Monthly Archives: November 2017

Creamy Crockpot Cocoa

‘Tis the season!  This is a fairly popular recipe for the beloved mug of Christmas cheer and my family’s favorite!  So much so that I’ve been known to make a batch for our Christmas Eve party and another within 24 hours for Christmas Day!  Plus, besides the rich and creamy flavor, the large batch (can be doubled even) allows you to enjoy the gathering and NOT the kitchen while making individual cup by cup for your guests.

If serving for a party, make sure to set up a “Hot Cocoa Bar” with marshmallows, sprinkles, candy canes, flavored syrup and perhaps some Baileys or Schnapps’ for the adults!

*This can also be made in a large pot on the stove top in only 30-40 minutes!  You can serve from there or you can quickly make and transfer to a slow-cooker to keep warm!! 🙂

The Starting Lineup

  • 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1.5 cups of heavy cream
  • 2 cups of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 cups milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

So simple!  To your crockpot, add all of the above ingredients, cover and set on low, stirring ever so often till combined, 2-3 hours.  Set on warm and serve with your favorite accompaniments.  Makes about 12 large mugs/24 smaller cups.  Can be doubled if a large party.

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OPTIONAL:

*Peppermint Marshmallow Stir Sticks:

  • Chocolate chips (I prefer semi-sweet, but you could even use white!  Milk chocolate is too bland and artificial, to me), melt in a bowl in the microwave.  Stir every 30 seconds until melted.
  • Stir Sticks or skinny candy canes (stick halfway into the large marshmallow)
  • Large marshmallows
  • Crushed peppermints or sprinkles, etc. 
  • Wax paper

    Dip the “marshmallow-on-a-stick” at least halfway into your melted chocolate of choice, drizzle off excess and the roll into the crushed peppermints or sprinkles or leave as is.  Transfer, stick up, bottom of coated marshmallow down onto a sheet of wax paper.  This can also be refrigerated for quicker hardening of the chocolate.

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*Borrowed pic, courtesy of @RoseBakes. as I forgot to take one!  Oops!

Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Potatoes

If you’ve ever been to my casa for a get-together you know I love to make this spinach artichoke dip (bubbling hot in a cast-iron skillet with torn fresh baguette and tortilla chips…insert drooling), because I know that you love to eat it!

So while one night with just my family of 4 at home and the “diet-angel” on my shoulder telling me to NOT make just a skillet of this with spoons for our dinner, I figured I would stuff a fluffy potato with my party go-to!  Also worth noting, my husband must eat meat with every meal, so I shredded some blackened chicken in the mix and yessss mam!!

*If extra occurs, please keep!  Warm and serve with veggies, bread or tortilla chips…or that trusty spoon! 😉

The Starting Lineup

  • 4-6 Large russet potato’s
  • Olive or canola oil
  • Kosher/rock Salt
  • 4 Tbsp butter, (1/2 stick) unsalted
  • 14oz can artichoke hearts, drained, rough chop
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves (can use 10oz frozen, just thaw and drain)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8oz cream cheese
  • 2 cup parmesan, shredded
  • 16oz light sour cream
  • 4oz can diced jalapenos, chopped
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (topping, optional)
  • Chicken, cooked and shredded/chopped (optional)

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Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and poke holes in your rinsed and patted dry potatoes with a fork.  Rub the olive oil and salt all over the outside of the potato.  Place directly on the top rack of your hot oven.  *Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any drippings.  Bake for 45 minutes or until tender; depends on size of potato.   You’ll have crispy, salted potato skin and a fluffy interior.

Cook your chicken now as well (grill, blacken, bake, simmer and shred, etc) if desired.

Spinach Artichoke Filling:

In a skillet over medium heat, melt together 8oz cream cheese, 16 oz sour cream, 1/2 stick butter, 2 cups parmesan cheese, and minced garlic, stirring frequently until melted and an even consistency.

Stir in coarsely chopped artichoke hearts, drained jalapenos and fresh or drained spinach (remember to remove excess water).  Finally, stir in the cooked chicken (if using).

Serve:

Cut a slit in the top of your potato and I prefer to scoop out a bit of the flesh.  Fill with a large ladle full of Spinach Artichoke filling and if desired, top with some shredded mozzarella and place on the baking sheet in a 375 degree oven until cheese is melted.  Enjoy!

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BBQ Bacon Ranch Meatball Subs

Frozen meatballs are always a staple in my freezer for easy & quick last-minute dinner or appetizer ideas.  However, most of my friends and family get stuck in the rut of only using them for Italian flavored meals, which is great, but let’s change it up just a bit!

Awhile back when trying to think creatively, something struck me when my 6-year-old son asked for BBQ (we do live in Texas and a giant smoker owns our back porch) for dinner.  Well, I hadn’t made my weekly grocery run yet but I did have meatballs in the freezer, a slow-cooker and a few jars of barbecue sauce in the pantry…change my thinking and the standard marinara sopped hoagie was about to receive a southern twist!  After a few ingredients were added and the smells were filtering through my house (did you see there’s bacon too??), I just KNEW I had a winner on my hands!  Boy did I ever!

