Southwestern Chili Casserole
I hid in the shadows of the long rolling coat racks along the wall of our church basement, biting my lip, and praying that I’d just fade into the creamy yellow walls and disappear. As I was sporting my favorite neon colored, geometrical patterned blouse with the shoulder pads protruding 6 inches past each arm, this plea was out of the question.
My fourteen year old self had been so excited, and thinking back, quite bold, signing up to bring the ‘treat’ for fellowship coffee hour at the small country church I grew up attending. Our little church was full of wonderfully talented cooks. The spread was always lovely every Sunday morning. Whether it was homemade or store bought, warm coffee cakes, donuts, fruit and countless other goodies were always present. At fourteen, I was just entering the foray into cooking and baking on my own, and was quick to want to share my seriously amazing skills. Dump cakes with 3 ingredients, and Girl Scout Banana Boats were my specialties. It’s like I was born for the Iron Chef competition.
I decided to go with a showstopper – Rice Krispie Treats. Made well, this classic kid’s dessert is delectable (and addicting, c’mon, admit it!). Made terribly, and well, you have what I served to our congregation that morning. The steps leading up to the terrible end results are a blur. I can’t remember what went wrong. However, I do remember sampling a bite before cutting and plating them up that Sunday morning. Snap, crackle, pop…went my teeth. They were hard as a rock! Horrified, and with no Plan B, I continued to ice pick my way through the pan, sawing them apart. Why my mother didn't insist we stop at the store and pick up a Plan B, I do not recall. Perhaps I didn't tell her they were terrible. Perhaps we were already late and/or she was busy taking care of my 3 younger siblings. Who can know, but I was headed for coffee hour disaster.
I stood far away from the treat table, observing people drawn in by the mountain of delicious looking rice krispie blocks, only to see eyes flying wide open as they realized they were chewing on a brick paver. My father, always the comedian, kept walking past me singing Bob Seger’s song “Like a Rock.” To this day, I hate that song.
Fast forward twenty years, lots of practice in the kitchen, and I still have the occasional “bomb”. Don’t we all? Within Burnt Offerings, I promise to share delicious family pleasing recipes - “bomb free” guaranteed.
So what’s your Plan B when things go awry? Or, when it’s 5 o’clock and there’s no dinner plan on the horizon? For many of us, it’s spaghetti. Old faithful.
A spaghetti dinner, in my opinion, is deceivingly laborious. The ingredients appear so innocent there in the cupboard. Just a box of noodles, and jar of sauce, right? However, when it’s all said and done, my kitchen looks like Hurricane Francesco Rinaldi blew through. By the time you’re finished boiling the noodles, making the sauce (or just heating a jar of sauce up), browning and draining meat, baking the garlic bread, tossing a salad or heating a vegetable, you are left with approximately 900 dirty pots, pans, colanders, spoons, serving dishes, and then there’s the dinner table to clean up!
I’ve got a solution for you. It’s called All-In-One Spaghetti. I kept seeing this recipe floating around, and the Italian in me was skeptical of the ingredients. But finally I decided to try it – and we had a winner! It was delicious! The method here is cooking the noodles right in the sauce, saving you a few extra steps and dishes to wash. Brilliant! I’ve also made this recipe using my own homemade sauce (or 2 jars of spaghetti sauce), and just add 3-4 cups of water.
All-In-One Spaghetti – 4 Servings
(Double for a big family – it’s always plenty for us, but we have small children who eat tiny portions.)
½ to 1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped (or about 1 ½ cups frozen chopped onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
3 cups tomato juice
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or oregano
Dash of pepper
8 oz spaghetti, uncooked
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Cook first 3 ingredients in a Dutch oven (or larger pot if doubling recipe), stirring until beef crumbles and is no longer pink; drain well. Return beef mixture to pan. Stir in tomato sauce and next 8 ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 25 minutes.
Add pasta; cover and simmer, stirring often, 20 minutes or until pasta is tender. Serve with cheese.
On The Side: Serve this with your favorite kind of garlic bread, and a chilled tossed salad, or green beans dressed with a little browned butter and garlic salt.
