Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Apple Cider Dip

One of my fall favorites besides pumpkin are fresh apples. We are lucky enough to have two Macintosh trees in our back yard and are spoiled to enjoy the delicious apples. Ever since I can remember I have loved a big glass of apple cider (hot or cold). It is especially perfect of a crisp day on my back porch. This year Kellen has been loving running out to the trees to pick his snack. I love that he has started to make this connection, and it is adorable to see how thrilled he was to finally eat an apple he watched grow all spring. 

I am normally not a big fan of traditional fruit dip, but I wanted to create a dip that apple cider because I love the flavors and it is perfect for fall. I though the easiest way to do this was to create a syrup to get the intense flavor I wanted from the dip.  The syrup will be a similar consistency to maple syrup, but a touch thinner.  Initially, the dip may seem a dip watery and letting it rest in the fridge will result in a thicker consistency.  

I made this dip for an evening with my girlfriends (such willing test subjects) and they all thought it was delicious and thought the cider flavor was great. I like the added cinnamon to the cider, but if you want less cinnamon flavor reduce the number of sticks used or eliminate it all together. 

Tonight is my weekly t.v. binge..... I can't help myself and Twisty the Clown is still haunting my dreams.  Any Walking Dead watchers out there??? Wasn't Sunday crazy!? I stupidly made the mistake of eating during the episode....bad plan and lesson learned for the future. 


Ingredients

3 cups apple cider
1/2 Tbl brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
Ground Cinnamon


Instructions

In a medium pot, add cider, brown sugar and cinnamon sticks. Bring the cider to a simmer and heat to medium-low. Allow the cider to slowly simmer and reduce until it is a syrup. This takes about 45-60 minutes. Strain the syrup and allow it to slightly cool. Mix the syrup with the cream cheese. Cover and chill for about 30 minutes before serving. Top with ground cinnamon and serve with apple slices.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pumpkin Puree

I am a seriously pumpkin lover and normally buy pumpkin puree out of convenience, but this year I decided that it was time to start making my own. Pumpkin puree is so easy and it makes me kick myself for buying all those cans over the years.  

This recipe is super easy and quickly gives you a delicious puree. The only thing that takes a little while is scooping out the seeds, but that is not a big undertaking.  I love baking with pumpkin in the fall and love the fresh taste of homemade puree. My husband is not a pumpkin lover, but it turns out my son is! While I was processing the puree my little guy wandered into the kitchen to "see cokooin'" and wanted to try a spoonful. Kellen proclaimed it as yummy and proceeded to have many following spoonfuls of pumpkin. Thank goodness pumpkin love has fallen in my favor...so far. I am also loving that he is getting more and more interested in getting into the kitchen with me. 

This recipe makes about 2 cups of puree, but this may depend on the size pumpkins you are using. It stores in the fridge for about a week, but it is freezer friendly and can be stored there as well. 

I don't know about you, but all I can think about is now pumpkin pie!


Ingredients

2 pie pumpkins 
Baking Sheet 
Foil
Food Processor


Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside. 

Cut the tops off of the pumpkins and cut in half. Scoop out the pumpkin seeds and set save them for roasting at a later time. Make sure to scrape the sides of the pumpkin to remove all the stringy stuff.  Next, halve the pumpkin again (you will have 8 pieces total) and place on the baking sheet pumpkin side up.  Bake 45-55 minutes, or until the pumpkin is fork tender and skin has wrinkled.  

Remove pumpkin from the over and allow it to cool until you can comfortably handle it.  Remove the skin by peeling it off with your hands. Place pumpkin in the food processor (you could use a blender if you do not have a food processor) and process till smooth, about 3 minutes. 

Store covered in the fridge up to 7 days. This recipe yields about 2 cups of puree depending on the size of the pumpkin. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Baked Pumpkin Goat Cheese Alfredo with Bacon

Time for October's Crazy Ingredient Challenge!


The theme for this month was pumpkin and bacon. Bring on my happy dance.....seriously.  If you are a regular reader you probably know that we (Ron, Kellen and I) and bacon lovers, and (like a big chunk of the rest of the United States) we look forward to ways to put it in anything.  My thoughts immediately went to pasta because of the pumpkin component, and I wanted to go savory. However, though my husband is a bacon lover he is a pumpkin hater (boo hiss), and I thought this was prefect opportunity for cook for my girlfriends during our henna party. I thought a baked alfredo type pasta was just the ticket! I also used goat cheese because I know my girls love it (and it is another ingredient my husband is not a fan of). This pasta is wonderfully easy to put together, unique and a perfect fall savory dish. 