*You can leave the bacon in strips or chopped.  Ill often do simple crispy strips for my husband and I, but the chopped is easy for lil mouths.

*I also go back and forth with sliced cheese or shredded…sliced is gooey’er but shredded works in a pinch!  I still say cheddar is best here!

*If you’d like this as more of an appetizer you can make them into sliders or just pour onto a serving dish, sprinkle with bacon, cheese and green onions.  Keep toothpicks & cocktail napkins handy!

 

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 package frozen fully cooked home-style meatballs 
  • 2 jars of your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning packet
  • 1 onion, rough chop
  • 1 package bacon, rough chopped and cooked
  • Sliced or shredded cheese (i.e. Cheddar, Jack, Colby)
  • Sub/hoagie rolls, lightly toasted

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Simple, simple, simple!  First, lightly spray your slow cooker with a non-stick spray and then add in the chopped onions.  Next, add in the frozen meatballs, sprinkle on the ranch dressing dry mix and pour the bbq sauce over top.  Toss to coat.  Cover and set on low for 4-6 hours.  Yep, you’re done until it’s time to assemble the subs!

Fast forward to dinner time…….this is how I serve ours:

I preheat my broiler and line a baking sheet with foil.  I first halve the hoagie buns lengthwise and give a light toast under the broiler (watch veryyyyy carefully as it goes quick!).  Then, buns still on baking sheet, I scoop on about 4-5 of the meatballs along with extra bbq sauce onto the toasted rolls from the slow cooker.  Finally, top with the crunchy cooked bacon and then copious amounts of cheese.  Place back under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly…enjoy!!

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Mediterranean Chicken Pasta

Like the years before, halfway into Fall, I actually begin to crave something other than rich soups, stews and casseroles…weird, right?  I also did not want to take the time needed to make a few of those yummy, indulgent dishes.  So instead, it was back to a favorite, trusty 30-minute meal!  Another plus, it’s a bit on the healthier side compared to the latter mentioned too!   Keeping myself in check for that Thanksgiving feast this week!

*Another great thing about this dish is you can easily make it to your liking by choosing regular or gluten-free noodles, chicken, shrimp, halibut or no protein at all!  Please make it your own!

The Starting Lineup

Blackened Chicken

  • 1 lb Chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • cooking oil
  • Fresh lemon

Pasta

  • 12oz pasta noodles of choice, boiled and drained
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar Roasted Piquillo (or red) Peppers, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 1/2 cup (8oz) heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • Kosher salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled, plus more for garnish
  • Kalamata olives, no seeds
  • Chopped fresh basil

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CHICKEN:

In a bowl, blend all of the dried and ground herbs together.  Squeeze the fresh lemon and a bit of cooking oil over the chicken breast and sprinkle the spice blend evenly over the chicken.   You can pan sear, bake or grill the chicken till cooked through and juices run clear.  Tent with foil and set aside as you prepare the sauce.

NOODLES:

Prepare about 2 minutes less than package directions.   Drain.  Set aside.

SAUCE:

Have a large skillet and your food processor (or blender) at  hand.

In your skillet over med-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter.  Next, add in the onions and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes or until softened.  Next, add the chopped and drained piquillo/red peppers and cook for another 3 minutes.

Transfer the veggie mix from the skillet to a food processor or blender.  Blend till fairly smooth, some chunks left are ok!

To that same large skillet, melt the remaining butter over med-high heat and pour the pepper puree back in.  Next, whisk in the broth, and a pinch of salt & pepper.  Finally, whisk in the heavy cream and parmesan cheese till smooth.

Add the cooked pasta, Kalamata olives, 1 cup feta cheese and fresh cut basil to the sauced skillet, toss to coat.

Serve with the blackened chicken, sliced, over top and sprinkle with a bit more feta and fresh basil.  Enjoy!

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Milanesa de Carne with Roasted Jalapeño Chimichurri

Today I’m going south of the border…like SOUTH, south of the border with this simple, comforting dish that is very popular in parts of Mexico and South America.  The milanesa I prepared is a variation of the Italian version brought over (think chicken parmigiana) more than a century ago.  It can be any meat of your choosing: beef, chicken or pork and lightly dredged and shallow-fried till golden.  In fact, health conscience people are even baking them to cut down on their fried food intake.  To each their own…though I stick with the authentic way!

I amp my recipe up with the slightly spicy and smoky flavor of my Roasted Jalapeno Chimichurri!  It’s quite simple and very versatile!  Make sure to use it with your potatoes as well, and if there is any leftover, spoon it over eggs, burritos, sandwiches or a dipping sauce!  Finally, make sure to squeeze that fresh lemon over each bite as the acid cuts through the fried richness…salivating now.

