Sunday, February 24, 2013

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

I've decided that I'm going to stop making up new excuses about why I'm so bad about keeping up with the blog.  You know the drill....I've been traveling for work, I don't cook very much when I'm only home for a couple of days, yada yada, so on and so forth.

But my husband hasn't starved to death yet, and something must be working because I've lost over 40 pounds since I started trying back in September.  Not too shabby if I do say so myself.  Even my feet have gotten smaller, and you KNOW what that means.  There are so many shoes in the world who want to come live with me in my house and it's been very difficult to tell any of them no.  And why should I?  This is a happy time, people!  It's not a time to reject any of the beautiful shoes in the world.

Anyway!  This soup probably isn't the best thing to eat in order to lose weight, but you have permission to have a little bowl.  Each day.  Because it's pretty darn delicious.  Again, if I do say myself.


Loaded Baked Potato Soup
Source: Adapted from Live Love Pasta

8 slices of bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ cup all purpose flour
3 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
5 potatoes, baked, peeled and diced
2 cups half & half
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup sour cream
Salt & pepper to taste

Additional bacon, crumbled

Small bunch scallions, chopped
Chives, chopped
Sour Cream
Shredded Cheddar cheese

In a Dutch oven cook bacon until crisp; remove and crumble; set aside.

Then cook the onions on medium heat in the bacon drippings plus the olive oil until tender. Once tender stir in flour and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add chicken broth; cook, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Put in the diced potatoes and half & half.

Continue to cook on medium-low heat for 10 minutes and stir in the cheese and sour cream. Garnish with the bacon, chives, additional cheese, and sour cream if you’d like.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Best Baked Ziti

At least, the best baked ziti according to my standards.  And those of my husband's co-workers.

I was in California for work all week last week and for some reason I thought that instead of packing and doing laundry on the Sunday before I left like I should have been, I would plan and cook time-consuming comfort foods for my husband to eat while I was away.  I was thinking, "what on earth will the poor dear eat when he's all lonely and sad while I'm gone?"  I'm pretty sure the answer is that he would order pizza while he relished the fact that he finally got to hold the remote, but this is my blog and therefore I'm allowed to share my own, deluded version of reality.  So I set to work on concocting this here baked ziti and a big old batch of baked potato soup (recipe for that coming soon, I swear). 

I didn't get to each much of the ziti, but I had a little taste when it came out of the oven, and it was pretty amazing if I do say so myself.  Granted, it's hard to go wrong with pasta, sausage, and like a million kinds of cheese.  It was evidently a hit around my husband's office, too (sorry to the ladies who are trying to diet).  Enjoy!

Classic Baked Ziti
Source: Adapted from Pioneer Woman

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2 pounds hot Italian sausage (ground, in the container like ground beef comes in)
1 large jar (16-20 oz) marinara sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound Rigatoni, cooked to just short of al dente
1 tub (15 oz) whole milk ricotta cheese
2-3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 medium sized ball fresh mozzarella, sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for several minutes, or until starting to soften. Add Italian sausage and cook until browned.  Add the marinara, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Stir and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta to just shy of al dente (it should have a pretty significant "bite" to it still).
Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down.  Mix pasta with the sauce.

Add half of the pasta and sauce mixture to a large casserole dish.  Top with half of the fresh mozzarella, shredded mozzarella, and grated Parmesan.  Add small dollops of the ricotta a couple of inches apart as well.  Repeat with another layer of the pasta/sauce mixture and the cheeses.  Add a little extra Parmesan on top.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbling.  Turn oven to broil and broil for a couple of minutes to brown the cheese.  Make sure to watch carefully as not to burn it!  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Okay folks!  I'm back and promise (sort of) that I won't ever leave for that long again.  I'm back in the saddle and although I'm traveling a ton in the next month and a half, we do have to eat while I'm home, eh? 

