Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Two Holiday Cookie Recipes by Reynolds®

Thanksgiving is behind us, and in our home that means one thing...onto Holiday baking! ¸.•*¨*•♫♪ It's the most wonderful time of the year! ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ! 

This month, as part of the Allrecipes Allstar program, I had the opportunity to work with Reynolds® and was asked to prepare two different cookie recipes, using Reynolds® Parchment Paper.

Reynolds® provided me with two boxes of Reynolds® Parchment Paper to use in preparing the recipes as well as two boxes of their new Reynolds® Cookie Baking Sheets in appreciation for my review. I paid for all of the ingredients for the recipes myself, and all opinions are my own. #AllstarsReynolds #MealMagic


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sweet and Sour Green Beans

Some people just love the traditional green bean casserole that graces the Thanksgiving tables in millions of U.S. households (you know, the one with the cream of mushroom soup and french fried onions on the top) . . . but I am not one of those people!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Raspberry Almond Bars


Faceless recipes. It can become an addiction you know! I've seen it happen. What's a faceless recipe you ask? Well, in Allrecipes world, it's a recipe on their site that doesn't have a photo of the recipe. They even have an entire hub of JUST faceless recipes . . . lonely recipes just dying to have someone make it and post a picture of it. Some of my AR friends are obsessed with making faceless recipes. It sounds crazy, but it's actually quite fun! 


Sunday, August 3, 2014

My Favorite Grilled Shrimp

This is one of my favorite recipes. We just made it again on Friday night, and I thought to myself, why haven't I put this one on my blog yet? So, here I am, sharing this with you today in the hopes that you and your family will love it as much as we do.



It starts with just a few simple ingredients. Tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, cayenne pepper and fresh basil.  Right now, my basil plants are going crazy, so I have plenty of fresh basil to use up, but I have also made this recipe using fresh/frozen basil from my previous year's harvest. You can read about freezing fresh basil HERE.



This is what the marinade will look like when it's been mixed together. Let me tell you, at this point, the smell alone will let you know that this recipe is going to be good. The garlic, the basil, the tang from the red wine vinegar - it just smells so good. So good, that my husband made the suggestion that we should try using this "sauce" with something other than shrimp - maybe just toss it with some pasta or rice. I might just have to try that in the future!



I highly recommend using a larger size shrimp for this recipe. We use 21/25 - which means that you will get anywhere from 21 to 25 shrimp in 1 pound. For us, this is the perfect size, and we can usually fit 7 shrimp on a skewer (I use metal skewers).


And now, onto the recipe . . . 


Grilled Shrimp
from Kim's Cooking Now!

Ingredients:
  • (1) 8 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1-1/2 pounds of jumbo (21/25) peeled and deveined shrimp
  • Metal or wooden skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 1 hour before using)
Instructions:
  1. In a large glass bowl, whisk together the tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic, red wine vinegar, basil, salt and cayenne pepper. Remove about 1/4 cup of the marinade to a smaller bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to grill the shrimp. (This will be used to baste the shrimp during grilling).
  2. To the remaining marinade, add the shrimp and toss lightly until all of the shrimp are evenly coated with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. (I have left mine marinate for up to 6 hours with no problem).
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium heat. Skewer the shrimp, going through each shrimp twice, once near the head, and once near the tail, until all shrimp have been skewered.
  4. Grill the shrimp skewers for 2-3 minutes per side, basting with the reserved marinade, until the shrimp are firm and opaque. Serve immediately.
We like to serve ours over white rice with a side of grilled corn on the cob.

Adapted from Allrecipes


I can't tell you how many times we have made this recipe, and everyone that we serve it to loves it. I hope that you'll give it a try, and it becomes a favorite of yours as well.

Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mini Cheesecakes

Everyone that knows me, knows two things for sure about me: #1 - I have a major sweet tooth; #2 - I love to bake! I got my sweet tooth from my Dad . . . he used to always say "a meal is not complete without a little something sweet". Growing up, we always had to have something sweet on-hand for Dad, to go along with his coffee at the end of his dinner.


