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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Magic Bars

Who doesn't love Magic bars, or 7-layer bars, or whatever you call them?  Well, I love them but several years ago, I made them with Reese's PB chips instead of Butterscotch chips because that's what I had available.  I found that I like them better that way, so that has been my twist ever since.  This is such a simple recipe that I only allow myself to make it at Christmas.  Too tempting otherwise.

PB Magic Bars
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup Reese's PB chips
  • 1 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
 Preheat oven to 350.  Melt butter in a small bowl for 1 minute on HIGH in the microwave.  Stir in graham cracker crumbs.  Press into 11 X 7 baking pan.  Pour milk over the crust.  Then evenly sprinkle the chips, nuts and coconut.  Press firmly with a fork.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Christmas "Crack"

Yep, it's that time of year again.  I really, really love certain things this time of year.  Today I made the first batch of Chex Mix (or what I lovingly refer to as "Christmas Crack").  The nickname comes from the fact that I can just eat and eat this stuff and it never fills me up.  Because of that, I only make it if I have someone to give it away to.  This week, it's work.  We have our Christmas party on Wednesday, so I will bring both this and roasted butternut squash as my contributions.

Traditional Chex Mix (AKA "Christmas Crack")
  • 4 1/2 cups Corn Chex
  • 4 1/2 cups Rice Chex
  • 1 cup Pretzel sticks
  • 1 cup deluxe Mixed Nuts (no peanuts)
  • 1 cup Cheerios
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
Preheat oven to 250.  Mix together the cereal, pretzels, nuts and Cheerios.  In a small microwave safe bowl, melt the butter for 1 minute on HIGH.  Add the sauce and seasonings and mix well.  Pour evenly over the cereal mixture and stir to coat as evenly as possible. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Spread on paper towels to cool.  Store in sealed container.

Tomatoes & Beef

I love productive days.  Today it was productive because I managed to get caught up on most of my school work.  But I also got a bunch of cooking and baking done.

So, lets start with the cooking.  I am from a Sicilian/Irish family (with some other UK islands mixed in there).  Because of that, Italian was a staple in our house.  But since my gastric surgery, I don't really eat pasta, so Italian is rather non-existent.  I did, however, have a couple pounds of ground beef to use up and really had a taste for my mom's meat sauce, so I recreated it in my new crockpot.

Meaty Mushroom Spaghetti Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 8 oz sliced button mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp mince garlic
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until just translucent.  Add mushrooms and continue cooking until moisture is evaporated.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.  Pour into crockpot.

Return pan to heat and saute beef, breaking up as cooking, until no longer pink.  Add this to the crock pot.  Add the tomatoes, seasonings and cheese.  Cover and cook for 6-8 hours on LOW.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

When I started cooking this weekend, I wasn't sure what I was going to make.  I knew I had Brussels sprouts I needed to cook, but wasn't sure what I wanted to do with them.  As I looked through possible recipes, I decided to try roasting them with balsamic and honey.  It's interesting how you do this, you actually roast them in oil and then "dress" them in the honey and vinegar.  I had also caramelized an onion before roasting the sprouts.  So, I decided to put them together and then go ahead and put them in my quiche for the week.  The results were interesting and yummy.

Balsamic and Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from:
  • 1-1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, halved, stems and ragged outer leaves removed*
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 large onion
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a large bowl, toss brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. Transfer the brussels sprouts to baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally to ensure even browning, until tender and caramelized, about 20 minutes.
  3. While the Brussels sprouts are roasting, slice the onion and separate the rings.  Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a saute pan over med-high heat.  Add the onions and stir to coat.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to brown.  Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden brown.  Set aside.
  4. Place Brussels sprouts back in bowl. Add the caramelized onions.  Add remaining tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey and toss to coat evenly. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then serve.

Balsamic Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts Quiche
  • Balsamic Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 1 cup 6-cheese Italian Blend
  • 6 eggs*
  • 1 1/2 cups 1% milk
  • salt & pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Spread Brussels sprouts in prepared baking pan.  Cook the bacon for 4 minutes in the microwave; cool.  Dice bacon and sprinkle it over the Brussels sprouts.  Sprinkle with cheese blend.  
  2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs until uniform in color.  Add milk and seasonings and mix until lemon yellow and frothy.  Carefully pour over the fillings.
  3. Bake quiche for 35 minutes or until browned on top.  Allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

*CSA ingredients

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Shrimp Saganaki

Today's recipe is yet another from Hello Fresh!  I did end up ordering a second box because of this recipe.  I have to say, it was worth it!  Shrimp Saganaki is a Greek style spicy tomato and olive based dish.  Tomorrow, I am going to try to get up early enough to sear some short ribs to make braised short ribs ragu again (  I have another spaghetti squash left and thought this would be perfect for the ragu (and I need to use the short ribs!).

Shrimp Saganaki
Recipe courtesy of Hello Fresh!
  • 10 oz Shrimp
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp Chili Flakes
  • 2 oz Feta
  • Fresh Parsley
  • 3/4 C Israeli Couscous
  • 1 oz Olives
  • 1 T Olive Oil
 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small pot, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil with a pinch of salt.  Peel, halve and thinly slice the onion.  Crush the garlic with the side of your knife.  Coarsely chop the parsley and olives.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and sear for 2 minutes.  We will continue to cook these later, but we want to get a nice sear on them.  Set aside.

3. In the same pan, add the onion, garlic and as many chili flaces as you dare.  Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, until softened.  Add the tomatoes and olives and cook for 5 minutes more, until flavors have melded.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

4. Add the couscous to the boiling water and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until al dente.

5. Transfer the sauce to a baking dish.  Place the shrimp on top and sprinkle with the feta.  Bake for 5-7 minutes, until shrimp have cooked thoroughly.

