28 November 2011

Our First Thanksgiving

Doug and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving as a married couple this past weekend. With our work schedules, it was difficult for both of us to make it "home" to see our families. Luckily, my mom and dad were able to make the trip out to Chicago and help bring some family time to us! Nice! I couldn't imagine a Thanksgiving meal without my mom's stuffing. Thanks, Mom, for teaching me how to cook it this year! We managed to create a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner for four in our small kitchen (with only one oven... I know, can you imagine)!?!

2011 Thanksgiving Menu

Deviled Eggs
Shrimp Cocktail
Antipasto Skewers
Doug's Cocktail Meatballs
Hot Mulled Cider with Brandy

Roasted Turkey
Mom's Gravy
Dad's Mashed Potatoes
Mom's Traditional Stuffing
Green Bean and Mushroom Casserole
Cranberry, Fig and Pistachio Chutney
Doug's Autumn Salad
Relish Tray

Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie
with Brandy Whipped Cream

Don't worry... I'll post some of those recipes soon so that we all can refer to it next year. Other than cooking, we had a jam-packed weekend!

Parade on State Street

Ice Skating in Millenium Park

The Bean

We went to Girl and the Goat! Every single bite was DELICIOUS!
Yup... that's us with Top Chef Stephanie Izard.

20 November 2011

Turkey Spinach Lasagna

I have been holding out on another fabulous recipe to share with you guys. Doug is probably sick of me making this lasagna, because I've probably made it ten times since last winter. Our friend, Kate, had us over for dinner and made this turkey lasagna (she knew I didn't eat beef ~ what a sweetie). Before this, I had no idea that cottage cheese would taste so good in lasagna! You can't even tell the difference that ricotta isn't in this healthier recipe. This works great in a 9x13-inch baking dish or in individual oven-safe bowls. Enjoy!

Turkey Spinach Lasagna
(Recipe from Kate G.)
Yield: 6 Servings

1 lb. Lean Ground Turkey
1 1/2 C. Onion, diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 (26 oz) Jars Marinara
1 (16 oz) Carton Cottage Cheese
1 Egg
1/4 C. Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 Tbsp. Dried Parsley Flakes
1/4 tsp. Black Pepper
1 (10 oz) Pkg. Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and drained
8 Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles, cooked
2 C. (8 oz) Shredded Part-Skim Mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Coat large skillet with olive oil and place over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, onion and garlic; cook until meat is browned, stirring to crumble. Add 5 3/4 C. Marinara; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, combine cottage cheese, egg, Parmesan, parsley, pepper and spinach; stir well. Spread remaining marinara in bottom of greased 13x9-inch dish. Arrange 4 wheat noodles over sauce, top with cottage cheese mixture and half of the mozzarella. Spoon half of the turkey mixture over and repeat process. Bake for 50 minutes or until cheese melts and sauce is bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: This freezes well. To freeze, make it per the above instructions (except for the baking part). Let the sauce and noodles cool to room temperature before putting it in the freezer.

Also, this can be made in individual portions, as seen in the picture. Simply divide the ingredients into oven-safe bowls.

15 November 2011

Slow Cooker Chili

Winter is just around the corner! Time to dust off your slow cooker and make some warm meals without a lot of effort! Our slow cooker hasn't had a lot of time to collect dust, seeing as we just got it as a wedding gift a few months ago. Doug's mom brought three different crock pot cookbooks to Chicago. I am having fun looking up new recipes that I want to try and I'm definitely getting inspired to use our slow cooker in other ways than just making chili! In the meantime, I guess you'll just have to make this slow cooker chili :) Hah!