My problem is, when I bake, I have a tendency to over-indulge a bit, if you know what I mean! That "little something sweet" ends up being after breakfast, lunch AND dinner. If it's there, I will eat it.

I am also a person who does not like to waste food. I will do my best to put the food that is in my refrigerator to use before it goes into the garbage. That I get from my Mom. We used to tease her that she would keep moving the leftovers to smaller containers everyday as it was consumed, down to a final container the size of a shot-glass, before she would throw it away. I'm sure she got that way from trying to feed seven kids on a budget.


Last week, I had an 8 ounce package of cream cheese that needed to be used up. I had the urge to bake something, and cheesecake sounded really good, but I didn't want to run to the store and buy three more packages of cream cheese, nor did I want a 10" cheesecake in my fridge, tempting me all day, every day, until it was gone. That's when I came across this recipe on Allrecipes, which was absolutely perfect! It makes six mini cheesecakes - and took only one package of cream cheese (AND I had all of the other ingredients on-hand - BINGO!)


Mini Cheesecakes
from Kim's Cooking Now!

For the Crust:
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 5 graham cracker squares)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
For the Filling:
  • 1 - 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 egg
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325°.  Spray 6 cups of a muffin pan generously with non-stick baking spray (I like Wilton® Bake-Easy for all of my baking).
  2. Place butter in a small bowl and microwave on high for 15-20 seconds, or until melted. Add graham cracker crumbs and sugar, and mix until combined and crumbly. Divide the crumb mixture evenly into the prepared 6 muffin cups (about 1 heaping tablespoon per cup), and press down firmly. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  3. In a medium size bowl, beat the cream cheese, lemon juice and vanilla until fluffy. Add the egg and beat 1 minute more.
  4. Fill each muffin cup with the cream cheese mixture, dividing equally until all of the mixture has been used. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until almost set. Remove from oven, and let them cool completely in the pan. They will continue to set upon removing from the oven.
Note:  I left mine in for the full 25 minutes that is stated in the original recipe, and ended up with slight cracks on the top. The cracks were barely noticeable upon cooling - but I chose to top mine with berries and a fresh blueberry sauce to hide any imperfections.  Removing them slightly earlier should help to remedy this.

Adapted from Allrecipes


These are little gems, and certainly satisfied my sweet tooth that day. Do you have a sweet tooth that is hard to control?  I'd love to hear from you - leave a comment below so I know that I'm not alone!

Buon Appetito!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Polpette di Pane (Balls of Bread)

Got stale bread? Please don't throw it away . . . 

My husband bakes a batch of the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day recipe at least once a week. While we usually consume most of it, we are sometimes left with those odds and ends pieces that end up getting stale. I grind those up in my food processor and save them in a canister in my pantry. Homemade bread crumbs are SO much better then store bought - hands down!


You may recall that our daughter is currently in Santiago, Chile, visiting her Aunt Nadia and her Nonna. We've been Skyping with them frequently, and of course, we always have to know what Nonna is preparing them for dinner. The other day, Nonna prepared one of Nadia's favorites, Polpette di Pane.

She's made them for us in the past as well.  It has been so long since I've made them - years in fact! I knew I had her recipe in my recipe box, so I decided to dig it out, put those homemade bread crumbs to use, and give them a try again. I say "give them a try", because if I recall, she was with me, guiding me along the last time I prepared them.


I found the recipe, and you will understand what I mean when I say "try" once you read what she had written down for me.  Here goes (I've translated from Italian to English for you):

Bread Crumbs
Milk
Garlic
Pecorino
Garlic
Parsley
2-3 eggs

THAT'S IT . . . that's all she wrote! This is how ALL of her recipes are. No measurements, no instructions, just a list of ingredients. And when I ask her, "Mamma, how much milk?" or "how much pecorino" . . . her answer is always "as much as it takes!"  Yup - there you have it, "as much as it takes." I did my best here, to show you my interpretation of "as much as it takes". First I'll show you how, and then the recipe WITH the measurements that I used.

Place your bread crumbs in a large bowl. Add the milk, give it a stir and let it sit for 5 minutes to absorb the milk. Add the Pecorino-Romano cheese, garlic, parsley, salt & pepper, and the eggs (slightly beaten). Get in there with your hands, and mix well.

