Sunday, November 24, 2013

Homemade Breakfast Sausage

Breakfast sausage........

Am I the only one with such a dilemma with it?  I mean, unless you can buy it fresh made somewhere local, it is either in those fat little tubes, or packaged bulk.  Usually to salty, to spicy, or to something.  Greasy, AWAYS so greasy!!

I have seen people make homemade sausage with anything from onions, to raisins, to apples, to maple syrup.  While I get that everyone has different tastes, the thought of any of these things in my sausage makes my knees wobbly.  I like plain seasoned sausage, nothing additional, just seasonings.  I am one of the rare people you will find that cringes at the thought of syrup of any kind on my sausage. Never have I been a fan of sweet and meat together. 

Anyway, I decided to give it a shot.  I bought a ridiculous amount of ground pork recently from my butcher because, well, frankly, it was to cheap not too.  I wanted to do something fun with some of it and this was it.  Homemade breakfast sausage on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning! A couple of fried eggs over medium, and a piece of English Muffin Bread! Breakfast of champions!  Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day.  I could eat it morning, noon and night!  (along with chicken noodle soup)

You could probably change up the ground pork to turkey or chicken.  That call is on you.  I suggest pork because that is what I tested the recipe with.  So get on your apron, and wash your hands, you have to get down and dirty with this one!

You will need:
1 lb ground pork
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Mix all ingredients until well combined.  Use your hands, it works best!  Make sure all spices are incorporated, nobody wants to bite into a big pocket of spices!
I got 5 large patties out of mine, but just make yours the size you see fit and fry 2-3 minutes on each side!

Enjoy this mild, yet so full of flavor sausage!

Your "wakey wakey" Chefwannabe

Thursday, November 21, 2013

No Bake Haystack Cookies

Hello friends.  I hope you are all well!  By the time I give you this post, I will be in New Jersey, and I will have waved at everyone in the states on the way!  Did you see me?  Feel my presence? HA!

I am bringing you these very easy cookies.  My mom used to make them, I think everyone makes them BUT, mine are somewhat of a "minimalist" version.  These are called HAYSTACKS, what are the peanuts and marshmallows doing in a haystack?  Exactly!  Is it like farm animal poo, or did huge hail fall on the haystacks?  What is it?!  I don't need 'em.  In fact, I don't like them in my haystacks.  So you can add those things into yours if you like, but mine, I will take a REAL haystack looking sweet treat any day!
These have 3 ingredients, I mean, start to finish MIGHT be 10 minutes.  You can let them sit at room temp to "set" or stick them in the fridge for a bit.  These will be great for Thanksgiving, you know that whole haystack thing.  I wonder if they sat on haystacks while they ate the first Thanksgiving meal? 

Anyway, here you go!

You will need:
1- 11 oz. bag of Butterscotch Chips
1 cup creamy peanut butter (or chunky I guess)
2 cups Chinese noodles (the hard ones!)

In a microwave safe bowl, melt together peanut butter and butterscotch chips.  Melt 1 minute at a time, and stir.  When mixture is smooth, add in noodles and mix until all combines.  Using a tablespoon, drop in piles on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet.  You should get approx. 24 cookies.  Let them set at room temp or in the fridge until hardened. 

Enjoy another easy, but delicious recipe!

Your "just the hay please" Chefwannabe

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stuffed Mushrooms

If you all only KNEW the amount of times I have failed at stuffed mushrooms.  Seriously, I have.  In fact I have made at least 3 versions for you all, that turned out so sucky that I wouldn't even feed them to my husband let alone share them with you!  You name it, I have tried stuffing a mushroom with it. 
My husband told a coworker of my plight.  She said she made hers this way and we should try it.  Well, the heavens opened up and the angels sang.  They were delicious!  I made only a few additions and changes. You do have to like Stove Top stuffing to enjoy this, but, you can use any of the flavors you choose. 
Here is what you will need to get started.  I bet you have most of it already on hand!
1 box Stove Top Stuffing (whatever flavor you prefer, I used pork)
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 tsp minced or grated garlic
mushroom stems, finely chopped
20-24 button mushrooms
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Use a damp towel and wipe off all mushrooms, and then remove the stems.  KEEP THEM.  Give the stems a fine chop and set aside.  Prepare the stuffing as directed.  Kind of.  Melt the butter that is called for in a medium put.  When it is melted add garlic, onions and mushroom stems.  Saute for 2 minutes and then add in water, and continue as directed.  Turn mushroom caps bottoms up in a baking dish.  When stuffing is slightly cooled, start filling your mushrooms.  Make sure to get the stuffing down in the mushroom and mount it on top as well!  Do this to all mushrooms!  Sprinkle the top lightly with grated Parmesan and bake for 15-20 minutes. 

