Melissa's Cuisine: January 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bolognese Sauce

Mike and I are big fans of recipes that can be made in the crock-pot and require minimal work when we get home from work.  This is a new recipe that we tried earlier this month and we both really enjoyed it.  Neither of us have ever had a bolognese sauce before, so we really didn't know what to expect from it.  The flavor reminded us of a pot roast, probably due to the vegetables.  This recipe made a large crock-pot full, so I was able to freeze most of it for a future meal.  I served this on top of my homemade whole wheat noodles, but Mike thinks it would also taste great eaten like chili.  I think this would also taste great over brown rice or even a baked potato!

Bolognese Sauce

Serves 8

You will need:
1 Tablespoon butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 pounds lean ground beef
salt and pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup whole milk
1 cup white wine
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

1.  Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

2.  Add onion, celery, and carrot to saucepan.  Stir and cook until vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.

3.  Add beef to saucepan and cook on high until it is no longer pink.  Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

4.  Pour in milk and wine and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer until liquid is reduced, about 15 minutes.

5.  Transfer mixture to your crock-pot and stir in tomatoes.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

6.  Remove cover, stir and cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 30 more minutes.

Serve over your choice of pasta, rice, or potato.

Nutritional stats per serving: 313 calories, 14 grams fat, 82 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams fiber, 27 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 822 milligrams sodium.

Source:  All You Magazine, October 2011

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Healthier Banana Bread

I've always loved banana bread.  It's one of my favorite recipes that my mom makes and I love her recipe.  I haven't posted her recipe yet, but I will someday.  It's too good not to share!  Right now though, I'm focusing on eating healthier, and while banana bread isn't necessarily a health food, this recipe does contain some very healthy ingredients. 

Mike and I both eat a banana daily, so they're something we always have in the house.  On the rare occasion that the bananas start to turn brown before we can eat them, I peel them and stick them in my "banana bag" in the freezer.  It's perfect for making smoothies or recipes that call for bananas.  I used my freezer bananas in this recipe and I love how it turned out!

Healthier Banana Bread

Makes 1 loaf, approximately 12 servings

You will need:
1-1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1-1/2 cups mashed bananas (approximately 3 large bananas)
4 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1/4 cup lowfat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla

1.  Whisk flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a large bowl.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, butter, eggs, yogurt and vanilla.

3.  Gently fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture until just combined.  Pour batter into a greased 8-1/2" by 4-1/2" loaf pan.

4.  Bake at 325 for 55-60 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

5.  Cool for at least 1 hour before cutting into the bread.

Source:  America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

Monday, January 23, 2012

BLT Pasta Salad

Bacon. Lettuce. Tomatoes.  It's the making of the perfect sandwich--but with a twist.  How about a BLT pasta salad?  Sound good?  Yeah, I thought so too! 

I made this salad for my work's Christmas party.  It made a huge bowl of salad, and since it was a potluck, we had plenty of salad left over.  It really worked out in Mike's and my favor because we got to enjoy this salad for a few more days.  This fresh salad "feels like summer", so I loved making it for a party in the winter...nothing like adding a taste of summer to a cold day!

BLT Pasta Salad

Serves 10-12

You will need:

1 pound corkscrew shaped pasta

1/2 cup milk
1 pound bacon (I used turkey bacon)
3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup mayonaise
1/4 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons chopped chives
1/2 head of lettuce, chopped

1.  Cook the pasta as directed on the box.

2.  Drain the pasta and toss it with the milk in the pan you cooked your pasta in.  Set aside.

3.  Fry the bacon in a frying pan until it's crispy.  Drain on paper towels.

4.  Discard all but 3 Tablespoons of the bacon drippings from the pan.  (If you use turkey bacon, you won't have much, so keep any drippings you do have.)

5.  Add the tomatoes, thyme, and garlic to the pan with the bacon drippings.  Cook over low heat until tomatoes are warm.  Season with salt and pepper.

6.  Crumble the bacon into small pieces.

7.  Stir the tomato mixture and bacon into the pasta.

8.  Mix the mayonaise, sour cream, and chives in a small bowl until well combined.  Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

9.  Mix the dressing with the pasta until the pasta is evenly coated.

10.  Stir lettuce into pasta until evenly distributed.  I layered my lettuce and pasta in the serving bowl instead of mixing it through the pasta.

Serve pasta salad at room temperature and refrigerate any leftovers.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pecan Snowballs

After a unseasonably warm December, it seems like we are finally experiencing a true Michigan winter.  We had almost a foot of snow during one storm a week or so ago and the snow just keeps on coming. 

