Thursday, December 17, 2009

Food News

Some interesting food articles...

Measure for measure, a way to cut calories

Salt Really Does Boost Health Risks


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Stuffed Peppers

I have been wanting to tackle stuffed peppers for a while now. This meal turned out to be a very easy, light, and delicious weeknight meal!

Stuffed Bell Peppers
  • 4 bell peppers in the color of your choice
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 3 links of chicken sausage (I used sundried tomato)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated mozzarella
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bring 1 cup of broth to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 2 minutes less than package instructions. Drain any remaining broth.

Saute sausage in oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until lightly browned.

Combine orzo, sausage, parsley, and Parmesan.

Cut tops off of peppers and hollow out to create a bowl. Place in a baking dish and pour remaining broth around peppers.

Fill peppers with orzo mixture and divide mozzarella to top each stuffed pepper.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cheese is melted.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

December is Cookie Month! -- Sugar Cookie Pops --

I've decided to dedicate the majority of my December blogging to cookies. What better goody to write about than cookies?! I'll be posting cookie recipes, trials, and tribulations all month long, so keep checking back for some Suburban Spoon treats!

Safeway has a collection of holiday recipes on their website. Since, as previously mentioned, I am focusing on cookies his month, I decided to try their ADORABLE Sugar Cookie Pops.

I think I've mentioned before that I think of myself as more of a cook versus a baker. The two personas are completely different - one is more uncalculating and haphazard (moi!), while the other is regimented and precise. I thought I'd challenge myself by taking the regimented and precise route. What resulted was not only a cloud of flour in my kitchen... but something really fun and unique, kid-friendly, and a super gift idea!

I began with my shopping list in tow, heading out to the store to buy ingredients. First on my list - lollipop sticks. I thought to myself, "Where on Earth am I going to find these??" It dawned on me - the craft store! I headed to my local arts & crafts superstore, and lo and behold - there they were, in the very first aisle!

Next to Genaurdi's to pick up the rest. I headed to the baking aisle to find what I needed: shortening, sugar, sprinkles, cream of tartar.... Now, not being a baker, I wasn't exactly sure where to find the cream of tartar. I knew I was in the right aisle, but up and down I went. Passing the baking soda, the sugar, the salt, the cake mix. Over and over. Thankfully, as I was absorbed in my search, I heard, "Hey Sara!" I look up and see Andy, my neighbor who happens to be a personal chef. I was in luck! Right in with the spices is where he pointed me, and there it was - Andy saved the day!

After I checked out, came home, and unloaded my groceries, I began making these cute little treats. After setting all of my ingredients on the counter, I measured, mixed, and whipped these yummy cookie pops up with the zest and vigor of an accomplished baker - they were so easy and fun to make! I encourage you to try these unique cookies as a kick-off to Cookie Month!

*You'll want to buy several containers of colored sugars and jimmies so you'll have plenty for coating these cookie balls.

Sugar Cookie Pops (Yield: 4 1/2 dozen)
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Colored sugars, sparkling sugars, and multicolored jimmies
  • 4" white craft sticks
Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; add sugars, beating well. Add eggs, oil, and vanilla, beating until blended.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture, blending well. Cover and chill dough 2 hours or overnight.

Shape dough into 11/2" balls. Roll each ball in colored sugar or jimmies in individual bowls, pressing gently, if necessary, to coat balls. Place 2" apart on ungreased baking sheets. Insert craft sticks about 1" into each cookie to resemble a lollipop.

Bake at 350° for 10 to 11 minutes or until set. Let cool 2 minutes on baking sheets; remove cookie pops to wire racks to cool completely.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chili with a touch of something different...

The cold months make me crave something substantial.. something robust. Tired of the same ol' chili recipe, I was inspired to come up with a twist on the traditional chili. The result of my quest was something so unique and gratifying, I am happy to share this recipe with you. I know this sounds... different.. but please give it a try. It's so delicious I actually entered it in a recipe contest - I'll let you know if I win! ;o)

Be diligent with seasoning with salt and pepper each step of the way. You are building flavor, layer by layer, and adding salt and pepper at the end just won't cut it.

Cooking the chili low and slow will produce tender, sumptuous meat from a tough cut of beef.

