Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Basil Butter

Spaghetti Squash is a new vegetable for me but I wish I would've found it sooner (like when I was trying to slim down for my wedding) because we would've eaten it at least once a week. This is a vegetable that pretends to be pasta, who would've thought that was ever possible?? The other thing I love about this recipe is there are only a few ingredients. If you are looking for a dinner that is healthy and light this is the way to go.

Adapted from

1 Small 2-3lb Spaghetti Squash
1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes
10 Fresh Basil Leaves
2 Cloves of Garlic
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbsp of Butter
2 Tbsp of Olive Oil
S&P to taste
Parsley for Garnish
Start by preheating the oven to 400 F. Wash your spaghetti squash and CAREFULLY spilt it in half. I found that if you stick your knife all of the way into the squash it will get stuck which is what happen to me so I had to wrestle it out and I was very nervous I was going to cut myself. So you may want to make shallow cuts and work your way around the whole thing. It may split unevenly which is fine. Once you get it open, scoop out all of the seeds and strands in the middle with a spoon.
Put the halves on a baking sheet. Brush the entire inside of the squash with olive oil. Season both halves with salt & pepper. Flip the squashes over so the open seasoned side is down on the baking sheet. Cook them for 45-50 minutes, they should be browned and tender.
Once the squashes come out of the oven let them cool for about 5 minutes so they are able to be handled without burning yourself. Using a fork, shred the entire squash into long strands, you can go in both directions and all the way down until the skin to scrape out all of the flesh. You will have a lot of strands once you shred both sides of the squash.
While the squash is cooking or cooling off you can prep your veggies. Wash and dice the basil and then wash and spilt the tomatoes in half.
In a large saucepan melt the butter and add the garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant but be careful not to burn it. Add the basil and tomatoes, cook stirring frequently another 3-5 minutes. S&P to taste.
Once the tomatoes have soften and the basil has wilted you add the spaghetti squash strands into the pan. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cook another 3-5 minutes all together, stirring occasionally. Spoon into bowls, garnish with parsley and more Parmesan cheese if you like.

Enjoy!! - Nicole

Friday, February 25, 2011

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

The two best cookies in the world together as one - how bad can that be?  I sent these to my daughter at school in Maryland because she loves when I send her sweets.  And so do her roommates.  This recipe is similar to the Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe with a few ingredient amount changes.  These are huge cookies so you probably won't be able to eat more than one at a time but thats a good thing.

Adapted from

2 sticks softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
12 oz bag chocolate chips
16 Oreo cookies, regular or double stuff

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugars until well combined. 

Add eggs and vanilla until well combined.

In a separate bowl mix flour, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add to wet ingredients.

Add in chocolate chips and stir.

Using a cookie scoop take one scoop of cookie dough and place on top.  Take another scoop and place on the bottom of the Oreo.  Seal edges together by pressing with your fingers until the Oreo cookie is enclosed in cookie dough. 

Place onto a parchment covered cookie sheet and bake cookies 11-13 minutes or until cookies are baked to your liking.  Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  This makes about 16 very large cookies. 

Enjoy!   Susan

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Porcini Rubbed Sirloin with Red-Pepper Sweet Potato Pancake

"Greatness courts failure.” -Roy McAvoy (played by Kevin Costner), Tin Cup

The first time I had a porcini-rubbed steak, I was at Capital Grille in LasVegas.  It was the first time I had anything rubbed into my steak, period, and I was soon smitten!  So, without the recipe, I endeavored to create my own home-version.  I was successful in the execution.  What I was not so successful executing was the Red-Pepper Sweet Potato Pancake.  The flavors were spot-on, but what I had envisioned in my mind did not translate to the plate, hence my opening quote above.  Don't be afraid to try things and experiment with different flavors and ideas!  Sure, you will have some flops.  But without swinging for the fences from time to time, how do you expect to hit any home runs?  With that, I will give you the proper execution of the potato pancake and what I should have done with it!  A very tasty meal that is cheaper than a steakhouse dinner!


1 24oz Sirloin
3 sweet potatoes
1 container dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 tbsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. flour
1/2 onion
1/2 red pepper
1 6oz container pancetta
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

First, half-bake the Sweet Potatoes for about 20 minutes so they are still somewhat hard, but maleable, when you remove them.  This is critical!  I'll tell you why later.

Next, rub all sides of the sirloin with butter to coat lightly.  Season all sides with salt and black pepper to taste.  Spread some garlic on all sides as well.  Next, place Porcini mushrooms in a food processor to crush down into a rub.  You can also use a blender if you do not have a food processor. (The first time I made it, I cut, chopped and grinded by hand and it took forever!)  It will mostly be a powder with some chunkier mushroom pieces in it, which is ideal.  When ready, generously cover all sides of the sirloin, rubbing directly into the meat.  Place meat in cooking tray and broil for 18-22 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the onion first, then red-pepper, in the food processor until you get a thick puree of each and place in a large bowl.  Next, heat the EVOO over a skillet and cook the pancetta until brown. Then, Remove Sweet Potatoes from skin and combine large bowl with the two purees, pancetta w/ drippings, butter, flour and crushed red-pepper.  Mix well and create patties or potatoe pancakes of desired size. 
Once complete, place on flat panini grill for 4-6 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove and plate.