Slow Cooker Chili
(Inspired by AmyBites)
Yield: 4-6

1 lb. Lean Ground Turkey
1 Large Onion, diced
1/2 C. Red or Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 Tbsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Ground Cumin
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 (15 oz) Can Kidney Beans, drained
1 (14.5 oz) Can Diced Mexican-Style Stewed Tomatoes
6 oz. Tomato Paste

In a large skillet, cook the turkey over medium-high heat until browned and crumbled. Add onion, bell pepper, chili powder, sugar, cumin, salt and garlic; cook for 6 minutes or until onion is tender and fragrant. Place meat mixture in a slow cooker on low heat. Stir in the beans, tomatoes and tomato paste. Cover with the lid and cook for 3 to 4 hours. Spoon into bowls and serve immediately. Serve with a side of mini cornbread muffins, if desired!

09 November 2011

Three Pepper Chicken Chili

For my avid readers, you may know that I tend to make things that appear like a lot of work went into the meal, but in reality it was effortless! This soup, however, changes things. Each little step is tedious. You'll have to re-read the recipe multiple times while you make this soup. But, my dear readers, it is worth it! I love, love, love soups and this one definitely is a keeper.

Three Pepper Chicken Chili
(Inspired by Cook's Illustrated)
Yield: 6 Servings

3 lbs. Bone-in Chicken Breast Halves
1 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
2 Medium Jalapeños
3 Poblano Peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into large pieces
3 Anaheim Chile Peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into large pieces
2 Medium Onions, cut into large pieces
6 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. Ground Cumin
1 1/2 tsp. Ground Coriander
2 Cans Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
3 C. Chicken Broth (make your own low sodium!)
3 Tbsp. Fresh Lime Juice
1/4 C. Fresh Cilantro, minced
4 Green Onions, sliced thin

Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add chicken skin-side down and cook until skin is golden brown (4 minutes). Using tongs, turn chicken and brown the other side (3 minutes). Transfer to a plate; remove skin and discard.

Meanwhile, remove and discard ribs and seeds from 1 jalapeño; mince and set aside. In a food processor, process the poblanos, anaheim chiles and onions until it looks like chunky salsa. (If you have a smaller food processor, like I do, then you might need to do this in two batches).

Pour off all but 1 Tbsp of oil from the Dutch oven and reduce heat to medium. Add minced jalapeño, chile-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and and 1/4 tsp salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables soften (10 minutes). Turn heat to low at this point.

Transfer 1 C. cooked vegetable mixture to the food processor. Add 1 C. beans and 1 C. broth; process until almost smooth. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 C. of broth and chicken breasts to Dutch oven; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until chicken registers to 160F degrees (about 15-20 minutes).

Using tongs, transfer chicken to a cutting board. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly (10 minutes).

Mince remaining jalapeño, reserving ribs and seeds (in case you need to add some spice later)! Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions and remaining minced jalapeño into chili, simmer until ready to serve. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

08 November 2011

Butternut Squash + Saffron Risotto

We went over to our friends house for dinner a few weeks ago and had the most delicious dinner ever! I had no clue that these two were so gourmet! Alece was busy whipping up a wonderful butternut squash and saffron risotto (who I got this idea from) and Tim acted like it was no big deal to roast a whole lemon-herb chicken! Doug and I have to step it up when we have them over to our house for dinner. I'm already starting to think of menu options! Anyway, the risotto was so great that I had to recreate it a few nights later. I can't believe this was my first time making risotto ~ I'm in love.

Butternut Squash and Saffron Risotto
(Adapted from Ina Garten)
Yield: 4-6 Servings

1 (2 lbs.) Butternut Squash
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
6 C. Chicken stock
5 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
2 Large Shallots, minced
1 1/2 C. Arborio Rice
1/2 C. Dry White Wine
1 tsp. Saffron Threads
1/2 C. Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 6 cups). Place the squash on a baking sheet; toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, tossing once during cook time, until very tender. Set aside. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer. In a Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Stir, and simmer until stock is absorbed (5-10 minutes). Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente (about 30 minutes total). Remove from heat and add roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese. Gently mix and serve immediately.