Take a handful of the bread mixture, slightly larger than a golf ball, form it into a ball, and then flatten it slightly into a patty. Repeat until all of the bread mixture has been formed into patties. Heat about 1/2 inch of olive oil in a pan and fry patties until golden brown (2-3 minutes per side). Set aside on a paper-towel lined sheet pan.

Here, you can use your favorite red sauce. I decided to make a simple sauce to go with our polpette. I just sauteed some chopped onion in olive oil for 2 minutes; Added 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic and sauteed for an additonal minute. Added some tomato sauce and fresh chopped basil and simmered for 15 minutes to combine the flavors.

Add the fried polpette to the sauce and let simmer until the polpette has a chance to soak up some of the sauce, and are heated through.

Polpette di Pane (Balls of Bread)

Ingredients:
  • 12 ounces of homemade bread crumbs (I highly recommend using homemade bread crumbs, made from an artisan bread)
  • 2 to 2-1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup of grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
  • 1-1/2 Tbls of fresh chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper 
  • 3 extra large eggs, slightly beaten
  • Extra virgin olive oil (for frying)
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano® (if desired)
Instructions: 
  1. Place bread crumbs in a large bowl. Add 2 cups of milk and mix lightly with a fork. Let sit for 5 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the milk.
  2. Add the Pecorino-Romano cheese and mix with a fork to combined.
  3. Add crushed garlic, chopped parsley, salt, pepper and mix to combined.
  4. Add beaten eggs. At this point, you will want to get your hands in there and mix it with your hands. The mixture should be moist and slightly sticky. If you need more moisture, add more milk, 1/4 cup at a time to achieve the right consistency.
  5. Take a handful of the mixture and form it into a ball, slightly larger than a golf ball. Flatten slightly into a patty. Repeat until all of the mixture has been formed into patties.
  6. Heat about 1/2" of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. Fry patties in batches, 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown. Remove patties from oil to a paper-towel lined baking sheet.
  7. Heat your favorite red sauce in a large pan until hot. Add the polpette, making sure that the patties are covered in sauce. Bring to a simmer and let them cook on low until the polpette have had a chance to soak up some of the sauce and are heated through (about 15 minutes).
  8. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano® cheese (if desired).


Have you ever had polpette di pane? If you haven't, I encourage you to give them a try. I hope that you enjoy them as much as we do!

Buon Appetito!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Molletes with Deconstructed Guacamole

Back in April, I was one of 50 lucky Allrecipes Allstars that was challenged with creating a fun recipe featuring fresh Avocados from Mexico. The recipe needed to be in one of three categories; guacamole, sandwich or salad. There would be 11 grand prize winners, who would have their recipe featured on Allrecipes.com until the end of 2014. Guess what?  My recipe was one of the 11 chosen, and I am so excited to share it with you today!


I learned how to make molletes from my friend, Jenny.  Jenny and her husband Julio and their two children moved into the house next door to us about 2-1/2 years ago. They are from Mexico, and have also lived many years in England before moving to the U.S. Our families have become great friends. We often get together for dinner, followed by a night of karaoke or playing games with the kids. We have learned so many wonderful dishes from them, but molletes are probably one of my favorites.

Molletes are so easy to make, and come together quickly. They are filling enough to be a quick weeknight meal. Normally, we top them with salsa, but for the challenge, I decided to add my own little twist - by adding a deconstructed guacamole instead!

Molletes with Deconstructed Guacamole
from www.kimscookingnow.com 

Ingredients:
  • 4 bolillo rolls, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 (20.5 oz) can of refried pinto beans (I like La Costena®)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 Avocados from Mexico, peeled, pitted and sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lime, sliced into rounds
Instructions:  
  1. Preheat oven to 400° fahrenheit
  2. Place the bolillo roll halves cut side up on a baking sheet and spread each with 1/2 tablespoons of butter or margarine. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes.
  3. Place refried beans in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes until warm.
  4. Divide the refried beans among the toasted rolls and spread evenly to the edges. Sprinkle each roll with 2 tablespoons of shredded mozzarella. Return rolls to oven and bake until cheese is melted, 7 or 8 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and top each roll with sliced tomatoes, avocados, red onion and chopped cilantro. Sprinkle each roll with a pinch of cumin and a pinch of salt. Drizzle each roll with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil.
  6. Serve warm with fresh sliced lime.

