BBQ pulled pork pasta

I know I have mentioned several times that dinner sometimes comes from whatever I have on hand. There are certain leftovers that I admit kind of stump me with how I can re-invent them. There are only so many pulled pork sandwiches one can eat; at least once the coleslaw is gone.
img_3897.jpgI was going to make nachos with the leftover BBQ pulled pork but I just wasn’t feeling it. So I decided to try something new; to us and has a little more substance than just tortilla chips with toppings. It does help that I do have a well stocked pantry and I am on a kick to start cooking with what I have on hand and only shop for the essentials.
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I would love to tell you that I succeed with cleaning out the freezer and pantry but after a few weeks I usually cave and get bored with what I have on hand. Though right now I couldn’t fit one more thing in my freezer and my pantry is a train wreck so I am going to try really hard this time.
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I would probably use a creamier cheese next time I make this, only because cheddar; while one of my favorites was a little hard to stir it into the pasta and meat mixture. Also if you don’t have cumin on hand you can use one of the following chili powder,  Garam Marsala, ground coriander, or curry powder.
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Ingredients
1 package (16 ounces) penne pasta
1 medium green or red pepper, chopped
1 medium/large cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
BBQ pulled pork, approx 16 ounces
1 can mild rotel
1/2 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin (I used Garam Marsala – it was in my pantry)
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (a creamier cheese would be great here – Goat cheese, feta or even mozzarella, grueyre)
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Directions
Cook pasta according to the directions on the package

Heat the butter and oil in your skillet, saute the onions, pepper for 3-5 minutes on med-low heat or until they are soft. Add the garlic, cook for another minute or so. Add the pork, rotel, broth and cumin. Saute until heated through.  Add the cheese at the last minute just till it melts. Serve and sprinkle with a few green onions.
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Chicken Gnocchi Soup – Crockpot

We have finally gotten to the weekend free to do what you have ignored for the last 2 months because of the holidays. 99% of the decorations are put away, I still have the porch looking a little festive but I am down with that. Plus its too early for the Spring look and I don’t really have anything for the in between and I don’t want it to be naked; it would look too depressing.
IMG_3891.JPGYesterday was also the first time I have done a “normal” grocery shopping. Basically meaning I didn’t need to pick up anything for a particular dessert, casserole or a dinner in general. I can get back into a somewhat normal routine. Which in itself can be very calming at least in my world.
IMG_3879.JPGToday I figured; well most Sundays I try to prep for the week ahead; as best I can anyway. I figure I can at least take care of breakfast, lunches and snacks; for the most part. Dinner is usually whatever I have in the fridge or freezer. More often than not I look in the fridge and see what I need to use up or clean out and that dictates what we are having for dinner.

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The soup I am going to share with you literally was because I bought a huge bag of gnocchi from my favorite farmers market in Montreal over New Years; if you are ever in Montreal, Quebec please visit Atwater Market or Jean Talon Market – you won’t be disappointed. I also had a larger than we normally buy half and half that will most definitely go bad before my husband has enough coffee to use it all up. Plus I had just made some chicken stock the night before so instead of freezing it I thought I could make a soup. Add a few more ingredients and voila dinner or lunch is ready.
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I need to give a shout out to my sister-in-law for the bay leaf – she brought me a baggie full from her bay leaf plant that she has growing at her house. Yeah I didn’t even know that was a thing. Let me just say that the ones I buy from the spice aisle in the grocery store is lets just say less than stellar in comparison. Her’s is SO easy to find and pull out of whatever I added it to. the ones from the store if I can find a whole one are a whole other story.

Ingredients
2 pounds chicken breast
½ cups shredded carrots
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 package approx 16 ounces potato gnocchi
1 cup chopped fresh spinach

Directions
Place the chicken in the bottom of your slow cooker. Add carrots and garlic. Along with the spices. Cover with the chicken broth or stock, whatever you have on hand. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours.