These make a great appetizer, OR side dish.  Hope you love em'!

Your "remember mushroom head haircuts?" Chefwannabe

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cornbread Stuffing

This is a complete experimental recipe gone RIGHT. 
It started like this.  My sister made a TON of cornbread muffins for a dinner she helped serve.  She had anticipated serving 100 apparently, and only served 25.  Oh my gosh the amount of muffins she had leftover, was hilarious.  Anyway she called me and asked if I could do anything with them.  I thought to myself, "self, you have never even attempted cornbread stuffing, this is the perfect opportunity".  I said, YES, and so this muffin makeover began!
When I tell you it was an experiment, it really was.  I wanted to go with my instinct and see how close I could hit it on the head.  When I say "it" I mean, MY perception of what cornbread stuffing should be.  I used only half of the muffins, so I could tweak a new batch if needed.  Let's just say, those muffins got used on a second batch alright, just like the first!
The ONLY thing I would do different, is make sure I had plenty of turkey gravy for the top!!!
The mixture, prebaked, is going to be very soupy, that is OK, that is perfect!  Just go with it and be rewarded with a bowl of  warm, flavorful stuffing!  I think this will get added to my Thanksgiving table!

4 cups crumbled cornbread
3 cups chicken stock
2 eggs
1/2 to 1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 carrot, grated
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl combine ALL ingredients well.  The mixture will be fairly soupy.  Pour into a greased 9x9 baking dish and bake for 50-60 minutes until firm to the touch.  If you oven temp is off, or you use a little different sized baking dish, this time will vary.  When your cornbread is firm, it is done.  If you use a 9x13, I would suggest about 40-45 minutes of baking.  This is just dressing, you will know when it is ready.  The smell is INCREDIBLE, almost as good as the end result!

Hope you enjoy, this Thanksgiving or anytime!

Your "stuffing addict" Chefwannabe

Friday, November 8, 2013

Just For 2 - Chicken Taco Soup

3 INGREDIENTS!  Seriously!  I KNOW!

Ok guys, I have one more amazing recipe using Dei Fratelli products!  I got some fantastic salsa and when I thought about what I wanted to do with it, I thought, "SOUP".  I usually DO think soup to be honest.  I love soup.  You all know this but sometimes I just need to say it, loud and proud!

I had started this "Just for 2" series a few months back.  I have neglected it, but at the same time, was kind of waiting for the right idea to come along.  Since I am a soup freak, I thought it would only be right to have a soup be the next recipe in the serious.  This is a 3 ingredient recipe as I previously mentioned.  Budge friendly AND easy.  I know my parents who are "empty nesters" love having meals just for the two of them.  My mom has forgotten what it is like to cook for two, and they forget about leftovers, and end up throwing things out.  This should be a great solution!

This can easily be doubled or tripled for a larger batch.  Just double or triple the ingredients! HA!

You will need:
2-3 cups cubed (small cubes) chicken (cooked or uncooked, you can cook it in the soup or cook it before)
1-2 cups chicken stock
16 oz jar of Dei Fratelli Black Bean w/Corn Salsa
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium combine all 3 ingredients. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes (longer if you use large chunks of chicken).  Top with sour cream and some shredded cheese and you have a great light lunch or supper, OR starter!  Don't neglect these items, as they just increase the goodness when stirred into the soup!

Didn't I tell you it was easy?  And talk about healthy!  Ok, minus the sour cream and cheese but c'mon!

Your "it aint easy bein' easy" Chefwannabe

PS,  You COULD bring this soup to a boil, add 1/4 cup rice and enjoy it that way too!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Creme Brulee Cheesecake

Evenin' friends!  I can't wait to share this dessert with you.  It is SO good.  The contrast in texture, and the flavor, are something you won't soon be able to be without for to long!

I am so picky about my cheesecake.  There are two things my cheesecake must have.  First is, it must be creamy, not dry, not so dense you will choke on it going down, and second, the perfect crust to cheesecake ratio.  Seriously, I am so hell bent on those things, I rarely find a cheesecake I love.  UNLESS, I make it myself. 