My girlfriends and I absolutely loved this pasta, and it was perfect for our evening (check out the henna photos on my last meal plan post). I am sure that you could lighten up this dish, but I am not going to pretend that is a good idea in this case because this is a pasta that is meant to be sinful. One point to note- the sauce with seem a bit watery when poured into the baking dish, but it will thicken as it is in the oven. The flavors of bacon, pumpkin and goat cheese are amazing together, and each distinctive. 

If you are interested in joining our challenge, stop over to Dawn of Spatulas on Parade to say hello and to get more information.  I am excited to see what next month will bring! 

Ingredients

1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 Tbl olive oil
4 Tbl salted butter
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl fresh chopped sage
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6 oz goat cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (+ a few extra Tbl for topping)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp white pepper
Salt, to taste
1 lb shaped pasta


Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish and set aside. 

Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and set aside. 

In a large pot, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and allow it to cook for 1-2 minutes stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Add sage, cream, milk, 4 oz of goat cheese, pumpkin and Parmesan. Reduce heat to low, whisking continuously and allow the sauce to slowly bubble. Allow the sauce to cook for 7-10 minutes. The sauce should reduce a bit, but will not be thick (it will thicken in the oven). Taste and season with salt and white pepper (remember you will add bacon so do not over salt). 

Remove from heat and gently stir in the pasta. Pour pasta into the prepared baking dish. Top with a few tablespoons of Parmesan, remaining goat cheese (crumble with your hands) and bacon. 

Bake for 30-40 minute or until sauce is bubbly. 

Weekly Meal Plan 10/20 - 10/26

Happy Monday!

Less than two weeks till Halloween! Even time I think that I get the song from Halloween III and the Silver Shamrock commercial.  This weekend we had a few fun Halloween activities and a fun adult activity at Lambeau Field! 

On Friday, we bummed around and went out for fish. Kellen is a fish lover, but loves the pickles that come with the meal even more!

On Saturday, we started the day at the community Trick or Treat Trail with my mom, sister and nephew. The trail was beautiful and Kellen got a lots of treats and coupons to use around Green Bay. The event is put on by the Village of Bellevue and is a lot of fun for kids. 

My sweet Triceratops:
 

Later in the evening (and after a nap), we headed to Heritage Hill for a Brother's Grimm Halloween with a few friends. I have been going to this since I was a child and I love feeling like we stepped back in time. The kids loved running around and having a few treats as well. Heritage Hill is a living museum and it is awesome to see the different volunteers bring the era to life. 

On Sunday, Ron and I were up bright and early to drop off Kellen and head to Lambeau Field with my cousins for the Packer game. We have gone the past few years as a group and it is always so much fun. We usually start our tailgate around 8:00 am so we are properly ready for the game. Grilled brats and coolers of cold beer are musts in my book. The game was a bit of a blow out in our favor, and was a blast!


This week I am doing some Halloween prepping and we are headed to to zoo for ZooBoo this weekend with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, nephew and niece. 

Here is what is on tap:

Monday: Mummy Calzone with Bloody Dipping Sauce
Tuesday: Loaded Potato Gnocchi Soup and Salad
Wednesday:  Spaghetti with Oozy Eyeballs, Garlic Bread and Salad
Thursday: Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings and Green Beans and Carrots
Friday:  Chicken Curry Soup 
Saturday: Zoo Boo and Out for Dinner
Sunday:Slow Cooker Peanut Thai Beef, Brown Rice, Pea Pods  and Graveyard Cake

Friday, October 17, 2014

Taco Ranch Chicken

Do you have a go to method for chicken tacos? I have a few favorites. Two of my favorites are cheddar beer chicken tacos and salsa verde chicken, but my all time favorite is Taco Ranch. I do not know what it is about this flavor combination, but I absolutely adore for our tacos. The meat is so flavorful and juicy, and is always raved about when I bring it for a taco bar at work. Kellen really like shredded chicken and goes nuts for this stuff. He especially liked it with rice or couscous as a meat carrier system. 

