Monday, January 31, 2011

Sausage Risotto with Spinach and Tomatoes

I found this recipe in one of my cooking magazines, Taste of Home, but it was actually on an advertisement page for Jimmy Dean sausage. They had hosted a contest and this was one of the top 3 winners; the woman actually was from Danville I think. I've probably made this recipe 10 times, and every time I try to make a little more since it never stretches far enough into the week! Leftovers are wonderful, so sometimes I double the rice (and broth and wine of course). I like to use a Riesling, but a Chardonnay is good too, just a bit less sweet.

Sausage Risotto with Spinach and Tomatoes

3 1/2 c chicken broth, warmed
1 package regular Jimmy Dean Pork Sausage
2 c chopped leeks (white portion only)
1 c chopped fennel bulb
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c uncooked arborio rice
1/2 c white wine
1 pkg (6 oz) baby spinach, fresh
2 c grape tomatoes (leave whole)
1/2 c minced fresh basil
1/2 t pepper (or more to taste)
parmesan cheese for topping

In small saucepan, heat broth and keep warm. In skillet, cook the sausage, leeks, and fennel over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add garlic; cook 1 min longer. Stir in rice; cook and stir 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat and stir in wine. Stir until liquid is absorbed. Add heated broth, 1/2 c at a time, stirring constantly. Let liquid absorb between additions. Cook until creamy and rice almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add the spinach, tomatoes, basil and pepper. Cook until heated through and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chicken Saute with Carmelized Ginger Sauce

I want to say I found this recipe on, but I'm not for sure. It's one of my old standby's and I go back to it often. Really an easy and tasty stir-fry style dish and you can adjust the heat on it (chile paste with garlic) to your liking.

Chicken Saute with Carmelized Ginger Sauce

1 T canola oil
2 T sugar
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 t chile paste with garlic
1 t grated fresh ginger
3/4 c chicken broth
1 t sesame oil
4 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1/4 t black pepper
1/8 t salt

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add sugar to pan; cook 1 min or until sugar dissolves and is lightly browned. Combine soy sauce, chile paste, and ginger in a small bowl; add to pan. Add chicken broth, sesame oil, and chicken to pan SLOWLY. It will sizzle. Cook 10 min or until chicken is done. Let simmer until sauce is thick. Season evenly with salt and pepper. Serve with jasmine rice.

Bacon Toffee Chocolate Cupcakes

I took on this challenge from a co-worker who conveniently decided to go on vacation when I provided (thanks Carlos). Anyway, for those who were able to try one, I made these a while back and had taken the photo, but lost the recipe. Found it! So I'm sure you're cringing just at the title. Bacon and chocolate?! Gross. But really when you think about it, you're getting the same sweet and salty mix you get when you bite into some Crunch 'n Munch. I admit, it's very difficult to get past the idea when you're biting into a cake with bacon flecks. But don't think about it, just taste and enjoy the flavors! And swallow fast, because if you bite down on a little chunk of bacon after the cake has already gone down, you're done. Also, I halved the icing recipe since it makes WAY more than you need for a single batch of about 17. Recipe off Cupcake Bakeshop website.

Bacon, Toffee, Chocolate Cupcakes

~17 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temp
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup high quality unsweetened cocoa powder like Valrhona brand
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-1/2 slices cooked bacon cut into chunks
1/3 cup chopped chocolate covered toffee

1. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
2 Add egg and beat until well combined.
3. Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a small sized bowl and whisk to combine.
4. Measure out the milk and vanilla and stir to combine
5. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
6. Gently fold in the bacon and toffee chunks.
7. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 1/2-2/3’s full. Bake cupcakes for about 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

2-1/2 packages of Philly cream cheese
1 stick butter
5-8 cups sifted powdered sugar
~1/4 cup maple syrup

1. Bring butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours.
2. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment.
3. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.
4. Add 3 cups of the powdered sugar and maple syrup. Beat until combined.
5. Add more maple syrup and confectioners sugar until you get to the flavor, consistency, and sweetness you like.