6. Serve the baked saganaki over the couscous.  Sprinkle the parsley on top!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shredded Brussels Quiche

This year has been the strangest year for things like Brussels Sprouts.  I usually have gotten several batches and made bunches of dishes.  But this year, for some reason, the only Brussels Sprouts that showed up at the farmers market were ones that were quite large.  I like what people term "baby" Brussels sprouts.  It seems that once they get to a certain size, they are no longer as tasty as the young ones.  So, I avoided buying any because they were too big.

A couple weeks ago, I did find a bunch that were medium sized (a little smaller than a golf ball).  I gave in and purchased them.  And then, because life got crazy, I forgot about them.  I found them in my refrigerator this morning and they were still in good shape, so I decided I would make a quiche.  In the past, when I have made Brussels sprouts quiche, I have halved or quartered the sprouts.  But I am never satisfied with the texture of the quiche.  While we were organizing my house last week, we uncovered my mandolin, so I decided this morning that I would shred the sprouts and see if I liked that better.  This can be done by hand, but it is so much easier when you have a good mandolin.  But basically, you just thinly slice the sprouts and then separate the leaves.  I did remove all the cores from the mix because they can be bitter.  I also have fresh garlic and just bought a garlic slicer.  So, I decided to thinly slice the garlic and mix it with the sprouts before cooking them and putting them in the quiche.  I finished the quiche with crumbled bacon (turkey this time, but I bet regular bacon would be super too) and shredded Swiss cheese.  It turned out beautifully and I love the texture with the shredded Brussels sprouts.  I will do it this way every time from now on.

Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Swiss Quiche
  • 1 pint Brussels sprouts**
  • 1 clove garlic*
  • 1 cup Swiss Cheese
  • 4 slices bacon (I used turkey this time)
  • 6 medium eggs*
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • salt and pepper
 Wash and dry the Brussels sprouts and then shred by slicing thinly (I used a mandolin, but this could be done with a knife).  Remove the cores for better texture.  Thinly slice the garlic and mix with the sprouts.  Put about 2 Tbsp of water in the sprouts (in a microwaveable dish).  Microwave for 4 minutes to start cooking the sprouts.  Drain the sprouts and transfer to your quiche dish.  Microwave the bacon slices about 4 minutes or until crisp.  Allow to cool and then crumble.  Mix with the sprouts.  Sprinkle with the Swiss cheese. 

In a bowl, beat the eggs with salt and pepper until smooth.  Slowly add the milk while continuing to beat until the entire mixture is pale yellow.  Carefully pour over the filling and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until a knife, inserted into the center, comes out clean.  Allow to set for 5 minutes before serving.

*CSA ingredients
**Farmers market ingredients

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Low-carb Spaghetti & Meatballs

Tonight's dinner has been in a long line of "healthified" comfort foods.  I have been sick for about 4 weeks with first a cold (which had almost gotten better) and now a sinus infection.  This latest started with a fever a week ago and I have been craving comfort foods all week.  Today, with a nod to HelloFresh!, I made a low-carb version of spaghetti and meatballs.  Since they had $30 off a box, I ordered my first HelloFresh! box this week and it contained ingredients and recipes for Basil Meatballs over Spaghetti Squash, Cashew Chicken with Snow Peas and Carrots, and Baked Shrimp and Linguine.  These recipes are supposed to be for 2, but as you know, I have had gastric surgery, so I have frozen the shrimp and chicken and chosen to do the meatballs because they sound good and because they have the most perishable ingredients.  It wasn't bad, if a little complicated.  However, I now remember the reason I don't pan-fry things like bacon and meatballs in this house.  There are 4 fire alarms in a very close vicinity to the kitchen (this is a small house) and every time I do, all 4 get set off.  Then it's a battle to get them to stop.  I end up losing my hearing for short periods of time (if you can imagine having four fire alarms going off within 100 ft of each other!).  But the meatballs were worth it!  If I do this again, I will roast them in the oven to avoid a repeat.

Basil Meatballs over Spaghetti Squash
Courtesy of: HelloFresh!

  • 12 oz Ground Beef
  • 1 (15oz) can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 4 cloves Garlic (this may be a bit much)
  • 1/2 oz fresh Basil
  • 1 small Spaghetti Squash
  • 5 oz Spinach (I would use baby spinach next time)
  • 1/4 cup Panko Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 2 T Olive Oil*
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Halve the squash lengthwise to remove the seeds with a spoon.  Smash two garlic cloves.  Rub the inside of each squash with 2 tsp olive oil and season with salt & pepper.  Place the squash halves on a baking sheet cut side down with a clove of (smashed) garlic in the center of each squash to roast.  Cook for 30-35 minutes or until the squash is easily pierced with a knife or fork.

2. While the squash is roasting, chop the remaining cloves of garlic.  Stack the basil leaves and tightly roll into a cigar shape.  Then, thinly slice.  Chop the shallot.

3. In a bowl, combine the chopped garlic, basil, panko, and ground beef.  Season with a large pinch of salt & pepper.  Once combined, roll the meat into ping pong-sized balls.

4. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.  Sear the meatballs for 2-3 minutes or until they are golden brown.  Turn the heat down to medium low.  Add the shallot, Italian seasoning, and crushed tomatoes and simmer for 6 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, as needed.

5. Once the squash is done, set aside until it is cool enough to handle.  Take the roasted garlic and finely chop it.  In a pan heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and spinach and cook until just wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.

6.  When the Squash is cool enough to handle, scrape the squash with a fork to release the strands.

7. Finish: Place the sauteed spinach and the meatballs on top of the squash.  Finish with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

*Not included in HelloFresh box