I spend a lot of time in Boston for work, and one of my favorite things about going there is that there is so much lobster.  Lobster rolls, lobster pie, lobster pasta, lobster salad, lobster....lobster.  So when we were planning our menu for our New Year's Eve dinner party, lobster only seemed fitting.  I'm not really sure why, but it did.  Come to find out, it's kind of hard to find lobster in Virginia in January.  Also, it turns out that I don't really know how to cook lobster, and that made for a cooking experience that was more interesting than I had planned.  They make it look so easy on the Reb Lobster commercials.

Anyway, since lobsters in Virginia in January aren't cheap, I decided that I'd make something with lobster IN it, and that everyone wouldn't get their own lobster.  Because it would be pretty awkward to charge an admission fee when you invite people over for dinner.  The mac and cheese was a perfect companion for the filet mignons and arugula salad that rounded out the dinner.  Let me warn you...this stuff ain't good for you.  The amount of butter and cheese in this dish is off the charts, so this is best eaten in moderation or on a treadmill.


Lobster Mac and Cheese
Source: Barefoot Contessa

Kosher salt
Vegetable oil
1 pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni, very slightly short of al dente
1 quart milk (I used 1%)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
½ cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (3 cups)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1½ pounds cooked lobster meat (I used 2 whole lobsters)
1½ cups panko bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 7 minutes or until slightly short of al dente. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t allow it to come to a boil. In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Still whisking, add the hot milk and cook for another minute or two, until thickened and smooth.

Off the heat, add both the cheeses, 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and lobster and stir well. Place the mixture in a lightly greased casserole dish.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the panko, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hanging My Head in Shame

Bet you thought I was gone for good, eh?  Nope, you only THINK you could be so lucky!  I have been a terrible provider of food in this household, and a terrible provider of blog updates as well.  I don't know what happened over the last month, but it didn't involve any kind of cooking or photograph taking.  It did involve a trip to Vegas from which I am still recovering.  I don't know why people call New York "the city that never sleeps", because I always get plenty of beauty rest while I'm there.  Vegas, on the other hand?  VEGAS?  Not so much.  That, my friends, is the city that never sleeps.

Anywho, I don't have any recipes to post today, but I wanted you to know that I'm alive (in case you were even wondering).  I'm back on the pony now, so be on the lookout for some delicious things this week!  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shrimp Scampi, Y'all

Hello!  Can you believe Christmas is in less than a week?  It's madness I tell ya.  I am mostly finished with all my shopping, and I even managed to buy a few things for other people.
This shrimp scampi recipe was really, really good.  I will admit that I had a few bites, even though pasta is the devil in my world these days.  After all, a girl doesn't lose 30 pounds (yes, I hit the 30 mark this morning, woot!!!) by eating pasta soaked in butter and garlic.  It's a damn shame, though, because pasta soaked in butter in garlic is SO GOOD.  My husband snarfed it down like he hadn't eaten in weeks and I'm pretty sure my jeans would still be loose on him.  Oh well.  Anyway, this is a rich, once in awhile kind of dish that you should make for someone if you did something wrong or if you want them to marry you.

Shrimp Scampi over Pappardelle
Source: Adapted from Tyler Florence

1 pound Pappardelle
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 shallots, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch or two of red pepper flakes
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
For the pasta, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When it has come to the boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt and the pasta. Stir to make sure the pasta separates; cover. When the water returns to a boil, cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the pasta is not quite done. Drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes until the shallots and garlic are soft and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; add them to the pan and cook until they have turned pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan; set aside and keep warm.