Beef and Kahlúa Chili
  • 3 T canola oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1.5 lbs chuck steak, trimmed of excess fat and cubed
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 T chili powder
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 (15-oz) cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 (15-oz) cans black beans
  • 1 (6-oz) can tamato paste
  • 2/3 cup Kahlúa, coffee flavored liqueur
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt & pepper
  • Sour cream, diced shallots and shredded sharp white cheddar for serving
Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and turn heat down to medium-low. Cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn heat up to medium-high. Add beef and brown on all sides, approximately 4 more minutes. Add bell pepper and spices. Season again with salt and pepper.

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, black beans, and Kahlúa. Stir in parsley and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 1 & 1/2 hours.

Serve chili topped with sour cream, shallots and shredded cheese.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Good readin'

Every so often, I will bring you a collection of articles that I find worth reading. Have a wonderful Friday, and enjoy some of these stories...

Can local farming save the Suburbs?

Eat less meat to reduce climate change and save thousands of lives

Arthritis symptoms can be eased with exercise, changes to diet


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beef Stew to Chase Away the Chills

When the weather gets cold, you need something warm and substantial to satisfy your appetite. Try this beef stew recipe to nourish your stomach, as well as your soul...

Add any vegetables you have in your kitchen. When it comes to soups & stews, the rule is - there are no rules!

Sara's Beef Stew
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 &1/2 lbs. stew beef
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 Qt beef stock
  • 1 & 1/2 cups red wine
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3-4 large red potatoes
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 1/2" slices
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, diced in 1/4" slices
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 lb.s green beans
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
In a dutch oven (or large pot), heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook until brown on each side, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir so beef is coated on all sides and cook for 1 minute longer.

Add beef stock, wine, and tomato paste to pot and season with more salt (1 tsp) and pepper (1/2 tsp).

Add in all vegetables, bay leaf and rosemary. Cover and reduce heat to low.

Cook, covered, for about 1 hour.

Serve with bread or biscuits.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pumpkin Mousse Parfaits

This dessert is Ina Garten's recipe, using chocolate pudding instead of the whipped cream layers.

  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1 packet (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1 (15-ounce can) pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 box of chocolate pudding, prepared
  • 8 to 10 chopped chocolate cookies
  • Crystallized ginger, for decoration, optional

Place the rum in a heat-proof bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside for 10 minutes for the gelatin to soften.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg yolks, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

Set the bowl of gelatin over a pan of simmering water and cook until the gelatin is clear. Immediately whisk the hot gelatin mixture into the pumpkin mixture.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture.

To assemble, spoon some of the pumpkin mixture into parfait glasses, add a layer of chocolate pudding, then some chopped cookies. Repeat, ending with a third layer of pumpkin. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Top with a whole cookie for a beautiful presentation.

*Recipe courtesy of, modified for our own tastes.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Turkey for a smaller crowd...

If you are cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a smaller crowd, or your crew doesn't really eat dark meat anyway, try these options!

Turkey Breast
  • 1 turkey breast, bone in (about 5-7 lbs.)
  • 1/2 stick of butter, melted
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 or 2 T herbs d' Provence
  • Salt & pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Season both sides of turkey breast with salt and pepper. Place breast side up in roasting pan. Baste with the olive oil and melted butter, then sprinkle with herbs d' Provence.

Place in oven, uncovered, for 1/2 an hour. Baste with juices that have dripped into the pan and return to oven. Check and baste every 1/2 hour until a meat thermometer registers at 180 degrees.

Total cooking time varies with each piece of meat, so that is why the thermometer is crucial. For 10 bucks, you never have to guess again.

Let the turkey rest, loosely tented with foil, for 20 minutes. Slice and enjoy!

For another variation, you can try Turkey London Broil.

Turkey London Broil
  • Turkey London broil, about 1 & 1/2 lbs
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of canned whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 2 tsp. orange marmalade
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle both sides of turkey with salt & pepper. Place in a resealable plastic bag and add marinade ingredients. Marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Place turkey and marinade in a baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers at 180 degrees.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Candied Pecans

Unfortunately, this dish escaped the paparazzi and I have no good photos of just the sweet potatoes. I can tell you, however, that the addition of the candied pecans was good enough to earn me an invitation (with sweet potatoes in tow) to my soon-to-be brother-in-law's for Thanksgiving!