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Remove the bay leaf and discard. Remove the chicken and once cooled a bit; shred or dice whatever you like. Make a slurry with the half and half and cornstarch and add it along with the gnocchi to the pot. Place the chicken back in the pot. Cover and place on high for about 30 minutes or so. You want to make sure the gnocchi is cooked through and the soup thickens. 
img_3890Add the spinach just before serving and allow it to wilt a bit. Adjust the salt and pepper to your taste and enjoy!

 

Recipe adapted: http://www.fivehearthome.com

Baklava thumbprint cookies

Happy Healthy New Year To You All

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I am guessing you are thinking wait didn’t she write just last week it was going to be a sugar free zone January. I did, especially at the office, now if only someone; anyone would come and eat the giant margarita glass overflowing with Lindt chocolates before I go back to work on Wednesday there might be a fighting chance.  Also I did mention this at home and got a resounding hell no we won’t go chant sooooo not sure how this is all going to pan out.

IMG_3864.JPGI also mentioned several blog posts ago that there will always be baked goods in my life so I am just going to keep being me!
IMG_3865.JPGI saw this recipe in a magazine that intrigued me in 2 ways. Firstly I have always wanted to make a thumbprint cookie but none of the fillings seemed calorie worthy; I’ve never been a huge fan of a lot of jelly, don’t get me wrong I like it just fine, but I want it to be a light layer as an accent not the main ingredient, if you get my drift. You will never see me eat a jelly donut – just saying! Secondly I like baklava and actually since spending time in Greece recently you could say love; because theirs was all amazing. But the ones I have had here in the states were just way too sweet for me. I sound too picky for a foodie but there you have it!
IMG_3866.JPGThese cookies were almost perfect and everyone over Christmas loved them. The only thing I would do actually will be doing differently is; not a huge fan of almond extract it is such a powerful flavor and tastes kind of fake to me, I would add half the amount of that and increase the vanilla extract. I will give you the recipe as I found it but since I am going to be me; you do you!
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Ingredients
1 cup of sugar
½ cup butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract – here I would do ½
1 teaspoon vanilla extract – here I would to 1½
2¼ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Topping
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup honey
¾ cup of chopped walnuts

Directions
Add the flour, baking powder and salt to a small bowl and set aside.

Cream the sugar and butter until well blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the extracts.
IMG_3868.JPGAdd the dry ingredients to the wet, beat until creamed all together.

Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm enough to form into small balls. Around 30 minutes or so.
IMG_3870.JPGPreheat oven to 375’F
Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside

Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place them about 2 inches apart on either parchment lined or silpat lined baking sheets.
IMG_3872.JPGBake for 8 minutes. Pull them out of the oven and press a deep indentation in the center of the cookie with the back of a spoon or I used the back of a melon baller. Fill each indentation with a little honey and top with nuts; then sprinkle them with the cinnamon and sugar. Back into the oven for another 1-9 minutes.
IMG_3876.JPGCool them on the sheet for a minute and them remove them to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Approx.
1 cookie 168 calories, 7g fat, 25g carbs, 2g protein

Recipe: Sharon Eshelman – Taste of Home

Turkey Chili crockpot/slow cooker

How many parties have you hosted or attended? How many guests do you have staying with you? Who has plans to ring in the new year? So many things to do, so little time!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday however you celebrate!

IMG_3745.JPGThis time of year is always crazy busy and it’s like we are all racing to make sure we fit everything in we possibly can. Oh and let’s also throw in 2 birthdays and an anniversary all within 6 weeks. Needless to say I have already declared January a sugar free zone at the office. And I am threatening to follow suit at home. There will be a rebellion for sure.
IMG_3742.JPGWe had an awesome Christmas party last week I have no idea how many people were here but at one point in the night I walked outside and counted around 24 cars, that’s a lot of people and I think this one had the most people singing along, it was glorious!
IMG_3743.JPGWe were 11 for overnight and 13 for breakfast with that many people there is no way to not be organized and part of my organization is to have something in the crockpot all day just in case anyone needs a little something to snack on and want to help themselves.
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Turkey Chili
1.25 lbs. lean ground turkey or lean ground beef
1 small white onion diced
1 29 oz. can tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can black beans rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can kidney beans rinsed and drained
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste

In a large pan over medium-high heat. Add diced onion to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the ground turkey and cook until it is browned, breaking it up as you cook it. Add the spices to the pan, the heat in the pan helps the spices come alive.