1. Frost cooled cupcakes.
2. Top with a piece of maple sugar candy or crispy bacon.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pasta with Creamy Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce

I made this dish a while back and had taken the photo, but lost the recipe. Alas, I was flipping through my Jamie's Food Revolution cookbook by Jamie Oliver and came upon it. Have you ever watched his Food Revolution show? Amazing and sad at the same time. To see how kids eat these days and not just what their school cafeteria feeds them, but often the same or worse at home. Anyway, this pasta dish turned out yummy! The mint is a fun surprise element. It seemed like it needed a bit more veggie to it, so I also added fresh sliced cremini mushrooms. You should try it.
Pasta with Creamy Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce

10 slices of smoked bacon or pancetta
a small bunch of fresh mint
sea salt and pepper
1 lb dried pasta noodles
olive oil
a pat of butter
2 cups frozen early spring peas
2 T heavy cream
1 lemon
Parmesan cheese, grated
a couple large handfuls of sliced cremini mushrooms

Finely slice the bacon. Pick the mint leaves and discard the stalks.
Cook pasta according to package directions. In a large frying pan over medium heat, add a "good lug" of olive oil and the butter. Add the bacon to the pan, sprinkle a little pepper over and fry until golden and crisp. Meanwhile, finely chop the mint leaves. As soon as the bacon is golden, add your frozen peas (and mushrooms if desired) and give the pan a good shake. After a minute or so, add the heavy cream and chopped mint to the bacon and peas. Drain the pasta in a colander over a large bowl, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the frying pan. Halve your lemon and squeeze the juice over the pasta. When its all bubbling away nicely, remove from the heat. Its really important that the sauce is creamy, silky and delicious, but if its too thick for you, add a splash of the reserved cooking water to thin it out a bit. Add the grated parmesan and give the pan a shake to mix it in.
Serve with additional parmesan on top if you like.

Blueberry Crumble Bars

I had a bag of frozen wild blueberries on hand and found this recipe that was super quick and easy. Made these for my coworkers and I think they turned out pretty good! You can use standard blueberries, but the wild ones are more petite and possibly sweeter. Recipe off

Blueberry Crumble Bars

  • 3 cups Fresh Blueberries
  • ⅓ cups Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 3 teaspoons Cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • _____
  • 1 cup Unsalted Butter
  • ⅓ cups Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×9″ baking dish. To make the filling, crush the blueberries and then pour them into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mix together the sugars, cornstarch, and ginger. Stir the sugar mixture and lemon juice into the blueberries.

To make the crust, in a medium bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients half at a time until crumbly. Press 2/3 of the dough into the pan, reserving the remaining third. Bake the crust about 10 minutes or until very lightly browned.

Pour the blueberry filling onto the hot crust, and then sprinkle the remaining dough over the top. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the crumb topping turns golden brown. Cool before serving.

Oven Ham Sammies

I first tried these at a baby shower and couldn't stop eating them. It's such a simple recipe, yet such a crowd pleaser. These would be great at a Superbowl party for sure. I pulled the recipe off

Oven Ham Sammies
  • 16 ounces, weight Thin Sliced Deli Ham
  • 12 slices Swiss Cheese
  • 1 package King Hawaiian Rolls, 12 Count
  • ½ cups Butter, Melted
  • 2 teaspoons Onion Flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Poppy Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • ½ teaspoons Ground Mustard

Put ham and cheese in between sliced rolls. Mix all other ingredients and spoon evenly over sandwiches. Let set overnight or several hours. Bake at 350F for 15 - 20 min before serving.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fajitas with Peppers and Beer Carmelized Onions

I can't remember what magazine I got the marinade out of it's been so long. You can opt to slice the chicken after it's marinated, but shredding it really soaks up the flavors. And don't skip the onions! They are sooooo delicious. I manipulated the onion recipe out of a "cooking with beer" cookbook from my mom--one of those small ones you pick up at the grocery checkout. I usually cook the onions while the chicken is cooking; peppers can be started after about 20 minutes into it. Another KEY is warming the tortilla shells on a cast iron skillet. It truly makes a tasteful difference. And last but not least, after you place the chicken, peppers, and onions on the just browned shells, top with cilantro.

Fajitas with Peppers and Beer Carmelized Onions


1 cup lime juice
2/3 cup beer
4 t chili powder
2 t ground cumin
1 t dried oregano
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced

Combine all ingredients with about 4-6 chicken breasts cut in half each. Marinate overnight. I like to put everything in a ziploc and turn it over in the morning for even soaking. Place chicken and marinade in a pan and simmer in the sauce until cooked through, maybe 15 minutes. Pull each half breast out of the pan and shred with two forks. When all breasts are shredded, spoon some of the cooked marinade over it and toss to coat. You don't want the chicken to be dripping, but heavily moistened.


2 large onions, sliced thin

2 T butter

1 T sugar

3/4 c beer (I used Budweiser; any stout would be good)

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sugar. Cook , stirring occasionally until onion is soft and golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. Increase heat to med-high and stir beer in. Cook until beer has evaporated, about 5-6 minutes.

Slice red, yellow, and/or green peppers. In skillet toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper until crisp tender. Serve with fajitas.