This is a unique way to jazz up those sweet potatoes! "Smashing" the potatoes is not quite mashing them, leaving them soft but chunky.

Candied Pecans
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups pecan halves
Beat egg white until foamy; slowly beat in the brown sugar mixed with flour.

Add salt and vanilla flavoring, then fold in pecans.

Transfer pecans to a greased baking pan and bake at 400° for about 8 minutes.

Smashed Potatoes
  • 6 medium (about 3 1/2 pounds) orange sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Candied pecans (recipe above)
Combine sweet potatoes and enough water to cover in 4-quart saucepan. Cook over high heat until water comes to a boil (5 to 6 minutes). Reduce heat to medium-high. Cook until potatoes are tender (30 to 35 minutes). Drain. Cool slightly.

Place sweet potatoes and all remaining ingredients except pecans in large bowl. Mash with an old-fashioned potato masher until just slightly "smashed".

Spoon 1/2 of potato mixture into lightly greased 2-quart casserole. Top with half of the pecans. Add the rest of the potatoes and top with the rest of the pecans. Cover; bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through.



Thursday, November 19, 2009

Brussels Sprouts You Will Love, Believe Me!

Brussels sprouts are commonly mispronounced as simply brussel sprouts. The modern Brussels sprout that we are familiar with was first cultivated in large quantities in Belgium, hence the name "Brussels" sprouts. I have to admit, I was one of the wide population who mispronounced the name and I also have to admit, this was also the first time I've tried them...

Their flavor was surprisingly delicious, not as bitter or cabbage-like as I was expecting. The pancetta in this recipe gives them a delicious, salty flavor. These Brussels sprouts made many a non-sprout eater huge fans!!

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta Bits
  • 1 & 1/2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
  • 1/4 lb. pancetta, cubed into 1/4" cubes
  • salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut Brussels sprouts in half. Put them in a deep skillet or wide pot and cover with water until water is about 1/2" above the sprouts. Cover and bring to a lightly rolling boil. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until bright green and beginning to soften.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook pancetta bits until crispy. Remove from heat and spoon out pancetta bits with a slotted spoon, reserving grease. Set aside.

Add Brussels sprouts to pancetta grease, tossing to coat. Spread Brussels sprouts out on a cookie sheet and roast in oven for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned on edges.

Place in serving bowl and top with pancetta bits.



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Michele's Aunt Lyle's Cranberry Relish *Guest Spotlight*

This makes a very chunky, flavorful relish that compliments poultry and pork. It makes a lot, but disappears quickly - believe me. While testing recipes, Michele, me, and 5 other people devoured this entire batch in no time!

It's not hard to make, but follow the notes.


  1. Use a 13x9x2 inch ceramic baking dish, NOT a metal pan, and crushed pineapple in juice, NOT heavy syrup.
  2. Plan to make this early in the day, or the night before. Cover with plastic wrap DIRECTLY on the finished relish to maintain freshness.
  3. As a variation, Michele also added finely chopped apple, but this is the classic recipe from her great-aunt.

Aunt Lyle's Cranberry Relish

  • 1 large package cherry Jello- 6oz.
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 scant cup granulated sugar
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped, fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 small can mandarin oranges, chopped
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup chopped celery

In a medium sized glass bowl, dissolve Jello and boiling water. Add sugar, lemon juice and pineapple juice. Pour into ceramic baking dish and refrigerate until partially set, about 30 minutes. Do not cover.

Add remaining ingredients. Refrigerate until set, then cover relish with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

Stir to break up into a relish/jelly consistency before serving.

Hide a small container in the fridge for yourself for later. Seriously.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanksgiving time! Roasted Pumpkin Salad **Guest Spotlight**

The remainder of this week and into the next is all about a Foodie's favorite feast - Thanksgiving. My soon-to-be sister-in-law (holy hyphenations, Batman!) Michele invited me to cook up a feast with her in her lovely kitchen. We experimented with recipes, some tried and true, some new and not so true...

The menu:

Today, I'll start off with a first course - a Roasted Pumpkin Salad. Although the Italian family we were cooking for (including Michele) eat their salad at the end of a meal, I consider salad to be a beginning of a meal.

Keep checking back this week and next to see some great recipes and tips to try at your own thanksgiving feast! If you have a recipe that you're planning on making, send it to me - and if you have any pictures of your concoction, you may just be the very next Suburban Spoon Guest Spotlight!

