Thursday, September 18, 2014

Meat Manicotti

I can't get enough Italian food.  I mean seriously, I can't.  Since living in New Jersey, close to my Italian relatives, friends, and coworkers, it has gotten worse.  Now that I live back in Nebraska, and have had long discussions with my dad about holidays, I finally found out that his family in fact, used to have Italian food for Thanksgiving and Christmas and a turkey, just because it was required, I guess!  My mother in law extraordinaire hosted the same kind of holidays.  All the fixins and an almost entirely different Italian meal as well!  My GOD, it was my dream come true.  The point is, when I returned to Nebraska, I made it a tradition for my family to always serve an Italian dish along with the traditional holiday spread.  This is one I serve often because I love it.  I usually do 2 separate kinds, one with meat and one with just cheese.  I am sharing my favorite with you today. 

I am a cheater with mine, I do not cook the noodles first.  Ain't NOBODY got time for all that shell ripping, slip sliding, filling of a wet noodle stuff.  Oh no.  Mine works out perfectly.  This is a large batch, it will fill 28 shells.  Feel free to halve the recipe.  Otherwise just divide everything between the two pans it will take!

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Get out 2, 9x13 pans and let's get ready to rumble!

For the meat mixture you will need:
2lbs ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
3 T dried Italian seasoning
1 T onion powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup ricotta cheese

In addition you will need:
28 Manicotti Shells
2, 23.9 oz. (approx.) of your favorite pasta sauce or homemade
1 14.5 (ish) can of petite diced tomatoes
1-2 cups water
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
extra parmesan for the top

Combine all ingredients for your meat mixture.   You can do it in a stand mixer or by hand, the choice is yours.  Set aside and add about 1 cup of pasta sauce to the bottom of each pan.  Spread it around so the shells don't stick.  In a large bowl combine the rest of the pasta sauce, diced tomatoes, and rinse those pasta sauce jars out with about 1 cup of water each and swish and add to the bowl.  Mix to combine and set aside. 

You can fill the shells with a small spoon but I prefer a pastry bag, so that is what I did.  You should have exactly enough to fill all the shells.  Don't over fill but make sure they are full end to end.  Fill a shell, place in pan, flip it to cover with some sauce and continue until all shells are filled.  Now take the sauce in the bowl and pour half over each pan. Sprinkle on cup of mozz over each pan, and grate or sprinkle a bit more parmesan on top for good measure. 

Now cover TIGHTLY with foil.  Place in the oven for 45-50 minutes and they will be done perfectly!  Remove foil and let cool for a minutes before serving!


Monday, September 15, 2014

Vanilla Snickerdoodles

As a woman, there are few things in life, that cure what ails us better than chocolate.  Right?  Isn't that how it is supposed to be?  I agree, somewhat.  But for me, it is vanilla, or cinnamon.  I swear, something about cinnamon toast, absolutely takes me to the happiest place ever, when I need some comfort.  Don't get me wrong, I love chocolate, but, it isn't my cure all, as it is for many. 

When I decided to make snicker doodles, which I obviously, LOVE, I wanted to make a twist on them.  Well it was no question, it had to be add vanilla.  Easy, right?  Add vanilla to my regular plain old recipe which I got from a hundred years ago and call it good.  No, no, no.  That wasn't just going do the trick, I needed to bite vanilla.  Cinnamon and vanilla, I die.  I DIE.  So with the addition of some of my fantastic homemade vanilla extract and some vanilla chips, these are addictive, healing, love, fluffy bunny slippers and pink clouds all rolled into one bite. 

Oh and for the record, I don't know how many this makes.  My kids were over, they started eating them warm, before I realized it, and suddenly, there were so many gone, I couldn't tell how many there WERE!  I will say it made about

You will need:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. cream of tarter
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
10-12 oz. package vanilla chips

In a separate small bowl:
2 T sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Mix together to combine.  You will roll your dough balls in this!

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  In a bowl combine, butter, shortening, eggs, vanilla and sugar until creamed together smoothly.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, cream of tarter, baking soda and salt.  Sift together into the wet mixture and mix just until combined.  Fold in vanilla chips.  Roll dough into balls, dip in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place on a parchment or silicone mat lined cookie sheet.  (can also use nonstick cooking spray)  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  I bake for 8 since I like very soft cookies.  Cook on a rack and consume, as many as possible as soon as possible. 