Tonight we are having a low key night at home before a busy weekend. On Saturday, we are going to a pumpkin walk with my sister in the morning and a Halloween event at Heritage Hill with friends in the evening. I am excited because Kellen gets to wear his Triceratops costume for the first time and it is soooo freakin' cute! On Sunday, we are dropping Kellen off and heading to the Packer game with my cousins for a bright and early tailgate followed by the football game. I am so excited! It is my first Packer game of the season and I am so pumped! 

Have a great weekend everyone! 


Ingredients

2 1/2- 3 lb chicken breasts
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 envelope ranch seasoning
Juice from 1 lime
2 cups chicken stock


Instructions

Place chicken breasts into crockpot. Mix remaining ingredients into a medium bowl and pour over chicken. Stir to coat. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to crockpot and cook for an additional hour.  Use for tacos, sandwiches, salads or wraps. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bread

Time for October Improv Cooking Challenge! 

The theme for this month was chocolate and peanut butter. When I first heard the month's ingredients I was very excited because I already knew the flavor combo I wanted to try that would be perfect for fall- chocolate peanut butter pumpkin. In my head I knew it would make a delicious bread, but I just needed to tweak my recipe to get the right consistency. I opted to use a little greek yogurt because I like the moisture it gives to bread and the creaminess fit perfect with the chocolate. I wanted to use pumpkin because 1) i love it, 2) it is perfect for the season and 3) it produces wonderfully dense and rich quick breads. I also opted for a little cocoa powder because who doesn't love a little extra chocolate! 

Kellen was my trusty helper and may have eaten way more than his share of chocolate chips! So, what was the verdict on our finished product? Absolutely delicious! After coming home from work Kellen and I each devoured a piece standing over it in the kitchen- caveman habits only in our house. I think the stand out was the combo of pumpkin and peanut butter..... I have a bag of butterscotch chips in my pantry that might have a variation of this recipe written all over them.

If you want to join the fun of the Improv Cooking Challenge visit Lesa of Edesia's Notebook for details! 

Stay tuned for next month's recipe using Apples and Cinnamon!


Ingredients

2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 eggs
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 light brown sugar
1 Tbl pumpkin pie spice
3 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips, divided


Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8.5 x 4.5 loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, yogurt, eggs, peanut butter and vanilla using  a stand mixer or handheld beater till smooth. Beat in the sugars, spice, cocoa and baking soda till evenly mixed. Gently stir in the flour by hand. Stir in 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips. 

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth so that it is even. Top with remaining chocolate chips. Bake for 45 minutes or until middle is set (this is a very dense bread and you will likely always have a  few crumbles with the tooth pick test)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Company Potato Casserole

Cheesy potatoes are a staple at almost any Midwest potluck and are usually one of the first things to disappear from the spread. We make a few different variations of cheesy potatoes in our house and my favorite recipe included cream of chicken soup. Since I recently made a homemade batch of my own I decided it was time to update one of my favorite potluck side dishes.  There is just something addictive about these potatoes to me....maybe it is the melted cheese or creamy potatoes or the buttery topping....or all three!  I have to say I love this updated version even more than the original! 

Speaking of cheese, tonight we are looking forward to relaxing at home and making a new recipe for mac and cheese with broccoli and chicken- yum! Tonight is also American Horror Story and, so far, I am digging this season. Anyone else think Twisty is horrifying!?  I am also getting ready to do a little pumpkin baking tonight and I feel like I am really late to the party with it this year! I see many of my friend's blogs adorned with delicious pumpkin treats, and I need to get my ass in gear! 


Ingredients

1 30 oz bag frozen hasbrowns
1 recipe for Cream of Chicken Soup
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
2 cups grated medium/mild cheddar cheese
2 cups soft bread crumbs (I put my bread in my food processor, but dried will work too)
2 Tbl chopped fresh parsley
4 Tbl butter, melted
Salt and Pepper, to taste


Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish and set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, mix cream of chicken soup, sour cream and hashbrowns. Season with salt and pepper. In the baking dish layer 1/2 the potato mixture followed by 1 cup of each cheese. Layer the remainder of the potatoes over the cheese and top with remaining cheese. In a medium bowl, gently mix bread crumbs, parsley and butter. Spoon evenly over the potatoes. 

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, or until top is golden and potatoes are hot and bubbly.