Also published on allrecipes

I hope that others will enjoy these as much as we do!

Buon Appetito!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Watermelon Jell-O® Shots


My husband and I love to entertain friends at our home. Tonight, we're having our friends, Kevin and Melissa, and their children over for dinner. Kevin and Enzo used to work together at Red Top Mountain State Park. We've been friends for many years - we even share the same wedding anniverary! Last year (on our anniversary) I saw that Melissa had posted on facebook that it was THEIR anniversary, so I quickly chatted her on facebook and we ended up celebrating our anniversaries together with dinner at Olive Garden. Just imagine - we just figured that out after all these years!

Anyway, tonight we're serving World's Best Lasagna, Grecian Pork Tenderloin, Oven Roasted Potatoes, a Tossed Salad with copycat Olive Garden Dressing and Banana Cake IV with Nutella Buttercream! It's my first time making John Chandler's World's Best Lasagna recipe (one of the most popular recipes on Allrecipes, with 8,307 reviews). It must be good, right? Let's hope so.

While I was making the marinade for the Grecian Pork Tenderloin, I finished juicing the limes (it takes 1-1/2 cups of fresh lime juice) and I was JUST about to throw all of the lime rinds into the garbage, when I remembered a video that Allrecipes had posted earlier this week on Instagram for Sliced Watermelon Jell-o® Shots! They looked so darn cute, and I DID have all of these lime rind halves that I could put to use, so I gave it a try.

A couple of the reviewers mentioned that they are hard to make. I found the video very helpful, and I didn't think they were difficult at all, but here are a few tips:

Tips & Tricks:

1. Once you have the lime turned inside-out, the best way to remove the membranes and flesh is to take a sharp knife and scrape from the top down, as if you were cleaning the white pith from a peeled orange.



2. Rather than place the lime halves in a dish towel lined dish - I used a mini muffin tin, which was the perfect size, and worked great.


3. I had a hard time finding black sesame seeds. I checked Walmart & Publix, and I even asked at a Chinese restaurant if they used them in any of their dishes (thinking they would sell me a little bit of them), but no luck. I knew that I had regular sesame seeds at home, so I decided to toast them to turn them brownish-black (that's really the color of watermelon seeds anyway, right?)  It worked like a charm.


4. To slice them, I found it much easier to place them jello side down on a cutting board, and then cut through the lime rind with a sharp knife, using firm pressure and a light back and forth motion.


5. After you slice them, you may notice that some of the jello pushes inward a bit from the pressure from slicing them, and leaves a slight edge of the rind showing. I just trimmed the excess rind with a scissors. I didn't get a picture of this with the jello inside, but you get the picture!


6. Made according to the recipe, they turned out WAY too boozy for us (I don't know, maybe we're getting too old?)  I would suggest adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vodka, rum or watermelon schnapps, depending on your tastes, or no booze at all!


Aren't they just the cutest things ever?


Recipe source: Allrecipes


These would be perfect for a 4th of July party! I might just have to make some more!

Buon Appetito!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tuna, Tomato and Avocado Salad


Working from home, I sometimes don't eat the best lunches. It easier to just walk through the kitchen and grab a piece of fruit and maybe some crackers and cheese, and call it "lunch". Today I really wanted something tasty and satisfying, and healthy. There was a tomato and a perfectly ripe avocado in one of my wrought iron baskets on my kitchen counter, just calling to be used! This is what I came up with:

Tuna, Tomato and Avocado Salad

Ingredients:
1 Hass Avocado
1 medium vine ripe tomato, diced
1 (5 ounce) can of Genova Yellowfin Tuna (in pure olive oil), drained
1 small shallot, chopped
2 teaspoons of chopped cilantro
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions: 
  1. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, remove the pit and skin. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, lightly toss the tomato, tuna and shallot together.
  3. Place an avocado half on each of two plates. Top each avocado with half of the tuna mixture.
  4. Top each avocado with 1 teaspoon of chopped cilantro.
  5. Sprinkle each avocado with sea salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
Serves 2

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed my lunch today! I served it with a few garlic bagel chips on the side . . . delicious!