I shared this recipe as a guest post on Tina's site last month, but now that it fits in with the season (snowballs for snow, of course!), I thought I'd better post it here so you can have the recipe.  This is one of my favorite cookie recipes and I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do!

Pecan Snowballs

Makes 2 dozen cookies

You will need:
1 cup shortening
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1-3/4 cup flour
1 cup oats
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar for coating

1.  In a large bowl, beat shortening, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until fluffy.

2.  Add in flour, oats, chopped pecan, and salt.  Beat until combined.

3.  Form dough into 1 inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet.

4.  Bake at 325 for 15-18 minutes.

5.  Roll in baked cookies in powdered sugar while they're still warm.

Store cookies in an airtight container. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Baked Spinach Cups

Superbowl is just a few weeks away, and if you're anything like me, you're probably already brainstorming your menu plan!  Because we all know Superbowl isn't about football, it's about the food!  Right?

When planning my Superbowl menu, I like to come up with a good mix of savory and sweet foods.  Like the jalapenos I shared last week, these are great appetizer sized foods--perfect for the big game!

These spinach cups were a huge hit at Mike's family potluck.  All the cousins love spinach dip, so I had a feeling this would go over well.  You can serve these warm from the oven, or at room temperature.  I even had some cold the next day and they were great cold as well. 

*As a side note, if you look to the left of this post, you'll see a poll I created for you.  I'd love to get some feedback from you about what kind of recipes you'd like me to post more of.  Please vote for as many as you'd like--I appreciate your input!

Baked Spinach Cups

Makes 24 cups

You will need:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 egg
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water, plus a little more
1 batch of Spinach Dip

1.  Sift flour into a large bowl and make a well in the center.

2.  Whisk together egg, salt and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. Pour into flour well. Mix together, adding additional water until the mixture will stay together in a ball.

3.  Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and pliable.  Let the dough rest for 30-60 minutes.

4.  Divide dough in half. Keep one half covered while you roll out the other one on a surface lightly coated with cornstarch. Roll dough into approximately a 21"x7" rectangle.

5.  Cut into 3-1/2" squares. You should be able to get approximately 12 wonton wrappers out of each half.

6.  Press each wrapper into the bottom of a greased mini muffin tin to form a cup.

7.  Scoop spinach dip into each wonton cup.

8.  Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until wonton wrappers are golden brown and spinach dip is warm.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

*If you would rather not make your own wonton wrappers, you can substitute store-bought in this recipe.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Meat Stuffed Jalapenos

I created this recipe in an attempt to recreate the jalapeno poppers that we had at a party...Mike loved them at the party and asked me to make him some.  My first jalapeno poppers were nothing like what he wanted, but I knew that when I made them.  This attempt however, was pretty much spot on!

This is a great recipe for a party.  I made these for a fiesta that Mike and I hosted last year.  (Yeah, I have a ton of recipes waiting to be posted!)  I think these would also be perfect for a Superbowl party.  Mike and I are planning to host a game watching party again this year, so I'm starting to pick out the menu for that. 
Meat Stuffed Jalapenos

Makes 30

You will need:
15 jalapeno peppers
1/2 pound ground beef
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 onion, minced
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
2 Tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded + more for topping

1.  Cut jalapeno peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and white membranes.  (That's where the heat is, you may leave the seeds and membrane if you want a hot pepper).  Be sure to wear gloves so you don't burn your hands.

2.  In a skillet, brown ground beef, garlic and onion.  Drain grease from pan.

3.  Stir in chili powder, cream cheese and cheddar cheese until well combined.

4.  Scoop meat mixture into jalapeno halves and place on a greased cookie sheet.

5.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until heated through. 

6.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional cheddar cheese if desired.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

S'mores Thumbprints with Marshmallow Frosting

In December, my mom's friend hosted a Cookie Exchange.  She invited my Mom, Grandma, Mother-in-law, Sister-in-law, and myself to join in the fun.  We were each asked to bring 3 dozen cookies to share.  I spent a long time choosing out the "perfect" recipe for the evening, but I definitely picked a hit!  We enjoyed an evening of delicious appetizers, fun games, good company, and yummy cookies!  Everyone had a great night, and I have a feeling this could become a yearly tradition.

My MIL has repeatedly asked "when are you going to post your S'mores cookies on your blog?", so here they are!  They are fun to make and taste delicious.  I hope you'll enjoy these cookies as much as we did.
S'mores Thumbprints

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

You will need:
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 batch marshmallow frosting (recipe below)
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1.  In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.  Set aside.

2.  In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together butter and sugars until fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).

