Monthly Archives: November 2012

Hold the phone, Shells w/ Marscapone!

November 28, 2012

Monday was one of those days where we got home after a long day back at work, and realized…

EVERYTHING IS FROZEN.

Oops- all of our food was in the freezer, and we hadn’t gone shopping because we’d been out of town.
Rummaging through my kitchen, I found these things, and felt like a great dinner was inevitable!  I love when ingredients make me feel inspired.

Two 8 ounce tubs of marscapone cheese
1 box of large pasta shells
1/2 bag of precooked Jimmy Dean sausage crumbles, turkey sausage.
3 cups of baby spinach, chiffonade (fancy word for chopped!)
3 tbsp garlic, divided.
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan (because well, 2 cheeses just didn’t seem like enough- let’s be honest!)
1 swirl around the skillet of olive oil
1 jar tomato paste
like a 3 second turn around the pan of heavy cream (Sorry- I didn’t measure)

First things first- get your water boiling for your pasta shells… this made about 20 VERY stuffed shells… we have a lot of leftovers!  Always salt your water- it’s the only chance you get to flavor your pasta, and is so crucial!  Once the water is boiling, toss your shells in and cook Al- dente It’ll say on the box… I think it’s about 9 minutes.  They should be somewhat firm, but cooked.

Oh- and turn your oven on to 350- best to get that baby hot and ready!

While the pasta is doing it’s thing, and being all “pasta like”… let’s get your stuffed part together!
Saute up that sausage, 1 tbsp of garlic, and your spinach in that quick swirl of olive oil.  A little bit goes a long way.  It’ll saute quick- maybe 3 minutes.  Let it cool for a minute or two afterwards, and transfer into a bowl with your marscapone cheese, shredded Parmesan, and 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella- stir that deliciousness up!

You should have a few minutes to get a rockin’ cream sauce going.  I start again with some garlic
(We LOVE garlic- if you don’t… don’t use as much, or skip it all together. I won’t be offended, I promise.)  Start with the garlic, add in your can of tomato paste, and 1 can full of water.  Stir and stir until it’s a decent consistency- It’ll be a little thick, and that’s alright… we’re adding  cream in a moment.  Let it simmer on low for a moment or two while you fiddle with getting your cream open. No? That’s just me…okay then.  Once that moment passes, and you are feeling rather pleased with your culinary masterpiece, add a 3 second swirl around the pan of heavy cream and stir it in.  Dear GOD, that looks so delightful, doesn’t it?  Come make someone look at it- you just made homemade tomato cream sauce, after all!  Heaven.  Throw some of it in the bottom of a baking dish and kinda shimmy shake the dish so it’s coated in awesomeness.

Once your shells are Al dente, give them a nice cold water rinse, and set to stuffing them.  I always find this part to be a bit of a pain in the ass, and haven’t quite figured out a way to do this that doesn’t result in a huge mess- Kevin suggested the smallest of my cookie dough scoopers, and I may try that next time.  That husband of mine- sometimes he has genius ideas…so we’ll see if this pans out! (ha, pans out… kitchen pun intended!)

Stuff your shells and arrange them on your baking dish.
Top them with the rest of your tomato cream sauce…and try not to gasp at how amazing it looks.
THEN- the piece de resistance… add the other cup of your mozzarella cheese. 
If you’re feeling rather fancy, you can sprinkle the top with some italian seasoning… and then, much in the words of Bobby Flay- Kick it in the oven!

Let it bake for 15 minutes, and serve it on up- your tastebuds will thank you!

(Disclaimer- I never said this was healthy…Only that it was yummy!)

Everything But The Kitchen Sink Soup

November 12, 2012

Sometimes, you need a good “stick to your bones”, “warm your soul” kind of meal.  Today is a murky grey day, and I have that feeling…  On days like today, I need Everything But the Kitchen Sink Soup.  It’s really a loaded potato soup, but I figure, you throw so much in there… it may as well have a name like “everything but the kitchen sink”.  Best of all, you throw it all in a crockpot!

Here what all gets dumped into the pot:

2 cans of diced potatoes
1 cup of shredded carrots
1 cup of diced green onion
1/2 cup of bacon bits (add more if you love bacon)
2 packet of instant mashed potatoes- loaded mashed is best
1/3 Cup SOS Mix (or 1 can cream of…soup) **SOS MIX LINKED BELOW**
1 and 1/2 cups chicken stock
6 cups water
Salt
Pepper

Everything you need…
Dump it on in!
Ready to simmer on low for 6 to 8 hours

Ready to serve up!

