Friday, December 30, 2011

Pepper Jack Potato Soup

Thanks to Marci for sharing another great recipe! I really liked this one, so much that I didn't mind having it as leftovers the following night - and I rarely go for leftovers! Like Marci, I was pleasantly surprised at how creamy it turned out despite using fat-free evaporated milk. And the pepper jack added a little twist to the traditional potato soup, making this a perfect cold winter's night soup.

Recipe posted here as my adaptation (see the link to Marci's blog above for the original)


 3 strips of bacon (plus extra for garnish, so I used about 7)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 medium yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed 1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 green bell pepper, diced 1 red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth 2 cups cubed russet potatoes (about 4 or 5 medium sized)
1/4 cup butter
 1/4 cup flour
 1 (12 oz) can fat-free evaporated milk
 8 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
 1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt


 1. Fry the bacon, crumble and set aside.

 2. Heat the oil in a soup pot on medium heat. Add onions, garlic, carrots, and the bell peppers; cook and stir just until the onions are soft. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat and simmer about 20 minutes, or until carrots are cooked.

 3. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in a medium saucepan until they are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and add to the soup with bacon (reserving some to crumble on top). Wipe out the pan if necessary and use if for the next step.

 4. Melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and turn the heat up slightly and whisk until the mixture is bubbly. Add the milk, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Add to the soup.

 5. Stir in the cheese and continue to cook until the cheese melts. Do not boil. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve with additional bacon garnish.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lasagna Roll-ups

A little less time-consuming than a traditional lasagna, with all the same taste! I went with a spinach and mushroom combination for these, but you can use any filling you time I'm going with a chicken and alfredo mix!


8 lasagna noodles
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
10 oz. cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10 oz) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup part-skim Ricotta cheese
2 oz. (1/4 block) reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. dried basil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (26 oz) jar marinara sauce


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

2. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain.

3. In a medium skillet,combine olive oil and Worcestershire sauce over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat.

4. In a large bowl, combine spinach, Ricotta, cream cheese, and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Mix well and season with basil, salt and pepper. Stir in mushroom mixture.

5. Lay out lasagna noodles on parchment paper or foil. Spread about 2-3 Tbsp. filling across each noodle, leaving about 1" free on one end. Roll up noodle over filling, then place seam side down in a square baking dish. Top with marinara sauce and remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Bake until heated through and cheese is melted and golden, about 25 minutes.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

I'd neither had nor even heard of pork tenderloin sandwiches until I went to Iowa for the first time several years ago. They are a big Midwest thing, and its a little sad they haven't made their way out West because they are DE-licious! I mean, its fried pork on a bun, how could it not be good?

I finally tried my hand at making these at home, and was pleasantly surprised at how easy they are AND how fantastic they taste. Yes, its like a chicken sandwich, but why can't the other white meat get in on the game? One plus to the pork is that you can pound it so much thinner, which I like, and that it literally takes just a few minutes of frying to come out golden and crispy and perfectly cooked through. So glad I don't have to go all the way to Iowa for my fix!


1 pound pork tenderloin*
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. milk
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Additional onion powder, garlic powder, and chili powder (if bread crumbs are not pre-seasoned)
Canola oil, for frying
4 large hamburger buns, split and toasted
Optional toppings:
Sliced onion
Dill pickle slices
Mustard, Mayo, BBQ Sauce

*Note: I used a pre-packaged pork tenderloin that was 1 1/2 lbs, and for 4 sandwiches I only used less than half of it. So, depending on how many mouths you have to feed, 1 lb. of tenderloin may actually be too much or just right. I chopped up the rest of mine and stewed it for some shredded pork that I was able to get 2 full meals out of it!


1. Slice pork tenderloin crosswise into 4 pieces, each about 1 " thick. Place one piece cut side up on between sheets of plastic wrap. Pound with a meat mallet until about 1/4" thick. Repeat with remaining 3 slices.

2. In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. In another bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. In a third bowl, combine bread crumbs and additional onion powder, garlic powder, and chili powder (optional).

3. Pour oil into a large frying pan, enough to cover the bottom. Heat over medium-high.

4. Dredge a piece of pork in the flour until well-coated. Shake off any excess. Dip in egg and coat both sides. Transfer to the bread crumbs and coat both sides. Shake off any excess, then add to the hot oil. Repeat with remaining pork slices. Cook about 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately on toasted buns with desired toppings.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday "Baking"

I love holiday baking that doesn't actually involve an oven, so these two recipes are perfect for me! Peppermint bark and a 3-minute fudge means a pretty platter of goodies that I can whip up in less than 20 minutes!

Peppermint Bark

2 pounds white chocolate
1 cup crushed peppermint candy canes

Melt chocolate in a double boiler (you can also use a microwave, just check and stir often!). Stir in crushed candy canes. Spread onto a sheet pan lined with foil or waxed paper. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour or until set. Break apart into pieces and enjoy!