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dill and Olive Oil Roasted Cauliflower

Do not be fooled by the fact that we discuss "cauliflower" on my Facebook page.  We do.  And when you think of that, or when I think of that it reminds me of a skit, I think from SNL, "The Delicious Dish" where they would discuss, rice and various other boring foods!  If you haven't seen it, this will mean nothing, if you have, you know what I me an.

Anyway, a reader of Chefwannabe mentioned that one night out of desperation she made this recipe.  I believe she used butter instead of olive oil, which I WILL do soon and a packet of Hidden Valley Harvest Dill seasoning mix.  Oh, and I almost forgot, I used a fresh head of cauliflower as well, instead of frozen. 

Ayyyyee carumba!!!  Delicious!  I don't know if I can ever eat cauliflower any other way!  This is easy and so packed with flavor.  I used a small-medium head of cauliflower but I would guess you could easily still get the same flavor punch from 2 heads, or one very large head.

Here is what you will need:

Fresh cauliflower (2 sm-med heads)
2 T. olive oil
1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Harvest Dill Seasoning

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Divide your cauliflower into bite size pieces.  In a bowl add in cauliflower, olive oil and seasoning packet.  Toss until all cauliflower is coated with seasoning.  Dump until a foil or parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 25-35 minutes depending on if you like your cauliflower to still have crunch, or like it soft!

I won't be upset if you sprinkle a little fresh grated parm on this before serving. 


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Frog Eye Salad

Just as I was relaxing over the end of salad season, my mom strikes again.  We were chatting on the phone and she said, "I am so hungry for frog eye salad".   Oh man, it had been years since I thought about the infamous frog eye salad.  This salad has been a favorite of my siblings for many years.  I was never a huge fruit eater, but pineapple, I do love.  I pick out the oranges and the cherries and dig in.  Every holiday, EVERY holiday, my mom makes this. 

I think frog eye salad, originally is made with a cooked custard, but, my mom always did it this way.  I think it is the cheater way to be honest but, who messes with perfection?  Nobody with any sense!  Anyway, back to my phone conversation, she asked if I had ever posted it here and when I responded I had not she said, "OH you can come home and make it, and I can taste test it, and it will all be for the good of your website".  Yea, right ma.  When I ran this recipe by my husband he almost erped.  "Pasta in a sweet salad"?!?!  He agreed to give it a try but he was skeptical.  Now, he didn't actually SAY much, but the degree of devouring that went on over this sort of spoke for itself.  You know? 

Really he loved it and couldn't believe he had never heard of it.  So if you love it, have never had it, think it might be ridiculous, OR are brave.... give it a try!

1 1/2 cups acini de pepe (pasta, Uncooked)
2 cups mini marshmallows
2 - 4 serving size boxes of instant vanilla pudding
8 ounces cool whip
10 ounces maraschino cherries, halved and DRAINED
11 oz. can of mandarin oranges
20 oz. can of crushed pineapple
20 oz. can of chunk pineapple

Boil your pasta as per the package direction.  Drain well, and run some cold water of them.  In a very LARGE bowl, combine pudding and cool whip until well combined.  Add in oranges and both kinds of pineapple.  Make sure to DRAIN the cherries and add those as well.  Fold in the pasta and marshmallows and refrigerate for 1 hour.   This is a hit with our family as I said, and I am sure it will be a hit with yours too!


PS.  If you don't prefer to use cool whip, please feel free to sweeten up some fresh heavy cream and substitute. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Homestyle Creamed Corn

Hello friends!  How are your gardens?  Anyone have amazing farm markets?  Actually any farmers market is amazing, isn't it?  I told you I was on a farmer's market kick!  If we go to the work to grow all of this produce, we must have great recipes to use them on, right?
 I must admit, (hanging my head) I kind of dig creamed corn in a can.  Don't judge.   However, I had never tried to make it homemade.  Oh for heaven's sake, homemade creamed corn is an entirely different bird people!  I don't do fancy and hard, you all know that.  I am a real woman with a real family, and I blog, what we eat, we eat what I blog.  Plain and simple.  I knew if I could make some amazing creamed corn, I would be a rock star.   This was so thick, and so delicious and such a huge beginners luck dish!  I usually have to test a recipe a few times, to get it just how I want it.  I got the "do NOT mess with this one" vibe after eating it the first time.    So you are getting this one straight off of my stove! 
I am notorious for taking veggies and making them as unhealthy as possible.  Corn isn't so great for us anyway, so I don't feel bad with this one.  I can tell this is a new staple side for big meals for us from now one!  I hope you enjoy it, it is so easy, and very worth the 10 minutes of time it takes!