Buon Appetito!




Sunday, June 22, 2014

Strawberry Vanilla-Almond Scones


Today is a bitter-sweet day for us. Our daughter is leaving tonight for Santiago, Chile for ONE MONTH! The longest she has ever been away from us since she was born was when she went on a Disney trip with her middle school band class for three nights. I'm sure we will be filled with emotions as we drive home from the airport, after leaving her on her way.

She is going to stay with her Aunt ("Zia Nadia"), my husband's sister, and her cousins, Martin (7) and Valentina (5). Her Nonna is also there visiting Nadia right now too, so she will get to spend some quality time with her Nonna as well. We are excited for her to be able to have this experience, and are hoping that she can work on her Spanish (and Italian), while she's there.

When I got up this morning, I wanted to make a special treat for what would be her last breakfast at home for awhile. She loves scones, so I made two kinds this morning - chocolate chip (her favorite) and these!

Strawberry Vanilla-Almond Scones

For the Scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons, cold, unsalted butter (cut into cubes)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup fresh strawberries, halved and then sliced

For the Glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons of milk
1/4 cup of sliced almonds
 
Directions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a food processor, add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse a few times to combined. Add cubed butter and process until butter is incorporates and mixture is crumbly.
  3. Pour mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the strawberries and slivered almonds and mix gently until berries and almonds are incorporated.
  4. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla to the cream, and then drizzle evenly over the flour/butter/strawberry/almond mixture.
  5. Using a rubber scraper, mix gently until the mixture starts to come together and form a dough. Don't worry if all of the dry ingredients aren't totally incorporated yet.
  6. Dump the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface, such as your countertop or a large cutting board.
  7. Flour your hands slightly, and using your hands, gather the dough together into a ball, kneading a few times to incorporate those last bits of flour that weren't incorporated before.  Flatten the ball into a disk about 10" in diameter and about 3/4" thick.
  8. Cut the dough in half, then into quarters, and then into eighths, forming eight equal size scones. Transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet, placing them 1" apart.
  9. Using a pastry brush, brush the scones with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream. Place baking sheet into oven and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until just starting to brown slightly. Remove from oven and cool the scones on the baking sheet.
  10. While the scones are cooling, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk (adding the milk 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency). Place the sliced almonds on top of scones, and then drizzle with the glaze. The glaze acts as the "glue" to seal the almonds in place.
Adapted from MyRecipes.com



We will miss you Chiara, but are hoping that you have a great time in Chile!

Buon Viaggio!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tarragon Mashed Potatoes, Ham and Eggs Benedict


What a week it's been! I have been so busy with work lately, that my poor little blog has been neglected. After such a long work week, I needed something easy and comforting for dinner tonight. 

There wasn't much in the fridge, as I haven't had time to get to the grocery store. There was a bowl of leftover mashed potatoes that hubby made the other night, 4 eggs, some deli ham, and a few fresh herbs. Hmmm . . . I can work with this!

I went to the ingredients search on Allrecipes and typed in "mashed potatoes" and "ham".  I noticed a beautiful photo for the Ham Cups and Eggs recipe, and I knew right away that it was taken by one of my fellow Allrecipes Ambassadors (lutzflcat). She takes the most beautiful photos of the food that she makes. I quickly read her review (she gave it 5 stars), and knew that this was going to become dinner tonight!


