure ingredients, you won't be buying the jarred stuff again.

Homemade Nutella

#7: (Lightened Up) Loaded Baked Potato Salad.  Get all the rich flavor of a loaded baked potato but while tricking your guests into something healthier by using this secret "sauce" ingredient!  It's an easy ingredient substitution that you'll find yourself using to lighten up recipes in the future.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad
Photo Credit: Emily H.

#6: Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches.  So simple.  So delicious.  I got this for a recipe swap and am so glad that I did because just thinking about this sandwich makes me wish it were grilling weather right now.  Hmmm...maybe this will be the perfect recipe for using my new Lodge Cast Iron Grill Pan that I got for Christmas...

Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches

#5: Oven Baked Sriracha Chicken.  This is like BBQ Asian style.  Don't have the infamous Thai hot sauce Sriracha?  Buy some here then thank me later.

Oven Baked Sriracha Chicken

#4: S'mores Pizza with Graham Cracker Cookie Crust.  I love it when I find inspiration in other blogs.  This is my own creation and I couldn't have been happier with the result.  A homemade graham cracker cookie crust is what makes this dessert pizza extra special and since it's made entirely in the oven, you can enjoy the campfire tradition of s'mores even in the dead of Winter.

S'mores Pizza with Graham Cracker Cookie Crust

#3: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Stuffed Cinnamon Buns.  My first ever Secret Recipe Club pick and definitely one of the most decadent things to have ever been made on my blog.  This recipe is exactly as it sounds.  It's a traditional cinnamon roll that's filled with chocolate chip cookie dough in addition to the regular cinnamon sugar gooey goodness.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Stuffed Cinnamon Buns

#2: Mini Corn Dog Muffins.  Adored by children and adults alike.  This healthier version of a carnival classic also makes a great freezer meal or gift for expectant/new parents that need quick, one-handed snacking options.

Mini Corn Dog Muffins

#1: .  Given the splash it made being featured in the FoodBuzz Top 9 (now DailyBuzz Food), it's no wonder that this is the top recipe on my blog for 2012.  Pizza and steak lovers rejoice because now you Grilled Steakhouse Pizzacan have both together!

Grilled Steakhouse Pizza

BONUS RECIPE!  The above may have been your top 10 favorites that *I* made on my blog this year but none of them really hold a candle to the true top recipe of the year, a guest post by fellow Secret Recipe Club Group C member Mother Thyme.  I think we can all agree her Cream Cheese Coffee Cake that looks just delectable!  Plus, this is the type of blogging caliber that I aspire to be like someday...

There you have it, your Top 10 favorite recipes plus a bonus from 2012!  Stay tuned and tomorrow I'll share my personal favorites from the year and then Monday will be the great Mac and Cheese Contest winner announcements!  Last chance to enter to win!

What was YOUR favorite recipe from 2012?  Want to see favorites from previous years?  Click the recap label link below!