Some tips I'd like to offer:

The pumpkin I used was something called a cheese pumpkin, purchased from a local farm called maple Acres. These aren't typical Jack-o-lantern pumpkins; they have a thinner, paler skin and are a lot shorter than the typical pumpkin.

While the flavor of the cheese pumpkin was great, preparing it (getting a knife through it to cut it, scooping out the seeds and all of its stringy innards, etc) was an awful pain. The flavor is so similar to its cousin squash, the Butternut Squash, I recommend using those instead if you are not up for a challenge.

Roasted Pumpkin Salad
  • 1 small cheese pumpkin, cut in half and seeds/strings scooped out
  • Seeds from pumpkin, rinsed free of all pumpkin strings
  • Salt
  • 1 bag baby arugula, washed and spun dry1 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 oz. Asiago cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • Dressing (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place hollowed-out pumpkins, face side down, on a cookie sheet. Roast for 40-50 minutes, you will be able to tell when the pumpkin is done, it is visibly softer and a knife can easy pierce all the way through.

Peel off skin and cut into 1" cubes.

For the pumpkin seeds, spread them out in a single layer on another cookie sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast for 10-12 minutes.

Place arugula in serving bowl and add cranberries and shaved Asiago. Add with pumpkin cubes and pumpkin seeds, and drizzle with dressing (recipe below).

For the Dressing

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper
Whisk all ingredients until well combined. Taste and add any ingredient, bit by bit, until the dressing is to your liking.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Meatless Monday - Chik’n & Avocado Quesadillas

Last week, I showed you how to make tostadas. I thought this week's Meatless Monday recipe would be a great chance to do a twist on Mexican food, using a chicken substitute product that even almost fooled my roommate, aka recently named fiance, Ryan the Carnivore!

Avocados are usually so substantial, they fill me up. But, I wanted to try Morningstar Farms meatless options, so I came up with this recipe.

Chik’n & Avocado Quesadillas

  • 2 tablespoons canola, divided
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups Morningstar Farms Chik’n strips
  • 1 fully ripened avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 diced tomato
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 4 flour tortillas (7 to 8 inches each)
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican Mix cheese

Preheat oven to 450°F.

In medium-sized bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the oil, lime juice and cumin. Add Chik'n strips, avocado, onion, and tomato; toss gently.

Lay tortillas on a baking sheet; brush both sides with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil.

Spread a layer of shredded cheese on first layer of tortillas.

Spoon Chik'n mixture over cheese, dividing evenly; top with additional layer of cheese (when the cheese melts, it will create a glue to hold the tortillas together!).

Top with second tortilla. Bake until tortillas are crisp, about 8 minutes.

Cut the quesadillas into wedges using a pizza cutter. Serve with salsa and/or sour cream.

*This recipe is excellent served with my Black Bean and Corn Salad!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shrimp Scampi

Looking for a quick & delicious weeknight meal? Frozen shrimp makes this dish an extremely satisfying and extremely easy dish which is good enough to serve to company!

Shrimp Scampi
  • 5 T olive oil
  • 6 T butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb frozen jumbo shrimp, de-veined and shells removed
  • 1 lb whole wheat linguine
  • Zest and juice from 4 lemons
  • 2 T chopped fresh parsley
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add linguine and cook according to package directions.

Melt butter and oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute (be very cautious, garlic burns quickly!). Add shrimp and cook for 5-6 minutes, until pink throughout.

Remove from heat and add lemon zest and juice. Serve over cooked pasta and garnish with parsley.

And enjoy!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Taco Tuesday - Meet Tostada Tuesday

Tostadas in Spanish translates to "toasted" in. When used in cooking terms, it refers to a flat or bowl shaped tortilla that is toasted or deep fried.

This version is an easy, delicious twist on the ol' taco. Try this for a weeknight meal - Taco Tuesday now meets Tostada Tuesday!

Toasty Tostadas
  • 8 tortillas (flour or corn, your choice!)
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef or turkey
  • 2 T Penzey's Spices taco seasoning
  • 1 avocado, halved then sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • Shredded lettuce
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican mix cheese
  • Hot sauce and/or sour cream for serving
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush both sides of tortillas with oil and place on cookie sheet. Heat in oven for about 8 minutes (keep a close eye on them) until golden brown, lightly toasted.