3.  Add in the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for another 1-2 minutes, until combined.

4.  Stir in the flour mixture and mix until the dough comes together.  Stir in chocolate chips.

5.  Roll cookie dough into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet.  Press your thumb into the center of each dough ball to create an indentation.

6.  Bake cookies at 375 for 8-10 minutes.  Remove and cool cookies completely.

7.  Scoop frosting into an icing bag fitted with a large tip and fill in the indentation of the cookie with frosting.  (If you don't have an icing bag, you can snip an end off a Ziploc bag  to create one, or just use a spoon to scoop the frosting into the cookies.)

8.  Top cookies with a sprinkling of graham cracker crumbs.  Store in an airtight container.

Source:  How Sweet Eats
I loved this marshmallow frosting.  It took a few attempts to get it "just right".  The first recipe I tried tasted like I was eating straight butter so I had to compensate by increasing the amount of marshmallow fluff.  I think I've perfected the recipe now though, and I know it will be appearing in more recipes in the future.  I added in a few tablespoons of Toasted Marshmallow syrup to increase the marshmallow flavor, but if you don't have any available, the frosting tastes great without it.  I purchased mine at our favorite coffee shop.

Marshmallow Frosting

You will need:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups marshmallow fluff
2 Tablespoons toasted marshmallow syrup (optional)
3 cups powdered sugar

1.  Beat butter in the bowl of your stand mixer until creamy.

2.  Add in marshmallow fluff and beat for 2 minutes.

3.  Add in vanilla extract and marshmallow syrup and mix until incorporated.

4.  Add in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until fully incorporated.  Then beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.  Store in an airtight container.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Whole Wheat Buns

As I mentioned the other day, Mike and I are trying to incorporate more whole real foods into our menu.  A few months ago our youth group sold sub sandwiches.  They were real simple: a sub bun, 2 kinds of cheese, and 3 kinds of meat.  We only bought 4 and Mike was quite disappointed when they were gone.  I told him there was a simple solution, I'd just make them myself.

I decided that I'd prefer to have him eat whole wheat buns instead of white, and I found a delicious looking recipe to try.  I made these one afternoon and used them for hamburger buns that night.  As you can see, I made a few hamburger sized buns as well as sub style buns.  They were quite large, and that was good for the subs, but I'd probably make the hamburger buns slightly smaller next time.  They were quite filling!  We both enjoyed them and they have become a staple in our house.

Whole Wheat Buns

Makes 8 large buns

You will need: 1-1/2 Tablespoons yeast
1 cup + 1 Tablespoon water at 110 degrees
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons gound flax seed
3 cups whole wheat flour

1.  In the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve the yeast into the water.  Let it sit about 5 minutes, until the mixture is foamy.

2.  Add in the oil, sugar, and salt and mix until combined.

3.  Add in the flax seed and the flour, 1 cup at a time, until well combined.

4.  Knead the dough for 3 minutes, until it is easy to work with.

5.  Divide the dough into 8 equal balls and shape into buns.  (I made 2 round hamburger buns and 6 sub shaped buns.)

6.  Place the buns on a lightly greased cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap.

7.  Set in a warm place and let the dough rise for 20 minutes.

8.  Bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Noodles

When I think of comfort food, one of the first things I think of is homemade chicken noodle soup.  It's the perfect food to enjoy during a cold winter day. 

This month's Crazy Cooking Challenge was to find the Ultimate Chicken Noodle Soup recipe.  I think I've hit the jackpot with this one!  This is a really basic soup, just chicken, noodles, carrots, and broth.  I served it with some French bread, and it made for a delicious dinner.

I found this recipe on Laura's blog, Heavenly Homemakers.  She has so many recipes on her site that are both good for you and delicious.  I really encourage you to stop by and visit her!  In her original recipe, she suggests making your own chicken broth, but because I was using chicken breasts, not a whole chicken, I used store-bought broth.  I used the whole wheat noodle recipe that I shared yesterday and Mike and I both loved this recipe.

Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Noodles

Serves 8

You will need:
8 cups chicken broth (homemade or store bought)
3 carrots
1 recipe whole wheat homemade noodles
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
sea salt

1.  Peel and chop carrots into bite-sized pieces.

2.  Pour broth and carrots into a large pot.  Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes.

3.  Add in chicken and noodles. Salt as needed.

4.  Simmer soup for 15-20 minutes, until noodles are fat and tender.  

***Don't forget, you can vote for your favorite recipe by clicking "like" under the picture.  I'm #15 and I'd love your vote :)

Friday, January 06, 2012

Homemade Whole Wheat Noodles

It's the beginning of a new year and for many people that means it's time to make resolutions.  I'm not big on making resolutions, I can't imagine giving up sweets or something like that, so I don't typically make them.  I have decided that even though Mike and I do eat mostly healthy, there are things I can do to make our menus even healthier.  For example, I have been using whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour in some recipes.  There are plenty of health benefits to using whole wheat flour.  Whole wheat flour contains more fiber and protein than all-purpose flour, which translates into needing a smaller portion to keep you satisfied.   It's a simple switch to make and I'm looking forward to experimenting with making some of our favorite recipes healthier. 