Add wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil. When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley and cooked pasta. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a bit more olive oil and serve immediately.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Cups

Just the world "buffalo" makes me giddy with excitement.  I LOVE me some buffalo wings.  And buffalo shrimp.  And buffalo dip.  And buffalo....buffalo.  Anyway, my love for all things covered with buttery hot sauce and blue cheese dressing has had to be adjusted a bit as my quest for a flatter belly continues, but it's all in good fun.  Turns out you can still enjoy these delightful flavors without looking like a linebacker who swallowed a field goal kicker.  Who woulda thunk it?  Granted, I had to eat my lettuce wraps in a separate room from my husband, who was enjoying his buffalo chicken in flour tortillas (so I didn't knock him unconscious with chloroform and scarf down his carbalicious tortillas), but that just meant I got to hold the remote.  So, all was not lost.

But guess what HAS BEEN lost?  Yep, 27 pounds of fat from this girl's frame.  WOOT!

Anyway, the star of this dish is definitely the homemade blue cheese dressing.  They key is not even using full-fat ingredients (I used reduced fat sour cream and reduced fat mayo), but rather the cheese itself.  Spring for a nice block of blue cheese from the specialty cheese section, not that crappy crumbled stuff in the Tupperware-like container.  You'll thank me, I promise.

This was super easy to throw together, and is great for a quick lunch or weeknight dinner when you forget to go to the grocery store don't have time to cook.  Enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Source: My own, Blue Cheese Dressing by Pip and Ebby

1 package boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
bit of olive oil for grill
1/2 bottle of Frank's Buffalo Sauce (make sure it's the buffalo sauce, not just the hot sauce)
1 tsp. honey
1 head iceberg lettuce, separated into "cups"
4-5 ribs celery, chopped

1 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 1/2 cups reduced fat mayonnaise
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 - 3/4 cup good blue cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

First, make the blue cheese dressing.  Combine all the ingredients (sour cream through vinegar) in a small bowl.  Gently mix in the crumbled blue cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.  Put in refrigerator until ready to use.

Next, prepare the chicken.  Heat grill pan to medium-high.  Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Grill chicken until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes each side.  Remove and cut into bit size pieces when cool enough.

Combine the buffalo sauce and honey in a small bowl.  Add chicken pieces and toss to combine.  

Serve chicken in lettuce cups, topped with blue cheese dressing and chopped celery.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pork Tenderloin with Parmesan Sage Cream Sauce

Today I went to spin class at the gym and afterwards ran by the market to grab something quick for us to have for dinner.  While I was waiting for the lady to put my husband's panini in the panini press, I caught a glimpse of myself in the full length mirror and literally gasped.  No, not because I am so skinny (but I AM looking awfully svelte lately, if I do say so myself), but because I was dressed like an 80's aerobics instructor on crack.  By themselves, there is nothing wrong with hot pink sneakers, electric blue biking capris, a neon green tank top, an orange headband, or a bright yellow warmup jacket.  But together?  Not so much.  I looked absolutely ridiculous.  I was really busy this afternoon and put together my spin class outfit in phases when I had time.  Like, I put on the capris in the afternoon to walk the dog, but at that time I had on a black T-shirt, so it wasn't all that offensive.  But by the time I had to leave for the gym, I was late and had to grab the first tank top and jacket I could find.  Little did I know they could be seen from outer space.  All I needed was some legwarmers and a thighmaster, and I could have been Suzanne Summers herself.  Shameful.

Anyway, that has nothing to do with pork tenderloin with sage cream sauce.  I just thought I'd let you know that these things can happen to the best of us and one must be careful when dressing for the gym. 

So!  Pork.  I found this recipe on Pinterest and it actually calls for pork chops, but I didn't have any pork chops but DID have four (FOUR!) pork tenderloins in the freezer, so I improvised.  It turned out fine, though, since the sauce is really the star of the show.  We had a lot left over and I was worried that it wouldn't reheat well, but I was wrong (first time for everything).  It made a delightful lunch the next day.  Enjoy!

Pork Tenderloin with Parmesan Sage Cream Sauce
Source: Adapted from The Little Kitchen

1 to 1.5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup half & half
salt and pepper
4 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon McCormick ground sage (plus 2 pinches)
1 large pork tenderloin

1 tsp. blackening seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 425.