 Remove sirloin from broiler, let rest, slice and serve.

*The mistake I made was baking the Sweet Potatoes for their usual full 40 minute baking time.  When they were complete, they were extremely soft.  When I combined all of the ingredients, there was still nothing to bind it together to go on the flat grill.  I tried some bread crumb, when I simply should have used flour.  When I put it on the grill, it was runny and not combining well at all, so I decided to serve it as it was.  Again, the flavors were incredible, I just executed poorly.  The above method has solved my initial problems.*

Swing for the fences!- John

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tuscan Eggplant Parmesan


8 ounces fresh mozzarella diced

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

3/4 cup basil leaves

Black pepper

Garlic powder

Dried oregano

1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes


Oil for frying

3 medium eggplants

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Peel off stripes on the eggplant. Slice eggplants into discs about 1/2 inch thick or thinner. Heat oil in a large skillet. Once hot start cooking eggplant in batches. Cooking about 3 minutes on each side or till golden brown. Time varied by batch and pieces. I had to add a lot of oil each time to make them not stick or burn. Place on plate and pat with paper towel. I'm not a big salt user but I sprinkled a little on each batch while on the plate.

  • Get medium baking dish and pour a little sauce and break and scatter 4 tomatoes on the bottom. Sprinkle the tomatoes with garlic and oregano. Tear and scatter a few basil leaves and then cover with a layer of eggplant. Top with 2 tomatoes, some diced mozzarella, and parmigiano reggiano cheese. Continue this layering until eggplant is gone. I ended up only doing two layers but three would be probably the best in a smaller dish. Make sure your last layer is topped with tomatoes, cheese, garlic, oregano, and basil.

  • Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes to cool. I served it with bread because it was very juicy. 

    Enjoy! Kathryn 

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

    This is the easiest thing to do ever.  It takes about 5 minutes to get everything together and 8 hours later dinner is ready.  It couldn't be any easier and it tastes delicious - plus it makes enough for leftovers.  I served it with sweet potato fries and ginger dressing cole slaw.


    2 medium onions chopped
    1 cup ketchup
    2/3 cup cider vinegar
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    1 small container tomato paste
    3 tbsp sweet paprika
    4 tbsp worcestershire sauce
    2 tsp salt
    2 tsp pepper
    4 lb. pork shoulder cut into two pieces
    8 kaiser or sandwich rolls

    Place all ingredients except pork and rolls into bottom of slow cooker and mix together well.   Add two pieces of pork and cover with slow cooker lid.  Set on low for 8 hours.  After 8 hours pull apart with two forks.  Toast rolls and spoon pork onto rolls.

    Enjoy!   Susan

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Easy Cheesy Beef Wellington

    I made this last night for our Valentine's Day dinner. This is a little extravagant for a normal evening but it's perfect in my opinion for a special occasion. As a fan of the show Hell's Kitchen, I've been wanting to make Beef Wellington since they serve it every night on the show. This turned out to be delicious and an easy version of it.

    Adapted from Good Moring America - Sandra Lee of Semi-Home Made
    Makes 4 Wellingtons

    3/4 lb of Top Chuck Boneless Steak
    5oz Box Boursin Semi -soft Shallot & Chive Cheese
    1 Sheet of Puff Pastry
    1 Cup chopped Mushrooms
    1 Cup diced Onions
    2 Tsp of Minced Garlic
    1 Egg
    1 Tsp Water
    2 Tbsp I Can't Believe it's not Butter for Cooking and Baking
    1 Tbsp Olive Oil
    Pam Cooking Spray
    S&P to taste
    Start by defrosting the puff pastry sheet in the fridge for a few hours or on the counter top for 40 minutes. In a large pan heat the olive oil on high. Season the steak on both sides with S&P. Quickly sear the steak, cooking for 1-2 minutes on each side. Do not over cook the steak, you want it to be rare or medium rare because it will finish cooking while in the puff pastry. Let the steak rest for a few minutes so you maintain the juices and then chop it into pieces. If you have left-over already cooked steak from a previous meal that will work as well.
    Preheat the oven to 400 F. On a floured surface roll out the defrosted dough and with a pizza cutter slice into 4 squares. Put a heaping spoonful of the soft cheese in the middle of each square.
    Prep all of the veggies. In a large pan over medium heat, melt the margarine. Add the vegetables, S&P to taste and cook for 10 minutes or until tender. Now you can begin to assemble the wellingtons.
    On top of the cheese add the pieces of beef, splitting them up evenly over the 4 squares. Next add the vegetables putting a large spoonful on each square over the beef. Break the egg into a small bowl and add the water, mix them together using a fork to create the egg wash. Wipe the egg wash on all four sides of each square one at a time. Save of the rest of your egg wash because you will be using it on the outside of each wellington.
    Gently pinch together two opposing ends of the puff pastry square. Next bring the other two sides together and pinch all edges together. Creating 4 little bundles.
     Place all of the wellington bundles in a glass baking dish that has been sprayed with Pam Cooking Spray. Put them in the fridge for 15 minutes. Once they have chilled you can take them out, flip them over so the pinched side is down. Brush the remaining egg wash on the top and sides of each wellington and bake for 25 minutes. The pastry will puff up and become brown and flaky. I served them with a glass of red wine and a side of sauteed asapargus which paired quite nicely.
    Enjoy!! - Nicole