Homemade Whole Wheat Noodles

Serves 4 (when made into long noodles, more in soup)

You will need:

2-1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 beaten eggs
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil

1.  In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt together and make a small well in the middle.

2.  Beat your eggs in a small bowl and pour them into the well of the flour mixture.

3.  Add the water and olive oil and stir until the ingredients are combined.

4.  Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it to get the ingredients combined well.  (My dough started out extremely dry, so I added a small amount of water to get it pliable.)

5.  If necessary, add more flour to your surface to ensure that your noodles won't stick.  Flour your rolling pin, and roll dough until it's 1/8" thick.

6.  Use a pizza cutter to cut your dough into long strips.  Here's where you decide what you're going to do with your noodles.  If you plan to use them for soup, you'll probably want to cut them into 2" pieces.  If you want to use them in a past dish like spaghetti, you can just keep them long.

7.  Allow your noodles to dry on the counter top before storing.  It will take a few hours, or a day, and you might need to turn the noodles over after a few hours to dry the other side.

8.  When the noodles are dry, store them in an airtight container.  You can keep them in your pantry for up to a month or in your freezer for about 3 months.

To cook your noodles for a pasta dish:  Bring 8 cups of water to a boil.  Salt generously.  Stir in the noodles and simmer for 20 minutes, until noodles are fat and tender.  Drain before serving.

To cook your noodles for soup: Bring 8 cups of broth to a boil.  Stir in noodles and simmer for 20 minutes, until noodles are fat and tender.

Source: Heavenly Homemakers

Be sure to come back tomorrow for a recipe to use your noodles in!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Caramel and Pretzel Bark

If your New Year's Resolution had something to do with eating healthier or losing weight, I apologize--you might just want to skip this post.  Oh wait, you already saw the picture though...I suppose this will be a test of your willpower.

I made so many delicious treats for Christmas and New Year's and all the parties involved, and there just hasn't been enough time to post them all.  Please bear with me, I'll try to limit the sweets so you're not incredibly tempted, but these recipes are just too good not to share!

My friend made this recipe for a bake sale and I was lucky enough to snag a plate.  When I was making my Melting Snowmen Cookie Balls, I had some melted Almond Bark left over.  I decided it was the perfect opportunity to throw together a small batch of this Caramel and Pretzel Bark.  The one great thing about this recipe is that you really don't need to follow the amounts--you can make as much (or as little) as you want!

Caramel and Pretzel Bark

You will need:
6 blocks Almond Bark
1/2 cup Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup Pretzels, broken into bite-sized pieces
20 Soft Caramels (unwrapped)

1.  Place almond bark in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds.  Stir and microwave another 30 seconds.  Repeat as needed until bark is melted and can be stirred smooth.

2.  Spread melted almond bark on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.

3.  Sprinkle pretzel pieces over almond bark.

4.  Place caramels in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds.  Stir and microwave another 30 seconds.  Repeat as needed until caramels are melted and can be stirred smooth.

5.  Drizzle caramel over pretzel pieces on the almond bark.

6.  Melt chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl.  I follow the same method as step 1 (above).

7.  Drizzle melting chocolate over the almond bark.

8.  Allow the bark to completely set before breaking it into pieces.  Store in an air-tight container.

Source:  Jennifer

Monday, January 02, 2012

Cider Wassail

Happy New Year!  I hope you had an enjoyable and safe Holiday weekend!  We spent some time with family and friends, enjoying each others company, and of course, great food!

Today we are in the midst of our first winter storm here in West Michigan.  As I look out the window, the wind is gusting and blowing the snow all over.  It actually looks like we're in a snow globe.  It's days like this that I'm really thankful for my warm house, a thick blanket, and a nice hot drink!  I love the comforting feeling of a hot cup of Cider Wassail in my hands, warming me both outside and in. 

Cider Wassail
Serves 8-10 people

You will need:
8 cups apple cider
1-1/2 cups orange juice
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
3 cinnamon sticks

Combine ingredients in your Crock-pot and heat on low for 2-3 hours, or until hot.  Discard cinnamon sticks and serve hot.

*This can also be made on the stove.  Just combine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Discard cinnamon sticks and serve hot.
01 10 11 12
Blogging tips