Add the cooked turkey and onions to the crockpot and then all the other ingredients, stir well to combine.

Cover with lid and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6-7 hours.

Scallopini – Milanese – Piccata

Super quick dinner that everyone will love; if they don’t you are probably reading / following the wrong blog. Or maybe should rethink who you eat dinner with – OK I know you can’t probably stop feeding your kids but you can definitely make them take the “no thank you” bite and they might just like it enough to keep going.
IMG_3737.JPGYou might be thinking I am confused today having 3 different “meals” listed in the title. Well it is quite possible. Last night was our annual Christmas party and I am literally writing this while setting up for it and directing 3 of my on hand “staff” aka as my daughter, one of her friends and my sister-in-law. So if this blog is a little frazzled you’ll know why.  I am SUPER multi-tasking right this minute.

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Yes that is my glass of wine – wink wink

OK so back to why I listed the 3 above and they actually are in order of how you can make a quick dinner that again you will love. They all start with thin sliced meat. Usually Chicken but I had Turkey on hand and usually always do in my freezer so that is what I used. So thin sliced meat lightly breaded and fried in a little oil in the pan. This is the definition of Scallopini. To make it a Milanese you need to make a sauce by deg-lazing the pan with white wine and a little lemon juice and then finish it off with a tab of butter. Then to make it a Piccata you add a small jar of capers. Voila dinner 3 ways!
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Turkey, Chicken or Veal cutlets – buy them or slice your own
salt & pepper
flour
2 tablespoon Olive or vegetable oil
¼ cup white wine
3 cloves garlic
½ cup chicken broth
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 jar capers
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 lemon sliced

Salt and pepper both sides of the cutlets, dredge lightly in flour. Shake off the excess.
IMG_3726IMG_3727Swirl some oil in your saute pan, place them in the pan, not touching and leave them alone until they release on their own. Should be about 3-5 minutes. Flip, cover and cook another 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the pan and set aside. If there is excess fat in the pan, pour it off.  
IMG_3729IMG_3730Deg-laze the pan with white wine and add the minced garlic; cook the garlic just till it starts to get brown and cook till the liquid is about gone. Don’t walk away from the stove about 2 minutes. Add the broth, lemon juice and capers.
IMG_3731IMG_3732IMG_3733Return the cutlets to the pan and let the juice reheat the meat up. Transfer to a warm plate.
IMG_3734IMG_3735For the sauce add the butter and sliced lemons, once the butter melts pour the sauce over the cutlets. If you want to be fancy and have fresh parsley it looks really nice chopped sprinkled on top.

Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies?

I really love these cookies, I mean what’s not to love, butter, sugar and nuts. They are super easy to put together and rather quickly too. I don’t know why but they are generally only made around this time a year. Maybe because they look like a snowball?

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How cute are my fish teaspoons?

I have heard them called many things; Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cakes, Italian wedding cakes, snowballs, snowball cookies, and butterballs to name a few. Why so many names? Why called a cake when they clearly the size of a cookie?
IMG_3719.JPGIn doing a little research the names Russian versus Mexican seem to come from what nut you choose to use. Russian tea cakes use Hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts. And Mexican wedding cakes use pecans. The names snowballs and butterballs seem to be more of whatever your family has grown up using maybe? The cake versus cookie has a long explanation but I will try to condense it A LOT. Mexican weddings used to not have the typical tiered creations that we have here in the US instead they had tables with all kinds of confections for their guests and these were popular. The Mexican wedding cake cookies are known as polvorones. The Russian name is said that they were a popular treat at tea time for Europeans. 
IMG_3718.JPGPreheat oven to 325 – prepare 2 cookie sheets either with parchment, spray or silpat mat

2 cups whole pecans or walnuts, chopped fine
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but cool
⅓ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups confectioners sugar for rolling cooled cookies