In a small saucepan, melt butter on medium-low heat. Add half & half and allow to simmer to cook and reduce for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon constantly. Add cheese and allow to melt. Continuing to stir the sauce, add the ground sage. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Season the pork with the blackening seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Heat a cast iron skillet at medium high heat for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add pork and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.

Put the pork on a foil-lined baking sheet and finish cooking in the oven, about 10 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in the center registers 145.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes (pork will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven).  Slice into 3/4 inch pieces.

Serve pork chops with sauce on top.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Banana Pudding Cookies

You know what rocks about my job?  You guessed it - working from home.  Granted, I travel a lot and sometimes wake up in the morning confused about what city I'm in or try to get in a random Chevy Malibu when I should be looking for my rented Corolla.  D'oh!  The Malibu was LAST trip, silly.  Anyway, when I'm not traveling, I work from my home office, and that is the best ever.  I just have to wake up in the morning, put on some socks (bonus if they match), walk down the stairs, and BAM!  I'm at work. 

A year and a half ago when I took this job, a few people told me that when you work from home, you should get dressed every day like you were going to a real office.  And then close the door of your home office and work in silence - no music, no TV.  Um, what?  No!  That would totally defeat the purpose of working from home, and then what would I have to brag to my friends about!?!  If I changed out of my yoga pants into dress pants, how could I possibly reign supreme over all you cubicle dwellers?  I mean, really. 

Anyway, people often ask me if I miss working in an office with a bunch of people and a water cooler and a duck pond out back.  The answer is no, no I do not.  Then they're all, "but what about the social aspect, don't you get bored!?!?".  Nope.  That's why God made phones and Instant I can talk to my co-workers when I WANT to, and not when I HAVE to.  And there are airplanes so we can all fly to the same place every now and then and get into all kinds of college-like mischief together.

I guess every now and then I think it would be nice to have some crazy co-workers to laugh at with from time to time, but when I get that urge, I just live vicariously through my husband and pretend that his co-workers are mine.  I mean, I know most of the office gossip, and I sometimes (not often enough, though, y'all) get invited to happy hour.  I feel like an honorary member of the team, and that's how I get my fix.  They're like my imaginary friends.

I made these cookies for my fake co-workers.  We can't have 2 dozen cookies in this house, that is for sure, and I don't have my own office break room to bless with my culinary genius, so I sent my husband off to work with these bad boys.  He emailed me at 8:36 AM and said they were gone.  If that's not a reason to make these RIGHT THIS SECOND, I don't know what is.  You're welcome in advance.


Banana Pudding Cookies
Source: Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 (1oz) packages banana cream sugar-free instant pudding mix

1 (1oz package) cheesecake sugar-free instant pudding mix
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped vanilla wafer cookies (I used low fat)
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Great or line a baking sheet with parchment paper

In the bowl of your Kitchenaid mixer (or you could use an electric mixer in a regular bowl), beat together the butter and sugars until creamy.  Add in pudding mix, eggs, and vanilla extract.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in the vanilla wafer cookies and white chocolate chips.

Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges and set.

Remove cookies from oven and let cool on baking sheet for two minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mushroom, Chorizo, and Goat Cheese Scrambled Eggs

Hey y'all!  Long time no talk, huh?  I've been on the road for the past 2 weeks straight in various locations, fixing all the world's problems.  Well, not all of them - I still can't figure out how to beat my Mom at Words with Friends or why the dog always insists on barfing on the white parts of my dining room rug and never the black parts.  But, I guess those are my problems and not really the world's....

Anyway, one thing that is not a problem is my progress in shrinking the size of my gut and my butt.  I've lost 22 pounds in 2 1/2 months and feel awesome!  It has not been easy, I will tell you that, but if you follow the rules and make smart decisions, it can definitely be done.  I still find it unfair that I can't eat Jimmy Johns and cake batter martinis all day every day and look like a runway model, but such is life I suppose.  So instead, I eat eggs and veggies and meat (and red wine) and look like a runway model that swallowed a baby seal.