Tarragon Mashed Potatoes, Ham and Eggs Benedict

Ingredients:
4 cups mashed potatoes
1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon, chopped
4 slices of deli ham
4 eggs
2 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon of fresh parsley, chopped
1 package of Knorr® Hollandaise sauce (prepared as directed on the package)
Salt & Pepper (to taste) 

Directions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease the bottom and sides of a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish with butter.
  2. If using leftover mashed potatoes, heat them in a glass bowl in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, until hot.  Re-whip them with a potato masher or electric mixer.
  3. Add chopped tarragon to the mashed potatoes, mix well, and spread in the bottom of the prepared casserole dish.
  4. Make 4 wells into the mashed potatoes. Line each of the wells with 1 slice of deli ham, using the ham to form a cup.
  5. Crack an egg into each of the ham cups.
  6. Sprinkle the entire casserole with the fresh parsley, salt and pepper.
  7. Cut the butter into small pieces and place them on top of the potatoes.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. If the tops of the eggs are not set to your liking, turn the oven on broil for a few minutes, until the top of the eggs reached the desired consistency.
  9. While the casserole is baking, prepare the hollandaise sauce.  Keep warm until ready to serve.
  10. To serve, divide among 4 plates and drizzle with hollandaise sauce.

Slightly adapted from Allrecipes


This was a fabulous and comforting Friday night dinner! Served with a couple of slices of fresh tomato and hubby's homemade bread ... what more could I ask for?

Buon Appetito!


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes


Cooking for a holiday meal can be overwhelming for some, especially when you haven't done it before! I've been cooking dinner for all of the major holidays since my kids were little, not because I have to, but because I WANT to. Even though we don't have family in the area, it's a tradition that I want my kids to grow up with. Even for me, it can sometimes get a little overwhelming!

That's why I love recipes that you can make a day in advance, and still have them taste fresh and delicious the day of the big event. The recipe that I'm sharing with you today is one that often makes an appearance on our holiday table. My kids love them!

These are like a loaded twice-baked potato casserole. They go great with ham (which is why I made them to go with our Easter ham a few weeks ago), as well as a nice grilled steak. Leftovers of these in our house never go to waste.

<<Printable Recipe>>
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:
4 lbs. russet potatoes, washed, peeled and cubed
6 oz. of bacon
6 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, monterey jack or colby - whatever you have on hand)
1/4 cup chopped green onion

Directions:
  1. Place potatoes in a large pan and add enough water to just cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for about 15 minutes or until the poatoes are fork tender.
  2. In the meantime, preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Lay bacon strips on sheet pan, place into oven and bake until bacon is just starting to crisp (about 10-12 minutes). Remove from oven and place bacon on a paper towel lined plate to drain the grease. Crumble into small pieces when cool. Set aside.
  3. Drain potatoes and place back into the pot that you cooked them in. Add the cream cheese, sour cream, butter, milk, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper to the hot potatoes.
  4. With a potato masher, mash the potatoes until there are no lumps, incorporating all of the ingredients into the potatoes as you mash. Stir in 3/4 cup of the shredded cheese.
  5. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 13" x 9" glass pan. Pour the potatoes into the prepared pan, spreading evenly.
  6. Sprinkle the top of the potatoes with the remaining cheese, the crumbled bacon and the chopped green onions.
  7. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. 
  8. Remove potatoes from the refrigerator about 1/2 hour before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake potatoes, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
Adapted from Taste of Home


I'd love to hear some of your make-ahead recipes to make holidays stress free! Leave me a comment and a link! I'd love to give some of them a try!

Buon Appetito!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Asparagus, Avocado and Roasted Tomato Salad

This month as part of the Allrecipes Ambassador program, I get to work with fresh Avocados from Mexico. While blogging about it is NOT an assignment this month - I love it when an assignment recipe become a new favorite, and too good NOT to share! This is one of those recipes.

I made this for dinner last night, and served it along side steamed artichokes for a light, fresh, meat-less dinner. My husband and I gobbled this up, and I'm already craving it again!

