Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone had a scrumptious Thanksgiving!  Ours was filled with family time, yummy food, and bingo.  On Saturday we had an unexpected surprise…my sister-in-law gave birth to a beautiful baby boy!  So we have been a little preoccupied with that 🙂 

Also, just to put a ripple in the recipes I post on here, I signed up for weight watchers the day before Thanksgiving.  Crazy, I know, but I needed something to help me keep track of what I am eating and to hold me accountable.  I do not think I am fat or anything, but I have gained 20 lbs since being married (averages to 10 lbs a year), and there is no way I am gaining another 10 lb.  So why not apply the point system to the recipes from this point on?  My intention is to not be an overly health conscious blogger, but just add a little more information to the recipes that are posted.

Cranberry Upside-Down Coffee Cake

Baking is not my strong point.  I have made several pound cakes that never want to leave the pan, and come out looking like a hot mess.  They always taste delicious and that somehow makes up for the lack of presentation!  I came across this recipe on Pinterest and thought it would be a perfect dessert to bring to our families Thanksgiving feast!  This cake is also going to be a nice change to the usual pumpkin pie we are used to having.

While typing out this recipe, I realized, I forgot the damn cinnamon.  So mad!  Maybe I will sprinkle a pinch over the top before serving it tomorrow. I was so close to having a near perfect baking experience.  Oh well, I guess there is always the Christmas dinner for round #2.  My other oops moment happened after I put the cake in the oven.  The vanilla extract walked in front of my arm and knocked itself over.  But at least this had nothing to do with the cake that was behaving in the oven!

(see those large holes in the bottom of the cake?  That was the end result of my panic to find a toothpick to test the center.  Long story and phone call to my mom short, I found a wood skewer that got the job done!)

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups + 1 table spoon all-purpose flour 
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
zest of 1 orange
1 stick butter, softened and divided
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I just realized I forgot the cinnamon!!)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup fat-free buttermilk

For the glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spray a 9-inch round/square cake pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle and shake 1 tablespoon on flour to evenly coat the pan. 

Mix together cranberries, walnuts, and orange zest in a bowl.

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  Then add the brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of orange juice, and cinnamon (can’t believe I forgot the cinnamon!!). Let it cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture into the cake pan and sprinkle the cranberry mix on top.

In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat together 6 tablespoons of softened butter and sugar at medium speed.  Then add the vanilla extract and egg. Once combined, reduce the speed to low and alternate adding the dry flour mix and butter milk (Start with the dry and end with the dry).  Add the batter to the cake pan with a spatula and carefully spread out until it is an even layer.

Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes…use the toothpick trick your momma taught you! Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, then carefully flip the cake onto a plate or cake stand. Cool completely before adding the glaze.

For the glaze, mix sugar, melted butter and orange juice in a small bowl, stir until smooth, and immediately drizzle over cake. Or, make the glaze before serving and drizzle it then.


Just Could Not Wait

I know the rule is to start decorating for Christmas AFTER Thanksgiving, but I just could not wait to start decorating our new house for Christmas!  So, I broke the rules and started decorating…a few days ago.  I found these garland balls and bought some little ornaments, do-dads, and fake poinsettia flowers at a craft store and made these wreath balls to hang on the windows in the living room!  As a centerpiece for our dining room table, I was going to go hunting for some pine cones to spray paint red & white and set in a clear bowl.  But, I got lazy and just bought a bunch of red ornaments to put in the bowl instead.  I was presently surprised at how good they look!

We are going out of town for Thanksgiving day and in preparation, I haven’t made anything spectacular…yet.  I have a few recipes I am going to try out for the first time and if they are a hit, I will definitely share them after Thursday. 

Honey-Lime Chicken Enchiladas

Honey-Lime Chicken EnchiladasSource: The Sisters Cafe
Lately, Nate and I have been working opposite schedules…he works 2pm-12:30am and I work 8am-5pm.  During our first year of marriage, I would actually wait up until he got off so I could catch up with him.  Now, not so much…I am just too tired from my job and I don’t expect him to get up early to catch up with me!   What is working right now is me coming home for lunch.