One of the things that has worked best for me is to eat a big breakfast, full of protein and completely devoid of carbs.  I won't bore you with the details on why it's important to eat breakfast that way, so you'll just have to trust me.  I eat eggs scrambled with some combination of meat, veggies, and cheese pretty much every morning, but I'm going to share this particular one because it was SOOO tasty and pretty fancy as well (at least as fancy as eggs can get).  I know it's not really a recipe, but I haven't cooked in like 2 weeks so you're going to have to make do with this until tomorrow when I make you some pork.

Anyway - enjoy!

Mushroom, Chorizo, and Goat Cheese Scrambled Eggs

3 eggs, cracked and scrambled in a small bowl
1 tablespoon butter
3 white button mushrooms, sliced
1/3 link chicken Chorizo (found at Whole Foods), crumbled
small handful crumbled goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and saute until they become soft.  Add the chorizo, and cook until done. 

Turn the heat to medium-low and add the eggs.  Scramble the eggs slowly until they are done to your liking.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and top with the crumbled goat cheese.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Beer Braised Short Ribs over Mashed Cauliflower

Hello there, friends!  I'm not even going to say anything about how much I suck at keeping up with blog posts lately, because you already know this.  So I'm just going to jump right in with some kick-butt short ribs and a shout-out to the new (are they new??) flavored butters from Whole Foods.
Short ribs are one of my favorite cuts of meat, but the really good ones can be expensive.  I always keep an eye out for when they go on sale, which is actually quite often, and then I stock up.  There are a million ways to make them, but one of my favorites is to slow cook them in beer or wine and then eat them on a chilly day with a side of beer or wine. 
This is super easy to make and the prep work is quick.  It does take a bit of time to cook, but once it's in the oven, the work is over, and you can concentrate on the leftover beer or wine that you might have after preparing the braise.
Anyway!  I served this over mashed cauliflower made with some shallot-saffron butter I found at Whole Foods.  I didn't know they made these flavored butters, but there are like a million (or six) different kinds and I can't wait to try them all!  Mmmmm, butter.

Beer Braised Short Ribs
Source: Adapted from My Baking Addiction
8 whole Beef Short Ribs (bone-in)
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole medium onion, diced
3 whole carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cups good beer, any medium or dark variety
2 cups beef broth
4 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed and chopped, plus 2 whole sprigs

Salt and pepper ribs. Set aside.

In a large dutch oven, add the butter and olive oil and heat over medium high heat.

Add ribs and brown ribs on all sides, about 1-2 minutes per side. Remove ribs and set aside. Turn heat to medium.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pan and cook for 4-5 minutes or until soft. Add chopped herbs.  Pour in beer and scrape bottom of pan. Bring to a simmer.

Add broth, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add ribs to the liquid; they should be almost completely submerged. Add rosemary sprigs (whole) to the liquid.

Put on the lid and place into the oven. Cook at 350 for 2 hours, then reduce heat to 325 and cook for an additional 30 to 45 minutes. Ribs should be fork-tender and falling off the bone. Remove pan from oven and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes, lid on, before serving. At the last minute, skim fat off the top of the liquid.  Serve immediately.

Mashed Cauliflower with Shallot-Saffron Butter
Source: My own

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 block low fat cream cheese
1/3 cup beef or chicken broth
2 tablespoons shallot-saffron butter (from Whole Foods, in the cheese section)
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Salt to taste.  Add cauliflower and boil until fork-tender.

Drain cauliflower and leave it in the sink for a couple of minutes to allow it to drain completely (you don't want it to be too wet). 

Add cauliflower to the bowl of a food processor.  Add salt, pepper, cream cheese, broth, butter, garlic powder, and goat cheese.  Puree until almost smooth.  Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve immediately.  Enjoy!