Meanwhile, brown meat in a skillet over medium-high heat until browned through. Add taco seasoning and about 1/2 cup of water. Stir until sauce thickens and remove from heat.

Divide beef among toasted tortillas. Top with avocado, cheese, lettuce, onion, hot sauce and sour cream.

What could be easier?


Monday, November 2, 2009

Weeknight Meal - Asian Turkey Tenderloin

Looking for something easy, yet delicious to make for a weeknight meal? Try this extremely simple (there are only 2 ingredients!) & healthy turkey tenderloin with a side of green beans and cherry tomatoes...

Asian Turkey Tenderloin
  • 1 turkey tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray baking dish with cooking spray. Place tenderloin in dish and coat all sides with hoisin sauce using a brush.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing into 1/4" slices.

Serve with jasmine rice and Asian green beans with cherry tomatoes (recipe below).

Asian Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1/2 lb green beans
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 T peanut oil
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 T sesame seeds
Heat peanut oil in saute pan over medium-high heat. Add green beans and cook for 4 minutes, constantly tossing lightly.

Add cherry tomatoes and cook for an additional 6-8 minutes.

Stirs in sesame oil and soy sauce. Remove from heat and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.



Thursday, October 29, 2009

Roast Beef: Good Enough for Company

One of my go-to's for comforting, cold weather meals is always roast beef. It was always one of my favorite dishes that my mother made. For me, roast beef must be served with potatoes, carrots, and onions and it's not complete without a side of bread and apple butter (a Pennsylvania Dutch favorite!).

It is an impressive meal to serve to guests. This delicious recipe is made in the crock pot, also making it a great meal to cook while you're at work or running errands on a busy weekend. It's deliciously tender and full of flavor and my favorite part - leftover roast beef sandwiches!

Roast Beef with Potatoes, Carrots, and Onions
  • 2 medium onions, halved and cut into 1" wedges
  • 3/4 lb. white potatoes, well scrubbed and cut into 1" chunks
  • 5 lg. carrots,, peeled and cut into 1" slices
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled (3 left whole and 2 cut into 12 slivers)
  • 1 cup of beef broth
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds eye-of-round beef roast
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Make 12 small slits in top and sides of roast and insert garlic slivers. Place beef in center of crock pot, and rub all over with 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and thyme. Pour beef broth around the sides of the roast into the bottom of the crock pot.

Place onions, potatoes, carrots, and whole garlic cloves around the roast. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook in crock pot on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 7-8 hours.

Remove roast from crock pot and slice into 1/4" slices. Serve with potatoes, carrots, and onions. I also like to serve with the juices from the crock pot, strained into a bowl, on the side to use as au jus for the beef & vegetables.

Another thing I always serve my roast beef with is a good dose of coarse, freshly ground black pepper on the top of each slice!



Monday, October 26, 2009

Italian Sausage, Spinach, and Penne

Italian is satisfying any night of the week - there is something comforting about the plethora of Italian ingredients. Plus, it's usually pretty easy to come up with an original Italian-inspired meal with ingredients you mostly have on hand...

This delicious meal was the result of wanting to try a recipe, but not having all of the right ingredients on hand. Mix the flavors up to suit your own tastes.

Italian Sausage, Spinach, and Penne Pasta

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 lg onion, diced
  • Course salt (I always use Kosher salt, never "table salt")
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 links of Italian sausage (sweet or spicy, your preference!), casings removed
  • 1 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 can whole peeled tomatoes with basil
  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed free of excess water
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes (reduce heat if they brown too quickly).

Add garlic and sausage to pan. Cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until browned (about 5 mins). Add flour and cook for 30 seconds.

Add tomatoes and break up with a spoon. Cook sauce until thickened slightly, 6-8 mins. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water for 4 minutes less than package instructions. Drain and return to pot.

Add spinach and tomato mixture to penne. Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish.

Top with mozzarella, then Parmesan. Bake until cheese has browned slightly and liquid is bubbling, about 15 minutes.



Monday, October 19, 2009

Meatless Monday - Stuffed Acorn Squash featured this recipe on their website! View it here

For this week's Meatless Monday, I decided to combine the wonderful fall flavors that are currently lining the market shelves to come up with a stunning dish.