1 T butter
1/4 cup FINELY chopped bell pepper
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 cups corn (use it off the cob, or thawed out frozen corn, takes about 6-8 ears)
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper

In a cast iron (or any skillet you choose), melt your butter.  When it is melted add in your bell pepper and sauté for a couple of minutes.  Add in the corn, and stir.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir and let it cook for a minute.  When the flour is incorporated, add in milk, cream, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.  IF you are using fresh corn off the cob, let simmer on LOW, for 15-20 minutes and then let sit, for 10 minutes.  If you are using frozen corn that you have thawed out, simmer for 10 minutes and let sit for 10 minutes.  It will thicken GORGEOUSLY and the taste is..........perfection.

ACK!  Even my husband LOVED it!


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Turkey Stuffed Mini Pepper Poppers

Peppers, peppers, peppers.  I seem to have an overabundance.  Let me explain why that is an issue.  I have a love/hate relationship with peppers.  I love them raw.  I love the flavor, the crunch, and the freshness of them.  However, once they hit the heat, they get soft, maybe even a tiny bit slimy, and I just am in a weird place with them, once that has happened.  Stuffed peppers, YUM, except I only eat the middle out of the pepper.  Now, if they are chopped up, we have a whole new situation.  I mean, who is really THAT picky?!  Isn't it like being a person who only like corn ON the cob and not off?  Ridiculousness. 

That all being said, and explained, I love these.  I had intended to use jalapeno's with these, however, when the little sweet bells presented themselves, I knew for the crowd I was cooking for, they would be the best choice.  I wanted a hearty filling, one that could be used for a side dish, a light lunch with a salad, or even an appetizer.  A few of them were so small, I admittedly just popped them down the hatch, full throttle.   I am positive these would do great on your bbq grill too!

You will need:

1lbs sweet mini bell peppers (14-16)
1/2 lb.. ground turkey
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. onion powder
4 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Cut the very tops off of your peppers and using an ice tea spoon or small dessert spoon, clean out the seeds and veins as best you can.  Set on a baking sheet.  Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and spoon into a piping bag, or Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off or use the ice tea spoon to get these filled.  I used a piping bag, it was so quick, clean and easy.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the turkey is cooked all the way through.  Let these sit about 5 minutes before eating. 


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

You know, I don't recall having chicken and dumpling a lot as a kid.  Maybe once or twice only.  That sounds almost abusive to me now, since I love it so much.  I forgive you mom. 

A couple of years ago now I found this easy recipe over at Christy Jordan's Southern Plate,  The first time I made it, it was like, I don't know, heaven to strong of a word?  We loved it.  It was easy, a bit of a shortcut, and honestly the best version I have had yet. 

So fast forward to a week ago.  I decided to try this in the crock pot.  I added a few things, here and there, tweaked a couple of things, and got my dumplin' on people!  Holy guacamole, delish.

Without further adieu let's get on with the slow cooking!  I am kind of grasping this slow cooker thing I have fought so hard and long to avoid!  This makes a good size batch, I kind of double, or something'd (<----my own language there) the recipe and did a little tweaking this time. 

26 ounce can of cream of chicken soup
2 T butter
3 cups chicken stock (I suggest low sodium always especially with the use of a canned soup)
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. onion powder
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (8 if you do thighs) THAWED
2 packages flaky refrigerator biscuits

Add together, soup, butter, stock poultry seasoning, pepper, and onion powder into your slow cooker.  Whisk until combined.  Add in chicken and set on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.   When there is ONE hour left, take biscuits and you can leave them whole or peel the layers apart, and cut each into 4 pieces.  Toss them in and when you are done, push them down into the liquid.  Let cook one more hour, stir to break up the dumplings and serve. 

Note: In a world where my husband loved veggies, I would add 2 chopped carrots and 2 ribs of celery to the soup mixture!

Ohhh la la!