Recipe Source: Southern Living Magazine - November 1998
Fall Desserts Made Easy
I watched my petite 5 year old daughter running around the school track, she, not knowing in the least that she stuck out like a sore thumb. At the “race/walk” fundraiser for her elementary school, the kids were asked via memo to show spirit by wearing their bright blue school t-shirts. This memo went unread and swiftly into the trash by moi, and in turn, my daughter proudly wore…pink and white stripes. No blending into the crowd there. Any other age, and we might have had an angst ridden mother embarrasses her daughter brew ha ha. But, thankfully she hadn't noticed she was the Hawaiian shirt at a black tie affair on this particular day.
I couldn't help but flashback to some of my own Mother’s school snafus. There was the elementary school field trip to Philadelphia, and after walking around the city all morning, we finally sat in a park for lunch. Starving, I eagerly opened my Kermit the Frog lunchbox with the weird smelling thermos, fought with the fold over baggie to finally get my hands on my sandwich. After a few bites, I quickly realized I was chewing on nothing but two pieces of bread. A white, spongy, pasted to the roof of your mouth bread sandwich. You know, that bread of our youth. 200 slices for 49 cents. A loaf as long as a bus.
So my Mom was a little distracted that morning. I get it. Making lunches for four children was no doubt hard to keep up with. At one point she got clever, and started making our lunches ahead of time. She’d assemble tuna sandwiches, stock up on yogurts and juice boxes and put it all in the freezer. The problem here, is that NONE OF IT WAS EVER THAWED OUT BY LUNCH. One by one, I’d go through each item in my lunch bag, hopeful that something wouldn't be hard as a rock. It played out like this: Tuna sandwich with icicles, pass. Plastic spoon finally cracks in half desperately trying to scrape ice shavings from top of yogurt, pass. Manage to shove straw into juice box brick but quit sucking due to lightheadedness, pass. One by one, the frozen feast goes back into my lunch bag. I get in line to buy a taco boat.
I squint as the sun emerges from behind the clouds, hindering my view of the great blue sea of children making their way around the race track. I lose sight of my daughter for a second, and I quickly play “Where’s Waldo” scanning the crowd for pink and white stripes. Bingo! I see her running towards me with a big smile on her face and her dark ponytail bobbing. My thoughts float back to my Mom, and I think of all the band uniforms and dresses she dutifully hemmed for us the night of an event, projects helped with, errands run, or baked goods she made at the ninth hour thanks to her Last Minute Lucy children. She gets a pass on the occasional bread sandwich.
Receiving my Mom's encouragement in the present, and reflecting on memories from the past really frees me to relax, and just be. Be the mother who keeps throwing out important school papers. Be the mother who will probably forget to pick up her kid after some practice(s). Be the mother who will get locked out of her house during the morning rush and walk up to the high school in an orange and purple bathrobe to get a key from a horrified child (yup, she did that). But also be the mother who will create warm memories for my children like soft pumpkin cookies on a crisp fall day.
As we are deep into the autumn season, there are a plethora of recipe collections in glossy magazines that are beautiful and perfect looking. I’m not sure about you, but little intricate cut out leaves adorning lattice pie crusts, and wine poached pears just aren't fitting into my culinary repertoire right now. That’s okay. Just be where you are right now. Life throws a lot at us to juggle, to remember, and to organize. It is hard. So, let’s put on some pink stripes and have dessert, and oh yes, make it EASY. Enjoy!
Turtle Pumpkin Pie -10 Servings
A delicious no-bake pie that comes together in a snap! Can be made ahead and frozen.
1/4 cup + 2 T caramel topping, divided
1 graham pie crust
1/2 cup + 2 T pecan pieces, divided
1 cup cold milk
2 pkg (4 serving size) vanilla instant pudding
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tub (8 oz) whipped topping, thawed
Spicy Pumpkin Cookies
These "cakey" cookies are not spicy as the title indicates, but super moist, and never last long in our house! With 4 basic ingredients, they are seriously the easiest cookies I've ever made.
1 box yellow cake mix
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 raisins (optional)
1/2 cup pecans (optional)
Cream Cheese or Vanilla Frosting
No pumpkin pie spice handy? Use 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger instead.