Cook low and slow in the crockpot for 6-8 hours.
If going to stove top route- simmer over medium low for 1 hour.

Tastes great topped with shredded cheddar cheese and some homemade cheddar biscuits!
Happy Eating,
J

Get the recipe for SOS Mix here:  SOS Mix

A NEW Green Bean Casserole

November 7, 2012

I love a good casserole, but what’s more- I love a great casserole that doesn’t involve cream of something rather…

I made this as a surprise today for my sweet husband, who had to work even though everyone else in the school had off today for the election.  Bogus, I know.  BUT, when he arrived home, the sweet smell of these green beans welcomed him on in, and he knew I had thought about him a bit extra today.

This is my Aunt Mary Beth’s green bean recipe, and it is a CROWD PLEASER all the way.  It’s a little tangy, a little naughty, and easy as hell to throw together.  What’s not to love, right?

Green Bean Casserole
(Serves 6)

You’ll Need:

2 cans of french cut green beans
1 medium onion, cut in half, then sliced in “rainbows”
8 strips of thick cut bacon
1/2 cup slivered almonds
6 tbsp vinegar
6 tbsp sugar ( I always use brown sugar, but it doesn’t matter)

*editor’s note- I usually double this recipe w/ 4 cans of beans, 2 onions, a whole pack of bacon.. 1/3 cup vinegar and 1/3 cup sugar.  It’s so good and goes so quick that it almost requires that you make that much. Honestly.*

Cut up your bacon strips with some kitchen shears and fry it up in a high sided skillet- SAVE THE DRIPPINGS!! 

While that’s groovin’ along, drain your beans and put them in a casserole dish and top with your onions.  

Add in your bacon pieces that you gathered out of the bacon drippings, and then top it all with the slivered almonds.

*Editor’s note again- I throw this all in a crockpot.  I am my mother’s daughter, after all… and I know a perfectly good crockpot opportunity when I see one!*

Anyway- Then, you add your vinegar and sugar to the bacon drippings and heat it for a few minutes.  Once it’s heated and you’ve gotten all those lovely brown bits up from your skillet, pour that loveliness all over your beans, onions, and bacon-  You can just HEAR Julia Child squeal with glee, can’t you?! 

OR if you’re doing the crock pot, pour the drippings, vinegar, sugar mixture in and give everything a good old stir.  Set it to low for 6-8 hours, or high for 4.  Good stuff.

IF you’re cooking it, it goes into the oven for 45 minutes at 350. 

*one last note, I swear-  If you are going the oven route, it tastes better if they are allowed to marinate for a few hours before you put them in the oven.  Just sayin’ *

Until Next Time…
Happy Eating,
J

THE BEST Pork Tenderloin (Balsamic- Garlic Crusted)

November 6, 2012

Okay, I know I said we’d get to stuffing and gravy next, but this recipe calls for a time out.  It was SO good, and SO easy, that I couldn’t help but share.  So much so, that my husband even had to take this recipe into work today because his leftovers brought people out of the woodwork to ask “What is that heavenly smell?!  and WHY did you cook it in here??”

I adapted this from a pinterest recipe that I read over and felt needed a little tweaking and convenience.

Balsamic-Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin- A Man Pleasing Meal!

You’ll need:
1- two to three pound pork tenderloin ( or 2 one and a half pounders- whatever!)
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
3 heaping spoonfuls of minced garlic (I keep the kind in a jar) Sorry, I didn’t use a measuring spoon, just a good old spoon will work fine.  Guess I’m a bit like my mum on that…
2 heaping spoonfuls of crushed garlic (again, I use the kind in a jar- its easier)
2 TBSP Olive Oil
2 TSP coarse salt
1 TSP black pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and combine all of the ingredients except for your pork tenderloin.
When combined, they should form a bit of a paste- thats perfect.  If it’s a bit runny,  add another half a spoonful of crushed garlic and a smidge more salt- it’s fine.

Once it’s nice and paste-like (it almost looks like a body scrub), slather it all over the pork tenderloin.
Your work here is done.

Pop that baby into the nice, hot oven for about 20 minutes per pound. 
Your house will smell absolutely heavenly, and your family will be pouncing on you when you take it out of the oven.

When you do take it out, and bask in its glorious looking crust on the top, let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes before you slice into it.  That allows all the juices to redistribute and just be extra yummy.

I served this up with roasted baby red potatoes that I put in the oven alongside the pork.  They were simply tossed in oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary- a perfect pairing for the pork.  I also meant to make green beans, but I forgot!  Oh well- we were stuffed anyway.