07 November 2011

Baked Oatmeal with Berries

There is nothing better than a warm meal to start your day! This baked oatmeal with berries is insanely delicious and filling! Better yet, it only takes a few minutes to prepare. You will have time to finish getting ready for the day while it bakes in the oven and fills your kitchen with the smell of cinnamon and vanilla. If you have a larger crowd for breakfast, this recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

Baked Oatmeal with Berries
(Inspired by Annie)
Yield: 4 Servings

1 C. Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1/4 C. Walnuts or Pecans, chopped, divided
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
3/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
Pinch of Salt
1/4 C. Maple Syrup
1 C. Milk
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2-3 Ripe Bananas, sliced
1 1/4 C. Frozen Berries, divided

Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Lightly grease a 2-qt. baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, half of the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon and salt; stir to combine. I use a liquid measuring cup to combine the maple syrup, milk, egg, butter and vanilla. Spread the sliced bananas in a single layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with 1/2 of the berries. Then, evenly distribute the oat mixture over the fruit. Pour the liquid ingredients over the oats. Sprinkle with the remaining nuts and berries. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is slightly browned. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

06 November 2011

Tandoori-Spiced Grilled Chicken with Mint-Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

This summer, we had one of our good friends, Laura, over for dinner. At our building, we have a whole floor dedicated to grills, tables and chairs. Laura came over on the perfect night for an evening of grilling and Chicago fireworks. If I recall correctly, I believe I served this with Oriental Cabbage Salad. Mind you, I took a good five months off from blogging and this was one of the meals that I at least took a picture of... but I'm not sure if I would make it again - Just giving you fair warning! It was good, but not that great. Try it only if you like Indian flavors.

Tandoori-Spiced Grilled Chicken
(Toast to Omaha)
Yield: 6-10 Servings

1/4 C. Malt Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 tsp. Turmeric
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 Tbsp. Garam Masala
1 Tbsp. Garlic Powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. Ground Cumin
2 Tbsp. Paprika
2 Tbsp. Ground Coriander
2 tsp. Sugar
3 C. Plain Yogurt
15 Skinless Chicken Thighs

In a bowl, whisk together vinegar, juice, turmeric, salt, garam masala, garlic, ginger, cumin, paprika, coriander, sugar and yogurt. Pour mixture into a shallow dish. Add chicken, turn to coat and marinate, covered, for a few hours or overnight. Prepare grill. Using tongs, allow excess marinade to drip off before putting on the grill. Grill chicken until cooked through; turn occasionally.

Mint-Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

1/2 C. Plain Yogurt
1/2 C. Cucumber, seeded and diced
1/2 C. Tomatoes, diced
2 tsp. Shallots, minced
2 tsp. Fresh Mint, chopped
1/2 tsp. Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
Lemon or Lime Wedges, for garnish
Mint Leaves, for garnish

In a bowl, whisk together yogurt, cucumber, tomatoes, shallots, mint, cumin and salt. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve mint sauce over chicken. Garnish with lemon or lime wedges and additional mint leaves.

05 November 2011

Prosciutto-Wrapped Mango Bites

With simply four ingredients, you can make one of the most gourmet-looking appetizers! I made these prosciutto-wrapped mango bites many times this summer. It is nice to have a healthy appetizer option. Now that the holidays are approaching, I'm thinking that I'll swap out the mango with a sliced pear. The arugula gives this a nice peppery bite and the basil adds something refreshing.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Mango Bites
(Inspired by Southern Living)
Yield: 16 bites ~ perfect for 4 people

1 Ripe Mango, peeled
1 1/2 C. Arugula, loosely packed
1 C. Fresh Basil, whole leaves, loosely packed
4 Very Thin Slices of Prosciutto

Cut mango into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices (about 16). Place 1 mango slice on top of 3 arugula leaves and 1 or 2 basil leaves. Cut each prosciutto slice lengthwise into 4 strips. Wrap center of each mango bundle with a strip of prosciutto. Arrange on a serving platter.