Homemade frosting (especially cream cheese) is SO much yummier than canned. If you have extra time, make this and keep it in your fridge to top cakes, cookies, cupcakes, or quick breads: In a mixer beat 1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened, 2 T milk, 4T butter, softened, 1 tsp vanilla. Pour in 1 cup 10X sugar, mix well. Add 1 more cup 10X sugar until smooth & fluffy. Add more milk if necessary.
Easy Cranberry Cake
This cake is sweet, tart, bright, and so delicious warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. It's also lovely served at breakfast or brunch - especially at Christmas time.
12 oz fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over for stems (I usually cut back to about 8 oz to lessen the tartness.)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced.
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange
1 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
2 extra large eggs, or 3 large
1 cup +1 T sugar
1 stick butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup flour
1/4 kosher salt
Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the 'Titanic'
Wrecked and Restored.
The Salad Bar
Salads. Vegetables. Crudités. I've been trying to eat more of them lately. You know, choosing to snack on red pepper strips and hummus instead of potato chips dipped in potato salad. Which by the way, is the most amazing combination for my "salty" sisters out there. And, I admit sheepishly, that upon completion of that last sentence, Pavlov’s potato salad dog got up from her computer and pranced over to the kitchen in hopes of finding something crunchy and creamy to combine and wolf down. Triscuits, you’ve come through for me again. And spinach dip from Costco, you were delightful. Okay, where was I? Oh yes, salads. Making healthy snack choices. Riiiight.
I've walked down the gym membership path a few times too. The first time I joined a gym, I had no clue what to expect. Part of my membership included a free one time health evaluation and personal training session. This sounded great! However, seeing the bulging muscled male trainer with the likeness of Bo Jackson approaching me turned my eager smile into a crooked convoluted jaw lock (pretty much like Eunice over here on the right). My “starting stats,” which included “Bo” measuring the circumference of each thigh and arm, and a contraption pinching my arm announcing that I was practically made of all fat. It was unexpected humiliation which was completely fluster inducing. It’s bad enough to have your flabby measurements taken by a man, it’s quite another to feel like you're being measured for a three-piece suit in front of a lineup of fit onlookers running nowhere on treadmills. I went into my induced flustered mannerisms, laughing WAY too loud like a hyena, gesturing with my arms so dramatically I almost always hit somebody or something, and not computing or retaining any word spoken to me. Suddenly I was flying on a treadmill with “Bo” shouting “You go girl! Come on! Burn that fat!”
After that day, I avoided “Bo” and slithered into the corners with my headphones, content to power walk on the treadmill, listening to “Sailing” by Christopher Cross.
Many of us are on a quest to be healthier. And as we are in the midst of summer harvest, fresh from the farm food choices are in abundance. Fruits and vegetables never taste better than now. Ever get into a 'making the same salad over and over' rut? Here are a few salads that take advantage of that in season produce and are a change from your typical tossed garden and Caesar varieties. Enjoy!
Photo Credit: Julie Nicole Photography
Mesclun with Peaches, Feta & Toasted Pecans
A salad inspired by Anna Pump from her "Summer on a Plate" cookbook.
Layer these salad ingredients in any amounts that suit your taste:
Mesclun salad mix
Thinly sliced red onion or shallot (TIP: after slicing onions, rinse under water to lessen the pungency of raw onion when adding to salads, salsas, etc.)
Ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
Toasted Pecans (Toast in a dry skillet on medium heat until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.
Don't walk away - they go from toasted to burnt quickly!)
2 T white wine vinegar, 4 T oil, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tsp sugar or honey. Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl and pour over salad.
If I Could Save Time in a Bottle: Try Marzetti's Sweet Italian Dressing or Litehouse Poppyseed Dressing with this salad.
Photo Credit: Julie Nicole Photography
Asian Sesame Salad
This salad turns into a main dish by adding chicken, or piling the salad mixture into your favorite tortilla (I like sun-dried tomato) for a delicious wrap.
Toss together the following:
1 bag Romaine Lettuce with Red Cabbage
1/3 C matchstick or shredded carrots (TIP: I buy matchstick carrots for salads, wraps, stir fries, and for kids lunches. Great timesaver and pleasing to the palate!)