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Happpy Valentines Day- Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies

    I decided to make these amazing cookies for Valentines Day. I decided on them because they were a little different then the conventional red velvet cupcake.

    adapted from


    2 sticks salted sweet cream butter
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup brown sugar
    2 eggs
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    3 cups flour
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    2/3 cup cocoa powder
    2 teaspoons red food coloring
    1 cup chocolate chips

    Makes about 30 cookies

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix butter and sugars together until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla. Then the red food coloring.

    ( I used an electric mixer just used the wooden spoon in between.)

    Next comes the cocoa, flour, and baking soda until well mixed. Then finally the chocolate chips. 

    Spoon about 2 tablespoons onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes. 

    They are really good like this but also can easily be turned into sandwiches with cream cheese icing. 

    Cream Cheese Icing adapted from Martha Stewart


    1 stick salted sweat cream butter
    8 ounces 1/3 fat cream cheese
    1 cup powdered sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Enjoy! Kath

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Baked Potato Soup

    I read somewhere last week that a way to cure the winter "blues" was to eat potatoes.  They contain a chemical that helps produce serotonin in your body and give you a "happy mellow feeling".  I had never known before that potatoes could do this but after my husband and I ate this soup we didn't seem to mind the cold, snow or ice building up outside.  It was delicious and certainly filling enough for dinner with a side salad.  I haven't made a lot of soups in the past but this one was very easy and so good I will be making it again very soon.

    Adapted from


    6 baking potatoes (2-1/2 pounds)
    2 tbsp butter
    2/3 cup all purpose flour
    6 cups milk (I used lactaid 2%)
    5 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra for garnish
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp black pepper
    1/4 tsp paprika
    1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
    3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided
    10 slices center cut bacon, cooked and crumbled

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    Pierce potatoes with a fork, bake for an hour or until tender. Cool and then peel potatoes discarding skins.

    Coarsely mash the potatoes.

    Melt butter in a large dutch oven.  Add flour, whisking to combine with butter.  Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended.  Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes).  Add mashed potatoes, cheese, salt, pepper, and paprika, stirring until cheese melts.  Remove from heat.

    Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup green onions.  Cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Do not boil.  Spoon into bowls.  Top each serving with cheese, onions, and bacon.

    Enjoy!   Susan

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    Monday, February 7, 2011

    French Onion Soup Cups

    These were a huge hit yesterday at our Superbowl party, my only regret was I didn't make more than one batch! They were gobbled up almost immediately by all of our friends so I only got to have one! I'm tempted to make another round today since I have all of the ingredients left over haha :)

    Adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray

    Makes 16  French Onion Soup Cups

    1 Can of Pillsbury Refrigerated Flaky Biscuit Dough
    Pam Cooking Spray
    1 Large Sweet Vidalia Onion
    2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinaigrette
    2 Tbsp Olive Oil
    S&P to taste
    1/2 Pint Heavy Cream
    1 Stick I Can't Believe it's not Butter
    1 1/3 Cup Shredded Fondue Cheese (Emmentaler & Gruyere)
    3 Tbsp Flour
    Sprinkle of Dried of Thyme
    Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut your onion into thin slices so you can caramelize it. In a large pan over medium heat add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot add the onion slices and a little bit of S & P. After about 5 minutes or so they will begin to become opaque. Add the Balsamic Vinaigrette. The onions will need to cook down for about 15-20 minutes. Keep stirring them so they don't burn, if they begin to stick add a splash of water to the pan. While the onions are caramelizing you can start to make the biscuit cups.
    Spray the bottom of a regular sized muffin tin with Pam. Take each biscuit and split in half which should be easy to separate the top of the biscuit from the bottom. Mold each piece of dough closely around each muffin tin to form a cup. Bake for 10 minutes, until the dough is set.
    While the biscuit cups are cooking, the onions should be finished so you can start on the cheese sauce. In a separate pan cook the butter, cream, and flour. Whisking frequently so it doesn't burn or stick.
    Once the butter has melted and the flour has been absorbed you can gradually whisk in the shredded cheese. If you can't find this fondue mixture at your local grocery store buy a hunk of Gruyere cheese and grate it yourself.
    Continue whisking until all the cheese has melted. Turn the heat down to low, stirring occasionally so the cheese stays creamy and warm until you can assemble the cups.
    Take all of the baked biscuit cups and put them on a regular baking sheet. Put a spoonful of caramelized onions in the bottom of each cup. Next pour the creamy cheese mixture on top of the onions in each cup.
    Sprinkle each cup with the remaining 1/4 cup of shredded cheese and the dried Thyme. Put the finished cups back in the oven for 5 minutes, until the cheese bubbles and melts. If you need to you can make them ahead of time, keeping them in the fridge until they are ready to be served and then reheating them for 10 minutes.

    Enjoy!! - Nicole

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