Don't be fooled by the cooking times (total cooking time: about 1 and a half hours). This dish is very easy to make! It takes a long time from start to finish, but there is a lot of "hands off" time where you could be doing something fabulous like... washing your hair!

Mushroom, Almond and Cranberry Stuffed Acorn Squash (Serves 4)

2 acorn squash, cut in half and seeded
2 T olive oil
1 cup dried portabello mushrooms
1 cup vegetable broth, plus 1/2 cup for baking dish
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4/ cups sliced almonds
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring 1 cup of broth to a boil in a saucepan. Add dried mushrooms and cook for about 30 minutes, until tender and all of broth has been soaked up.

Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium high. Add mushrooms and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and saute for 3-5 minutes. Add a little water or broth if mushrooms stick to pan.

Add almonds and saute for another 2 minutes. Add rice and cranberries to pan and season again with salt and pepper (it is always very important to season every layer). Stir for 2-3 more minutes, until contents are heated through.

Spray a baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Cut rear ends of squash halves so they have a flat surface to sit on. Hollow out seeds and sit in baking dish. Surround with 1/2 cup of broth.

Fill cavities with stuffing mixture and sprinkle each squash half with 1 T of Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15-20 minutes longer.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes and serve.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Product Alert - Trader Joe's Simmer Sauce

Worn out from a busy schedule, I wanted something healthy for dinner, but didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Enter: Trader Giotto's (aka Trader Joe's) Cacciatore Simmer Sauce. Simple, tasty, & healthy. A trifecta!

It is nothing newsworthy that I love Trader Joe's and am campaigning for them to build a store closer to home. This was one of the usual wonderful meals that typically results from a bag of TJ's groceries.

Dinner for two - here's what I did:

Season both sides of two pork chops with salt and pepper. Pan seared chops for 3-4 minutes per side in olive oil over med-high heat. Pour half of a jar of Cacciatore Simmer Sauce of pork chops, cover and reduce heat to low.

Simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Serve over cooked whole wheat linguine with a side salad.

Easy, breezy, beautiful... Giotto!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Two great articles on the Organic debate

Ever stare at a wall of veggies thinking, "If only I knew where to spend my money??"

Thanks to my friend and fellow blogger, Laura aka ChunkyChef, I'm here to provide you with two very helpful pages:

The top 12 foods to buy organic
15 Foods you don't have to buy organic

Because, I don't know about you, but I could use a little advice on where it is important to invest a little more money - and where it's not!

For some super recipes that are super healthy, check out the ChunkyChef blog!!!


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

That's some hydroponic basil, dude...

Not really a gadget, but definitely a favorite addition to my kitchen is the Aerogarden. I don't like giving them free advertising, but they're just really COOL.

A couple of Christmases ago, I received this thoughtful gift from Ryan (he'll do just about anything he can to promote my cooking *wink*). I was so excited, I put the seed pods in right away and plugged my new indoor garden in to illuminate the ENTIRE first floor (man, those lights are BRIGHT)! In just a few days, tiny plants began to poke their little leaves up... this was the beginning of something really magical!

The plants lasted for about 5 or 6 months, but they really produced a LOT of herbs. Once fully grown, if I snipped clippings off of a plant it grew back in about 2-3 days. And now I can even pick which individual pods you want to make up my garden for an extra fee (before you could only chose from pre-set combinations). At the present, I am growing 3 basil plants (gotta have a lot for pesto!), thyme, sage, parsley, and chives.

There are two drawbacks to owning an Aerogarden.
  1. Recently, delivery on reorders seed pods & replacement parts from their catalog has been EXTREMELY slow (over a month). They apparently are "overloaded" by the mass of orders due to its popularity. Well, in my opinion if your product is that popular and you have such an abundance of orders, you can afford to hire some extra customer service reps. Hello? In case you didn't hear, there are THOUSANDS of people for hire at the moment!
  2. Each time you are ready to grow new plants, you must replace the seed pods, the light bulbs and the filters - all which cost about $20.00 per item. The Aerogarden itself was over $150, so it is NOT fun to dish out all of that extra money every 6 months. They really need review their price points!
Aerogarden, if you read me... great product! Let's work on the price though... we are in a recession, after all.
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