1/4 C toasted slivered almonds (toast in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and light brown)
1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
1 T sesame seeds
Won-Ton strips for sprinkling on top
Optional add-ins: (almost anything can be tossed in!) edamame beans, snow peas, napa cabbage, green onion, red pepper, chicken, chow mein noodles
Dressing: So good! No Substitutes! Make it!
1/2 C Canola or Veg oil, 1/3 C sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sesame oil, 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 Tbsp Rice vinegar, 1 tsp grated fresh garlic. Put all ingredients in jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well to blend.
Photo Credit: Julie Nicole Photography
Chopped Salad with Bacon and Fried Garbanzo Beans
A salad with Mediterranean flair, inspired by a recipe from "O" Magazine. You will love the crunch of the fried garbanzos!
6 T olive oil
1 C canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper , divided
1/8 tsp chili powder
3-4 slices bacon
1 medium sized tomato, chopped
1/2 a cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles
6 Tbsp. ranch dressing
Heat 6 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully add garbanzo beans and fry, stirring often, until crisp and golden, 5 to 7 minutes. If you have a splatter guard - use it! The beans spatter and jump the first few minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and 1/8 tsp chili powder; set aside.
Carefully discard oil in skillet and wipe clean. Return skillet to medium heat, add bacon, and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, 7 to 8 minutes; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. When cool enough to handle, crumble into small pieces.
In a large bowl, whisk together 3 T vinegar, 1/4 tsp basil, 1/8 tsp oregano, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 small finely chopped shallot, 5 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
Toss lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and cheese gently to combine. Drizzle dressing over top, garnish with bacon, garbanzo beans, and dollops of ranch dressing.
If I Could Save Time in a Bottle: Try Gazebo Room Lite Greek Salad Dressing or Wish-Bone Balsamic Italian Vinaigrette
Strawberry season is upon us – one of my favorite times of year. No more buying gigantic, mutant, tasteless strawberries shipped in from planet Fruitopia (a place I imagine all out of season genetically manufactured fruit is from). Grocery stores are finally fully stocked with sweet berries at low prices, and thankfully I live in an area with an abundance of roadside stands and farmers markets selling freshly picked berries from their patches. There is no taste like strawberries picked right from the patch, warmed slightly from the sun. Or better yet, sliced over some good, creamy
vanilla ice cream. My mother is now getting up from her computer after reading that line, and getting the ice cream and berries out as we speak. This is her favorite thing in the world to consume (actually her most favorite is a vanilla soft serve cone from the McDonalds drive thru). Sorry Mom, I let your little secret out…
Photo Credit: Julie Jones
I could go on and on singing the praises of fresh picked blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. They are glorious. However, I have a confession. I HATE picking berries. Even as a kid. I think I always hated it. Is that right? Let me think. Yep, never really liked it. Is there something wrong with me? It’s supposed to be some dreamy summertime activity. And I keep thinking it is, as I keep going. I seem to idealize it in my head and forget the misery it always ends up being. As a child, my mother would take us to pick berries to use for her annual batch of strawberry jam. We seemingly always went to pick on the one day in June when the weatherman gleefully reported, “you could fry an egg on the sidewalk!” That, or apparently we only visited patches near the equator.
The whining in unison from us children must have been such a peaceful
backdrop for my mother who basically did all the picking by herself. For a few years, my mother tended her own strawberry patch in our garden. But she claims that didn't yield much as us kids would pilfer and eat the berries before she could pick much! She couldn't win...
Even now, no matter how early in the morning we go, it is sweltering. My back hurts. My legs are falling asleep from crouching. Sweat is dripping into my eyes and blurring my vision. Am I picking a strawberry or a weird bug cocoon?? Eww! Yucky fingers!! When my eyesight clears up, I realize I have put approximately 48
rotten strawberries in my bucket. Dang it.
I must acknowledge how grateful I am to live in such plentiful and bountiful farm country. My children will know and see where their food comes from. But, the other day I stopped at a little Amish roadside stand selling produce. I bought a fresh picked overflowing quart of strawberries for $3. Buy Fresh. Buy Local. This feels so right. And I didn’t even have to sweat through my clothes to enjoy them.