See that the cheesecake isn't so tall?  That is because it would completely jack up my ratio.  To much cheesecake for the crust.  Can't have it.  The Nilla wafers for the crust, just drive the beautiful vanilla flavor home.  I could not be happier with how this baby turned out.  I don't care for lemon juice in my cheesecake.  I used sour cream, for the tang, but the creaminess too.  Just get in your kitchen, and make it.  I am making myself drool just explaining it, and there is none left.  That is right, NONE left.  I hope you enjoy the sweet, tangy, creaminess, along with the crunch of the top.  OMG, just those words ALONE get me excited!  I seriously just thought that the only way to make cheesecake better was to finish the top like crème brulee and to taste like cream brulee.  Mission accomplished on both. 

For the crust you will need:
40 Nilla Wafers
5 tbsp melted butter

In your food processor or with a rolling pin, process or roll over the cookies (in a Ziploc)) until you have fine crumbs.  Add in melted butter and process until combined or mash your bag until all the butter is incorporated into the cookies.  Press into the bottom of a LIGHTLY greased 9 inch spring form pan.  Set aside.

For the filling you will need:
2 8oz bricks of cream cheese (at room temperature)
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream

Using a large bowl and a hand mixer, or your stand mixer OR food processor, combine all ingredients very well.  Pour into pan with crust and even out.  Now take a large sheet of foil, and lay it flat on the counter.  Put your pan in the center and fold the foil up all around the pan.  This will prevent any water from your water bath seeping into the pie.

Now place the spring form pan into a larger backing sheet or roaster.  Fill the roaster halfway up with boiling water.  DO NOT get water into your pie!  Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Remove pie, the middle will be a TINY bit jiggly.  Let cool at room temperature COMPLETELY.  This is NOT optional.  Then refrigerate for 4-5 hours, but overnight is best.  The longer the better.

1/4 - 1/2 cup brown sugar

Sprinkle over the top in layers.  Using a torch or the broil setting on your oven, melt sugar.  I left a bit of it unmelted which made for a beautiful little crunch.  If you broil it, do NOT leave it for even a second.  When it started to bubble or browns to your liking, remove and let cool. 

I hope you give this pie a try.  We LOVED it and let's be honest, what's not to love?!

Your "gimme a torch" Chefwannabe

Monday, November 4, 2013

Spaghetti And Meatball Soup featuring Dei Fratelli

Hello friends!!  I am thrilled to share this recipe with you for 2 reasons.  I have had a years long love with Dei Fratelli Products AND it is my entry into their "Ripened Recipe" Contest! 

It isn't often that I get asked to share products with you, that I already love.  I mean seriously, I have been using them for years.  This makes it all more exciting for me.  When I started venturing through their website, I found out many things I didn't know.  Their tomato sauces, juices, and soups,  are all natural, and gluten free.  They also offer low sodium and no salt products.  Dei Fratelli has a new line of products called, "Dei Fratelli Truly".  These tomato products are packaged in a light puree, and they are preserved within 10 hours of being harvested.  They are packaged in a BPA-Free carton.  How awesome IS that?!

I could go on and on, I just can't say enough good things about the quality and flavor.  The truth is, you have to try it for yourself, and let me, AND Dei Fratelli know how you love them!

This Spaghetti and Meatball Soup, is something I have wanted to make for years.  No, I mean, literally, years.  Why is it, sometimes, the easiest of tasks we put off the longest?  Well when my products arrived from Dei Fratelli and I heard of this contest, I HAD to make it.  It was like a sign from above!  It turned out amazing, and let me just tell you how good a stringy, melty, grilled cheese would taste dunked into this tomato-ee goodness!

Thanks for taking time to let me tell you about one of my favorite products AND share my new recipe with you!  This will be a home run at your house, I promise!

Mini Meatballs:
1lb ground beef (I use very lean)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. grated onion
1 tsp. garlic powder

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients.  Using a small scoop or just eyeballing it, make small meatballs.  I got about 44 meatballs from my mixture.  When you get them all rolled, place on a plate and set aside. 