Asparagus, Avocado and Roasted Tomato Salad
from www.kimscookingnow.blogspot.com
 
Serves 2 as a main dish salad
Serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:
6 Roma Tomatoes
4 Tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbls fresh garlic (chopped)
1-1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 tsp salt (divided)
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper (divided)
10 Asparagus spears (trimmed)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (green part only)
1 ripe avocado (halved and pitted)
1 Tbls cooking sherry
1 Tbls white vinegar

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon of olive oil, garlic, thyme, 1/8 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp of pepper.
  3. Cut the tomatoes lengthwise into quarters. Remove core and seeds. Add the tomatoes to the olive oil, garlic, thyme mixture and toss lightly to coat all of the tomatoes.
  4. Place tomatoes cut side up on the prepared baking sheet, scraping any remaining olive oil, garlic, thyme mixture from the bowl onto the tomatoes.
  5. Place in the oven and roast for 25 - 30 minutes until soft and slightly shriveled. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  6. Meanwhile, cut the asparagus spears in half. Cook the asparagus in 1" of salted water (3 - 4 minutes) until bright green and crisp-tender. Remove with a tongs and place into a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well, and dry with paper towel.
  7. Place asparagus and sliced green onion in a bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss lightly to coat. Set aside.
  8. To prepare the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sherry, vinegar and remaining 1/8 tsp of salt and pepper.
  9. With a large spoon, scoop avocado from shell and slice each half into eight slices, lengthwise. Arrange asparagus, roasted tomatoes and avocado slices on serving plate, scraping any green onions from the bowl on sprinkling on top. Drizzle with dressing and serve immediately.
Adapted from allrecipes
 

I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Buon Appetito!
 


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Back in February, I told you about the great deal I got on Roma tomatoes and multi-colored peppers at Aldi. You can read about it HERE. Well, I'm finally getting around to sharing with you my way of making homemade marinara sauce.

I've been making it this way for years. I really don't measure anything, or have a "recipe" written down. I just kind of eye-ball everything, tasting and adjusting along the way if necessary. I will do my best to explain how I do it, so you can give a try too! (It's so much better than store-bought marinara sauce, and once you've made your own, it's hard to go back to store-bought).

 Here's what you'll need:  tomatoes (I use Roma - what's pictured here was about 12 lbs.); yellow onions (about 2 cups; chopped), garlic (6-7 cloves; sliced), extra virgin olive oil (about 3-4 Tblsp), red wine (about 1 cup - I just use cooking wine), Kosher salt (about 1-1/2 Tblsp), freshly ground black pepper (about 1 tsp) & fresh basil (about 1/2 cup).

Equipment needed: Two large pots and a food mill.

 Cut the tomatoes in half, cross-wise. This will expose the tomato's 2-3 seed chambers. Over the side of the sink with the food disposer, squeeze the tomato so that the seeds and all that jelly looking stuff squeezes out. (Hint: If you have a piece of tomato in each hand, you can squeeze both and then use the tomatoes to kind of wipe the opposite tomato to get all of the seeds and stuff to fall out into the sink). You can see in the last photo what it looks like without the seeds. It doesn't have to be perfect. A few seeds are okay, but all of the "stuff" in there will just water down your sauce, and you don't want that. We're making marinara, not tomato juice!


 Next cut each tomato half in half again, so you end up with tomato quarters. Place your pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the chopped onions and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato quarters and give it a good, gentle stir (that pot is pretty full right now), working the onions and garlic up from the bottom of the pot.


Sprinkle with kosher salt and give it about 6-7 grinds of pepper (about 1 tsp). Add the wine. Remember that basil I harvested last summer and put in the freezer? THAT is going to make this sauce! I just pull out a handful of frozen leaves, and give them a crumble, right on top of the tomatoes.


Cook over medium to medium-high heat (uncovered), stirring every 15 - 20 minutes. You want to keep them at a good simmer. The tomatoes will start to cook down, and concentrate. After about an hour, I get in there with a masher, and help to break the tomatoes down even more (if you don't have any type of masher, you can use a wooden spoon). Continue to simmer, stirring every so often, until it reaches the consistency shown in the last picture here.


 Now comes the fun part. Place the food mill fitted with medium holed disc over a large pot. Ladle some of the sauce into the food mill and turn clockwise with one hand, while holding the handle of the food mill with the other hand.  Every 4-5 turns, do one turn counter-clockwise to clean up the skins. Continue to pass the sauce through the food mill in the same manner. When there are too many skins in the food mill, you'll need to clean it out before continuing.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the mill, before taking it to the sink to clean! You don't want to miss all of that yumminess on the bottom!
 