We have realized the crazy hours are normal and expected if you are a chef, so you just have to get over that!  No sense stressing and complaining over something you can’t change with out completely switching careers.  We just focus on the time we DO get to spend together, and forget about the time away. 

So these past weeks, casseroles have become my best friends!
This casserole combines simple ingredients to give you a whole new flavor to experience.  I have honestly never had any dish that tasted quite like this casserole.  This casserole is definitely sweet & savory and it is a nice break from your usual enchilada casseroles.  The hardest part about this recipe is not eating all of the cheese while you put it all together!

1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup lime juice
1 Tb chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 lb cooked chicken, shredded
8-10 flour tortillas
2 cups quesadilla cheese, shredded (The original recipe calls for colby or monterey jack)
1 jar of salsa verde (The original recipes calls for 10 oz. can green enchilada sauce which is also great.  I find the salsa verde adds a few more flavors and heat)
Mix the honey, lime juice, chili powder, and garlic powder together in a bowl, and add the shredded chicken. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for at least 1/2 an hour.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spray non-stick on a 9×13 casserole dish (if you use a smaller dish, you can freeze the extra chicken for a quick meal later on), then pour just enough salsa verde on the bottom of your casserole dish to make a thin layer of sauce.

Fill each tortilla with a small handful of chicken and cheese, roll up, and place in the casserole dish.  Repeat this for all of the enchiladas! When your casserole dish is full, pour the rest of the salsa verde on top (adjust the amount you pour to the amount of sauce you prefer) and sprinkle the rest of the cheese.  If there isn’t enough sauce (you can never have enough sauce!), just add the rest of the marinade on top.

Bake for at least 30 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly, last night my casserole took 40 minutes.  Remove the dish from the oven, and let it sit for 5 minutes…this step is VERY important if you want to serve an enchilada in one piece.
Serve with sour cream, black beans, rice, and if you really need more sauce…salsa!

Roasted Asparagus & Penne with a White Wine Cream Sauce

I threw this recipe together on Friday night.  I was at work thinking about what I wanted for dinner and this just popped into my head.  This dish is a little fancier than my other recipes so far, and I accidentally made it vegetarian… but hey, you don’t always need meat!  It would be perfect for when you have some of your girl friends over for a nice meal at home.  With flavors of white wine, roasted asparagus, fresh thyme, and lemon who wouldn’t enjoy this?  This dish is also on the sweet, rich, and creamy side of the spectrum.  As a side note, this dish is NOT meant to be reheated, but it is so good you will not have any leftovers anyway!

1 bunch asparagus, chopped into thirds
1 lb box of penne
1 teaspoon olive oil, plus a drizzle
4 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2/3 cup of white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
Lemon zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp brown sugar
4 sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream
Parmesan cheese 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover a sheet pan with foil and spread out the chopped asparagus evenly.  Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over top of the asparagus.  Then roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

While the asparagus is roasting, cook your pasta based on the directions on the box.
While your pasta is cooking, in a medium sized pot over medium heat, saute the shallots in 1 teaspoon of olive oil & 1 tablespoon of butter.  Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.  When the shallots turn translucent, add the garlic and lemon zest, saute for 2 minutes.
Add wine and stir to combine, let simmer for 2 minutes before adding the lemon juice.  Then stir in and let reduce for 5-7 minutes.

Turn the heat down to low, add 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, and stir in the 3 tablespoons of butter 1 table spoon at a time.  Then add the thyme and cream.  (at this point your sauce, asparagus, and pasta should all be done!)

Add the pasta back into the pot, and also pour in the sauce and asparagus, stir to combine.  Serve with fresh Parmesan over the top.

A Fun Saturday…OFF!

Not including our vacation back in September, I can’t remember that last day off Nate and I had together.  All of the days off we have had in the past, we have always had to ask for.  So you can imagine my excitement Thursday night when Nate told me chef gave him SATURDAY off!  All of you other chef wives know, that a whole Saturday off (or even just a Saturday night) in the restaurant business is unheard of.  