In a large pot, add in 3 tbsp. olive oil and heat on medium heat.  Add in meatballs a few at a time to brown them up.  You don't need to cook them all the way through, though they are so small they may do that anyway.  When they are browned up on all sides, remove to a paper towel lined plate.  Do this until all meatballs are done.  Using the SAME pot, (get all the good flavor up off the bottom from the meatballs!) combine the following ingredients for the sauce:

Dei Fratelli Marinara -24 oz
Dei Fratelli Gluten Free Tomato Soup - 10.75 oz
Dei Fratelli Petite Diced Tomatoes - 14.5 oz
4 cups water
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. sugar
8 oz. dried spaghetti (broken in half)

Combine all ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Add in meatballs and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir gently, occasionally.  (At this point, you can decide if you love the thickness of the soup and if you want it thinner, just add bit more water until it is your desired consistency.)  After 15 minutes, add in 8 ounces of spaghetti that has been broken in half.   Cook per the suggested cooking time on the pasta package.  Serve with some crusty garlic bread or don't forget that melty, gooey,  grilled cheese sandwich for dunking!

This soup will freeze beautifully.  You can thaw it out in the fridge overnight, OR just pop it in a pot  and warm it up, on low.  You can add more water if you choose, depending on the thickness you prefer. 

Enjoy this recipe!  I LOVED Dei Fratelli products, long before this!  I enjoy knowing I am using quality products, mace from locally grown tomatoes, in the food I make for my family.  Give them a try and make sure to get your recipe entered in their "Ripened Recipe Contest"!

Your "keep your fingers crossed for me to win" Chefwannabe

 I am in no way compensated for a favorable review on any product.  I review each product honestly, and informitavely for you, to the best of my ability.  I strive to give my readers all of the information I can, so that you can make an informed decision on the products you choose to buy and use in your recipes. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Chicken Kiev Pasta

Oh, this dish. 

What havoc this created for my husband and I.  I mean seriously, it was sort of ridiculous.  Our conversation when something like this:

Me: I want to make Chicken Kiev into a pasta dish.
Geo: Cool, but, it would just be buttered noodles with some herbs. 
Me: It needs breadcrumbs though.  And it will have to be a wee bit saucy, with some light buttery sauce, because it needs to not be just dry pasta after I bake it.
Geo: Christine, chicken kiev has no sauce.
Me: I KNOW.  But this is a "version" and so it is going to be a little different"
Geo: it is different, you are adding pasta
Me: AND I am adding a little sauciness, because I want a little sauce
Geo: Well then it isn't chicken kiev, it is chicken kiev with PASTA.

DING DING DING!!  So that is how "Chicken Keiv Pasta" was born.  Isn't it nice to know the long scientific process that goes into naming and coming up with a dish? OH the process!  Anyway, we got to laughing, and well, that is how most of our conversations end.  I suppose that is a good thing, right? 

I have had a lot of requests for pasta dishes.  Easy and quick pasta dishes.  They seem to please the masses and many can be made ahead.  I was even told on many occasions the semi homemade thing didn't bother the requesters.  Anyway, I made a few this week.  I love chicken kiev and who doesn't love pasta and chicken and butter, right?  I made it the first time though the flavor was incredible I felt that most people would consider it to "dry".  So I incorporated a little bit of a light sauce for it.  This is just my version, done with pasta.  I hope you enjoy it and please always feel free to email me requests, or post them on Facebook or tweet them to me!  Let me know if you try this one, it is one of my favorites to be honest! It isn't over saucy, or seem very saucy at all.  It delivers incredible flavor and comfort and after all, food IS love!

Now onward my friends!

1 lb. cavatappi or other short cut pasta
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk (you can add up to 1 cup depending on your preference)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (can add another 1/2 cup if you up your milk!)
2 cups shredded or chopped chicken
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp parsley
1/2 tsp oregano
2 tsp chives
1 cup breadcrumbs
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta according to package directions and drain.  Leave in drainer and using the same pot, add in butter, milk, cheese, chicken, chicken stock, parsley, oregano, and chives.  Heat until cheese is melted.  Stir constantly so it doesn't stick or burn.  Add pasta in and stir to combine adding salt and pepper to taste.  Pour into a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and bake for 25-30 minutes, until breadcrumbs are golden brown. 

I hope you enjoy this easy, and quick pasta dish.  Make extra, minus the breadcrumbs and freeze a pan too!  This isn't a super saucy, or cheesy dish, so don't think you did something wrong when you can't really SEE a ton of sauce!

Your "pasta is my addiction" Chefwannabe