The Starting Lineup

Milanesas

  • 4-6 (appx 1 1/2 lbs) Thinly cut beef steaks, i.e. literally “Beef Milanesa” in my grocer’s meat section.
  • 2 Limes, juiced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs + 1 Tbsp water
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (can substitute in Panko bread crumbs)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried parsley (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • vegetable oil
  • Lemons, quartered, for serving/squeezing over top the milanesa

Roasted Jalapeños Chimichurri

  • 2 jalapenos
  • 2 cups cilantro
  • 2 cups parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp dry red wine
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt & pepper, to taste

*Serve with a simple salad, crispy roasted potatoes and lemon wedges.

Start with the Chimichurri sauce (this can also be done the night before).  Roast your jalapenos over an open flame (gas oven/grill) or under your broiler, turning until the skin is slightly charred and blistered.  Let the jalapenos steam in a closed paper bag or plastic wrap covered dish for about 10 minutes.  Remove the outside blistered skins and the seeds.

Using a food processor, blender or an immersion blender (like I did), combine all of the Chimichurri ingredients and blend until fairly smooth.  Cover and set aside in your refrigerator.

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Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, to keep the fried and breaded steaks warm while you cook the others.

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator and in a large zip lock, bag combine the steaks, lime juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Let sit out and get to room temperature while your heat up the oil.

In 3 shallow dishes:

1st dish:  Flour   2nd dish:  beaten eggs   3rd dish:  breadcrumbs seasoned w/ garlic powder, dried parsley, salt & pepper.

Heat 1/2 inch of  oil in a large skillet to medium-high heat.  Make sure the oil is hot prior to frying up the steaks.

One by one, dredge each steak lightly in the flour, then the eggs, followed by an even breadcrumb coating.  Place in the hot oil, cooking each side for about 3-4 minutes until a golden brown crust.  Remove to a paper towel lined baking sheet in the oven to soak up any excess grease and keep warm while preparing the remaining steaks. *TIP: You may need to lightly pat dry the lime marinated steaks with a paper towel prior to the dredging process.

Serve each steak with a simple side salad, roasted potatoes (or fries) and lemon wedges.  Drizzle the Chimichurri sauce over top and enjoy!

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Braised Red Wine Pot Roast with Cheesy Potato Pierogis

Pot roast is notorious for being a family favorite.  It’s a hearty meal that taste like you’ve slaved over the stove all day, yet is easy to prepare while still being affordable for the working man and woman.  So basically, we like to have this meal often, especially as the weather cools down.  I love Fall and Winter.

Now, that being said, growing up and into my 20’s it was such the same, old-fashioned “pot roast”.  I am an advocate for the saying, “don’t fix what isn’t broken”, but I also like to change things up.  So THIS is a roast that has all of the same qualities as mentioned in my opening, BUT is spruced up just enough that it is absolutely wonderful for a holiday get together or dinner party!…plus, you can finish that bottle of red at dinner!  Did you see the potato pierogi’s instead of your typical cut russets??  Yes!!!  Doooo iitttt friends….

*Can be made in your slow-cooker, no problem!  If you would like to take an extra step, you can sear the meat (add to slow cooker), followed by sautéing the vegetables and scraping up the brown bits with the liquids while on a low boil.. Pour into your slow cooker, over the roast, add seasonings and cover on low for 7-8 hours.  High, 5-6.

**It can also be braised in a large covered pot (same directions) on your stove top on medium-low (simmer).

The Starting Lineup

  • 4-5 lb chuck roast, seasoned all over with kosher salt & ground pepper
  • 2 Tablespoon oil (i.e. canola, vegetable, olive)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 cups mushrooms (I prefer whole, but you can slice)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef or chicken stock (or broth)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups dry red wine (i.e. cabernet)
  • 2 Tbsp butter, unsalted
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Fresh thyme & rosemary, bundle/”Bouquet Garni”
  • Parmesan cheese, hand grated, garnish
  • Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped, garnish
  • *To thicken sauce, if needed: 1 Tbsp cornstarch + 2 Tbsp milk (optional) per cup of juice, once removed from the oven.

Quick Pierogis

  • 1 package potato and cheese pierogis, frozen (12-16 count)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

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Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

In an oven-safe Dutch Oven pot, heat to medium-high and add in the oil.  Sear all sides of your roast till browned on the outside (about 12-15 minutes).  Transfer roast to dish and set aside.

To that same pot, add in the onions, carrots, mushrooms and garlic, add a bit more oil if needed, cook down for 4-5 minutes.  Next, add in your tomato paste, broth, wine and water.  Bring to a boil while scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of your pot with a wooden spoon.  Soooo much flavor there!!

Turn off your burner, add back in the seared roast (plus any drippings from the dish it was resting on) along with the bay leaf, thyme & rosemary.  Cover and transfer to the oven for 2 1/2-3 hours.


When your roast has almost finished being fork tender, bring a large stock pot of salted water to a boil.  Add in your pierogis and cook to package directions/drain.

On a large serving platter, lay out the cooked, hot pierogis and top with the cheddar cheese (melts beautifully!).  Place your roast and veggies right in the center along with a couple ladles of the rich, beefy red wine gravy over top.  Sprinkle on the parsley and grate some fresh parmesan cheese over top.  Enjoy!!

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