Our day off started with me making us breakfast… bacon, scrambled eggs with chives and parmesan cheese, and cooked apples with butter, apple pie spice, & brown sugar.  Nate had chocolate milk and I had egg nog to drink (hey, it was a special morning!  And egg nog is only available for a short amount of time, I have to get my fix!).
Nate took me to Falls Lake to go on a boat ride and picnic.  Nate has had his boat for a few months, and this was my first time riding in it.  We had some troubles with the motor, but I was very patient and able to relax… Nate tried his hardest, but he couldn’t help being frustrated.

Once we got to one of his hunting spots, we set up lunch at the duck blind.  Lunch was a chicken salad sandwich, salad, cheese, dried salami (our new favorite), and a bottle of moscato.  We forgot cups, so being the classy people we are, decided to drink straight from the bottle, haha.  Then we cleaned up our stuff and headed back.  It was such a nice day of going on an adventure, doing nothing productive but sit in a boat and eat yummy food, and spending time together.  Can’t wait for another day off!

Peachy Pineapple Corn Salsa

 I can not believe it is November and Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  After putting up and cleaning up the Halloween decorations I thought, why do we spend so much time decorating our homes, only to take it all down in what feels like days later?  So, I am going to start decorating for Christmas now (sorry Thanksgiving!) and enjoy those decorations for a whole month!
We are having Nate’s best friend and his new girlfriend over to the house for dinner tonight.  Over the past couple months the boys have been hunting and have come back with ducks and geese.  So guess what is on the menu tonight?  

I am all for trying new meats and food in general, but I still like to have something “normal” to eat on the side…on the off-chance that someone dislikes the adventurous dish, there is something to fill up on.  I haven’t met anyone who did not like this salsa!  It is fruity, sweet, spicy, and healthy all in one bowl.  You can eat it with tortilla chips, in tacos, or even on a salad.  And if you are having people over for dinner and need a quick appetizer to throw together, this is it!

1 16oz jar of peach salsa
1 16oz bag or box of frozen corn (plain corn, not the bags of corn with cream sauce)
1 15.25oz of black beans, drained and rinsed
20oz can of crushed pinapple, drained (leave a small amount of juice in the can for flavor, you just don’t want the salsa to be soupy)
1 bell pepper, diced (any color, I usually choose orange)
1 jalapeno, finely chopped (optional, this is only for those of you who like it spicy)
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Pepper
1 bag tortilla chips
Ok are you ready for this?  This may be the hardest dish to prepare on my blog…

In a large food storage container, add and stir together all of the ingredients above.  

Grab some chips, and enjoy 🙂
That’s it!
-Add a small red onion, finely diced
-Add some cilantro for a fresh herb flavor
-Use a different jarred salsa for your “base”
-Instead of crushed pineapple try mango, peaches, papaya

Pea Soup

When Nate and I are on extreme opposite schedules, I will try to stay up and eat dinner with him.  But sometimes no matter how hard I try, I can’t keep my eyes open.   So when this happens I leave a dish prepared for him to just pop in the microwave to reheat.  Also, I always cook recipes with leftovers in mind.  I’d rather him eat leftovers for lunch the next day than stop by a McDonalds on his way to the restaurant.  For these reasons, every recipe I try or come up with must reheat well.  
I threw this soup together one night a couple years ago.  It has simple ingredients, but you can dress it up as much or little as you like.  This soup is perfect to throw together for a week night dinner or a weekend dinner party.  And for those of you that eat with your eyes, the green color of this soup is stunning!  

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2/3 cup white wine (plus 1 glass for you 🙂 )
4 cups chicken stock
2 16oz bags of frozen peas
handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
Toppings: chives, cheese, sour cream, croutons, bacon, tomatoes, etc.

In 1 tablspoon of olive oil on medium-high heat, brown the chopped onions and season with salt and pepper.  When the onions begin to turn brown on the edges, add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Turn the heat down to medium and pour in the white wine, stir, and let simmer for a minute or so.  