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Mix 1 cup chopped nuts, flour, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside
Place the remaining nuts in a food processor and process until they are the consistency of corneal, careful not to over process and make butter. Stir into the flour mixture and set aside.
IMG_3713.JPGCream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about a minute or two. Beat in the vanilla; scrape as needed. Add the flour mixture and beat on low until the dough just comes together; about 15-20 seconds. Scrape again as needed and process till dough has all come together a few more seconds.
IMG_3714.JPGWorking with 1 tablespoon at a time, use a cookie scoop if you have one to make them all the same size. Roll into a ball and place on a prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes; just until the tops are barely brown. Rotate halfway through cooking.
IMG_3716.JPGCool on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes or so. Roll cookies into confectioners sugar, gently shake off the excess. They can be stored in an airtight container up to 5 days, or frozen for a couple of months. Just before serving roll them again in confectioners sugar to coat again; tap off the excess.
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Recipe: Cook’s Illustrated

Buttermilk Biscuits

I have been writing this blog for several years now and while I enjoy writing and sharing with you all. You would think I would have a better game plan; I don’t I have been on vacation this past week and it didn’t occur to me to write this weeks blog or even make something worthy of sharing until 7:40 last night ugh! I literally had all week and I want to say we had cereal at least 2 nights and I think my husband made banana pancakes one night. It could have been a perfect week to try out some new recipes write up a few blogs so I didn’t add to the pressure of the holiday season. Nope not me let’s get up early and make something so I could take pictures and write it down for you. You’re welcome 🙂
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I have been wanting to make cookie dough for the freezer so I figured I would make some sort of cookie for you, then the fridge ingredients dictated that I needed to use up some of the buttermilk and we needed to eat something for breakfast; who doesn’t love biscuits; seriously I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t at least like biscuits.
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I have made this recipe several times and they never had really come out as advertised. I will go on record that it was all my fault. I used her recipe and made them my usual way which apparently was wrong; well not wrong I was just not going to get the same results as they showed in their pictures. So I decided to make them step by step according to the recipe which I will share with you, and you can decide if you want fluffy or flat biscuits, they taste the same to me. but the fluffy ones are beautiful to look at.

Buttermilk Biscuits
Spray a sheet pan lightly with nonstick spray or use a silpat mat like I did.
Preheat oven to 450°F.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping the dough
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter
¾ cups cold cultured buttermilk

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the shortening and use your fingertips to pinch it completely into the flour mixture.

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Using a box grater, grate the cold butter into the flour. Toss until all of the pieces are coated. We have some butter we keep in the freezer so mine was frozen.
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Lightly coat your work surface with nonstick cooking spray, then flour. (The spray keeps the flour in place.) Add the buttermilk to the flour mixture. Gently mix the dough with a rubber spatula until there are no dry bits of flour left. The dough should be slightly sticky. I really did this step to the letter and I think the dough is a little more than slightly sticky.
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Transfer dough to the prepared work surface. Lightly coat your hands with flour and gently press the dough with the heels of your hands to form it into a smooth flat rectangle, 1/2-inch thick. Sprinkle the dough with flour, then fold it into thirds (like a letter). Press the dough out again, sprinkle with a little flour, and fold it into thirds again. This time folding in the open ends first. Repeat one more time. Dough should no longer be sticky. again this is the first time doing this step and it worked and I get it!
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With a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out dough rounds. Flip the rounds over so that the smooth sides that were against the work surface face up and place on the prepared pan, 1-inch apart. Stack the scraps and press and cut again. Refrigerate until cold, about 15 minutes. I put mine in the fridge just long enough to clean up my mess.
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Bake until the tops are golden brown and crisp, about 16 minutes. I set the timer for 10 and only added 3 more minutes. You know your own oven so adjust the time. Let cool 5 minutes before serving hot. This step was killing my husband; he is pretty dramatic when it comes to food. He is always starving – not really!!!

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the ones in the back are the fluffy ones

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You can see the difference in size – so your choice follow the directions as written or have flat biscuits – both are delicious!

Recipe by Carla Hall