3-Minute Fudge

This is so easy, and you can use any combination of "chips" that you want! See here for the recipe I used.

I have two suggestions below to make either a chocolate/butterscotch fudge with toffee bits, or a dark chocolate/mint fudge with peppermint sprinkles.

 2 bags "chips", any flavor*
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
Toppings and Mix-ins, optional

Basic recipe: Combine chips in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Microwave on high 3 minutes, stirring about every 30-45 seconds. Stir in mix-ins (optional). Pour into a square baking dish lined with foil. Top with additional mix-ins or toppings (also optional). Chill in refrigerator until hardened and cool. Cut into squares and enjoy!

*Some recommended combinations:
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips + 1 bag butterscotch chips (with Heath Toffee Bits mixed-in and sprinkled on top)
1 bag dark chocolate & mint chips (a seasonal find) + 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (with crushed candy canes on top)
Also...a chocolate and peanut butter chip combination would be fantastic!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pork and Noodle Stir Fry

This recipe from Food & Wine was a great way to use up some cheap pork tenderloin I picked up a while back. Simple ingredients and flavors, but it was pretty good and actually tasted great re-heated the next day too. The only change I would make is in the type of noodles I used, which were dry udon noodles. I think ramen or fresh udon would work better, so I'll be changing it up next time.


8 ounces Japanese curly noodles or instant ramen
3/4 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 large eggs, beaten
1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced (I used cremini)
2 heads baby bok choy, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick


1. Cook the noodles according to the package directions, then drain and rinse under cold water. In a measuring cup, mix the stock with the soy sauce, Shaoxing, sesame oil and crushed red pepper. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with the water.

2. In a very large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until golden, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a plate. Add the eggs to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until set, about 1 minute. Transfer the eggs to the plate. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Add the pork to the skillet and stir-fry over moderately high heat until browned and just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer the pork to the plate with the garlic and egg.

3. In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the bok choy and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the noodles and soy sauce and cornstarch mixtures and cook over moderate heat, tossing, until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, egg, pork and any accumulated juices and cook, tossing until the pork is heated through, 1 minute. Transfer to bowls and serve.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

We've been eating a lot of pumpkin bread around here lately, because a) we still have a lot of pumpkin puree in the freezer, from cooking and pureeing our Halloween pumpkins, b) because its just so darn easy to make, and c) because its delicious!

My go-to recipe is below, super simple and it really does come out practically perfect every time.

Pumpkin Bread


3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 (16 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup water


1. In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil and eggs. Add pumpkin and mix well. Combine dry ingredients; add to the pumpkin mixture alternately with water.

2. Pour into two greased 9-in. x 5-in. x 3-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 60-65 minutes or until bread tests done. Cool in pans 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack; cool completely.

Note: Homemade pumpkin puree works great in this recipe in place of canned pumpkin. After Halloween, I cut up and roasted our pumpkins, then scooped out the flesh and pureed it until smooth. I then put the puree into a muffin pan and froze, each muffin cup holds about 1/2 cup puree. Once frozen, remove from the muffin pan and put the little purees in a freezer bag, and defrost as needed for pumpkin recipes! Much better and cheaper than the canned stuff!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Spinach-stuffed Eggplant Rollatini

A little sad that the best picture I could get of this was on my 2 year-olds plate - I should have taken some pictures before they baked - but the consolation to that is that she liked it so much she ate it all!

I originally was going to make this dish with chicken, but after finding some lovely-looking eggplant on sale, I decided to go the vegetarian route instead. Luckily that turned out to be a good choice! And after searching for some inspiration for the filling, I decided to come up with my own based on what I had on hand. The final product was fabulous! I think the eggplant was a perfect "wrapper" (but honestly, when is fried eggplant not good?), and the filling was creamy and cheesy and it all worked together perfectly. I really like cooking with eggplant, so I'm glad to have another option (especially a meatless one) to add to the rotation!


1 eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices (I had 8 total slices)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Canola oil, for frying
1 (8 ounce) package low-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (16 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1 (24 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1 (8 ounce) package angel hair pasta


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

*Optional step, to reduce the possibility of bitterness: Place the eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let sit 15 minutes to "sweat" - you'll see beads of moisture appear on the slices. Rinse eggplant and pat dry.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in a shallow bowl. Dip the eggplant slices in egg, then coat with bread crumbs. Fry the eggplant on each side until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine cream cheese, spinach, mayonnaise, 1/2 cup of mozzarella, garlic powder and onion powder. Mix well.

4. Spread a few tablespoons of the spinach mixture onto each slice of eggplant. Roll up tightly, and place seam-side down in a 2 qt. baking dish. Pour spaghetti sauce over the rolls, and top with remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and filling is heated through.

5. While the eggplant is baking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the angel hair pasta and cook about 4 minutes or until al dente. Drain.

6. Serve eggplant rolls and sauce over the pasta.


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