Add the chicken stock and the frozen bags of peas.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine and bring back to a boil.  Let boil for 7 minutes or until the peas are nice and tender.

Then either transfer the soup into a blender in batches and blend to your preferred consistency and return it to the pot, OR use a stick blender and blend the soup in the pot.

Let the soup simmer for 1-2 more minutes.  Reduce the heat to low.  Add the chopped herbs and stir in the heavy cream.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serve with your favorite toppings cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, sour cream, croutons, chives, tomatoes, bacon, etc.

Other Variations
-Instead of using heavy cream, use mascarpone cheese.
-If you would like a thicker soup, use 3 cups of chicken stock
-For a vegetarian version, use vegetable stock
-Instead of cilantro try basil or mint (I’ve tried both and both are delicious!  I usually buy which ever herb looks the best or is on sale that day)
-If there are some good looking fresh peas at the store or farmers market, then by all means, go fresh!

White Lasagna

Who doesn’t like lasagna?  You can make it as simple or as complicated as you like, and it always tastes amazing.  Not to mention the aroma of cheese and tomato sauce baking in the oven is worth every minute.  But sometimes, you need to stray away from the norm and mix it up a little.  So one night I thought “What about a white lasagna?”.  Instead of a red sauce and red meat, this recipe uses white sauce (alfredo) and white meat (chicken). By using the lasagna basics and changing the ingredients, I have come up with a mouth-watering dish!  And like “normal” lasagna, you can make it as simple or as complicated as you like.  Enjoy 🙂

 1 lb chicken, shredded (You can buy a rotisserie or cook your own)
9-12 lasagna noodles (depending on kind of noodles, I use the no-boil)

6 Roma tomatoes, sliced
2 15 oz jars of your favorite alfredo sauce (I use Classico – Sundried Tomato Alfredo)
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
2 cups of Italian shredded cheese
A ball of Fresh mozzarella, sliced (or a cup of shredded)

A handful of fresh parsley 
Salt and Pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
Spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
If you are using dry pasta, cook your pasta.  I love the no-boil noodles because it cuts down on time and dishes!
Season both sides of the chicken and cook through, then shred.  
While the chicken is cooking, slice your tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Set aside slices of 1 of the tomatoes.
Pour half of 1 jar of alfredo sauce (about 1 cup) to cover the bottom of your baking dish. 
Then here is your layering pattern:
      -3-4 lasagna noodles
      -1/2 of your large pile of tomato slices
      -1/2 of your shredded chicken
      -1 cup of shredded italian cheese blend
      -1 teaspoon of italian seasoning
      -1/2 a jar of sauce
      -3-4 lasagna noodles
      -Remaining 1/2 of your large pile of tomato slices
      -Remaining 1/2 of your shredded chicken
      –1/2 a jar of sauce
      -1 teaspoon of italian seasoning
      -3-4 lasagna noodles 
      -Remaining 1/2 a jar of sauce
      -1 cup of shredded italian cheese blend 
      -spread out the mozzarella slices (or shredded) 
      -place the reserved tomato slices in between the mozzerella (like a checker board of cheese and tomato slices!)
      -Sprinkle fresh parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Bake covered with foil at 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes.  Then remove the foil and continue to bake until cheese is melted and bubbly (about 5 minutes).  Once removed from the oven, let the dish rest for 15 minutes before eating (this is always the hardest part, I just want to dig in!  But trust me, when you try to remove each piece, it will be so much easier and prettier if you wait 15 minutes!)


 It is Wednesday, so I thought we could all use a laugh.  Whatta catch 😉
So yesterday started Movember.  What is Movember? My husband put it best on his facebook:
Attention, friends. For those of you savvy to “no shave November” I suggest you try Movember this year. Lose the beard and grow a beautiful mustache to support men’s health. We’ll all grow beards during december duck season. Keep Movember for the men.
 I can’t grow a mustache, and I don’t have a problem with that, but I will support the cause by not shaving my legs! Nate may have a problem with that!