Homemade strawberry jam is like potato salad, Thanksgiving stuffing, or rolls, everyone thinks their family recipe is the best. To this day, our freezer is always fully stocked with this jam, because, well, it’s the best. I remember a family we were friends with coming to pick up jelly at our house because that’s the only kind they would eat! Rock on, Mom. I saw my mother giving this jam away to others countless times. So her labor in picking and making the jam was of love. I now help her with this little tradition, and follow her example in sharing it with others. It makes a pretty little gift wrapped in a cellophane bag, along with a freshly baked loaf of country bread (baked or bought!). Add a bag of coffee, a fun flavored creamer, put it all in a basket lined with a pretty cloth or paper napkin, and you’ve got a lovely little breakfast themed gift to drop off to someone who just moved, had a baby, is getting through the first days of school, or needs a "just because" gift. Those are the best of all. And now you think I’m going to share our secret family recipe for Strawberry Freezer Jam, don’t you? Nope. Because it’s the recipe on the Certo box! Find it here.
Instead, here is a delicious dessert shared with me by my sister Janelle. It’s a great dessert to make with a group. Someone can be slicing strawberries; another can be crushing graham crackers, and so on. And all the while talking, laughing, and connecting. Fight the urge to bark everybody out of your kitchen (I’m talking to myself). I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cups sugar
1 stick margarine or butter
Cream Cheese Filing:
1 cup 10x sugar
2 T milk
8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
8 oz carton whipped topping (cool whip)
Strawberry Glaze Topping:
1 box strawberry Danish Dessert*
1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced
Melt margarine or butter. Combine with graham cracker crumbs and sugar and spread in the bottom of a
9x13 inch pan. Set aside. Follow package directions for Danish Dessert. Cool 10 minutes and fold in strawberries (mix in berries before it gels up). Beat 10x sugar and milk together. Add cream cheese and beat again. Fold in cool whip. Spread carefully over crust. Spread strawberry mixture over cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
*Danish Dessert is a powdered mix that makes a strawberry glaze. It can be found with the gelatins/pie fillings in the grocery store. Not every store carries it, so either buy already made strawberry pie glaze or try this recipe as substitute if you are not able to find it:
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 (3 oz.) package strawberry flavored gelatin
3 Tbsp. cornstarch.
In medium saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil.
Mix jello with cornstarch and gradually add to boiling mixture.
Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly for 5 minutes or until mixture is clear and thickened slightly. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
On The Side: Serve this dessert (or any sweet ending) with something salty like a bowl of pretzels, snack mix, or roasted salted cashews. Add a pot of Decaf coffee, a pitcher of ice water, and you've got a simple, but lovely dessert spread to offer your guests.
I am a lover of lists. I love sitting down in the morning with my pad of paper, pen and coffee and writing down the tasks at hand for the day. Often, I will add something stupid that I know I’m going to do like "brush teeth" just to feel the thrill of accomplishment while I cross it off the list. It's fraudulent productivity. I realize this.
Currently, I reside in a season where the thrill of accomplishment is rarely felt. I have a newborn, toddler, & preschooler. So at the end of the day, I’m impressed if I've kept my children alive, and remember that fire hot, tree green. Despite this bleary eyed – Vomit No. 5 wearing – desperate for hair color woman I am right now, I really do cherish these exhausting days, and am grateful each time God allows me to wake up and breathe in a new morning. So how do I capture that thrill of crossing tasks off my list when I just can't get to the laundry mountains, and the growing paper piles? Why, just add more and more stupid things onto the list and live in deep deep productivity denial!
So, according to my to-do list, I am VERY productive:
What’s that you say? Open cans, pour in pot, dinner is done? Yes, my friends, a delicious and wholesome dinner can be all yours in 15 minutes. This is one of the best recipes I have received, and I'm excited to share it with you. My friend Ali, who is a wonderful cook and a sweet sweet soul, delivered this dish to our family after the birth of our second daughter a few years ago. I’m not a huge Chicken Chili fan, so initially I didn't think I’d be too impressed. Oh my. After a few delectable spoonfuls, I knew I had to have this recipe. It is one of my go to dishes when I’m bringing a meal to someone, and I’m always asked for the recipe. There are so many chicken chili recipes out there, but this one has a creamy sweetness to it (thanks to creamed corn), and doesn't taste like you’re eating a jar of salsa. The bonus? Practically every ingredient is a canned good, so you are on your way to dinner FAST! Try this recipe on a busy weeknight and proudly check dinner off your list!