I also think mashed potatoes would go nicely here; possibly some wilted sauted spinach.
I’d also add in a nice mild red wine, but we didn’t have any- maybe next time… a table red is always a good “go to”.

Until next time,
Happy Eating…
J

I think I’ll roast a turkey

November 3, 2012

If that title sounds daunting, FEAR NOT!  I assure you, roasting a turkey is one of the easiest things that you will do.  It’s a time consuming process, but that’s about all- especially, if you prepare it like this.

First things first though, you have to get your bird!  I love this time of year… Here it is, the first week of November, and Turkey is already $.59 cents a pound.  I just picked up a 13 pound bird for under $6.  That, to me, is awesome… and a whole lot of meals.

Once you pick out your pretty girl, you need to thaw her out.  Think of it as your “pre-prep” prep.  All you need to do is put it in the fridge- make sure you have plenty of space and enough time for it to completely thaw out.  My 13 pound bird will most likely take 2 to 3 days in the fridge.  The bigger the bird, the more time to thaw.  Check the back of the bird, it will give you a rough estimate of how long to let it thaw out.  You can also thaw it in your sink in a bath of cold water- I do not recommend this.  Not only does it monopolize your sink, but the chances of your husband dropping a half thawed turkey into said sink and splashing water all over your kitchen… very likely.  (Or… maybe that’s just my curious husband. Either way…its best to just let it thaw in the fridge.)

Once she’s thawed, take out the bag of giblets (GROSS!) and throw them out!  I know, I know… some people use them for the gravy but…I am not one of those people.  Throw that nasty little bag of innards out, shudder, and wash your hands of that hot mess.  Yuck.  Then, wash your bird- inside and out.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… Can roasting a turkey really be that easy??  The answer- YES.  Not so long ago, I use to watch my mother baste that darn turkey about every 20 minutes or so… standing over the hot oven, and in the kitchen all day.  And while her turkey was always amazing, I often thought it seemed like a hell of a lot of work.  And then, I grew up… and I learned my own easy way. (Sorry mom!)  Here’s the trick to a moist, crispy, golden skinned turkey… without hassle and opening up your oven more than once (maybe twice if you get curious). 

BUTTER.

Yep- butter.  Take a stick of softened butter (or semi melted- I won’t tell if you happened to nuke it too long)  and add in some herbs/seasoning.  I, myself, always use Mrs. Dash original.. a few teaspoons will do ya.  Your butter will have this lovely smell and color medley throughout it with Mrs. Dash.  Then, all you do is take 1/3 of that butter, and shove it under the skin of your turkey- This keeps her moist!  Then, take the other 2/3 of spread it thick all over the outside of the turkey- This keeps her golden and crispy skinned! 

Once your lovely lady is all buttered up, throw 1 onion (halved), and several whole celery stalks inside the cavity of your turkey.  This will add additional moisture and the flavor of a stuffed bird, without the hassle and potential health risk of stuffing it with actual stuffing.  (Don’t worry- there will be stuffing… we’ll get to that later)

Pop her in the oven at 325 degrees.  Most turkeys have that “pop up” thermometer to tell you it’s done…. don’t trust it.  By the time it pops- your turkey is too far done, and will continue to cook once you take it out.  Also, a lot of people will say to go with 350.  Don’t- it’s too hot for your pretty lady and she’ll dry out.  Go 325 and cook it for about 18 minutes per pound.  (If you look at your turkey it will probably tell you a rough estimate for poundage at 350 degrees.  DON’T DO IT.  You will have an overcooked bird.  325 degrees- 18 minutes per pound.  You want a perfect turkey- cook her low and slow.

The other trick- don’t check on her.  This part is always the most difficult for me, because I want to make sure that she is gorgeous.  If you must (and I usually do!)  check on her about half way through your cook time.  IF at that time, the outside seems like it needs a little oomph… just dump a little chicken stock over the top.

When you get close to your “done time”, pop your own meat thermometer in the bird.  If the temperature is at 165- go ahead and take her out- she’s done, and will continue to cook for a bit longer while she rests.  Give the bird about 20 minutes to rest before you slice it- this gives time for the juices and flavor to distribute throughout the bird as it takes a few final minutes to finish the cook process. 

Last Year’s Bird

That’s really all it takes.  Save your pan drippings- you’ll need them to make that gravy!  We’ll get to gravy and stuffing tomorrow…

Until next time… Happy Eating,
J