 This is what you'll end up with when you're done. At this point, you can put it into freezer containers and place into the freezer, or if you are into the whole canning thing, you can do that with it too!

In my home, this is like a pot of gold! Nothing makes my husband happier than coming home and seeing and smelling this. I can have dinner already prepared, and my husband will say "I have to have some pasta"!

What can I say? He's Italian!

Buon Appetito!
 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mint Buttercream Frosting

Last night I hosted the ladies at my house for our monthly Bunco night. Being that it was also St. Patrick's Day, I felt the need to prepare something green to eat! I was already serving the traditional corned beef and cabbage along with some other appetizers, so I needed something sweet!

Over the weekend, I hit Michael's with a 40% off coupon, plus take an additional 20% off your purchase coupon. I bought myself a 14" decorator bag and a 1M tip - perfect for making pretty cupcakes!  Cupcakes it was!



For the cupcakes - I turned, once again, to one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes - Simple 'N' Delicious Chocolate Cake from Allrecipes. Why mess with something that is perfect already! I was up baking cupcakes at 6:30 a.m., so they could cool and be ready to frost at lunch time.

Here's the frosting recipe:
<Printable Recipe>
Mint Buttercream 
from www.kimscookingnow.blogspot.com

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
4-1/4 cups powdered sugar
1-1/2 tsp pure mint extract
1/8 tsp popcorn salt
5-6 Tblsp heavy cream (to reach desired consistency)
Wilton® Kelly Green Icing Coloring

Directions:
  1. Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixture and beat until creamed.
  2. Add powdered sugar - a bit at a time, alternating with the cream, mixing well between additions until all of the sugar and cream have been added.
  3. Add the salt and mint extract and beat on medium for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  4. Dip a toothpick into the icing coloring and run it through the whipped frosting. Beat an additional 2 minutes to distribute coloring.
  5. Fill decorator bag fitted with either a 1M or 2D tip with the frosting. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes in a circular motion, starting from the outside and working towards the middle. Top with an Andes mint or sprinkles (if desired).
Adapted from Allrecipes

I loved how the mint buttercream complimented the chocolate cupcakes. They turned out so cute, and everyone loved them!

Buon Appetito!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sweet and Spicy Salmon with Mango Salsa

Yesterday marked the start of Lent for the 1.2 billion Catholics throughout the world. Lent is a time of preparation - preparing our minds, bodies and souls. For those of us that practice the faith, this means refraining from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent. It's a great time to work at eating healthier . . . many people often giving up sweets, candy, cookies or soda for these 40 days.

 

  This month, as part of the Allrecipes Allstar program, I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mazola® Corn Oil. (I received a sample from Mazola® to facilitate my review, as well as a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.)

I was glad to see that one of the recipes that we were asked to review was a fish recipe.  Healthy, and meatless to boot! I decided to prepare it for our Ash Wednesday dinner. I did make a couple of adjustments to the original recipe to fit my family's dietary needs (neither hubs nor I can eat grapefruit).  You can find the original recipe HERE.

We really enjoyed this! It's good to know that Mazola® is providing heart healthy recipes that I know my family will enjoy! 

You can find out more about Mazola® Corn Oil, including healthy eating tips HERE.



Sweet and Spicy Salmon with Mango Salsa
1-1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1-1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 lb salmon fillet (cut into 4 pieces)
2 tsp Mazola® Corn Oil

For the Salsa:
2 cups mango, diced
1/3 cup green onion, chopped
1/4 cup sweet bell peppers, diced (I used a mixture of red, yellow & orange)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
Juice of 1 orange
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay salmon fillets on top.
  2. Combined paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, oregano, thyme, black pepper, cayenne pepper and brown sugar in a small bowl.  Mix well.
  3. Brush the salmon fillets with the corn oil. Sprinkle the rub generously on top of each fillet, and rub it around to coat the tops and sides of the fillets.
  4. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily (depending on the thickness of your fillets).
  5. While the fish is baking, combined the salsa ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  6. Serve the salsa on top of the baked salmon.
 Adapted from Allrecipes
Buon Appetito!