Note: To make ahead, prepare recipe as directed. Cover bites with a slightly damp paper bowl and chill for 30 minutes. Mango can be substituted for melon, pear or apple.

03 November 2011

Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese

Some meals bring me back to my childhood. One of the meals is tomato soup and grilled cheese. The other meal I remember is mac 'n cheese with sliced hot dogs (let's not go there). I'm sure a lot of you have similar memories. This is a grown up version of the kind of tomato soup and grilled cheese that I remember though! Roasted tomatoes, fresh herbs, gouda cheese melted between two thin slices of artisan bread...! Are you kidding me? I'd have this every day of the week!

I've made tomato soup before, so I'll leave it up to you to decide which one to make! Both are delicious!

Roasted Tomato Soup
Yield: 4 Servings

4 Large Tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 1/2 Pints of Baby Heirloom Tomatoes, sliced in half
6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and minced
2 Shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme
1/2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary, roughly chopped
1/2 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
1 1/2 C. Chicken Stock, plus more if needed
4 oz. Goat Cheese, optional
1/2 C. Fresh Basil, roughly chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line one large baking sheet or two smaller baking sheets with foil, Spread the tomatoes, garlic and shallots evenly on the foil. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the thyme and rosemary on top. Roast for 50 minutes. Transfer contents to a soup pot or dutch oven on the stove. Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Use an immersion blender to reach your desired consistency. Taste and add additional seasonings as needed (at this point, I added red pepper flakes). Add goat cheese and fresh basil. Once the goat cheese is completely melted, then it is ready to serve (with grilled cheese, of course)!

02 November 2011

Cranberry Pecan Carrot Bread

You all can thank me after you make this. Do it soon! Just in time for the holidays! I promise that everyone will inhale it!! I ran across this bread recipe with a wonderful mix of fall ingredients and just knew that I had to try it right away. Sick of regular old banana bread? Spice it up with this recipe and let the autumn aromas take over your kitchen.

Cranberry Pecan Carrot Bread
(Adapted from Buried Carrots)
Yield: 3 small loaves

3 C. All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
3 Eggs
1 C. Sugar
1 C. Vegetable Oil
2 C. Carrots, finely shredded (pre-shredded from store works!)
1 (8 oz) Can Crushed Pineapple, undrained
3/4 C. Pecans (can substitute with walnuts)
3/4 C. Dried Cranberries

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Lightly grease three 5 1/2'' by 3'' loaf pans and set aside. Lately, I've been using Pam with flour and it works great! In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a bowl fitted with an electric mixer, beat the eggs. Add the sugar and oil; beat until just combined. On the lowest speed, add the carrots and pineapple. Slowly add the dry ingredients until just mixed; remove from mixer. Fold in the cranberries and pecans. Pour into the prepared pans. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. On a wire rack, cool completely in the pans.

01 November 2011

Spicy Kale Chips

My current obsession with kale continues. The huge bunches of kale at the farmers market were just calling my name! They had so many different varieties to choose from, but I settled on this one:

... add a dash of paprika and red pepper flakes; bake it for 20 minutes and it turns into this:

Viola! Spicy, crunchy and delicious! If you are seriously addicted to potato chips, then try considering swapping out a bag of your chips for a bunch of kale!

Spicy Kale Chips
Yield: 3 Servings

1 Bunch of Kale, washed and dried
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Salt, to taste
1 Tbsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp. Paprika

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Remove tough stems from kale with a knife; cut leaves into big bite-size pieces. Place leaves in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil; toss until lightly coated. Line two baking sheets with foil and spread out the kale evenly on the sheets so that it does not overlap. Sprinkle with salt, red pepper flakes and paprika. Bake for 15 minutes; gently toss them for even baking; cook for 2-5 more minutes. These burn easily, so just keep an eye on them. Serve immediately.