Creamy Chili-Corn Soup with Chicken & Black Beans
4 large garlic cloves, minced (I use fresh jarred garlic as a short cut)
1-2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) creamed corn
1 can (14.5 ounces) petite diced tomatoes
1 can (14.5 ounces) low sodium chicken broth
1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chilies
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (great way to use up leftover rotisserie chicken)*
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro leaves (don't skip this step if possible, it really brightens the soup!)
Toppings: Shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado & tortilla chips
*Make Ahead Tip: I like to have cooked shredded chicken in my freezer ready for soups, casseroles, tacos, etc. It defrosts very quickly, and saves so much time on a weeknight. I use bone-in, skin on chicken breasts, drizzle on olive oil and season with S&P and bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Or I fill my crock pot up with bone-in or boneless chicken breasts, add salt & pepper, a cup of water and cook on low all day. Shred and store in freezer bags in 2 cup increments. Press air out, and stack bags on top of each other. You will be set, even for last minute dinners!
My favorite brand of corn muffins.
They are moist & honey sweet.
I like to add a dollop of sour cream
and a drizzle of honey to the batter.
On The Side: I serve this soup with all the toppings, cornbread muffins, and fresh cold fruit like crunchy grapes or pineapple tossed with sliced strawberries & kiwi.
Recipe Source: USA Weekend Columnist Pam Anderson
Chive Risotto Cakes
ABC's, they're educational dang it!
If I'm keepin' it real this month, I am tempted to direct you to your local pizza shop, or simply post a picture of Chef Boyardee who has cooked more lunches for my children than I'd like to admit lately. For the past few weeks, my kitchen has been semi-closed due to the newest little addition to our family - baby Joshua. And thanks to the worst cold & flu season in our young family's history, all of us had full blown colds and the remnants of ear infections as we welcomed him home to our den of Sudafed, sneezing, and tissues. So, Josh has survived the onslaught of little germy hands, and a hormonal mother coughing and blowing her nose in and around him for 3 weeks. I'd like to think his immune system has been supercharged for the year! I'm sure that's medically accurate.
We have been immensely blessed to receive meals and support from friends and family nearby. However, the meals have slowed, I'm feeling good, and my kitchen is having it's grand re-opening. Spring is here, and I am inspired and energized to cook once again.
Chef Boyardee, you're out of a job.
Actually, who am I kidding, you'll be staying in my pantry.
Now lets talk food. I am a huge fan of Ina Garten - The Barefoot Contessa. Her cookbooks are beautiful, her food is simple, elegant, and delicious. I really can't relate to much of her life. I subscribe to her blog anyway, despite receiving these kind of posts: "Every year, Jeffrey and I celebrate New Years’ Eve in Paris with close friends. We splurge and hire a car to tour some of the famous French landmarks all lit up..."
I'm pretty sure my last New Year's included take out for two, a Batman movie, and hitting the sack by 10:30pm. Wa hoo. So if you're like me, and just aren't going to be able to squeeze in a getaway to Paris or Venice this Spring, by George, you can at least eat with some European flair.
It seems every Spring, cooking magazines feature various recipes for creamy risottos. While risotto isn't difficult, it can be a bit time consuming and a little fussy. This Barefoot Contessa dish uses Arborio Rice which is the star ingredient in risotto, but with a twist (and without the fuss). Let me tell you gals, Chive Risotto Cakes are the comfort food missing from your menu. It is one of our absolute favorite things to eat! They are kind of like a cross between macaroni cheese and a hash brown. Creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. How can you go wrong?
**A note to the Last Minute Lucy's: This mixture needs to be chilled for 3-24 hours before frying, so you need to start this dish the day before or well before dinner time!**
Chive Risotto Cakes
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or a 6oz. carton)
2 extra-large eggs (or 3 large eggs)
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 1/2 cups grated Italian Fontina cheese (5 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
Good olive oil
Bring a large (4-quart) pot of water to a boil over medium-low heat and add 1/2 tablespoon salt and the Arborio rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The grains of rice will be quite soft. Drain the rice in a sieve and run under cold water until cool. Drain well.
Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, chives, fontina, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper in a medium bowl. Add the cooled rice and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight, until firm. If they are not chilled as suggested, they will not hold together very well when you are frying them.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Spread the panko in a shallow dish. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Form balls of the rice mixture using a standard (2 1/4-inch) ice-cream scoop or a large spoon. Pat the balls into patties 3 inches in diameter and 3/4-inch thick. Place 4 to 6 patties in the panko, turning once to coat. Place the patties in the hot oil and cook, turning once, for about 3 minutes on each side until the risotto cakes are crisp and nicely browned. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Continue cooking in batches, adding oil as necessary, until all the cakes are fried. Arrange on a serving platter and serve hot.
On The Side: These little cakes are so versatile They make a beautiful presentation at brunch, lunch or supper. Often, I serve them as a light main dish with a green salad or broccoli and fruit. They also make an excellent side to ham & steak.
Recipe Source: Adapted from Back to Basics by Ina Garten
It's six o'clock. Dean Martin is crooning in the background. I'm carefully brushing the pastry of the Beef Wellington with a final layer of egg wash before placing it in the oven. I then grab my glass of Cabernet, In Style magazine, and settle into my favorite plush white arm chair with the cashmere throw falling around my shoulders...
The spraying sound of an entire bag of goldfish crackers being dumped onto the the kitchen floor snaps me back to reality. It's six o'clock. Everyone is starving. Skidamarinky Dinky Dink is blaring in the background. The only "whine" around is that of a 4 year old complaining of hunger pains. A 2 year old looks up at me, throws the empty goldfish bag on the floor, grabs a handful of crackers and hot steps it out of there before I can shriek, grab the perpetrator, or yell "Seriously???" Desperate 2 year old has also swiped a bag of croutons and a canister of bouillon cubes from the pantry in hopes of sustenance.
I sweep the crackers up, and finish just in time to remember I have garlic bread under the broiler. Dashing over to the oven, I open it, pleading with the Burnt Bread gods to spare me just this once. No such favor given...I take the charred bread out of the oven, suppressing a long string of curse words, er, I mean tears, I take a step and pulverize three goldfish with my big toe. Does this describe your pre-dinner hour at all? Perhaps things are a bit more peaceful for you, perhaps a bit crazier!
I am not in a Beef Wellington or Duck a l'orange season of life right now. I am however, always in search of delicious recipes that could rival these two elegant classics, yet fit into my circus of a day without 3 pages of ingredients. Enter this recipe...
Hands down, this is my kind of dish. Simple, unfussy, great for a weeknight, and yet special enough to serve to guests. Plus, the slow cooker does most of the work for you and fills your home with an amazing aroma. Using just a few ingredients that you most likely have in your pantry, this glaze brings pork to new heights! It also pairs well with Chicken, Salmon, or an old shoe. Yes, it's that yummy!
Download Printable Recipe Card
Sweet Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin (Slow Cooker)
2-3 pound boneless pork loin roast, trimmed of large fat pockets
(you may use a tenderloin as well)
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, finely minced or crushed (fresh jarred garlic is a great timesaver!)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
In a small bowl, combine the sage, salt, pepper and garlic. Rub the spices all over the roast. Place the pork roast in the slow cooker and pour in the 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Near the end of the cooking time for the roast, combine the ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat, and let the mixture simmer, stirring occasionally, until it thickens.
Remove the pork from the slow cooker, slice or shred and place on a platter. Drizzle the glaze over the pork and serve.
On the Side: I serve this dish with Whipped Potatoes, a Green Salad, and these amazing & easy Buttered Rosemary Rolls from the Pioneer Woman.
Recipe Source: Adapted from C&C Marriage Factory
If you were to peek inside Jen’s recipe box, you would find a little bit of everything. She vacillates between Velveeta and Quinoa, and considers a successful meal one in which no gagging noises were made by her children. Pulling from old family favorites and new classics, Jen is always on the lookout for recipes that are simple, crowd pleasing, and of course delicious. She's eager to share some of her favorites with you! Watching “food is love” in action by many of the cooks in her family and community growing up, Jen now strives to love her family and friends through the dishes she serves and shares.