Don't forget to warm your tortilla shells and add the cilantro!!!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Beef with Noodles

This is an old standby I go back to over and over. It's simple and a nice twist on the standard spaghetti with meat sauce. Don't remember where I pulled the recipe of my mom's cookbooks I was paging through while visiting. The allspice and cumin give it a Middle Eastern taste.

Sweet and Spicy Beef with Noodles

1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 t ground allspice
3/4 t ground cinnamon
1- 1 /2 t ground cumin
2 T vegetable oil
2 t sugar
1 lb. ground round
3/4 c tomato sauce (an 8 oz. can)
box of pasta

Prepare pasta. Heat oil in skillet and saute onion and garlic. Stir in spices and sugar. Crumble meat in mix and saute until no longer pink. Add tomato sauce until mix is wet throughout (don't want excess sauce) and bring to a simmer. Season with salt to taste and more of other spices if desired. Serve over cooked pasta.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Roasted Banana Bars with Browned Butter Pecan Frosting

I found this online one night while looking for something to do with my overripe bananas. Make sure you have a lot of browned bananas! It takes 6 to make 2 cups, so be ready. Also, this recipe is kinda involved. Not difficult by any means, just a lot of steps versus the standard throw-it-in-a-bowl-and-mix-it banana bread. It got quite the rave reviews from my coworkers; I've made it twice now. And 43 other people on say it's fantastic too! The icing is just so creamy with the browned butter. Yum.

Roasted Banana Bars with Browned Butter Pecan Frosting
  • 2 cups sliced ripe banana (about 3 medium)
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 9 ounces cake flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Baking spray with flour
  • Frosting:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted


1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. To prepare bars, combine banana, brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon butter in an 8-inch square baking dish. Bake at 400° for 35 minutes, stirring after 17 minutes. Cool slightly.

3. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°.

4. Weigh or lightly spoon cake flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 9 ounces (about 2 1/4 cups) flour, soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Combine banana mixture, buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in another medium bowl. Place 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs to granulated sugar mixture; mix well. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternating with banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

5. Pour batter into a 13 x 9–inch baking pan coated with baking spray. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

6. To prepare frosting, melt 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly. Combine browned butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer until smooth. Spread frosting over cooled bars. Sprinkle with pecans.

Star Anise Flank Steak

One day I was watching the Cooking Channel and saw this luscious dish being made on the show Everyday Exotic. I immediately bookmarked it online to save for later. Had some trouble finding the Thai red chile, so instead, I used a couple tablespoons of bottled Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce. I figured this was close enough to the "heat" it called for. And I only used the rinds of the oranges since the juice seemed to add too much liquid. Grinding the star anise is a must. I'm getting in to grinding fresh spices and it really makes a difference. So the verdict? It turned out pretty darn good. I'd use less chili sauce next time. And I'd try to find an alternate way of frying the steak--it soaked up a LOT of oil and I don't like frying foods, so heavy and unhealthy. But I recommend it and would try it again!

Star Anise Flank Steak
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 shallot, cut in half and sliced
  • 2 star anise, whole
  • 1 Thai red chile, slit lengthwise, seeded and kept in one piece
  • 2 cups store-bought orange juice
  • Zest and juice of 2 oranges
  • 1 tablespoon fresh smashed ginger
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 whole star anise, ground in mortar and pestle
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cold
  • Kosher salt
  • Flank Steak
  • 1 flank steak, cut into 1/4-inch slices across the grain
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 star anise, ground in mortar and pestle
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Star Anise-Orange Sauce
  • Kosher salt
For the star anise-orange sauce:
Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, tossing until they are golden brown, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Add the whole star anise and chile. Deglaze with the fresh orange juice. Add the ginger and sugar, stir. Reduce the sauce over medium-high heat until a syrup consistency, approximately 5 minutes. Strain into a smaller saucepan, and return to the stove. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, ground star anise and orange zest. Cook over medium-low heat until the orange zest is tender, approximately 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the butter, stir to incorporate. Season the mixture with salt.

For the flank steak:
In a large, wide-based pot, heat the oil to 365 degrees F. Prepare a sheet tray lined with paper towel.

Place the cornstarch, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and half of 1 ground star anise in a bowl. Lightly dredge the flank steak slices in the cornstarch mixture in batches.

Fry the flank steak slices in batches. Remove the steak from the oil and place on a lined tray. Fry the remaining flank steak, repeating the process. Place the flank steak in a large bowl, toss with the Star Anise Orange Sauce and season with the other half of the ground star anise and salt. Serve with rice!